Tag Archives: RV Camping

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.

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Down the rabbit-hole to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico


The entrance to Carlsbad Caverns was silent. No-one else around other than the cave swallows swooping over our heads to catch the bugs and hurry to the nestlings peeking out from the muddy holes in the cave walls. No-one mentioned the swallows, only the Mexican free-tailed bats, who had not yet arrived from the south to perform their evening shows of dramatically exiting the ultimate bat cave at dusk. “Curiouser and curiouser”!

The slow walk to the mouth of the cave is simply breathtaking as the sights and sounds take my imagination off into magical tales of underground kingdoms. The opening is large and not surprisingly…cavernous. I am not sure what I was expecting. Yes, I expected to be impressed but not to be totally gobsmacked before even getting down into the first cave. The opening is huge and as I drift into the darkness it takes a few minutes for my eyes to adjust. The lighting is particularly beautiful. Large features are lit from hidden sources and the rest is just visible but not in great detail. The cave entrance, the “Twilight Zone” has to be lit in the most minimal way so that animals are not tempted to enter and get lost and starved.

Carlsbad (2)

As I move deeper into the cave the sounds of the swallows around the entrance area start to subside and I start to notice a different kinds of sound; drip, drip, drip. It takes 8 months for the water to move into the cave and slowly drip through and anything above the surface will eventually make its way into these limestone caves and drip. Unfortunately this includes all of the fallout from the car park on top of the cave. The dripping starts to fade into the background as I begin to grasp the scale of the caverns. I make my way through the first cavern and after turning a corner look down and gasp at the next huge cavern that I am about to descend into. Let me remind you that Chris and I still have the entrance caves to ourselves. When you get to the caverns you have the self guided option of taking the lifts 750ft down into the main showcase caverns or you can walk down – WALK DOWN!

I don’t know what to do with myself, so I just stand there trying to take it all in. No matter which direction I look in it all looks wondrous. So I continue on and am presented with about 3 more caverns each more awe-inspiring that the one before because each one is not expected. By the time I make my way to the base of the cave I gather myself together and prepare for the aptly titled, “Big Room”. This is even more decorated that the caves I just floated down through, glistening white rock of many different shapes and textures hanging from the roof, jutting out of the ground, stalacmites and stalactites creating fairy grotto’s. This cave is busier with people now but all around me I can hear sharp intakes of breathe as the cave reveals it’s quiet glory to passers-by. The park wardens ask that you do not talk louder than a whisper so the cave is full of hushed “wows”, or “awesome”.

Carlsbad

Words cannot really explain how sublime the caverns are and the experience of being able to walk through them marvelling at the wonder of nature. I cannot think of any man-made structure that is more beautiful or human that this. Needless to say, the next day Alice went back for more but could only dream of the wonders to behold in Lechuguilla caves in Carlsbad, discovered in 1986 and known to be the longest cave in the world. It is still being explored and has yet to reveal all of the caves to it’s explorers.

Other Info

The caverns were explored the lost comprehensively by a 16 year old cowboy called Jimmy White who stumbled upon the opening in 1901. “I worked my way through the rocks and brush until I found myself gazing into the biggest and blackest hole I had ever seen, out of which the bats seemed literally to boil. … I couldn’t estimate the number, but I knew that it must run into millions.” He ultimately spent his life dedicated to exploring and preserving the caves for others to see.

Getting There

S Highway 62/180 from either Carlsbad, New Mexico (23 miles to the northeast) or El Paso, Texas (150 miles to the west). Carlsbad is served by Greyhound and TNM&O bus lines, or you can fly into Albuquerque, New Mexico, or Midland, Texas. Mesa Airlines flies between Albuquerque and Carlsbad.

Where to Stay

There are plenty of places to stay in Carlsbad or even White’s City which was a bit grimsville US for me. We stayed in the friendly family run Carlsbad RV Park which is about 20 miles from the caves. As for Carlsbad, there’s nothing much exiting going on other than stocking up on your groceries.

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Boondocking in Bermejillo, Durango, Mexico


The night was hot. The air was heavy and thick and the ever present Vicente Fernadez’s beautiful voice singing Estos Celos was filling the diesel scented air with his smooth notes. The vulcanizer store next door was still busy with the trucks arriving in late and needing some repairs. The whole family was out in the street with children giggling outside the trailer while the father set about fixing the truck. The truck cleaning men were still waving down the drivers enticing them to park up and have their huge semi-remolques cleaned while they stopped to rest for the night. This is when having an older trailer works – we blended into the mayhem of the place, our 24ft 5th wheel looking petite next to the medley of colourful trucks. After spending a few hours watching the street I realised that it was not mayhem out there at all. This was a small town fully geared to servicing the truckers. The following morning after not much sleep we had a wonderful Huevos a la Mexicana from one of the street stands. Having come from Patzcuaro and Zacatecas where the 7000ft+ altitude gives you hot days and cool nights we were shocked to find that the temperature never really dipped much below 34c even through the night. It was steamy, loud and smelly where just the sheer exhaustion of all the travelling allowed us to store a few hours in the sleep bank. We were not really sure where we were and it was only upon leaving the town the next morning that we found out the name of the town. It was Bermejillo about 40 kms from Torreon in Coahuila.

When you travel in Mexico looking for a place to stay for a night, the Pemex gas stations are generally a good spot. The trick is to buy your gas and ask whether it is alright to park for the night. The Pemex station outside of the towns are generally better as they tend to be large and act as truck-stops. But pick the right one make sure you know what is around you and that you are going to feel safe for the night. Other good places are Police stations or even motels or restaurants – just ask. If you park in street which we did in Los Mochis make sure the street is well lit and that you check out the neighborhood and know what kind of place you are in and don’t be surprised in the morning if you find some curious people checking out your trailer from underneath…

Never park in a deserted area as you never know what is going down in that area it may not be deserted.

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Lo De Marcos, Nayarit, Mexico


It’s always the way that on your journey to get to one place you find a little piece of paradise along the way, the trick is to recognise it before you continue on your quest to find the right place. I was looking for somewhere to be still, somewhere I could call home for just a short while. Baja is a stunning place to stay but my itchy feet were too curious about mainland Mexico to be still so on Dec 29th we took the ferry leaving Baja behind for now. After a uneventful but expensive ferry trip from La Paz, Baja to Topolabampo we drove south towards Puerto Vallarta heading for Sayulita in Nayarit for a quick stop with a plan to drive onto Barra De Navidad. I won’t bore you with the details of getting the ferry tickets but the three key points you should take note of; 1) you can’t buy a ferry ticket unless you have your vehicle documents for the mainland, 2) you can’t get your vehicle registered if you don’t have your vehicles at the Banjercito which is at the port in La Paz 3) you will have to back your vehicle onto the ferry which gets tricky in a large RV. Tickets are expensive for truck and trailer combo ($800 for 8 metres length plus $70 per person). Good news is that the ferry is new and only a 6 hour crossing. The ferry will get you in at around 10pm so head for the nearest town which is Los Mochis, but be warned there are no RV parks open here as we had to just park up in the street with our trailer.

So we arrived in the once sleepy fishing village of Sayulita and felt crowded out. It is packed with eager surfers enjoying the surfing paradise and of course partying plus those that like to hang out in a cool town. You can get custom surf boards made by dingbatz for the same cost for one bought off the peg or you can buy your little bit of property in Mexico at a high price. Real estates agents are two a penny alongside bars and restaurants and you would have no problem finding an apartment to rent out in this funky little Mexican town. There was no room at the RV park when we arrived on New Years Eve so we were forced to check out the next town 16km north of Sayulita, the truly sleepy town of Lo De Marcos with a beach to die for and the kind of laid back ambience that Sayulita must have had when the hippes discovered it in the sixties.

Lo De Marcos Beach

Lo De Marcos, a town of 3,000 is going through continual transition to accommodate the increasing visitors feels positively Mexican. The town is frequented by Mexican families during the major holidays and weekends with some long stay RV’ers campers here. Most of the streets are cobble-stoned with dogs lying camouflaged into the dusty grey cobbles with their dirty creamy curly coats, spread eagled and relaxed. On the rare occasion I need to drive the truck I have to be careful to skirt around the dogs and keep a keen eye on the children playing on the corners, some aged as young as 3 or 4 never wandering far from a small radius in front of their houses, laughing and chasing the dogs who also seem to have an unmarked territory from which they explore and guard. Altars sparkle outside houses. Our Lady of Guadalupe always the centerpiece with her gold beams and ribbons lit by the xmas lights. Old people sit outside their houses which look like shops. I find myself peering into open doorways expecting to see items for sale and then once closer look away quickly realizing that I am peering into someones home. Shops which look like houses are equally confusing selling a handful of items outside their front door. Men play dominoes outside the plaza wearing shirts and cowboy hats whilst cowboys trot pass on their horses. In the mornings all manner of people are selling their wares, the bin men ringing their bells, the gas man tooting his ice cream van style horn with interspersed with cry of “calour, calour”. Street stands sell taco’s and churros, mariachi CD’s and jewelry and like everywhere in Mexico there are always the internet cafes around to make those cheap calls home (thank god for Skype ).

The beach is sandy and wide with , the waves crash in and wallop onto the beach providing a constant background noise. Mexican families adorn the beach in groups sitting under beach umbrellas with picnics but between the major holiday seasons the beach mostly empty. Mornings bring out the mostly Canadian golden brigade who are out for their morning constitutionals walking, jogging, strolling with rarely a car to be seen. When the tide conditions are right a handful of surfers and boogie boarders race out to the rocks on the western edge of the beach bobbing on the waves waiting to catch the big waves. The local fishermen compete with the pelicans for catching the fish out by the rocks in the late afternoons with the heavily laden shrimp boats hanging out in the water resting from the nights fishing. The cicadas break into their singing in the evenings with a variety of sounds that rush at your ears all wanting to be heard. The referee whistle reaching out over the rest of the sounds as regular as a heartbeat.

Vampire Bats

The small pond along the road behind the beach houses egrets sitting alongside the turtles taking a break from the slow creeping around the waters. Iguanas race across the road to get to the pond in a rush of luminous green that disappears into the undergrowth. Hummingbirds fill the air like fighter jets swooping and collating mid air in a fight to the death over the feeders hung from the houses. The birdlife is intense every day bringing a new and wonderful specimen to wonder at. Huge butterflies gorge on the feast of bouganvillias that are bursting out everywhere, vampire bats rest during the day in the roofs of buildings. Lo De Marcos is the place to be right now because in effect the two smaller beaches frequented by the Mexican holiday makers have been bought, well the access roads have been bought (always a work-around in Mexico) and the plan is for the Japanese developers to put up the hotel and the bungalows. The sleepy charm will soon be lost but for the locals there will be more job opportunities.  While I was there I saw more estate agents opening their doors and Lo De Marcos is for sale in terms of property and houses.  The price is going up substantially each year.

If you want to get involved with the local community there is a non for profit organisation La Casa De Los Ninos that is always looking for help.

GETTING THERE The closest airport is Puerto Vallarta; either take a taxi (45 minutes) or hire a car.

WHEN TO GO It is surrounded by jungle and receives 345 days of sunshine per year with temperatures reaching 90 degrees F (32 C) during the summer, along with high humidity, but at night, the onshore breeze. The rainy season is June through September, however, August and September are considered the two “rainy” months. December and January, the peak tourist season, are generally warm, sunny and dry, with comfortable, balmy nights.

WHERE TO STAY There are plenty of places whether RV camping, renting houses or bungalows.

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Swimming in a Sea of Fairy Dust


 

bioAt nightfall, standing on the shore at Los Naranjos beach in Baja Concepcion, I noticed that the gently lapping waves seemed to be sparkling. Upon agitating the water with my hand there were even more sparkles. Absolutely magical this is the famed bioluminescence produced by the flagellate plankton who when agitated glow bright green as a way of scaring predators. In large accumulations, they produce “phosphorescent seas” in which crests of waves, surf, and waters around boats and swimming organisms glow electric blue. In the deep sea, where there is no sunlight, more than 90% of the animals are luminescent. Bioluminescence serves a number of important functions other than scaring predators such as prey attraction, illumination of prey, mate attraction, and predator avoidance. It also serves the purpose of making you feel like you are swimming in a sea of fairy dust. Now where are those kayaks…add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

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Lazy Days at Bahia Concepcion, Mexico


The instant I arrived here I felt relaxed. Trying to read my book listening to the sounds of “The Band” drifting out from the neighbours cabin I found myself just gazing at the shoreline about 20 feet from the trailer watching a dog that from all account seems to be fishing. At no time did I see him catch as fish but his focus on the water around him walking along the beach with his tail wagging frantically for a least an hour makes me think that he may have had at least one vivid success in the past. Having meet the owner I later found out that this Labradoodle does fish. But the more experienced fishers are here and swallow up a lot of my gazing time. The pelicans sit in the water directly in front of me with their sinuous necks and enormous beaks resting in what no doubt is the most comfortable position possible, an S shape and their eyes observing all around. Having ignored for hours the incessant squawking of the two seagulls, who seem caught in some tortuous repetitive behavior picking and dropping things seemingly unable to fish and now engaged in a vicious fight trying to pull each others eyes out, the pelicans join me in trying to break up the fight.

pelican brown-mtybay

The pelicans fly in groups of about a dozen in single file over the water with a wave type approach to the flapping which I assume generates a air stream that allows those behind to glide inches above the water. Watching the world go by with a stillness I have never observed in a bird is the heron. With it’s tall thin legs and long pointy beak it stands solitary waiting in the water with the waves lapping against it’s perfectly still body to catch the odd passing fish. There are so many birds too numerous to mention. They spend less time on the beach and hang around the sandy fields of huge saguaro cacti perched on the tips of the cacti relaxing with their wings spread before soaring up into the sky to hunt for food. And best of all are the pods of dolphins who swim along the shore in the mornings with their fins bobbing in and out of the water.

As I sit in my trailer this morning looking out at the scene before me, the travel guide descriptions seem a little off the mark. The turquoise waters of the bay are nowhere to be seen instead there is a little drizzle which has been making an appearance on and off all through the night and it still lingering this morning. The water is uniformly grey. Most north Americans visit Baja to escape the cold winters up north but the winter months are not always that hot down in Baja. We have been informed that this is extremely unusual weather by those that have been frequenting the area for 10 or more years. There is cloud, sunshine and winds that sweep in during the afternoons and the water is tepid. For me this is perfect, long gone are the days of toasting myself in the sunshine, a task that was always an uphill battle with fair skin.

Bahia Concepcion is a bay that is about 20 miles in length with about 12 beaches offering various levels of camping. Right now it is undeveloped but the developers are moving in. There is a remax office about 3 miles north of here selling beach side property that hints at the development that lies ahead. For those visiting these beaches for the last 20 years and there are quite a few of them here at Los Naranjos, it already feels more developed but as most of them know this is still a far cry from Los Cabos with it’s first class hotels and golf courses. For now it is a chilled out bay with much more interesting flotsam and jetsam living in the beaches for the winter months. We were led to the Los Naranjos beach after a brief meeting in Catavina with the warm and friendly Roy, the pastor of a non-denomination church that sits on the beach less than a mile from the campsite who normally spend 6 months a year here . When asked what he does he replied in a Missouri accent, “Ahh haeve ma church and am going down to visit the schools as Santa Claus.”

The campsite has lots of longstay people here, mostly American who either own or rent Palapa’s which are woodframe huts with a covering of palm fronds for a roof on the beach or like us camp in their trailer. The beach is unique in that it offers water and sewage but all the power is solar. There is fishing right off the beach and the bay provides great kayaking for those armed with their own kayak. Yesterday while the fishing dog was busy in the shallow waters, another mutt with his life jacket on had the pleasure of a whole mornings kayaking with his owner much to the jealously of the other beach dogs who frantically swam after the kayak out into the bay. The sense of home and community is what strikes me about this beach. Many people have come and introduced themselves to us, invited us for food and coffee’s trying to establish whether we are going to be one of the community here. One of our neighbours, an Australian couple who are 4 months into their 18 month trip started in Vancouver, have decided not to bother exploring Mexico much more and see no reason to leave this beach sooner than February (in 3 months). At $10 a night for a camping spot or $15 for a palapa and rv spot along with with side trips down to the southern most tip doable in a day I can see they have a point. The only downside here is that you are living in a English speaking ghetto nevertheless with the site being run by Mexicans and with the town of Mulegé10 miles down the road you can still experience Mexico and have somewhere to further those Spanish skills or like the pastor Roy there are ways to engage with the local community especially if you look like Father Xmas.

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San Quintin to Catavina, Baja California


 

180px-Boojum treeThe trip continues into a landscape that is forever changing. This road to Catavina is far less busy and less populated, apart from one small town with a yellow cafe with a hand painted Starbucks logo to let you know that you can buy this good old brand in Rosarito, a dead horse, fields of garlic and of course the endless litter along the highway, this road was mostly surrounded by desert. For those not familiar with deserts the assumption is that is all looks the same, just vast sand dunes or sand with the occasional cactus. The desert is so diverse. We have been driving through desert now for over 1,000 miles through Utah, Arizona and now Baja California but the colour and texture of the sands, the density and variation of the flora keeps changing.The drive today was magnificent in places where the most unusual looking cacti revealed themselves. These are the Dr Seuss looking Boojum Trees and grow up to about 20 meters in tall thin trunks covered in thousands of short spines and flower just at the top in what looks like ‘Side Show Bob’s’ hair (of The Simpsons fame). They cover the landscape along with many other shapes and sizes of cacti.The campsite we found was cheap and cheerful at $6 a night which is a far cry from the $25-30 a night rates on offer in the mostly full hookup RV parks. Having an older trailer in the US made us standout a little but the nice thing about Mexico is that it fits right in and we are finding the more daring Americans riding these highways unaccompanied like real grown-us (not in a Caravan) also have older trailers.

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