Sunset SB (2)

IMG_0087This was a return visit to one of my favorite places. It isn’t difficult to guess why this particular location would appeal to me either. I’m not even going to say it, that’s how obvious it is.

Traffic was heavy Friday, but we pulled in to our site shortly after sunset. Saturday was designated boating and biking day. We definitely enjoyed the blue skies and break from the smoke coming from poor Napa. 😦 There isn’t much to report about the Elkhorn Slough beyond the fact that it is a fantastic place to spend a day. No otters tried to board my kayak this time, but there were plenty out there. So adorable.


img_1088IMG_1782-1When we were last in this area, Richard got thwarted from biking due to a stunning loss of roadway. That winter did a lot of damage, but on the upside, there are some beautifully paved rides now.

Saturday night I cooked Blue Apron but really wanted to see the sunset (it is the campground namesake after all). To say I was “stressed” while cooking would be ridiculous since what I was rushing to get to was the sunset. But I was “hurried” plating up a nice meal of Tex Mex Chicken, Cheesy Rice, and Slaw. Timing worked out just fine and we went out to the lookout point, high above the beach, just as the show was getting started. That was my plan. Except, there were swarms of tiny unknown flying bugs up there, putting a damper on the experience and landing in my Chardonnay. So we walked all the way down a long series of steps and over a dune, in flip flops, carrying a wine glass. IMG_0115First World Problems. Worth it.

Sunday we took our time and stopped at New Brighton to dump holding tanks and have some lunch. I booked a couple more weekends in the future for this campground, noting the sites that had good solar. It’s too bad there is no dump at this campground, because we could both see spending a long time there.

Total miles: 94.7, 16.6 mpg, 3 hours 32 min. Site: 26. Best sites for space and solar in the South Loop: 14, 20, 21, 24, 25*, 26*, 27, 28, 31. Decent LTE for both of us. Water spigots nearby, fair bathrooms, no dump.

Camp Edison (2)

IMG_0055Back in May, we camped at Camp Edison, Shaver Lake, and noted that it was too long a drive to do for just a weekend. So I booked a “do over” trip and scored the same sweet site we had before. But this time, I put on my calendar that I would take Friday off. I’m not very good about taking days off during the school year, but I figured with a five month lead time, I could plan around it. So, of course, things beyond my control got planned, Friday off was not going to work, and we were seriously considering eating the reservation fee and not going. But then we discovered that the site was available Sunday night and I could take off Monday without too much pain. Regroup! Game on!!

IMG_9985Getting there is still a pretty big trip. We left as early as possible Friday and hit major traffic. It ended up being a six hour drive and we didn’t pull up to the kiosk until 9pm. Happily, they don’t shut the gate on new arrivals until 10 and we got to use our LED night hitching lights. Dinner was wraps on the road. After darkness had set in and we began heading into the foothills, we noticed something weird and huge and orange coming up over the horizon. Richard was pretty sure it could not possibly be the moon (and yes, he did follow that with: “It’s a space station!”). It was, however, definitely the moon. We tried (LOTS) to get a picture of it, but they all turned out so blurry, you can’t even tell what they were supposed to be. Anyway, it was cool. You’ll just have to trust me.

IMG_0032Despite the long drive, we knew we’d have full days Saturday and Sunday and that was excellent. One of the first things we did was reposition in the site. The Caravan Mover made easy work of that and we got enough level space in front of the door that the awning became useful. This is not to say the decision of whether to put it up was not a struggle. With a view like that, it’s a tough call. Shade and yoga room and blue lights won.

IMG_0023The rest of the day Saturday was spent with biking and boating. Our site is nicely close to the water, though the approach is rather steep and slippery. I made it down, but opted to use the beach when it was time to bring the kayak back in.  Dinner Saturday was take out pizza from Shaver Lake Pizza and that was perfection. Then I got to live my dream and go for a sunset paddle. It was blissful, although I appear to have missed the sunset. Afterglow was pretty awesome anyway.

IMG_0048Sunday we were pretty lazy. I played with some new school things and then we walked up to the Museum. We recommend a trip there for sure. There are all kinds of artifacts from the old logging days and we were treated to a private tour of the replica hydroelectric building. Plus, we went inside an old caboose and got to check out a very well restored Mack truck. All very fun. We’d like to time any return trips to coincide with when they do live demonstrations of the hydroelectric machinery in action. IMG_0037We also learned a lot about the huge tree die off and that it was largely caused by a stressed ecosystem that was vulnerable to a massive beetle attack. With all the fires raging in California, it is worrisome to see so many standing dead trees on the surrounding ridges. The campground appears to have done a very thorough job removing theirs and has turned many of the remaining stumps into happy campbears.

IMG_0082Sunday evening I got my sunset on the water. I also got a close encounter with ducks and a dragonfly. Did you know dragonflies have teeth? Go ahead, Google it. I dare you. I had recently made that mistake, and fully admit to being alarmed when it landed on me. I came out of the incident unscathed and brought back ten thousand pictures of the sun setting over the lake.

Monday was a vacation day, but we knew we’d be using it for travel. Again, it was a long haul. We didn’t hit much traffic going home, but still clocked about 4 1/2 hours. Now my note to self is to stay at this place for a week next time. They have electric hookups at all of the sites, I think. There is plenty of solar to keep the coffee battery charged. There are water spigots conveniently placed throughout the campground, and they even have a “honey wagon” service, so our waste tanks would not be an issue. Go ahead, if you didn’t Google dragonfly teeth, I dare you to look up honey wagons.

This place remains one of my all time favorite places. I just wish it weren’t so far!

Total miles: 200.4, 16.2 mpg, 5 hours 55 min with traffic. Site 120. Best sites for lake views: 120, 119, 124, 125. Sites 118 and the double sites 107 & 108 would be great for water access. This is a huge campground, with 252 sites. Many have full hookups. Nicely maintained, friendly staff.

Scott’s Flat Lake

IMG_9935Nice find! We’re running out of places nearby to check out, but this one was well worth the 4 hour drive. At an elevation of only around three thousand feet, it should be a reasonable destination, even in colder months. Yet, it has all the benefits of a high mountain lake. Our site was chosen late in the game, only a couple of weeks prior, and there weren’t many choices left. So we were on an exposed corner of a loop near the day use area. So there was a fair bit of car and foot traffic. The nice thing about Dory is that you can make any site private. We did check out some of the other sites and I noted nice ones for future visits.

IMG_9957The lake was walking distance, even with a 36 lb. kayak on my back, so I had my Saturday all planned out. Friday we got there just in time for a nice sunset and quick dinner. In the morning, Richard headed out on his bike and I just paddled for hours. There were a few speed boats on the water, enough to make fun waves, but not so many as to be annoying. The weather was perfect. Richard texted me in the afternoon saying the town of Nevada City was fun and that he’d gotten dinner reservations for a nice place in town.

IMG_9965Some time around 3, I pulled Squirt out of the water and Richard helped me carry it up to dry off at the site. That is definitely a bonus over having to pack it back up and put it in the car when still slightly wet. It was a short drive from the campground to Nevada City and the town is super cute. It’s got the feel of an old town, with lots of historically preserved gold rush buildings. But it also has some pretty upscale restaurants. Our dinner at New Moon Cafe was out of this world. I had the Halibut special, with cheddar mashed potatoes and grilled veggies, and Richard had the Rib Tips. After enjoying the exquisite meal, we walked the up and down, hilly little streets and enjoyed the scene. There were a couple of street musicians and the sound of live music could be heard coming from bars. Then it was back to Dory for the tail end of a sunset and a couple episodes of “The Sopranos.” Perfect day.

IMG_9978Sunday we didn’t get packed up and rolling until around noon. We stopped along the way at an Outdoor World, which turned out to be just as exciting as the Cabela’s we’d seen in Idaho. I admit to being tempted by the red and green holiday children’s rifles, but couldn’t even buy them as joke. Instead, we picked up a few little odds and ends before agreeing that we were in sensory overload. We pulled up to our driveway around 5.

We give this place a thumbs up, though it is a bit of a drive for a weekend trip. But it’s got a lake, good biking, and a cute town nearby. Great midday coffee at The Foxhound. Seems worth it.

Total miles: 144.0, 4 hours, 17.7 mpg. Site 241. Nice sites by the lake: 227, 228, 232, 234*, 238. The site across from us, 240, seemed to get some solar. None of the other sites, except 234, would have gotten much. Spotty and slow 4G for ATT, but ok LTE on the lake. Bad service for Verizon until you’re in town.

Liberty Glen

IMG_9902This was our first foray to an Army Corps of Engineers campground. We’re giving it a thumbs up, though there are some things you’d need to be prepared for if you go. This particular campground is located by Lake Sonoma and there are only two places around the lake where you can take a trailer. The other is privately run and is located above the marina. This place does not have any running water, therefore, the large and seemingly nice bathroom facilities are all closed. Instead, there are port-a-potties placed at the bathroom sites. Obviously, there are no electric hookups either, so some caution would be needed in case the weather is hot (no AC). However, if you’re fine with those things, we found the B loop of the campground to have several nice sites and a couple of them overlook the lake.

IMG_9905For us, this is about a 2.5-3 hour drive, depending on traffic. We got out Friday afternoon and pulled up to the kiosk around 6. You can only book sites based on “single” or “double” designation, and you take what is available when you get there. Not knowing any better, I booked a single. When we drove around looking at the sites though, I noted that the singles were pretty narrow and certainly would not have accommodated the awning. Happily, it was not a crowded weekend and they let us change to a double. In fact, I don’t even think we got charged for that. Dory could have fit into a single, but I liked the view in site 76 anyway. Sites 78 and 80 have great views of the lake, but they were taken.

IMG_9906Saturday we just spent doing reconnaissance of the area. For bike rides, it would be pretty daunting to get out of the campground, as the road out is very steep. For boating info, we headed to the Visitor Center to inquire. That turned out to be worth a trip in and of itself! Part of the operations handled by the Army Corps includes running a fish hatchery. Wow. I swear, I never knew how fish hatcheries worked. They had an impressive display inside with movies showing every step of the process, including fertilization. It was kind of like a whole sex education class right there. I’m not sure how conspicuous I looked to the kids running around the place, with my jaw hanging open, thinking, “Wait. They do WHAT to the fish??” Well, there you go.

IMG_9911The volunteer there gave us some good info on kayaking, plus some recommendations for lunch. We drove into the nearby town of Cloverdale and Richard checked out the coffee place (which was rated a 4.8, so he was optimistic). Plank Coffee gets a nod from him, but he couldn’t leave without having a conversation about why it is better to draw an espresso directly into a cup (hint: it’s about emulsions). After that, we had a bite at the Eagle’s Nest Deli. That too was quite good. In fact, the whole town of Cloverdale turned out to be very cute and we were confused as to why it was not packed on a Saturday.

IMG_9913We then drove out to a place called Yorty Creek to check out the kayak launch. While I would never want to bring Dory down that road, and while Richard would find biking it to be fairly deathy, it is doable in a car. The payoff is finding yourself in a part of the lake where there are few or no motor boats, and a nice launch site for small boats. Blue Waters Kayaking runs a rental operation there and we had a nice chat with the rental guy. It turns out, Lake Sonoma has statistically way more drowning deaths than they should. After a couple of questions, the guy shared his hypothesis that this is due to the fact that the lake was created by damming the river, which then flooded a Native American burial site. “Bad juju” the guy explained, with a completely straight face. But guess what. I looked it up, and it is totally a thing. Kind of glad I read this after we got home.

IMG_9920Last exploration of the day took us to the Marina, where there is a privately run campground up above the lake. I wasn’t too impressed with the campground, and I’d still need to drive down to the water to launch, so I think, all things considered, Liberty Glen, B loop, site 76, is right where I’d go for a return trip. There is no service in the campground, and no reliable service until you get near 101, so we’d need to really plan if we wanted to split up with biking and kayaking on the agenda.

IMG_9924Saturday afternoon was nappy time, followed by Blue Apron Ancho Chile Tacos with Blistered Shishito Peppers and Cabbage Slaw. Oh yes. The stars are fantastic out there and we even caught sight of a bonafide meteor, burning up in the atmosphere. I’m not sure if that adds to, or subtracts from, the bad juju in the area, but I’m pretty sure aliens landed somewhere out there. Just be careful is what I’m saying.

Lovely visit! Definitely a place to return to. Our site had great solar and kept the battery at 100%.

Total miles: 105.9, 3 hours 24 min, 15.9 mpg. Site 76, double. Great site!


Folsom Lake (2)

IMG_9854For being so close to Sacramento, Folsom Lake is a surprisingly pleasant destination. Last time we came, I had a head cold and just stayed in Dory being sniffly. We were also in the depths of the drought and there was no lake to be seen. This time around, I got to go for a nice dip while Richard clocked 50+ miles on his bike.

Dinner for both nights was a quick Trader Joes meal in a bag, heated up in a nonstick Magma pan and paired with half baked rolls. I had some reports to write, so I knew easy would be the way to go. IMG_9855Saturday I got “Squirt” out on the lake and just leisurely paddled around for a couple of hours before getting to work. The site we got was, I think, the nicest in the campground. There was plenty of room between us and anyone else. You have to be kind of careful in this park because if you don’t get one of the three or four sites closer to the water, you’re going to be looking at a road full of cars. You also can’t see the lake from any site because there is a huge berm between you and the water. It is close to the bike trail that runs along the American River, all the way to Sacramento, and (when there is water) the day use area is nice for boating and swimming. The bathrooms are nicely done and very clean, and our site was perfectly level with full hookups. This meant we got to live it up with showering and run the AC even though it wasn’t all that hot. The sewer connection was at the perfect location and low down so we got full dumps. It’s those little things that make all the difference.

IMG_9733I sleep very soundly in Dory. Lately, our adopted cat has taken to sleeping adorably curled up on my legs at home. Thing is, I’m 50+ and periodically become a super efficient heat generator at night, so this makes for awkward sleeping. I’ve tried moving her or taking up my half of the bed before she comes in the room, but then she does her kneading and purring thing and puts her tiny fuzzy cheek on mine and I just surrender and make room for wherever she wants to be. And then don’t sleep. So weekends out are now an important part of catching up. Besides the fact that I think she’d hate it, that makes for one more reason not to take her out with us. She does like napping in Dory in the garage though, so we have to be careful not to make her an accidental camping cat.

Nice weekend, nice site. I can’t say this place is terribly remote or super nature like, but it does the trick and has a lot of conveniences that make for an easy outing.

Total miles: 99.7, 3 hours 2 min, 17.7 mpg. Site 53. I think I would only go here if I could get sites 52, 53, or 54. Maybe 50 or 51. But 53 was the nicest. LTE for both of us, full hookups, nice facilities.

Brannan Island (3)

IMG_9838This was a glorious, lazy, uneventful weekend. Did not boat or hike or do much of anything really. Richard went on a bike ride, I got caught up on backlogged things. Slept in. All good.

Richard did change out a tire on Dory during the week because, last weekend, we noticed a little flap of tread had peeled away. That made the trip back from Costanoa extra exciting. Having seen some photos of what trailer tire blowouts can look like, I was primed and ready every inch of the drive home. I have good intel on the relative widths of all the highway shoulders between here and there, in case you’re interested. We made it all the way back without incident, which was great, because it turns out it’s really hard to change a trailer tire and not something that sounds fun to do on the side of the road. Even given the fact that I have done 100% of the driving since we got Dory, I’d say we’re even now. Richard did the whole tire change and his shoulders hurt a lot for several days afterwards.

IMG_9845But as for the weekend, nothing too exciting to report. This is an easy, pleasant, and super close location for weekends out. We need to try out the non hookup sites some time when it’s not hot.

Total miles: 39.1, 1 hour 28 min, 18.2 mpg. Site 109. Non hookup sites that looked nice: 38, 31*, 90, 87, 80, 78, 75*. LTE for both of us.



Costanoa (3)

IMG_9806What do you do for Labor Day Weekend when Bay Area temperatures are set to hit record highs and into triple digits? (hint: your answer will likely match that of 12 million other Bay Area residents) That’s right! You go to the coast! Or pick a whole lot of movies you wouldn’t mind seeing multiple times. In our case, we lucked out because I made these reservations a while ago and I don’t think it would have occurred to me to get a site with electric hookups on the coast. That was a happy coincidence, as AC was definitely needed. Temperatures hit the 90s even right by the ocean and I can’t recall a time I’ve ever seen that happen.

We got ready to leave Saturday morning so I could drop Richard in Pacifica with his bike. It was pretty hazy out there with all the smoke from fires raging to the south. I made my traditional stop at the Pescadero grocery/deli and got some nice stuff to grill. Plus olallieberry pie! Then I headed to the campground and got set up.

IMG_9805This campground is very tightly spaced. It’s definitely a party and/or family destination. But for these situations, it is extremely helpful to have the Caravan Mover and the awning. This allows me to turn Dory so that I can have at least one view that is not too exposed. Then I can lower the side flaps on the awning and maintain the illusion of privacy. We didn’t really care too much anyway and our neighbors were nice and friendly. Mostly all we cared about was having the AC running continuously. I continue to enjoy the screen enhanced awning and took even more pictures to prove it. Saturday night we enjoyed a Ribeye steak with salad and a half baked roll finished off on the grill. Oh yeah, plus two margaritas. Happy camper was I.

IMG_9829Sunday Richard went out riding and I got to write my first report of the school year. But first, I had to run back to the KOA campground store and buy 3 boxes of Luci solar lights. I decided the mini candle lanterns are more trouble than they’re worth and the store just happened to have sets of these priced at about half what they go for online. I can set them all to shine blue, combine with liberal helpings of ice cold margaritas, and again, happy camping is happening.

IMG_9828In the afternoon, we took a walk to the beach. It was cooler there, especially with our feet in the ocean. There was kind of a Hitchcock-ian bird migration happening over the ocean, enough to make us Google it. It turns out we were witnessing a bonafide phenomenon in the form of Sooty Shearwater flocks, apparently heading south. If you told me there were a million birds out there, I would say that sounded about right. I couldn’t really get them in pictures, but to see them moving en masse across the water was truly impressive. There were also Pelicans, Red Wing Blackbirds, Quail, and your requisite Seagulls out in droves. Flocks. Whatever. For dinner, we had grilled sausages, peppers, and mushrooms, over french bread. There was a live band playing in the campground rec area and lots of obviously happy people whooping it up on a Sunday night.

IMG_9832Monday we gave a tour to some Airstream owners who talked about the Alto longingly, saying they would have gotten that in a heartbeat but for the lack of US dealers. Heading home we hit predictable traffic, coupled with a bad accident on 92 that had us stopped for a while. We were’t in any hurry to get home, but made it back around 4 anyway. Perfect weekend and we’re ready to move into a (hopefully) cooler Fall.

Total miles: 81.7, 14.8 mpg (traffic), 3 hours 41 min (again, traffic). Site C54. You can’t reserve specific sites at this place, but the ones around the ends of the loops sure are nicer. I had no service for ATT but Verizon had decent LTE.