There are many places to camp along the Pacific Coast Highway. Most are overpriced, crowded and noisy. This one is no exception, but if you are lucky enough to reserve site 7, you have a little slice of paradise to yourself (for $36, no services). Be advised that it requires some maneuvering to back into the site (to have your door facing the ocean), especially if the nearby sites are occupied, but it is well worth it. Dogs are allowed to be off leash on the beach.
There used to be two ways to reach the Wahweap Hoodoos. Now the only way is to hike 9.2-miles roundtrip from Big Water, Utah, which is located about 20 min from Page, AZ (the trailhead is marked on Google Map as Wahweap Hoodoos trailhead). It used to be possible to access them from the southern end of Cottonwood Canyon Road (located near Churchwells, Utah) for a mere 2-mile roundtrip trek, but the BLM closed it because people abused it. It says it is closed to vehicular traffic, but it might be accessible by bike, which would be a great way to shorten the approach to the hoodoos. Here is the info if you want to check it on bike (but it would be even better to check with the Big Water Visitor Center): The non-vehicular approach to the Wahweap Hoodoos is along an undesignated track, rough in places, that forks northeast 1.5 miles from the south end of Cottonwood Canyon Road, which joins US 89 between mileposts 17 and 18. This bends eastwards after a few miles, past several junctions and ends after 10.5 miles right beside Wahweap Creek, from where the hoodoos are a short walk south.
There is a 2 WD parking lot and a 4 WD parking lot 0.8 mile further after the sometimes muddy creekbed. When you arrive at the wash, look for a sign along a rickety fence that reads Wilderness Study Area. After 3 miles of hiking in Wahweap wash (a normally dry, hot and shadeless trek: be prepared with adequate water, sunscreen, and protective clothing), you see the first sets of hoodoos. Make sure to stay in the wash the whole time (sticking to hard mud patches to make your hike less strenuous) and not take the side animal trails or you will have to retrace your steps (even if they seem to lead closer to the hoodoos).
You will come to a big patch of high brush and see the hoodoos behind that. Just make your way through the brush. You have arrived to the first set of hoodoos. Make sure you keep going just around the corner to see the Towers of Silence, rising like white ghosts, which are the most stunning (look for the White Ghost on Google Map, make sure you have your phone with you to locate the formations, it was really helpful). GPS Coordinates for the Towers of Silence 37°09’45” 111°42’45”
We believe that big sections of the wash could be done on a fat bike or even on a mountain bike with wide tires, which would shorten that less interesting part. Of course, the wash structure will change according to the rain, so check before going! There are several very short slot canyon tributaries, on the east side (check topo map).
My head is full of the pictures I didn't take. The harsh living realities of so many people, the trash everywhere, the striking contrasts between the expat houses and the locals’. It's always disturbing, and I hope I never become insensitive to it. As soon as we crossed into Mexicali, we were in a different world. The honking, the smells, the poverty, people selling stuff at every intersection, from tortillas and neon cotton candy to airplane models and cheap copycat go-pro cameras, Mexicans sellers got you covered. You need an alternator? Ramon is selling some from the back of his pick-up. Dreaming of a fuzzy leopard stirring wheel covers? That guy is coming to your car window with his selection. Guys would show up at our campsite, invariably presenting us with the same fare someone else offered us a few hours priors: *almost gratis* bracelets and hammocks. The weathered down musicians coming to our tables at night in the restaurants, dragging their old amplifiers behind them (everything has to be loud in Mexico, especially the music!)...
As we drove back to the border through the desolate suburbs of Mexicali, I was reminded of a conversation a friend had a long time ago with a Buddhist monk. She was telling him that her brother was dying of cancer while she was living a happy healthy life and how unfair this was. After a few minutes of silence, the monk simply looked at her with his wise eyes and said: Who said it would be fair?
We were dealt a pretty awesome hand while many are struggling pretty hard to get enough food to eat for their family. Life isn’t fair, indeed and traveling is quite humbling.
Ever since I can remember, Lake Tahoe has always been synonymous of adventure in my head. When I worked in outdoor retail stores, there was always a Tahoe Jacket or aTahoe something... I collected pictures of Caribbean blue beaches with a snowy mountain tops background on my Pinterest boards and kept hoping we could make it there before it got too cold... it was always next year... Finally, we made it (by crossing the border much earlier than usual) and it's beautiful, warm and sunny. We got to ride amazing trails (the Corral trail system in South Tahoe is amazing, don't miss Upper and Lower Corral, Armstrong connector, Sidewinder and for a longer ride, Mr. Toads wild ride).
JF went for a long run on the Tahoe Rim trail and the girls and I set to go explore Tahoe most beautiful beach at Sand Harbor State Park. After driving for one hour, we found out that we could not get in because we had the dog with us. They would not let us in even if the dog would stay in the Westy and I would just get out to take pictures. Have you ever heard of such a stupid rule? I get that dogs are not allowed on beaches and trails, no problem. But not allowed to enter a state park and stay in the vehicle for 20 minutes??? I was NOT happy. This is the beach I had waited to photograph and visit for 5 + years... Oh and the entrance fee is $12... So we turned around, very disappointed and headed 6 miles south to Chimney Beach, a free public beach where dogs are allowed. We were not expecting much, but we were sweaty and determined to swim in Tahoe. Well, Chimney Beach was awesome!! You have to walk down a half mile path to the shore where there are tons of little rocky coves you can choose from (you can either go left or right once you get to the bottom of the trail, just keep exploring until you find a private spot you like... if you go left for a bit, you will encounter a nude beach, just so you know!). We went right and found a beautiful crescent beach where we spend a few hours WITH Stout! And as you can see from the pictures, the water was as turquoise as in Sand Harbor.
Lake Tahoe is very expensive and since we needed gas, groceries, laudry, etc., we decided to stay in Gardnerville, NV, where everything is much cheaper and accessible. We could have camped on the shore of Lake Tahoe for $36/night, but we stayed in a quiet Walmart parking lot in Gardnerville. Not exactly by the lake, but the lower altitude made for warmer nights and we stocked up on groceries before heading down the Sierras where it would take a while to see big grocery stores. There is a Grocery Outlet and a Raley's (great grocery store) 4 miles north from the Walmart in Gardnerville and a great cheap 24 hours Laudromat 6 miles north (Village Laundromat). There is another Walmart where you can spend the night in Carson City, but it's much busier and not as quiet (but there is a Trader Joe's right by and a Costco).
If you are planning to enjoy the Tahoe activities for more than a few days, it might be a good idea to pick a campsite near the Lake (I'd say between South Tahoe and Sand Harbor State Park, on the Nevada side) and go for a weekly rate. Driving from Gardnerville to the Lake requires you go over passes and it is longer than Google will tell you, especially with a Westfalia with its original engine...
From the Hoh Rainforest, we headed to the Pacific Coast of the Peninsula to Kalaloch Beach. We had made a reservation for an ocean front site there, but the site was too small for our rig and there was only 3G signal which was not good enough for work. The ranger sent us 3 miles down the road to South Beach campground where there was 4G LTE and some open sites. The campground is nicer and more treed at Kalaloch, but South Beach is right on the ocean. It looks more like a big parking lot than a campground, but at $15 per night, we didn't complain! And what was the first thing that we saw once we got off the bus? Grey whales jumping! We had no idea that South Beach is one of their stop on their way back to Baja where they go back to calve and nurse in the warm lagoons. They return in early Spring on their way to arctic feeding ground in Alaska. Somehow, across 4000 miles of ocean, they navigate precisely, on a predictable timetable!
We thought we had lucked out incredibly with our timing... until we found out through Ranger Meagan on the tide pool outing that for the first time this year, 200 whales stayed here all summer... things are changing for sure... She also told us that about 3 weeks ago, she was part of a rescue mission to help a whale that was life stranded on the beach. It took almost 48 hours for the crew to help her back to the water since the tides were not in their favor. They used a a pulley system to turn the whale so she could face the water and finally, it worked!
From Neah Bay, it is a short 10 minute drive to Cape Flattery, the northwest tip of the Lower 48. The hike to get the to the tip where the Cape is located is only 1.5 mile through a beautiful Coastal Forest. Since Cape Flattery is on the Makah Reservation, you need to get a permit to hike the trail ($10 per vehicle for the year). We got ours at Neah Bay's General Store.
As for camping in the area, the options are limited. Hobuck RV Resort has 10 full hook-up sites with a seaview (but pretty close together) for $40/night. There is also a field down the road where you can camp for $20/night (access to shower and outhouses, but otherwise dry camping). It might be a good option on the off-season, but since we got there on the Friday before Labor Day, it was a zoo. The only other option was a new RV park called Hide-away RV park (that looked more like an RV storage lot than an campground), but they had full hook-up sites for $30/night (and a few dry camping spots for $20) and it was a short 100 yard walk to the beach. It was much more quiet there.
Keep in mind that the drive to Neah Bay from Port Angeles is pretty twisty and bumpy (frost heaves), so lock your cupboards and secure everything and take what you need for motion sickness. Take your time and enjoy the scenery!
There is a beautiful hike that can be done as an overnighter (you sleep on the beach!) to Shi-shi Beach or as a long day hike (it is part of the Olympic National Park). With Mara being injured (and with the amount of cars along the trailhead), we decided to keep it for another time.
Also, on a different note, I will publish cocktails here in some posts (you can find them in the cocktails category), but I won't publish them all (it's a traveling blog after all!), but you can access them all either on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag redbusdrinks (#redbusdrinks). My friend Catheline is translating many of them and publishing them on her beautiful site (in French only).
Isn't that place spectacular or what? OK, there are some leeches in the lake and lots of deer flies, but hey, Bora Bora has dengue mosquitoes and sting rays, so we're even.
For more info on that campground, read my review on Campendium. Make sure your fridge is full of groceries and your tank full of water, because this is quite far off in the boonies.
“The loneliness you get by the sea is personal and alive. It doesn't subdue you and make you feel abject. It's stimulating loneliness.”
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh
“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
When we found out our Wisconsin friends were heading to the Florida Panhandle for Thanksgiving week, we decided to join them. It was a *slight* detour from our original itinerary (which was to head down diagonally from Wisconsin to AZ), but spending more time with them on those awesome beaches was worth it! White sugar beaches and turquoise water? Hell yeah!
This area of Florida is one of its best kept secrets. The beaches are wild and empty, it's not too hot or too damp for us Northerners and the state parks campgrounds are more affordable. What's not to like about it! We liked Big Lagoon SP, but we would have prefered a campsite closer to the open sea, like Fort Pickens SP (where you need to reserve quite a while in advance). We also loved St. Joseph Peninsula SP, but there is no cell signal there. The big downside is that dogs are not allowed on the beaches pretty much everywhere. We either had to drive 45 min to Pensacola Dog Beach (a really nice beach) or drive 15 min to a dog park on the lagoon side of Perdido Key.
If you go to this area and do not need Internet signal and want to tent camp, go camp to Cayo Costa State Park, it's on an island only accessible by boat (when the address is 4 Nautical Miles West of Pine Island, you know it's gonna be quiet!).
My mom flew in from Quebec to spend 2 weeks with us before we drive north to the Yukon for the summer. The Okanagan Valley is the perfect place to camp at this time of year. We have enjoyed the beautiful Okanagan Lake and did a beautiful short hike at Hardy Falls. JF found an awesome used Santa Cruz (Juliana) mountain bike for Aïsha (hers was getting small so it went to Mathilde) and she was zooming around the campground on it at every hour of the day (when she was not reading her new books that Mamie brought her or perched high up on a tree). It was the perfect setting to celebrate Mother's Day together. We had long conversations in the morning sun and around the bonfire at night. I am so fortunate to have such a fun, easy-going open-minded mom!
La Jolla Cove is San Diego’s most desirable spot for kayaking, snorkeling and diving. The water is calm and ecologically protected, providing a safe home for colorful garibaldi, yellowtail, rays and even leopard sharks. The harbor seals came very close to the people swimming on the beach. There was a little boy that even felt it was a little too close for comfort!
Actually, I wasn’t surprise to read that the small number of sea lions that swimmers used to enjoy watching frolic some years ago has turned into a colony of as many as 300, ranging in size from 100-pound females to 900-pound bulls, which have been mounting, biting, charging, and baring their teeth at swimmers and beachgoers.
Lately, the increasingly territorial animals have started blocking swimmers from getting into the water, forcing people to walk back and forth on the beach until they can find a safe opening to enter the ocean… Of course, people are exacerbating the problem by tossing fish, potato chips, and leftover food off the cliffs and over the sides of boats. While we were there, we saw a few people jump over the fence to take pictures of the seals and sea lions.
The other big disadvantage is the foul odor of sea lion and bird poop. And I mean, cover-your-face-with-your-t-shirt-or-scarf-exclaiming-OMG-this-is-awful foul. It is actually driving locals and tourists away from area restaurants and hotels.
Some days, I forget how happy I am. Today, I remembered.
We sure made the best of that last day at the beach with our friends!
There were pelicans skimming over the water, a big puddle that became a lake for the little ones, hand-clapping games, Christmas songs thaught in French and English and a bonfire under the full moon by the ocean.
It was hard to leave this wonderful camping spot (Faria County Park, near Ventura, CA) and say goodbye to some of our friends who were continuing their adventures on different routes.
In the early 20th century, Fort Bragg residents threw their household garbage over cliffs onto what is now Glass Beach, discarding glass, appliances, and even vehicles. Locals referred to it as "The Dumps".
The area was closed in 1967. Various cleanup programs were undertaken through the years to correct the damage. Over the next several decades the pounding waves cleaned the beach, by breaking down everything but glass and pottery and tumbling those into the small, smooth, colored pieces that cover Glass Beach.
I used to be so busy. I was, like many, sucked by the glorification of busy. It never was a 9-t-o-5-at-the-office-breaking-a-sweat-at-the-gym-before-soccer-practice kind of busy, but a make-everything-from-scratch-and-tell-wonderful-stories-by-memories-to-the-kids-with-homemade-needle-felted-puppets-while-they-wear-handnits-from-wool-I-dyed-with-plants-I-grew kind of busy. It was the good kind of busy, right? The one that is full of satisfaction. The one that gave me a sense of purpose.
But it still was busy. I still derived my sense of contentment from everything I made happened every day.
So, I aimed for less busy. And the less busy I became, the more bored I became. It’s like I didn’t know how to be happy without being productive. Like my sense of purpose was directly related to my level of busyness, to the end product of that busyness…
As I wrote when we lived in Costa Rica, I realize how much boredom is a luxury in our society and that many people haven’t experienced boredom since they were 12 or 13 yo. But boredom is uncomfortable and unpleasant…
“If boredom is simply a lack of stimulation and the unpleasant feelings that go with it, then the antidote is not finding a source of entertainment – it’s finding motivation to brush away those unpleasant feelings.”– Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike
When I told my dad I wanted to travel full-time so we could live an epic, exciting life, his answer was baffling. He said: “Your life on the road will become your new ordinary and it won’t be as exciting all the time. Life cannot be exciting all the time. 90 % of life is made of ordinary little things. One has to learn to live the ordinary.”
I thought he didn’t understand. Of course, life could be amazing and fascinating most of the time!
The more we travel, the more I understand what he meant. Our days are filled with beautiful moments together discovering new places, but a big chunk of it is still everyday life stuff. Life cannot be (and probably should not be) exciting all the time. But to accept that, I need to learn to live with moments of boredom, of non-entertainment, of ordinary little events. I am not used to be idle, to not be stimulated by conversations or activities, to not feel productive and useful most of the time.
I know I am blessed to have the space to wonder what to do with parts of my days. I have no more to-do lists to check, no agenda or calendar to fill, no appointments or classes to drive to. I wanted a low-stress life and I truly created it, but I realize that there is a fine line between too little and too much. I know I have to learn to live with less full days and still find this exciting. To learn to not be productive and feel worthy and good about it.
“If entertainment isn’t our right, does this mean our days have to be drudgery? Well, sometimes, yes. Life has never promised us non-stop parties and parades. But our everyday rituals can also become our entertainment, if we let them. (…) As an adult, my struggle isn’t recognizing the value behind the little things – it’s intentionally setting aside time, energy, and focus to breathe them in, deeply. Sucking the marrow out of life requires that I sit down in the silence, un-entertained.
And then, remarkably, the marrow-sucking becomes the entertainment I crave.” – Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike
**The pictures have been taken at Lost Creek State Park, OR
"People say that what we’re seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. What we seek is an experience of being alive." –Joseph Campbell
We had been dreaming of the sea for months and were all looking forward to hitting the Oregon coast. Ecola State Park was our first stop and it didn't disapoint! The view from the cliffs is totally breathtaking and the beach (Indian Point) is nothing short of amazing, reminding us of our favorite secluded Costa Rican beach. The girls played for more than a half hour in the freezing cold water, among fully suited surfers!
*Note that this park is a day use area only (no camping) and the beautiful drive that leads to it is not suitable for an RV or larger trailer.