The traffic out of Los Angeles is incredible – to be honest, just crazy. Imagine a 7 lane highway (one direction) as busy as you can imagine with 1/3rd of the traffic being trucks and rather aggressive driving style! Somehow we manage to get out of LA. Uff. And luckily, traffic improves, the further away we get. We drive thru a typical Californian landscape – dried out landscape with few bushes along the valleys and a few passes to get to Joshua Tree. Happy to see civilization and RV Service. There is also T-Mobile signal in town allowing us to get an appointment since we urgently need to get a break control installed (smoky breaks on the car makes us nervous). Moving on to the National Park we first try to stay at the hidden valley campground. Unfortunate, max. length allowed is 25 feet. The trailer is 17 feet which seems reasonable but together with the Suburban we must be approx. 35 feet and we won’t fit on this campground. We turn around and head to Jumbo Rock Campground – Wow! What a beautiful campground in the middle of the desert – a gorgeous landscape up here and plenty of rocks to climb on! While setting up the trailer, I noticed that the cable from the trailer got completely pinched and needs to get repaired. We must take care of this before heading to the Grand Canyon. Here in Joshua Tree National Park we enjoy the Campground, head to Oasis Mara and do the Arch hike. We all enjoy this beautiful and unique landscape with a variation of Cactus, Joshua trees and the amazing rock formations. It truly is an awesome and unique place to visit! With temperature between 92 and 106 Fahrenheit we drink a lot of water and try to shift our major activities into the morning and evening. We focus on smaller hikes for now and look out for shade to climb, staple rocks and play – just relaxing and enjoying this awesome time together! As usual, Mara and Elin are working on the Junior Ranger Program to get their batches.
We stay for a couple of days in Long Beach – a lovely city south of LA. Form here we explore LA by Metro – we take the blue line to Downtown which is stated as the most dangerous metro line in the whole country. After arriving safely in downtown LA we spend there a few hours including a break at the Market. Then, we move on with the red line to do the walk of fame. Here LA gets really crowded and busy! The next day we really need a break and enjoy a day hanging around at and in the pool. Mara and Elin are super excited about the following day.
Ring ring! It’s 6 a.m. and time to get up! Soon after, we head out to Anaheim – Disneyland – and get there at 7.30 (doors open at 8 a.m.). Now we need to be patient and wait in line until the doors open. Finally, we enter Disneyland and start exploring the various coasters and exhibits – Pinocchio, Matterhorn, Future world including Star wars and many others. The faster the more excited the girls become!! I am surprised how many roller coaters got technical issues in the afternoon and need to be shut down for some time.
Our route continues south on Highway 1. The cost is beautiful and offers various Vista Points. With the trailer we limit our self to a few stops. The road is curvy and narrow; the parking lots often too crowded or too small for the trailer. The landscape along the coast is spectacular but very dry. Once in a while you get thru a small forest and get a taste of (smell) Eucalyptus or Pine trees. We get to Big Sur and enter into some of the state parks in the Area. We fail with all attempts Everything seems super crowded, even the beach. At the information center, the lady recommends us to head further south (approx. 20 Miles/30 Km) to another state beach that may not yet be full. We then decide to move on to San Simon. Here we end up on a nice but primitive State Forrest Campground. Due to the drought, they cut off water on the campground as they did on many other campground in California. We enjoy a relaxing evening while the kids play at neighbor’s campsite.
Moving south the landscape doesn’t change dramatically. We pass San Luis Obispo and shortly before getting to Santa Barbara we take 154 to get to our next National Forest Campground.
Tomorrow, we have an appointment in the Morning to get the Suburban checked. We decided to bring in the car tonight and to get a rental car for the day. What a great service at the Chevrolet Service Center. They order a rental car at Enterprise car rental and a shuttle takes us to the rental car office. Here, we get to choose a car and we go for the Jeep (Mara wants to go for the bigger one). We drive back to our campground and get the chance to see a gorgeous sunset. In the morning we head back to Santa Barbara and enjoy East beach, the pear and an amazing playground. Additional, unexpected service is required – the front breaks pads and disks need to get replaced. Lucky enough that they manage to do all service work today – we are now save to continue our trip south. Tomorrow we want to get to Los Angeles.
On our drive to to Carmel we experience the California driving style and traffic which is slightly more aggressive than in the North West. Arriving in Carmel, we sattle down on a small but lovely capround surrounded but some Europeans. Mara and Elin jump out the door and head out to check out for kids to play with. We enjoy strolling in Monterey as well as in the pictoresque Carmel. What a lovely place! Later in the afternoon we check out the Carmel beach! What a nice beach with lovely white sand. The kids enjoy playing in the sand and watching the surfers. By the water, we see people starring to the ocean. We get curious too and walk down. Are this sharks out there? Or whales? Noooo, we discover 3 dolphins playing and swimming along Carmel Beach! Look there! Where? Oh over there I see 1… oh no there are 3 dolphins…The kids love it!
After a long drive (with trailer it took us approximately 5 hours) we finally arrive at our destination – San Francisco. All of us enjoy San Francisco – we explore this lovely place walking and leveraging the great offering of the hop on, hop off bus. On the one hand it brings you straight to the attractions such as Fisherman wharft, Golden Gate Bridge, Haight street, Union Square, just to name a few and on the other hand the tour guide on the bus provides us with some interesting back ground information and facts about this amazing city.
The drive from Lake Tahoe to Mono Lake is amazing. We drive along the Sierra and cross a couple of passes. Our equipment so far does well. The decent from these passes though, becomes challenging. The breaks on the Suburban tend to heat up quickly (once in a while they get smoky). Arriving at Mono Lake, we head straight to the Information Center where Mara is eager to run thru the Junior Ranger program. It is the last batch and luckily the Ranger keeps its promise. He holds the last batch for Mara. After completing the program, the ceremony begins, including photo shooting for the Junior Ranger Program website. Tonight, we still need to get a site; we ask the ranger at the information center for recommendations. He lists us 4 options (just in case the camps are full). We are lucky and find a nice spot on the first National forest campsite recommended, right next to the waterfall – the drive thru the campground is spectacular – I am glad no one came across and we got into the spot safely. So far, this was the most beautiful and peaceful campground on our trip!
Next day, we climb up to 10,000 feet to enter Yosemite from the east entrance thru Tioga Pass. The landscape here is gorgeous and the view to the half Dome amazing! Lucky enough that that Yolanda planned weeks ahead and got us a site. Lots of camper must stay outside the park or even don’t do Yosemite for lack of camp sites in and around the park. We all are truly surprised about the traffic and the crowed in Yosemite valley – just insane! We visit the Tunnel View, Mirror Lake and do a few smaller hikes as well as the Junior Ranger program. Mara and Elin enjoy the Junior Ranger program and learning about the nature, animals and plants.
During our stay we chat with various locals and ask for recommendations on the way to SF (San Francisco). Unfortunate, there is no much in between and we decide to go straight to SF and spend a couple of days there.
After some investigations and research, we know which campground to head to in Lake Tahoe. However, we quickly figure out that we are getting into peak season and campgrounds fill up quickly especially on weekends. It is getting harder if not impossible to get a site – all nice campgrounds are full weeks ahead. We end up at the Encore resort campground. The kids enjoy the entertainment program here with Art, Bingo and Movie night. The hike to the cascades starts wonderful – but unfortunate it turn out to mission incomplete – we are not equipped appropriate (flip flops only) and already headed down too far to get the hiking gear from the car. On our way out towards Mono lake, we get to stop at the agricultural inspection station (I bet they get us for our WA license plates). The lady inspects our fruits, woods and the button of our RV. It results into a few questions as well as a loss of an Apple that we just purchased at Lake Tahoe. Thankful to this great experience of a true agricultural inspection we are able to share some learnings:
- You must not transport firewood for more than 60 miles
- Keep your slip, you may need to show it later
- Inspect every fruit you purchase to avoid further losses at future inspection points
We continue our route to Mono Lake.
After leaving the coast, temperatures start rising. The thermometer rose up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit on our way to Redding where we stopped for two days on a 5 star campground with pool! For the first time ever we turned on the air conditioning in our trailer and experienced a 5 star service on the campground inclusive the Newspaper delivery every morning! In Redding we visited the amazing Sundial bridge and did a day trip to the Shasta caves. The kids enjoyed the boat trip to get to the caves as well as the 609 steps during the tour thru the cave;-) On our way to Chester we experienced diverse landscapes and big climbs up to the Lassen National Park entrance. Since there was no drive thru on Lassen (the road opens on June 12th) we spent most of the time in the visitor center (an amazing and super interesting visitor center) getting Mara thru the Junior Ranger program 😉 before heading to Chester. Here, we found a gorgeous campground right at lake Almanor. June 10th is our BIG DAY! We decided to go for a hike (approx. 7 km) on Warner Valley (Lassen National Park). We headed towards Devil’s Kitchen. Mara and Elin were leading the hike until we crossed a family that just spotted a blond black bear! With respect we moved on, each of us a holding a kid watching out for the bear – and here we go – the Bear was approx. 150m away from the trail digging and playing. Slightly scared and precautious we moved on to Devil’s Kitchen – a beautiful volcanic landscape with mod pods and steam!
On our way back, we chatted with a ranger and shared our experiences about the bear (he didn’t see the bear on his way) and he taught us that they never experienced aggressions or any accidents with bears in the park – just don’t surprise them! 5 minutes later on our way back, Felix got surprised by a black bear just a few feet in front of him. Stop! Move back! Just trying to keep an eye where the bear heads to since we needed to pass by and didn’t wanted to surprise him behind a tree. After a little while we were save to move on and continue our journey! We then realized how unique this experience was- to meet a golden black bear just on the same trail, in natural surroundings, looking at each other and observe how it behaves in his „living room“. What an incredible day!
…We now notice how dependent we became on technology such as mobile phones, internet, … Unfortunately the internet connectivity on the campgrounds is often weak and it is hard to do some research and plan our trip on the go. We also noticed that the coverage of T-Mobile outside of major cities is rather limited which makes it also challenging to make a reservation of a campground by phone. Arriving in Crescent city we briefly stop at the visitor center to check vacancy on campgrounds. Happy to hear that Mill creek has first come, first serve sites that open up at 2.p.m., so we hurry up to grab a site! There is still some time to explore the area in the afternoon as well as for a small hike. We also enjoy our trip along the Howland Hill Road (dirt road) and spend plenty of time hiking and admiring the giant redwood trees that can get up to 2000 years old and reach a diameter of 6m at the button. Happy to discover once in a while a Starbucks coffee to spend some time researching for campgrounds and alerts on the route. We already noticed that campgrounds may already be booked out on weekends and it will become even harder in a few weeks (vacation).
On Monday, May 30th the weather in Fall City (Seattle) changes radically from typical Seattle weather (rain) to – sunshine. What a beautiful day to kick off our road trip. The trailer and the car are packed, final turn to the dumping station and we are ready to head out south towards the highway 101. Our first stop is Cannon beach. Cannon Beach is a lovely holiday destination. The main attraction is the 72m high Haystack Rock that pops out of the ocean. We all enjoyed walking along this long beach, building sand castles and kiting. We also enjoyed spending some time at the Ecola State Park with its lovely gorgeous view over Cannon Beach! On May 31st, we also celebrated Ein’s 4th Birthday with a Gelato (Ice Cream), a b-day balloon and an afternoon in the pool.
Continuing our journey heading #101 south towards our next destination Florence we enjoyed this beautiful scenic drive along the Oregon coast with a few stops including the Devil’s Elbow state park. The Campground was located right behind the Oregon Dunes allowing us to explore them easily and enjoying sledding down the dunes, hiking in the biggest sand box ever seen.
Next day we continued south and took a short detour to pass by Sunset Bay and Cape Arago where we spotted hundreds of Sea Lions – Amazing! After Lunch we headed down to Bold Beach and enjoyed the sunset – what a mystic atmosphere with some fog far away along this endless beach.
We hit the state border – luckily they let us enter California even though we carried two small oranges – we completely forgot or weren’t aware about those strict regulations when entering California! More about the Redwoods and California to follow – stay tuned!