This is our 2020 RV road trip journal. Feel free to browse and now that it’s done, we’ll start planning for 2021. We’ll make it to Florida next year…. We hope!
Our 2020 RV trip was planned as an East Coast trip full of meetings with rental companies, RV shows, industry folk, and a whole lot of camping in very cool spots. Over a year ago we made reservations for Boyd’s campground in Key West, FL, which is a bucket list place to “camp” that takes a year or more to get a reservation.
The COVID-19 pandemic got real for us on March 16, 2020. We had just left friends and family in Glamis Dunes after a weekend of off-roading. We landed in Tucson Sunday night, and by Monday we had absorbed all that this new term “social distancing” meant and why it was being forced on us.
We called the family that night and explained our understanding of how bad this was going to get and why we had to cancel our 6 month trip to the East Coast. Within just a few days, the reality of coronavirus was sinking in for everyone as “shelter at home” orders came down from Gov. Newsom.
So, we had to ditch Fontainebleau State Park in Louisiana. Gone was the Key West stay on April 22nd. And Bar Harbor, just outside Acadia National Park, for the 4th was done too. Maine for 4th of July was the goal, then the trek back.
We couldn’t go back to California given the fact that everything, including campgrounds, are shut down and our home is leased through August.
The new plan (evolving) is to stick to “smarter states”. Arizona and Utah both took COVID-19 seriously, but they didn’t kill their economies, shut down services, or campgrounds in doing so. We’ll likely continue into Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming before returning in August.
Until we know for sure you can see the latest below…
San Diego, California (Click to see Album)
We left our home in San Luis Obispo, CA on February 15 for San Diego, CA where our two son’s and their families live, including our newest addition, Bodi Lance Lovell. What a great few weeks with the ones we love.
Glamis, California March 13 to 15, 2020 (Click to see Album)
Glamis, CA is host to Imperial Sand Dunes which is BLM land and is a massive chunk of desert. If you go East on I-8 from San Diego, you’ll eventually drive past it on your way to Yuma, AZ. It’s amazingly entertaining, even if you don’t have toys to play with on the dunes. There are million dollar rigs and people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to see how fast they can go on sand. Check out the drag racing videos in the album. Fun stuff and a great way to say good bye.
Kartchner Caverns and Desert Trails RV Park (Click to see Album)
After saying good bye in Glamis, we drove to Benson, AZ just a few miles from Kartchner Caverns. Our sister-in-law recommended these pristine caverns that have quite a cool story to the dudes who discovered them in the 1970’s. We were just going to do a quick stop over to see the Caverns and then head on East to New Mexico, but…
Unfortunately, they closed the tours of the caverns the day we arrived due to coronavirus which was just beginning to make itself known. We were able to hike some of the trails, tour the visitor center, and check out the campground, but didn’t get to go in. Oh well, next time.
We decided to head North and check out the Saguaro National Park, just outside of Tucson while we figured things out. The COVID-19 news at this point was coming fast and furious, dominating the news cycle. We stayed a week at Desert Trails RV park which is neighbors to Tucson Mountain Park, home to Old Tucson where they film a lot of westerns, and also boast many miles of mountain biking trails.
We had good internet among the saguaros, so we worked in the day, then hit the trails in the evenings, explored on weekends. By this time everyone was practicing physical distancing in the campground. It was a bit weird to keep distance, not shake hands when you met the neighbors. After all, this is what camping is all about; travelers coming together to tell stories and chit chat. Strange.
After a week at Desert Trails RV Park, we needed some additional distancing. After all, it was an RV park where the rigs were just 20 feet apart. We discovered Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park which borders Saguaro National Forest.
After some research we decided to move about 15 miles into the regional park. We scored 5 days in a row, and as you can see by the photos, well spaced; hundreds of feet away from the next social distancer.
Plenty to explore, the biking and hiking trails were great and the desert sunsets spectacular. After a stint at Catalina State Park (see below) we went back to Gilbert Ray after scoring site A-68 which was a better site.
The video in this album was taken at the top of Mt. Lemmon, yes that’s snow. This was a cool day hike/drive day from Catalina State Park, which is near Oro Valley, and the city of Oracle, AZ.
Mount Lemmon is just North of Tucson, in the Coronado National Forest. We entered from the South, drove to the summit, about 8,000 plus feet, then continued on a jeep trail to Oracle, AZ. Talk about middle of nowhere.
I have to say, Mt. Lemmon is a cool drive and they do have a ski resort. Downtown Tucson isn’t much to write about, but then again it was empty when we drove through. We’ll come back after the zombie apocalypse is over with and spend some time.
After a good 30 days camping around the Tucson area, we ventured further South to Patagonia Lake SP near Nogales, Arizona. It’s actually an extension of Nogalez, Mexico, it’s what bleeds North across the border. About 15 miles North of the city is a very cool lake and state park.
As Southern Arizona began to warm into the 80’s and 90’s, we decided to make our way North to find cooler weather. Sure, coronavirus doesn’t like the heat or the sun, but with social and physical distancing measures firmly taking hold among a frightened public, we felt that moving North to 60’s and 70’s weather up around Flagstaff would be safe enough.
Along the way up to the Phoenix area we stopped at Picacho State Park. It’s location is odd because it’s so convenient, just a mile or so off the I-10. We typically have to travel off the main highways to reach cool spots, but this was easy. What to expect? This state park boasts awesome hikes and even better sunsets.
We did a 6 mile hike, 2,000 ft gain up the back of the mountain starting at the Sunset Vista trail head. This hike requires gloves to pull yourself up cables (about 60% to 70% incline) to reach the saddle of the mountain. We skipped the peak, another 800 feet gain and continued on to the Hunter trail to make it back down to our staging location where we had our bikes ready for a 3 mile ride to our truck. Whew!
We stopped for a few days at White Tank Mountain Regional Park, which is just West of Phoenix and near Sunrise, AZ. The cool feature of this park is the bike trails. If you’re an off-road mountain biker, this destination should be on your list.
The campground features great views, wonderful spacious campsites,50 amp power and water hook ups. You don’t have sewer but most self-contained RV’s can accommodate a 5 day stay without dumping tanks.
Rancho Sedona RV park turned out to be a great choice. It’s a great location in town, super clean park, and near all kinds of hiking. It was good timing; just as the Phoenix valley started hitting upper 90’s temps. Sedona had highs around 80’s and cool at night. Perfect.
We hit a lot of trails, saw a lot of sunsets, and we also explored a lot of forest roads to scope out the boondocking campsites surrounding Sedona. Surprisingly, all full. It was as if every RV storage lot emptied and found it’s way to the forest and BLM land. It wasn’t just RV’s either, we saw a lot of car camping, tents, and vans too. The only explanation we could come up with was the effect of COVID-19.
The decision to visit this state park was largely due to the great experience we had with all of the Arizona State Park campgrounds, which never closed during the pandemic. After all, why close? it was much safer and easier to social distance at these and other RV parks and campgrounds.
The spacing of each state park campsite in Arizona is great; plenty of room between each campsite, 50 amp, water, and asphalt pad. We wanted to try and hit as many State Parks in Arizona as possible
J&H RV Park, Flagstaff Arizona
After Sedona and Dead Horse in Cottonwood, we decided to do some dispersed camping in the nearby Coconino Forest that surrounds Flagstaff. We boondocked last year at Walnut Canyon and had a great spot.
We stayed at J&H RV park May 1-3 with the idea to scope out dispersed camping areas nearby over the weekend, then spend a week off-grid. After miles of exploring the surrounding forest trails, we decided to move on. The dispersed sites were packed by boon-docking standards. Our guess was that at near 25% unemployment, camping for most folks seemed like a good idea.
After leaving Flagstaff, we headed North on a hunch we could find some BLM land that wasn’t being used. We found a great spot between the Vermilion Cliffs, and the Colorado River. We were treated to amazing views of the Colorado River, solitude, cool jeep trail along the cliffs, but so-so internet.
For anyone who wants to replicate this boondocking site, here is the GPS: https://goo.gl/maps/mAPw2mn7S94HXRAB8. Set GPS to these coordinates (36°45’11.7″N 111°43’08.2″W), check out our photos attached, and pay attention to sharp drop to shoulder. Go through gates and turn right at fork, then pick your spot.
Working from the road means that internet is a must. Cheryl had quite a bit of work that week. Luckily TMobile was just enough, but our AT&T hotspot was ho help at all. Funny how many times TMobile sneaks in as the primary network in remote areas. We always seem to make it work.
The high desert is an awesome and amazing place; views, sunsets, stars and you can see for miles. The quiet nights in the desert make you very aware of your place in the world.
We took an afternoon drive up to Jacob lake, entrance to North Rim of Grand Canyon (closed), then took House Rock Road (all 35 miles not paved), from the 89A North across the Utah border to the 89, then East to the dam at Lake Powell, then South back to our camp near Marble Canyon. Great day trip, but didn’t get back til dark.
On that trip through the valley, and along the most colorful line of the Vermilion Cliffs, we got lucky and spotted several California Condor that had been located on the Western facing cliffs. They seemed to be thriving. You’ll see the display of the wingspan in the album; crazy big birds.
We left the boondocks and headed Northwest to check out Zion. It was still closed when we got their, but you could still drive through Hwy 9 which includes the mile long Zion tunnel. Magnificent views and probably the most picturesque of all the National parks in the lower 48.
This was a great spot just outside the park boundary by a mile or so. There is a rough entrance from pavement so enter heading East in a big rig. Upon exiting, you might need 4WD if you’re towing any weight, as we were. Worth the thoughtful approach and exit though.
As for the park, we didn’t get to explore it too much because of the NPS closures. At this point, our opinions of closing America have changed a bit, especially as it relates to being outdoors, camping, etc. The governments’s logic just wasn’t there. But what can you do? Fight city hall? Nope. We go with the flow and deal with the damage later.
We left Capital Reef and decided to take the scenic route to our Bryce boondock. Scenic Byway 12 is a spectacular scenic drive! We turned on to highway 12 at Torrey, from the 24. Our rig handled the elevation gain, steep grades and sharp curves fine, but there were times…
Once we reached our destination we unhooked and went straight to Bryce. They had just opened a few trails, including Queen’s Garden. So, we got a few cool shots from Bryce before heading back to our overnight solitude at Tom’s Best Spring rd.
We headed back to Zion River Resort for two reasons. First, we needed good internet for work. Also, we needed to do laundry and this place had nice, clean, facilities. The second reason was that they opened up many of the Zion hiking trails.
The drive through Dixie National Forest on state highway 14 was another scenic experience reaching 10,000 feet at the summit with snow all around. The grade back down to Cedar City was eye-popping and very steep, 10% at some points with long stretches of 4% to 8%. We’re towing about 16,000 lbs, so very happy we have air brakes.
We had time to take several hikes. The first was up the Virgin river walk on day one of opening. It ends at the point where the trail becomes the river. It was flowing too high to go further. In 2017, toward the end of our Canada Trip, we hiked several miles up the canyon with our brother and sister-in-law, along with thousands of other tourists. This year there were about 5 total tourists. The place was empty due to the park closure.
We did a stop over at the Oasis RV Park on our way to Grand Canyon which is beginning to open up. Thought it would be a good idea to drive down the strip with a 35′ fifth wheel, but it turns out…no. Even when every casino and club on the strip is closed, it’s not a good idea.
The city is taking this pandemic opportunity to do some very ugly roadwork on the Las Vegas Strip. They have it down to two lanes squeezed on to one side of the median, with cones on each side of the road, leaving exactly 118″ of space to drive through. How do I know? Well, our rig is 102″ wide (8′ 6″) and we had about 8″ on either side to miss barriers, cones, and temporary signs. Lot’s of video in this album, check it out.
BTW, the RV park is half empty; mostly snowbirds caught wintering in Vegas when their states shut down and barred them from returning to their summer homes. It’s very odd to be here with the pool shut down in 95 degree weather. Oh, well… just a stop over.
After a one week visit with the kids and grandson, Bodi, at Havasu, we needed to decompress. Five days of beer, sun, boating, and fun on the lake took it’s toll on us. It was a great visit but we needed to clean the rig, do laundry, and catch up on work.
So, we stayed at the KOA in Williams to refresh before we headed out into the wilderness to boondock again. Loved Williams and will go back.
So, after Vegas (and a quick dip down to Havasu), we landed back at Long Jim Loop, about 2 miles south of the entrance to the park. The park itself was shut down due to COVID-19, but NPS just happened to do a soft reopening for Memorial Day Weekend (lucky us).
The park hours were 4am to 10am, visitors who made it in to the park before 10am had to leave by sunset. Rim trail and Bright Angel Trail where open.
The amazing thing was that by 4pm, virtually all tourists and hikers had left. Except for some staff, park volunteers, and a few locals waiting for sunset, we had the place to ourselves. We rode the 7 or so miles in from our favorite Grand Canyon dispersed campsite at Long Jim Loop up the park bike trail. Had a beer at Harvey House, enjoyed the vacant vibe and then did a ride down rim trail. Yes, a no no on bikes usually, but the squirrels didn’t mind.
If RV boondocking is your thing, and good cell coverage is a must, then camp at Long Jim Loop. It’s secluded, set among the pines, a bike ride to great food, one of the most iconic national parks in the world, AND you have good internet.
We stayed at Garland Prarie, an easy access dispersed site. There are some other prime spots in the area up around Dogtown Lake. We also did a hike at nearby Red Mountain Trail. It’s an easy 1.5 mile day hike in to some slots, great views, and interesting geologic features.
Yes, we spent a lot of time in Williams, AZ and for good reason. It’s an awesome place! With Flagstaff just 30 minutes down the road and the Grand Canyon just 60 minutes away, it’s a great place to stage a vacation.
The town is a fun and historic throwback to the 50’s and kicks on Route 66. The Canyon Motel & RV Park is a well run park in a good location with good internet coverage. Given the workload we had that week, it made sense to come out of the boondocks and refresh the fresh water, charge batteries to full, and empty the tanks.
We left Northern Arizona and headed North into Utah. What a beautiful drive! After about 3 months in Arizona, the restrictions in other states began to lift, so we decided to head North and explore. We had driven through Monument Valley before, but we never stopped.
This time we stayed the night at Goulding’s RV Park which was mostly empty. It’s a very cool park nestled up in a small box canyon with great views and a tiny hike that we didn’t expect.
After our celebratory beer for arriving safely, we explored the area and nearby hiking trails. We found a cool arch, snapped a few photos, then just minutes later it was hail and 50 mph winds blowing through the Goulding’s canyon. Needless to say, we had a stormy night, but we were protected and hunkered down. Cool stuff.
Moab was a stop over on our way to Flaming Gorge. We had visited the year before to go off-roading. What a cool town: Rafting, ATV riding, camping, fishing, hiking, and awesome food. The Portal RV resort was a one night stay, mainly because we couldn’t find a suitable boondocking location. All the good spots surrounding the city were taken. Hmmm.
Split Mountain was a stop over. The exhibits and visitor center were still closed due to COVID-19, but the park was open to explore. Split Mountain is mostly used for rafting this time of year and the sites are small given that they are group campsites, so no one there on a Sunday night. We decided to stay because there was some sites available for one night and we had reservations at Flaming Gorge the next night.
After we left Dinosaur National Monument, we took the 191 North through the Ashley National Forest to get to Flaming Gorge. Wow, what a trip! Great views and yes, lot’s of snow. It was heavy, but not cold enough to stick to the road, just enough to make everything else completely white.
We stayed at Lucerne Campground right on the lake shore? It’s mostly a fishing lake formed by the the Green River but we did see some wake boarding. It’s big and beautiful, and way out of the way. Not a ton of traffic due to the fact that the nearest population center is Provo/Salt Lake, about 4 hours away. However, AT&T and T Mobile has excellent coverage. We worked the entire time. Ugh.
Grand Tetons are definitely a sight to behold. They seem to put you in your place and say, “hey human, you’re not that important.”
We stayed a couple nights at Colter Bay Campground, which is huge. It’s not exactly big rig friendly but we got a cool spot without much trouble. Worked a lot, but took a half day off to hike up to Hidden Falls. On the way up we passed a big group of 20-somethings who told us, “bear, had to turn back. Grizzly and a black bear.” Hmmm, that sounds odd. Busy trail, two different species hanging out terrorizing humans on a busy trail?
We found the bears, a mama black bear and her cub which was still sporting some brown fur where hanging just off the trail watching the tourists go by. Too funny, great hike.
After leaving Tetons, we headed North on an awesome drive up the 191 through Wyoming and into Montana. What beautiful country. It was so beautiful that Cheryl wasn’t able to keep her eyes on her computer. She finally gave in to the beauty and shelved the work.
Stopped at Old Faithful on the way, just because. Been their seen that, but not during a pandemic. It was interesting to see how few and how many people were there. Happy that everyone was maskless, outside, and fairly distant from each other… hmmm, normal?
The campground was meh… Didn’t spend much time there except to touch the water. Cheryl always needs to feel how cold or warm it is. After setting up camp, we headed into town.
Big Sky Montana is awesome!!! We weren’t even there in peak ski season but we could tell it was hip, cool, and a fun place to be for the Winter ski season. Add “ski Big Sky” to the bucket list. Stopped at Lone Peak Brewery for dinner and a brew. After not going out for so long, it was a really nice treat. Good food too.
This is crazy. We have no scenic photos if this place and we stayed at the same camp where Lewis and Clark stayed in 1805. It’s at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers; the place where they grow very big mosquitoes. A photo of Cheryl working is representative of what we did at this location.
I guess we messed up on this site because we planned to work a lot here, but there were no hook ups. We have no photos because it rained the entire time we were there except the last day. I had to dump the grey water, and pump more fresh into the tanks to keep us going. At least we had good internet.
In the videos, you’ll see how we added more fresh water to our “pressure fill” water tank on our rig. “Gravity flow” is how most RV’s work; simply pour water into a spout on the side of your rig to add water. Unfortunately, or rig requires at least 30 lbs. of water pressure to fill our 65 gallon tank. See how we did it.
Butte Montana is a favorite of ours ever since we visited with our brother and sister in law in 2017. This time we stayed at the Fairmont RV Resort, which is on the continental divide, about halfway between Glacier NP and Yellowstone NP. It’s the perfect stop over.
We visited the Fairmont Hot Springs resort, walking distance from the RV park, for a round of golf and lunch by the pool. This was going to be just a quick two night stop, but we extended so we could play a round and visit the resort.
We visited Casagranda’s, our favorite restaurant in Butte, as well as Butte Brewing. It was nice to see the places open and doing good business. Each location had much fewer tables, and a lot of maskers, but still nice to get out and dine. Normal?
After leaving Butte, we headed East on the I-90 to Idaho. The plan was to eventually meet up with our brother and sister in law who wanted to scout places to retire in Northern Idaho, or Eastern Washington. We found a few nights at Heyburn SP, Benewah campground and one night at Hawley’s Landing campground. Beautiful, and plenty of mosquitoes!
We snugged into the last spot available at Hawley’s Landing (see photos), still in Heyburn, but on the Coeur d’Alene trail. Great biking trail, 65 miles long and every foot beautiful. We did about 4 miles of it one way, across the lake, had lunch and then rode back. Hawley’s was definitely the nicer of the two campgrounds in Heyburn State Park.
We met Ron & Stacey at Liberty Lake, WA. The regional park there has a small campground that is pretty cool. Very tight tree rubbing turns and bottlenecks to get in, and often one-way space on the road, but cool little spot.
Our niece and nephew are moving to Spokane, so we decided to stage up at Liberty Lake, a newer community on the border with Idaho and about 15 minutes from Coeur d’Alene, and check out the area. Chelsea will be going to U of I there in the fall.
We were invited to spend the 4th on Flathead at Stacey’s family’s home on the lake, and given the opportunity we really had no choice but to drive the 3.5 hours East back into Montana.
Not only was it a beautiful drive out of St. Regis into Flathead National Forest, but the destination made the weekend trip totally worth it. Polson is a lovely little town on the Flathead Reservation and there are a number of beautiful homes and golf course on the reservation as well.
The crazy family that lives there joins other crazies to form a fireworks committee. They tax the neighbors to the tune of $4,500 (this year), and proceed to buy fireworks to shoot off the docks. Objectively speaking, the show is multiple times better than the shows offered by municipalities in California, and the fireworks you can buy on an Indian reservation are multiple times more powerful than what you can buy anywhere. Great times with great people in one of the most beautiful areas of the country.
Coeur d’Alene has to be one of the most beautiful cities in America. Do they wash the streets at night? It’s absolutely stunning. We really enjoyed the entire area.
Farragut State Park is on the South end of Lake Pend Orielle, just North of Coeur d’Alene and South of Sandpoint, another crazy beautiful tiny town on the lake with snow skiing just 20 minutes away. What a cool place to vacation Summer or Winter. We hope bro and sis buy a home there so we can visit often.
After Farragut, we split up with bro and sis to make our way down to Boise to visit friends. We had a long drive to get to McCall for a stop over, and the rock slide made it even longer. About a 6 hour drive total. See photo.
Had a great meal at Pueblo Lindo in McCall and stayed Ponderosa campground to see what all the talk was about with McCall. Well, it’s all positive and for good reason. Very cool ski town with excellent water sports in the summer. Not easy to get a reservation here in peak season.
After leaving McCall, only one night there, we drove 30 minutes down to Donnelly, ID, another very cool vacation town on the shores of Cascade Lake. It’s a spectacular water sport lake under Tamarack ski resort. In the Winter, you can drive your snowmobile across the lake and go skiing.
We were only able to stay one night, but we got a fantastic spot with great views. The lake seemed to be calm all day and perfect for day camping on the shore with your boat or other toys.
Boondocking – Herrick Lake (44°22’32.5″N 115°59’12.9″W)
The night before leaving Cascade we mapped out three options for the next day campsite. Option A was Herrick Lake which we found on All Stays, a very cool app that we hope to use on RVPlusYou website very soon. The free version has a ton of features and campground data, including free campsites.
I usually use maps to make sure I can get a 3 ton, 35′ rig with a 13′ clearance into a remote dispersed camp site. If it looks close, then Google Earth. This spot looked okay from satellite views.
When we got there, the flat spots with turn around capabilities were taken. At that point we had to decide; continue the risky unknown dirt road around the corner, or turn around in the safe spot and go to option B.
Curiosity killed the cat, and it almost did me in too. I just had to know what was around the corner. Zero options was just 100 feet ahead; I had to turn this beastly rig around on a one way dirt road cut into the side of a hill.
To Cheryl’s amazing credit, she was completely chill and calm. I walked up the road to see if continuing was an option. Didn’t see one. Went back to see if I could somehow reverse down a 90 degree turn. Very difficult, if not impossible with a 5th wheel and no shoulder on the road.
At that point a local cowboy towing a horse trailer came barreling around the blind curve in his dually heading straight toward me. Wow. Now I’m really screwed.
I had to stop the bull rider to tell him the bad news, but as luck would have it, he was totally cool when I told him I was blocking the road just around the blind curve. He asked if I knew the area and advised me to continue.
So glad we did because we found this cool spot with great views about 500 yards down the road. Whew! Dodged another one.
Our next stop was Boise to visit friends. We always seem to find our way back to Boise on every trip we go on. It’s such a cool town and Idaho is absolutely gorgeous. No wonder why half of California has emptied into this beautiful state.
How special are our friends? So special that we hardly took any photos with them. We were focused on catching up, albeit 6 feet apart. Great times.
In addition to meeting up with Jane and her parents, Mike and Melissa, we got to have dinner with Brooke and Wendy who moved from San Diego 8 years ago. Brooke started a vintage Hawaiian shirt company called Island Shirt Traders where I was gifted a vintage Tori Richard. Love it, and wear it often.
We did take a ride up river to see the finished construction of the river park. Great recreation where people kayak or fly fish on their lunch hour. It was a warm COVID-19 summer so naturally everyone was out cooling off. Check out the video of the bike path and river activity.
Burns was a stop over and meeting point after our visit with friends in Boise. Who did we meet? Who else but our 2017 Canada road trip partners Ron & Stacey, aka bro and sis who were finishing their visit to Northern Idaho. They seem to be zeroing in on Sandpoint, ID after eventually escaping California.
The park was very nice and we highly recommend it for a day or two stop. It seemed to be popular for overnighters heading North or South on Hwy 20. Although we didn’t get to explore much, we could tell that Burns was a sweet little gem.
This was a 3 night stay at a typically booked up campground, located just South of Crater Lake Oregon on Fort Creek. This place boasts great views from the creek side campsites, cabins and yurts, a pickle ball court, free canoes, and a sweet little hike.
I think we were about 9 years old when we visited Crater Lake last time. It’s even more beautiful even though it accommodates tens of thousands more tourists. It’s truly breathtaking.
After leaving Oregon we drove down the 97 to the 89 at Mt. Shasta. With most campgrounds either closed or completely booked, we decided to do some boondocking near Lassen National Park, another destination we hadn’t visited since childhood.
We did quite a bit of research on Campendium and AllStays to find several prospective boondocking sites near Burney Falls and Lassen. Upon reaching the area, we parked our beasty RV’s. Ron and Cheryl the little red TOAD to explore our prospects. We wanted to be sure we could get the big boxes into the remote locations that we found online (boondocking 101).
Success! Our site was 30 yards from the Pacific Crest Trail; remote and perfect for viewing comet NEOWISE, visiting Lassen National Park, as well as Burney Falls. See GPS coordinates above for exact location if you want to visit. Yes, you can get your Class A or 40 foot 5’er down the dirt road and into that same site.
After a few days of exploring the area, we attempted another boondocking stay near Lake Almanor, but alas we struck out. We spent a considerable amount of time exploring options, but walk-in state park campgrounds were closed, and we didn’t find anything that could accommodate our rigs.
After striking out, we found one night available at The Village at Child’s Meadow. Not our first choice, but given everything was closed due to COVID-19, we didn’t have much of a choice. We stayed the night and then said our goodbyes. Ron and Stace went to Chico to visit their kids and we continued South to the Tahoe area.
We had a tough time finding a place to camp everywhere after crossing into California. COVID-19 had prompted the genius politicians to close many of the state campgrounds. Many regional campgrounds followed suit, and this left private campgrounds and RV parks as the few places available to cram in RV’ers during peak season. Brilliant move by the “smart ones” during a pandemic.
We found a few nights at Golden Coach RV Park near Cromberg, but had zero internet on AT&T or T-Mobile at their park so we cancelled and made reservations at Movin’ West RV Park in Graeagle where we found good 4G connections.
We had to set up an outdoor office to get some work done, but we were prepared and it turns out that working outside is pretty damn cool in the right environment.
Unfortunately, the new restaurant guidelines due to the virus made it impossible for us to eat out in most of the places we visited. We tried several locations, but if you didn’t make reservations well in advance, you weren’t going to eat out. It was a bummer to miss some of the cool restaurant experiences in the cool places we visited.
Without many good options to camp in developed California campgrounds, we turned to boondocking once again. It’s absolutely amazing when you find the right spot.
This location was located just North of Truckee, CA off hwy 89. We found out later that it even though it was indeed in the national forest, it was within a scenic byway zone. This means that in California, you can’t boondock near a California scenic road or highway. Fortunately, we only learned about this from the ranger on the day we were leaving and he wasn’t in a bad mood, so no $500 citation.
The Little Truckee didn’t have a lot of water flowing, but it was enough to float our boats and keep us cool. We had black skies at night for star gazing, zero internet, and descent hiking up the river. We stayed over a weekend, 3 nights in this location and did zero work. It was great!
After boondocking up the highway, we found one night at Coachland where we were able to dump tanks, take on water and do some work with good internet. We also got to have dinner at Moody’s in Truckee.
After taking care of biz, we spent two nights at Granite Flat Campground with no hook ups, but none needed. It’s a great location on the Truckee river and perfect location to do a float. Not sure how we got in given the high season and limited camping options, but we were thankful.
After leaving Truckee, we drove down the 50 on the East side of Lake Tahoe and spend one night at Zephyr Cove campground. That place was packed. Forgot to take photos.
Next day we headed over to Camp Richardson for one night. That place was packed with campers. Even the bears were out scouting for opportunities. This little pooh visited as we were contemplating life at our campfire over a late night cocktail. I snapped a few photos before we turned in for the night.
Prior to scaring this little guy off with my camera, pooh bear went to the screen door of our neighbor to say hello, then proceeded to tear up his trash (a big no no to leave out).
Two minutes after the bear left, our neighbor emerged from his trailer with his sleeping bag and set up his bed on the picnic table. He didn’t clean up the trash all around his campsite, he just unrolled his sleeping bag and went to sleep! What?!!!
Personally, I would have shut the camper door slept inside after a visit like that, but not this guy. He stood guard all night in a sleeping bag, on top of a wooden picnic table as the bears roamed around poking through everyone’s garbage.
After visiting an absolutely packed South Lake Tahoe, we decided to find some space and look for more dispersed camping. We didn’t have much luck. All known and unknown prospective boondocking opportunities were taken throughout Hope Valley. It was packed to the gills, just like Lake Tahoe. Thank you pandemic. Everyone and their cousin now owns an RV and was looking to find some sanity through the outdoors.
Our fall back option was a sno park lot just off the 88 on Blue Lakes Rd. We drove all the way up to Blue Lakes, but between closed campgrounds and packed dispersed sites, we had no luck. This location was fine. We shared the lot with 4 other campers and still had plenty of space.
We did a 4 mile hike out to the West Fork of the Carson River. Not much water flowing so we didn’t take a dip. We did find bear and cougar tracks along the river, so that was cool. One night only. On to Mammoth.
After striking out in Tahoe, we decided to keep moving South to see if we could find anything interesting. We ended up staying a couple nights at Mammoth Mountain RV Park. We had to move after the first night.
We tried to find some good boondocking but no luck after exploring Mammoth and June Lake area for something even semi-cool. There just wasn’t anything that warranted another move so we stayed in the parking lot at the Mammoth RV park: Meh.
Tried to get a beer at June Lake brewing, but the COVID rule was that you had to get food. Well, the food truck closed at 4pm. It was 3:59pm when we arrived, so clearly we were too late to get food, and therefore no beer. We took a couple cans to go.
That night we tried to find a place in Mammoth Village. Wow, those poor restaurants are going to die. We found a place to buy a $36 pizza and $16 drinks while “dining” on a patio in 30 mph winds just outside the shelter of an empty restaurant. It was lovely.
There is just no way this industry can cut occupancy, push it all outdoors, raise prices, find workers, keep quality, and make enough to pay those high rents. I feel sorry for the industry. It and many other industries are being decimated needlessly.
After our pizza, we decided to call it a night, and call it a trip. Back to San Diego next morning; a 7 hour drive, but worth it to get back to our family. So great to see Bodes again.