Could be nice, but . . .
In early June, we headed to the Easter Sierras. We didn't really have much of an itinerary, except that we knew we wanted to stop somewhere close to Bishop to spend some time fishing and discovering the area including the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, home to the oldest living things on earth (a very worthwhile day trip! To read more about it, click here.)
I dropped off one Little, along with the Angler at a favorite local fishing spot and continued on to look for a place to camp. We'd driven by Glacier View campground many times, and gave it another drive by but since we had some time on our hands decided to press to Bishop, to see what we could find there.
Brown's Town campground looked crowded so we rambled on through Highland's RV Park, which is basically a giant, concrete parking lot crammed full of 35 foot motorcoaches on the main drag through Bishop. Not really our scene. So by comparison, Glacier View seemed pretty great.
I'm going to put the emphasis here on the word "seemed."
The host is awesome. His name is Ken and he was friendly and helpful. He gave me some parking and backing assist, and advice about which spots are most shady.
He really meant out of the sun shady, but "shady" has more than one meaning at this campground.
Here's the issue: As much as I like the cute town with its general store and Friday Farmer's Market and as much as I like Ken, and as much as like the Brown family who runs the campground (I've had the opportunity to meet them and they are dear, well-meaning people), Big Pine is currently plagued by a rash of drug use, violence, crime and homelessness. And because this campground is in town, has facilities (very poor though they are), and is fairly affordable, some of these issues are literally camped out here.
Of course, I didn't know all this til I was parked, unhitched, hooked up and fully committed. Even then, I didn't fully realize the situation.
There is a posted 2 week limit to stays but some campers have clearly been at this campground much longer. There aren't sewer hookups, but we observed some campers dumping their gray (let's just hope it was only grey) into the ground under their rigs. Structures are built or leaned against rigs and some rigs are surrounded by excessive personal belongings that indicate that this is actually where people come to stay with all their worldly possessions when they have no where else to go.
The campground also apparently allows long term storage of old cars and RVs, most of which are dilapidated or even out-right wrecked. That doesn't help the run-down appearance of the campground.
But the bigger issue is that there is actual crime here. The Sheriff showed up one night to take statements about a local woman who had tried to use a butcher knife to break into her son's camper on site and had stolen some items from around rigs in the campground. Honestly, I was both worried for our safety and heartbroken at the desperation that was so evident.
We met some of these campers, and they are friendly, open people, struggling to live clean and put their lives back together. Their stories are truly heart-wrenching.
Over the days we were there I noticed that many rigs arrived in the evening, parked in the outer reaches of the campground-- far away from the fray-- and were gone early. For now, if you need to stay in Big Pine, that's probably your best bet. I would love to say that I recommend this campground, but unfortunately I can't. I just hope that in the future this town and this campground can dig themselves out of the situation they find themselves in.
I was filled with dread as we arrived late in the afternoon, around 5:30 pm. We’ve visited Silver Lake Resort for several years and even though we'd never camped here, I had noticed that the lanes are very narrow and the RVs are packed in. Not a parking situation I was dying to take on with my son, who’s awesome but even newer than I am to all this. All day long I had been sweating having to back in to my assigned space. I may or may not have even lost some sleep over it the night before.
Because we are members of a few vineyards in and around Los Olivos, we usually visit the area a couple of times a year to pick up our wines and visit the tasting rooms. In the past, we've always flown into San Ynez airport with a bunch of friends, rented a car (or Ubered in recent years) and stayed in a hotel, usually in Solvang or Buellton. (To read about flying in to San Ynez, check this article).
This time, we decided to take the Airstream, just the two of us. Novice-level stupidity first led me to check out Flying Flags as an option but seeing the concrete pads, all in matchstick-sized, parallel rows reminded me too much of the free nights I've spent in Walmart parking lots. Considering this, imagine my surprise to find that a night a FF will set you back $89. Not exactly a free night at Walmart. So I expanded the search to other options.
Because of its proximity to the river and the short distance to to the town of Kernville, the Kernville Airport campground is a great spot for a weekend trip or even longer. Unlike most of the campgrounds in and around the River, this campground is rarely crowded, except for special fly-in events and meet-ups when there are lots of airplanes and tents. (Usually, we call the cafe before heading over to be sure that there isn’t an event scheduled on a weekend when we plan to visit.)
Have you ever tried to remove a screw with a dime because you can't find a screwdriver? Or lit your grill with a wood skewer because you didn't have a lighter? But in the end, after you stripped that screw, didn't you wish you had just looked a little bit longer for the right tool? And after that skewer burned itself in half, fell onto your carpet and melted itself a big hole while you were racing it outside, didn't you just want to punch yourself in the face for being stupid?
I've heard experienced RVers say that new owners should not buy new dishware, cookware and linens for their camper but rather we should mine our household cupboards, closets and garages to repurpose something we already have. I'm pretty sure that these people are, well, not fun at all. Not only that, but I bet there are a lot of stripped screws and holey carpets in their houses.
Why? Because RVs are not houses. And the tools we use in them should be specific to the job of making Airstream life wonderful.
Seriously, though, there are a few reasons that this is a bad idea.
3) ease of use
We stopped at Woody Mountain Campground for a quick overnight in April. I called ahead to make a reservation and the phone service was excellent-- which is probably why we were willing to take the $48/night rate for such a quick overnight.
We arrived at dusk, grabbed our map and reservation info which was taped to the then-closed office window, and started hunting for our pull through site. It wasn't easy, as the signage was small, the sun was very low, and the trees cast shadow on whatever light was left.
We could easily see, however, that the sites and lanes were narrow and the campground was fairly crowded. We eventually found our our site on the end of a row, were able to set up quickly and get to bed. The site wasn't perfectly level but it was good enough. A bigger issue was that the waste hole was uphill, so we weren't able to dump sewage during our stay. Something else to consider is that by morning the top of our Airstream as covered in pine sap. No bueno.
So that's what I did.