Every road trip planner should build a camping road trip for a memorable “hands on” vacation. They are especially fun when you go as a family, though I went on 2-3 camping trips annually before I had kids and had wonderful experiences then as well. Sure, luxury hotels give you the sense of spoiling yourself, certainly a desirable feeling, but being outdoors in natural surroundings rejuvenates the spirit, another sought after vacation objective. Read on for 10 more reasons why a California Campout should be on your vacation list this summer.
No. 10--You get hands-on experience with California's state symbols. In one campout, you could spot the valley quail perched in a redwood tree while you hike through a field of golden poppies. You could also find evidence that a grizzly bear has visited your campsite: There's the smashed windshield of your car (you left sunflower seeds on the front seat) and the demolished ice chest (you didn't realize bears weren't deterred by flimsy storage locks).
An article in the Yosemite Guide newsletter mentioned that backpackers could protect their food from black bears by renting a bear-proof food canister instead of hanging their food from a tree. This canister could hold a three-day supply of food and yet weighed only two and a half pounds. I told my husband I couldn't imagine how such a lightweight item could keep bears from getting at the food. "The canister probably includes a big roll of cellophane wrap," Bill replied. "You wrap your food in it, and the bear goes crazy trying to find the edges."
No. 9--You get to wear all your grungy clothes. You know the ones; those faded T-shirts, torn shorts and baggy jeans that are so comfortable you just can't throw them out yet…even though your spouse has tried on a number of occasions to bury them in the bottom of the household rag bin.
No. 8--Your kids don't have to wash up before dinner. What's the point? Between the bathroom and the campsite are 100 yards of magnetic dirt. Speaking of bathrooms...
No. 7--You appreciate the overlooked luxuries of home. Like having a toilet that flushes. Or taking a shower that doesn't cost a quarter for every five minutes. Once, during a 10-Day California to Colorado Road Trip, Bill and I had only two quarters between us. I finished in time; Bill didn't. He stood there, covered in suds, while I dressed and ran out to try to find someone with change for a $20 bill. The suds nearly dried on him.
No. 6--You're prepared for an emergency. If a moderate earthquake should hit California while you're camping, you won't be inconvenienced because 1) your musty tent is suddenly a safe haven, 2) you've already got all your food on ice and 3) you have a portable radio and a lantern, so you won't miss what most people miss after an earthquake--electricity.
No. 5--You get to have barbecue for every night for dinner. And every morning for breakfast. And every afternoon for lunch. In fact, you can reach your barbecue quota for the entire summer in just one campout.
No. 4--You get to see just how many pores you have on your face. This is a good time to play connect-the-dots or mimic the Orion constellation on your left cheek. It's also the perfect opportunity to have your palm read by a fortuneteller, since all the lines in your hands stand out in stark relief.
No. 3--You get to commune with nature. Blue jays and squirrels enter your campground daily to clean up your crumbs. At dusk, there are bats flying overhead. Do you really trust their sonar? Are you sure they won't get tangled in your hair? At Cherry Lake campground, there are the two-inch bomber pine beetles; these, I can tell you from personal experience, do get tangled in your hair.
No. 2--You get to exercise. This can range from trying to reach that mosquito bite in the middle of your back to chasing the raccoon that's absconded with your favorite bag of chips to consenting to a hike because the sign says it's only two miles long (but neglects to tell you that it's two miles straight uphill).
And the No. 1 reason why you should go camping? It's cheaper than staying in a hotel.
Seriously though, camping is one vacation any budget can handle. And truthfully? My best vacation memories revolve around campfires, nights spent star gazing and counting falling stars, family hikes to the top of Mt. Hoffman, Lassen Peak, Mt. Tallac, Moro Rock. Highlights include stumbling upon fern-bordered swimming holes or nearly-hidden from view waterfalls.
The great thing about camping in California is that there are always more campgrounds to be explored. I’ve camped for nearly 5 decades and yet, my latest Road Trip Planner is being filled with a destination I’ve never been to before; Hope Valley.
Ingrid McCleary (portions of this article appeared in the Sunnyvale Sun and the Cupertino Courier).