Camping sauvage, wild camping, dispersed camping, whatever you want to call it. It’s not for everyone—the lack of loos puts many off—but if you are into getting away from the zoo-like atmosphere at some campgrounds and have an all- or four-wheel drive car, it can be a spectacular option.
I first was introduced to this in France, driving a tiny tuna can, Renault-5 company car with Plasti-Chenaux—a window fixture company—written across the white car in blue and red. We camped on beaches, on farms and in public spaces often asking if it was all right with the farmer or property owner. It felt wild and crazy to this city girl, but waking up under plum trees or near the crashing waves was memorable.
Cut to many years later and after many a backpacking trip, we now—with two kids in tow—enjoy both hauling our gear on our backs and packing the car to the gills with all of our ramshackle gear and hitting the road. We have camped in the desert, in the mountains, and it is always an adventure. It’s not easy and certainly takes some effort, but with two strapping boys now able to do their share, this trip seemed extraordinarily gratifying.
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One of my favorite things in the world is to plunge into a lake, preferably in the mountains, fed by snowmelt. The Pacific Northwest drought and climate change have sadly warmed the temperature of many of these glorious lakes. The upside is that swimming is more pleasant. It used to be, numbness and a deep bone chill was assumed after a mountain lake dip.
This summer, as I embark on a big birthday, I was feeling a bit shy, or let’s say not really embracing the idea of a blowout celebration. I have never reveled in birthday glory, despite being a Leo, a theatrical being, and anything but a shrinking violet. It felt so dismal to ponder, plan and pretend to be festive when I wasn’t feeling it. Instead, I just said yes to a variety of unconnected plans and invitations, and inadvertently (perhaps a little by divine design) got to experience numerous lakes this summer. I’m choosing to call it “The Summer of Lakes“ and not my big birthday summer.
Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, California, Canoe/Kayak, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, National Parks, Northern California, Olympic National Park, Olympic Peninsula, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, Sequim, Swimming, Washington, Yoga, national park, wildlife
A man jumped off the dock into the crystal blue, glacially carved waters of Lake Crescent and when asked how the water was, he replied: “Like butter.”
Like butter on a croissant, Lake Crescent in the Olympic National Park, just 17 miles from Port Angeles, on the Olympic Peninsula, is one of my most favorite spots on earth. Perhaps because of its brilliant blue waters and extraordinary clarity (caused by a lack of nitrogen in the water, which stunts the algae growth), perhaps because we make the ritual pilgrimage each time we visit my in-laws in Sequim, Washington. When we round the bend to the lake, my husband says in his best Inspector Clouseau accent “Lake Croissant!” Continue reading »
We drove through Yosemite a few weekends ago. It was packed with summer travelers and waterfall gawkers. The major falls are glorious, and fuller than they have been in years. New, smaller falls have even appeared much to the delight of park goers.
As we drove through the park, out past Mono Lake, we were stunned by the high water levels and snowy peaks in early July. We laughed, thinking that we could even cross-country ski in some spots above 7000 feet.
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Recently I joined a mini reunion of college pals in Sun Valley, Idaho for a trifecta of outdoor activities: mountain biking, fly-fishing, and river kayaking.
Read all about it in the San Francisco Chronicle travel section: Sun Valley’s Summer Rush.
Cue the Deliverance Music.
It was July 4th weekend so we were expecting crowds, and save for a few kayakers and boat enthusiasts, we pretty much had the river to ourselves. We had planned a moderate backpacking trip but when one in our party had abrupt knee surgery in April, we opted to paddle to our campsite instead of forcing the kids to hike with packs a la the Bataan Death March. The preparations were similar to a backpacking trip, but we could bring comfy pads and a cooler. I was concerned about tipping the canoe, but my friend hails from Minnesota and has done this sort of thing before.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s the thought of a trip down the Mekong was the stuff of nightmares. The place was a war zone, and the only way to see it was courtesy of Uncle Sam. But thankfully times change, and today the great river that runs from China through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam is accessible to anyone who wants to put paddle to water, assuming you have the proper paperwork and know your way around.
Which is a good reason to find an outfitter who can handle the logistics. Some top adventure companies offer trips on the Mekong, but these are mostly cruises. For journeys by kayak, Bangkok-based river explorer Steve Van Beek brings something extra: 40 years of residence in Southeast Asia and almost as many years exploring the region’s rivers. Continue reading »
It was a hot summer day and I had promised my youngest son I would take him and his best friend, one of my best friend’s daughters, canoeing on the Russian River. We left early and drove up to Guerneville, a small town along the river in Sonoma County. I wasn’t sure what two almost six year olds would make of the adventure, but I was excited. I have fond memories of canoeing on the East Coast from my childhood and did it a few times on the Russian River in the early nineties. Visions of swimming and frolicking in the river, picnicking on a sandbar and most of all enjoying the day with my husband and the two kidlets got me revved for the escapade. We did some research and found a company named Burke’s Canoe Trips that does half day adventures. This sounded great, but not with the wee ones; maybe with my ten year old and a buddy though. We found Johnson’s Beach, a really quaint spot, where you could rent canoes by the hour; perfect for our questionable passengers. When we arrived we found a sweet little beach spot which reminded me of spots in NY I visited as a kid in the 70’s; really low tech, really friendly and family run. It wasn’t fancy but I liked it like that. You could rent an umbrella and a buff dude would come over and pound it into the sand for you. The snack bar served soft serve for a dollar and you could rent inner tubes to float along if you didn’t want to paddle. The changing room was a wooden structure with hand-made curtains; loved it! Continue reading »
I’ve never been to Texas, unless you count changing planes. Austin interests me, the music scene and the reputation for hip and eco friendly folks; sounds like a great city. I know a few people who have moved there and say it’s affordable and very livable. I also have an old friend from Dallas who moved back there and swears it’s an amazing place. I am a coastal person, can’t be too far from an ocean and Texas, deep in Red America, I must admit, scares me a bit. But, I heard an amazing tale on the radio the other day about a renaissance of outdoor activities on the notorious Rio Grande River. The natural boundary between the U.S. and Mexico and the final resting place for so many who try to cross it illegally, has an ominous image. I guess I never thought about the wonders of the famed big river. The natural habitat, the birds, kayaking; the report was so uplifting. Continue reading »
Last week I was invited to a friend’s rental house in Inverness in Marin County, on Tomales Bay, surrounded by Point Reyes National Seashore, with my five-year-old. We left the house at 7 a.m. to maximize our visit, stopped at House of Bagels (the best bagels in SF) and bought loads of yummy stuff and headed over the bridge. The sun was shining and I was so looking forward to spending quality time with my friend and her family.
Inverness is a small village named after the Scottish town and there is so much to recommend it. Continue reading »