Tag Archives: Camping

Canoe Camping on Lake Minnewanka, Canada


Who knows what the weather will do on a weekend in May in the Rockies.  You have to chance your luck if you really want to get out there, and after a long cold winter in Calgary you really do want to get back out in summer camping mode.  It was a last minute decision after a glass or two of wine with my outdoor enthusiast mate and before we knew it we were off too MEC to go and pick up our Canoe and Sea Kayak.  The deals are great and you can hire a canoe for $50 for the whole weekend.  After securing the canoe to the car, we were off.

It’s one of the things I have always wanted to do but have never got round to it and it was not going to disappoint.  The only concern we had was whether we had enough food and whether the wind would be up on Lake Minnewanka.

We got lucky as the lake was pretty calm and despite the forecast of rain in the morning we set out for the first campsite LM#8  along the lake.  There are about 4 campsites which are typical back country affairs and everything you need.  This one allows you to hang your food up and apparently this particular site tends to close in the summer as it is at the base of Alymer Pass which is a bit of a bear haven.

The lake was dammed in 1895 and a few times after that so scuba divers have plenty to look at with the old town still sitting under the water.  There’s a great hike around the side of the lake and a popular trail with mountain-bikers but be aware that one part of the trail is closed July 15th until September because of the amount of bear attacks in the last 6 years.  This is essential grizzly habitat.

Messing about on the water

Messing about on the water

The following morning we had tranquil water and we glided back but this lake is known to very choppy and many people have found themselves stranded waiting to get back or having to be towed…so be warned.

2 Comments

Filed under Camping, Canada

Misty Mornings in Harris Beach State Park, Oregon


I knew about the fog but I didn’t really KNOW about the fog.  Being an English person I pride myself and my nation on our national past time of talking about the weather.  In England the weather is generally damp and Heathrow grey with a splattering of sunshine at odd times of the year that excites the nation into a skin baring frenzy.  Occasionally we have fog too, but nothing beats the fog I witnessed over the 4 days spent at Harris Beach State Park. You always knew it was on it’s way even when the sky was a bold and cloudless blue.

Harris Beach

Harris Beach

And when it came it was just splendid, rearranging the view before your eyes, erasing some of the green rocky islands and creating a blinding whiteness and movement in the sky that was just dazzling, swirling around the handful of people brave enough to be in the water and making the crashing waves rising up the beach appear to be coming out of the void.

And then 20 minutes later the huge rocks jutting out the misty landscape start to re-appear again sometimes slowly and sometimes fast.  These small islands are home of all sorts of life including harbor seals who hang out on the rocks placing bets on how long it will take the fog to hurry away to the next beach.  There are other beachs too, drive about 4 miles up the road there are some really deserted beaches full of driftwood where you can roam to your hearts desire jumping from one beach to the next.

Harris Beach View

Harris Beach View

The campground here is great too.  We just about squeezed in with a booking on July 4th so it was max’ed out, but the sites were all roomy with hot showers and even an iceman delivering ice each evening.  There are also lots of trails, albeit short to keep you entertained and the hard packed sand on the beach proved a great running track.

The Oregon coast is a place that I shall come back too as I know I have just tasted a little of the wildness that is on offer and no doubt coming back at different times of the year would bring an altogether different experience.

How to Get There

2 miles north of Brookings of highway 101

Where to Stay

You can’t beat Harris Beach Campground

Leave a comment

Filed under USA

Humility in Humboldt Redwoods SP, California


The Avenue of the Giants off Highway 101 in Humboldt State Park is a ride not to miss if you can.  These tall, gnarly trees look beautiful from every angle whether standing or lying on the forest floor, roots on display to the world in a fantastic twisty show of earth, ferns and organic matter.  The road trails through the most stunning forest of redwoods you are ever likely to see along the side of the Eel River.  You will see open alluvial plains and meadows but it still a road so there is the hum of traffic .

Rockefeller Forest is the largest remaining old growth redwood forest in the world which is less than 17,000 acres with one of my top runs of my trip along the Bull Creek Flats South trail straight from the Albee Campground about a 11 mile round trip through a mesmerizing landscape of chunky trees that will hopefully outlive all of us.   The bumpy, narrow Mattole Road leading to the campground follows the flat through five miles of old growth and is one of the world’s best redwood drives. The largest trees in the park are found here; of the world’s ten tallest trees, three are on Bull Creek Flats, although their exact location is a secret.

Not only so you get to see some of the tallest in the world but you are also very close to the “Lost Coast”.

The Lost Coast was one of few areas along the California coast that the highways people thought they ought to leave alone and not build a road through it, subsequently it is a wild piece of coastline with a few access roads and lots of hiking trials.  The most famous is the Lost Coast Coastal Trail which is about 64 miles with camping and water along the way.  Unfortunately the amount of wild fires in the area made this a less than desirable hike for us!  You don’t have to hike all of this and can break it down into smaller hikes of course.  There are also mountain biking trails which are due to be ready by autumn 2008 too.

How to get there

This is 45 miles south of Eureka and 20 miles north of Garberville off of Highway 101.

Where to Stay

We loved No.33 in Albee Campground.  This campground is much more remote than the others in the park and has tonnes of trails straight from the campground.  This site looks out across a meadow which has a little apple orchard in it – a favourite of the local black bears in late season.

4 Comments

Filed under USA

Apocalypse Now – White Sands Monument, New Mexico


The senses are confused.  The day is very warm and the sky is overcast with a storm coming through.  You start driving down the road and the land is shimmering white.

But it is not just the whiteness that throws you, it is the texture and the way the sand sits on the sides of the road.  It looks like snow but a quick wind down of the windows and you know you are not in the snows of Canada.  You are in the largest Gypsum sand dunes in the world in the Tularosa basin in New Mexico.   With the winds blowing we had the joy of being on the dunes with not a soul around and new sculptures forming under our feet.  The winds were blowing all evidence of human activity off the pristine skin of the dune.  The parking area which has lots of neatly arranged shelters in the middle of the dunes looked very apocalyptic with the just the sand blowing hard in a deserted landscape that used to have humans roaming the land.   No, it is not that I have an over active imagination this area is right beside the White Sands Missile Range, home of the Trinity Site which on July 16, 1945 tested the first atomic bomb.  In fact you can even visit the site on bi-annual open days if you really feel the need.

White Sands Detail

White Sands Detail

The sands are majestic and looked different each day we visited.  There are plants and animals that adapt to living here with some of the bushes clinging on for dear life and the sands continually move beneath their roots.

Nearby is the town of Alamogordo which does have the New Mexico Museum of Space History where you can delight in the marvels of man in space but if that doesn’t take your fancy then you can go burn some Harry Potter books which is also a favourite pasttime of Chirst Community Church.  Go see the White Sands and then move swiftly on…

How to get there

U.S. Highway 70, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Alamogordo and 52 miles east of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Where to Stay

We stayed at the Alamogordo Roadrunner Campground which was friendly but the usual RV Ghetto setup which after travelling for a year send shivers down my spine.

1 Comment

Filed under USA

Into the trees – Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP, California


Sequoia

Sequoia

Trees hold a supernatural quality for me and the sequoia’s did nothing for my childish daydreams of magic forests carpeted in ferns and inhabited by goblins.  In the case of the sequoia’s the goblins do not have to be very small as some of the trees are as big as my old flat in England (but that’s not saying much).  This is really two national parks joined together by some national forest so sometimes it gets confusing as to what area you are in.   This park hosts Mt. Whitney which at14,496.811 feet is the tallest mountain in the “lower 48” states however, you cannot really see the mountain from the entrance to the park on the west side.  You can see it and access it from 0.7 mile (17.1 km) trail from Whitney Portal, 13 miles (21 km) west of the town of Lone Pine which has the great Diaz Lake Campground with about 200 sites including space for large RV’s down by the riverside.  It’s cheap at $10 a night and looks out at the eastside of the NP.   However, we were more interested in camping in the park and discovered that getting to Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP by vehicle was a little tricky as there are no roads running though the park.  If you are in the east side of the mountains then you have to drive around the park to get into the westerly entrance.   But getting there is worth it to see what little remains of these majestic groves of Sequoia trees and access to Kings Canyon.

The largest tree (in terms of volume) in the world is General Sherman which is located in this park and is a site to behold, but it is hard to really get the scale of these giants of the forest as you stand there staring up into the sky at them.   I can’t help but feel sadness too that we have hacked down so much of our old growth forests although there is still alot of campaigning with Campaign for Old Growth amongst others.

Due to the relative remoteness of the park it is easy to get away from the few people that are there who are mostly looking at the more famous trees on short hikes or driving through the park.

View into Kings Canyon

View into Kings Canyon

A beautiful trail for hiking or running is the Ridge trail, this was one of our top runs as it gently undulates up and down on single track and some forestry road.  Another stunning trail which you can get on direct from the Azalea Campground which was our favourite camping spot, is the Sunset Meadow trail but be ready for alot of downhill and then uphill.

How to get there

Nearest airport is Fresno

To enter Sequoia Park: From highways 65 or 99, go east on Highway 198 to the park entrance.

To enter Kings Canyon National Park:From Highway 99, go east on Highway 180 to the park entrance.

The main park road, the Generals Highway, connects these two entrances.

1 Comment

Filed under USA

By the time I make Albuquerque…it’ll be time to go to Sante Fe


For a place that has alot of songs about it Albuquerque is not much to shout home about. The town is a bit of a sprawl and I was unimpressed by the historic old town which was a handful of streets selling all that damn turquoise jewelry and bad clothes. However, the sunsets were pretty amazing and the full hook-up High Desert RV park we parked up at was cheap at $18 a night and backed onto desert scrub which made for some great sandy jogging. So after a minimal sampling of the town’s delights we hot the road to go and see the much more dramatic and beautiful Sante Fe.

Santa Fe

Sante Fe, nestled in the foothills of the Sangre Christie mountains seems to have everything, a stunning landscape, access to great hiking, biking and ski trails and endless sunny days. This is a city that looks like no other due to the zoning codes of 1958 that rules that all new structures are based on the pueblo style adobe structures which are essentially mud and straw. So the center of the city and the structures up into the mountains are for the most part beautiful organic, natural structures that just sit in the landscape beautifully. This is a green city with tree lined streets and a beautiful European style feel to it where people hangout having coffee, go to the museums and check out the endless art galleries lining the streets. We happened upon the Lisa Kristine Gallery with some of the most evocative photo’s I have ever seen of indigenous people from all over the world in dramatic landscapes and settings. Sante Fe still has it’s sprawl and speaking to one of the locals it seems that those that live in the zoned area boast about never ever going down to Cerrillos Road which is the pure americiana with mall after faceless mall. But having spent a week there I found it to be one of the few places in the US that I think I could live. We camped up in the pine forested mountains in Black Canyon Campground which is only 8 miles up the mountain from the plaza. It was a treat to be out of the RV parks and into the forest campgrounds where you have space to breathe, watch the light sparkle through the pine, make campfires and be a little closer to the wildlife. The campground is situated really close to the trails, in fact there is a great 1 mile loop out the back of the campground that served as a great jogging trail (if you did a few loops). The Chamisa trail which is a 5 mile round trip was a real treat too for either hiking, biking or jogging but unfortunately for us some cold weather weather came in for a few days. There is so much to do around Sante Fe, with Bandelier National Monument only an hour away if you want to see some pre-historic cliff dwellings that are some of the oldest remains found in the US today.

Ram's Head, White Hollyhock Hills

I can see why the iconic Georgia O’Keefe adopted New Mexico as her home and painted the landscapes, the bleached bones and the hearts of flowers for many years out at Ghost Ranch just north of Sante Fe. New Mexico with it’s history, the colour and shape of the land, the trees, the flowers, the light and the big starry nights do start to take a hold of you. And from the words of Georgia herself…

“It is not a country of light on things. It is a country of things in light.”

How to get there

You can fly to Albuquerque and hire a car to drive an hour north on the I-25

Where to Stay

We stayed at Black Canyon Campground however there is a bunch of camping and accommodation options to chose from from boondocking in Walmart to these campgrounds http://wow.gosantafe.com/campgrounds/

Leave a comment

Filed under USA

Big Bend, Terlingua, Texas and Mountain-biking


We all have pre-conceptions about a place especially as a foreigner in a distant land, but arriving into the US from Mexico and finding ourselves in the beautiful far flung outpost of Terlingua, West Texas I had most of my pre-conceptions thrown out of the window. Driving to Big Bend national Park was the order of the day to escape the not so pretty Presidio, Texas. A great place to cross the border back into the US from the Ojinaga, Mexico border crossing (Toll road most of the way from Chihuahua City) due to the Loma Paloma RV Park 6 miles from the border, but that’s about it. Terlingua on the other hand is a place you want to hang your hat for at least half the year as many of the current residents do.

Terlingua

On your way to Big Bend National Park you might find yourselves like we did parking up at one of the RV parks outside Big Bend but if you are in this area then make the trip along the road and follow the signs to spend a little time in the not so ghostly ghost town of Terlingua whose name is a twisted version of Tres Lenguas or three languages (tongues) that were spoken by the locals of the village back in the 1800’s.

This is an old mercury mining town close to the romantic and dangerous Rio Grande, established in the late 1800’s and situated in Chihuahua desert surrounded by Chisos mountains and huge cavernous skies. With the closure of the mines in the 1940’s the town was abandoned of it’s workers which by 1905 was over 1,000 mostly Mexican miners. The miners lived on the eastern side of the town and I was told that the stone structures they built are the ones that are more complete. The old graveyard is still there with the local historians working through the graves trying to identify them. The simple yet beautiful naturalistic buildings that were left behind have been slowly rebuilt by the people that have been attracted to this area. Through the 60’s new blood arrived in the town and with the establishment in 1967 of the first Annual Terlingua Chili-cook off this became a town for partying and was christened the “Chili Capitol of the World” by the Chili Appreciation Society. Today there is a mix of people who like to enjoy the great outdoors with river rafting, hiking, biking of all kinds and to hang out in the porch of the old Starlight Theatre to play blues and enjoy the cool evenings under the stars. But there is enough going on here for those who still like the occasional party and I hear from the locals that any excuse to dress up in fancy dress is jumped at.

Another resident explained in her words, “When I came to Terlingua I realised that rather than talk about yourself you talk about each other, so I adjusted”.

This has some benefits and some downsides but when strolling down the road peering at the unfeasibly large pair of great horned owls planning their evenings activities and being checked out by the local coyote I was stopped by the judges wife who handed me the local newsletter. In May there were three benefits for local people who found themselves in a state misfortune of some kind either through illness or just plain old bad luck. In Terlingua people rally round and do what they can to help and they are proud of it.

KosmicCare“What do you do around here for fun”? Well there is the biking for starts. If you like road-biking then this is a dream location, the roads are undulating enough to give you a serious workout and they are quiet. If you like motor-biking then…ditto – the road from Presido to Terlingua is an absolute must. From the ghost town itself there are back roads and some sweet single track for mountain-bikers in the Lajitas and Contraband trail system. To get the low-down pop along to incredibly helpful and just plain old nice people at Desert Sports they will tell more than you need to know to get out there to ride. In fact these guys are the hosts of the Mas o Menos 100k race on every winter, a race that takes 4 days through rugged terrain. During the winter when the river is high then these are the people to go to for your river trip as they offer smaller trips finding the less busy spots along the rivers.

The locals, the people that live here now are not all from Texas let alone West Texas are interesting, engaging, open and very community minded. Now I say this with only having spent a few days in the area but having to leave was actually very hard. I found myself pondering whether I too could own a little piece of dry scrub and an old ruin that I could call home. As one delightful resident said to me, “You either get this place or you don’t,” and I definitely got it.

How to Get there

Driving – Highway 170 west of Big Bend

Where to Stay

We lucked out and stayed with some very kind locals and had the ultimate Terlingua experience but you can still have fun staying in the Ghost town at La Posada Milagro or camping at any of the RV campgrounds.

– Big Bend Motor Inn RV Campground, Junction TX 118 and FM 170 at Big Bend Motor Inn with full hookups & pull throughs. 800-848-BEND

– Terlingua Ranch Lodge RV Park And Campground, Full hook ups and tent camping. Swimming pool. Located 16 miles east of TX Highway 118, turn off approximately 12 miles north of junction FM 170 and TX 118. 432-371-2416

– Study Butte RV Park, Electricity, flush toilets and showers. TX Highway 118, Study Butte south of junction TX 118 and FM 170. 432-371-2468

– BJ’s RV Park, Full hook-ups, showers, laundry. FM 170, 5 miles east of junction TX 118 and FM 170, near Terlingua Ghostown. 432-371-2259

Places to eat

For a small place this is packed with fantastic places to eat. Try the Phat Cafe for $10 lunch in Asian fusion cusine or the filmic outdoor cafe called Kathy’s Cosmic Cowgirl for breakfast, Starlight Theater for dinner (check out Mondays for the two for one burger that can’t be missed especially with live music to boot) and for the late evening fun try The Boathouse or La Kiva, a bar built in a cave.

Other Stuff

Check out the documentary that was made of the town interviewing the locals- 24 hours in Terlingua

4 Comments

Filed under USA