Monday, July 23, 2012

Camping in California; Santa Barbara and Lake Mary

Speaking of camping in California....it's a little complicated. Don't get me wrong. I love California. I think it has some of the most beautiful landscape you could imagine: mountains, oceans, cliffs, beaches, forests, redwood trees, deserts (not my thing, but everyone's different :) Anyway, you get the point. It's a beautiful state. But the red tape, and the crowds, and the traffic, and the tiny campsites, and the lack of privacy, and the bears... it can all be rather daunting when planning a trip. After Yosemite in 2002, we  decided to try our luck on the California State Park Reservation System for our next trip, and found what looked to be a pretty campground just outside of Santa Barbara. At the time, we were tent camping. We had a great time! The campground was "woodsy" and rather private, and close enough to easily drive to Santa Barbara for fun and a pizza night.

In 2006, we were gifted an older model pop-up tent trailer. By this time, our little R was about 18 months old, and a little better in the car. We were getting antsy to try our first camping trip with our daughter.
Our trusty pop-up trailer

We decided to try a new campground, recommended by neighbors, even further north. We camped at Lake Mary Campground, near Mammoth Lakes, California. It was absolutely gorgeous. The lake was crystal clear, and surrounded by tall pine trees. There were sheer granite cliffs, reminiscent of Yosemite.
Beautiful Lake Mary
The only downfall to our trip was our lack of experience with the campground, and the reservation system. Camping spots are in great demand here, and it's nearly impossible to get a good space without reserving 6 months in advance. The reservation site has crude maps regarding the site locations, but no real photos or details about each site. We did the best we could, and chose one of the only sites available. Upon arriving at the campground, we saw that our site was little more than an asphalt parking spot, and our neighbors on either side were so close, we were almost touching. It was claustrophobic to say the least. I was petrified that our toddler would keep everyone up all night if she couldn't sleep, or that noisy neighbors would wake her.

We learned from friendly, experienced, CA campers nearby that there were a few first come, first served spaces up for grabs. They told us to go around the campground quickly, and if we saw an available site, to stay there and take it. They were so nice, they even loaned us a folding chair to "reserve" our spot while we ran up to fill out the paperwork & pay. Boy were we rookies back then! Thanks to this sweet older couple, we scored a lake-front spot. Thanks guys!

We ended up having the most fantastic time. Even several visits from inquisitive and hungry black bears didn't put a damper on my great time. I was thrilled to see nature so close. My husband, on the other hand, tells me these bears are what first made him think he'd like to have a hard-sided r.v. before coming back to this area.

On our trip, we took many beautiful hikes through meadows, stuck our toes in icy mountain lakes, relaxed in our hammock, and just enjoyed the family time with our young daughter.

Exploring Convict Lake, just a short distance from Lake Mary
Scenic out-looks at every turn in the road
After we were settled, we explored the campground and the neighboring (Twin Lakes) campground as well. We marked all of the sites we loved on our map, and kept this for the next time we made reservations.




2 comments:

  1. Oh pretty! I have heard of Convict Lake, gosh darn those photos are gorgeous!

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  2. Camping in California is always be a fun. Every time i travel in California with my Motorbike Trailers i have gained lot more refreshment.

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