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Camping around California

Pitching tents, sleeping in cozy sleeping bags, waking up to birds chirping, experiencing living in the woods surrounded by trees, moonlight strolls, star-gazing under open skies and finding the time to admire the beauty of nature from our busy and technology dominating lives: That’s what is CAMPING FOR ME in a nutshell! And of course, the bonfire, the camp food and the camp fire stories that go along with it 🙂

I love to camp because some part of me is a nature person and the whole experience of camping makes me super happy :D. Summer’s here and many of you might be thinking about camping options in and around the bay area. So here are a few recommendations on camp grounds and fun stories I have associated with them.

The tranquil after one’s asleep!

Camping at Huntington Lake/Shaver Lake: If you camp often, you would know that finding campsites at the last-minute for the July 4th holiday is a rarity. A couple of years back, when we made a very last-minute plan to go camping during the July 4th weekend, we were unable to find reservations to a nearby camp location. I had not heard of Shaver Lake until then, but after some research and a couple of phone calls, we were able to secure a camp spot at the Rancheria Campground in Sierra National Forest. The location was a 4 hour drive from San Jose. Our campsite was near Lake Huntington which is slightly further away from Shaver Lake. I was not sure how this experience was going to be until we reached the location, but I was pleasantly surprised. It is a great location to get away from the crowds and feel closer to nature. We rented a boat on one day to cruise around Lake Huntington. Star gazing at Lake Huntington was phenomenal. I saw 2 shooting stars on this trip when we decided to do a night hike (more of a stroll!) to a freaky lake. It was pitch dark on the hike with just one torch-light, but when we reached the lake, the reflections of the stars sparkling in the lake made it look surreal.

Fun story associated with this trip: Our campsite has a slight slope and we had put up the tent in a jiffy not realizing that we’ll have to sleep on an inclined angel going downhill. The first night, hardly any of us could sleep because we kept on sliding down in the sleeping bags because of the downhill slope 🙂

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Camping at Big Sur: Big Sur is about a couple of hours drive from San Jose and would be a great option for a weekend camping trip if you are not planning on spending more than a couple of days there. We camped at Pfeiffer Big Sur SP which is about 20 miles south of Carmel. The Big Sur river crosses the campground, but if I remember correctly, our camp site was not near the river. If you are looking for a camping location which is close to the Pacific coast, Big Sur is a nice choice since you get amazing views of the Big Sur valley as well as the Pacific ocean. The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is also close by and most people visiting Big Sur hike the McWay Waterfall trail which takes you to the waterfall overlook. There’s also a Pelton Wheel housed somewhere around the trail, but I forget the significance behind it. There are plenty of hiking trails that lead to magnificent ocean views. And since the campground is close to the coast, it has the tendency to get cold in the evening and night. Big Sur is special because it was one of my first few camping trips 🙂

Camping at Sequoia National Park: If you want to camp in the southern Sierra Nevada area near Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks, Lodgepole Campground at Sequoia National Park is a fantastic campground. One of the best campgrounds in terms of facilities and experience. Our campsite was right next to the river, so the location was perfect. I think the place is so polished that it would be perfect for beginner campers. It is extremely clean and there is a huge space for your tent so it gives you privacy from your neighbor tents. This was the first and the only time I have camped next to a flowing river.

Pitching the tent

Camping at Yosemite National Park: We have camped at Yosemite National Park a couple of times inside the valley, but I am going to write about my camping experience at June Lake which is at the other side of valley (toward Mammoth Lakes). Why? Because it has been one of my most memorable trips to Yosemite 🙂 If you want to camp away from the crowds, avoid camping in Yosemite valley and opt for one of the campsites at Mono lake or June lake. Gorgeous scenery and secluded locations make this a great camping option.

Fun story associated with the trip: Ever reached a wrong camp location because it was pitch dark and GPS signals were pretty bad in the national park? And then forced someone out of their designated campsite? Well, we’ve done that!!! Not only did we end up staying at a different campsite than the one where we had our reservation at, but we also set up our tent at 11 in the night because we had to drive a rented car on the windy roads with almost failed brakes 😦 Doesn’t sound fun, right? But in retrospect it was a great trip with lots of stories to share!


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