All posts by danamite

Camp Cooking

cookingonfire
Lassen Camping – Photo by Mike Rother

Cooking Meals while Camping

Eating while away from home often means expensive dinners out. But eating well, usually means cooking it yourself. If budget travel is key, then you will need at bare minimum – a cooler, otherwise known as an “ice chest” for perishable food.

hikerA heat source for cooking food is another item to consider; unless  you plan to eat sandwiches, wraps, bars and snacks all weekend. Juice fast anyone?

If you want to do any amount of physical activity outside, then you may want a decent meal or two to nourish your tired body afterwards. This is where the ‘free heat source’ (campfire) comes in handy.

metal campfire ring
Metal campfire rings are commonplace inside developed campgrounds.

This page covers an overview of eating and cooking outdoors, more suited to tent campers or car campers traveling. No camp cooking recipes; sorry, the web is full of them.

campfireCampfires require only free firewood (for heat) and the groceries (to cook), so they are the cheapest choice for meals; Free campfire permits are needed, along with water buckets and a shovel, and of course, campfire restrictions should always be followed.

Coleman camp stoves or smaller units are ideal for car campers, tent campers and van-lifers. Butane or propane fuel can get expensive if this is your only cooking method, so take that into consideration.

RVMotorhome campers have it easy – with full kitchens and appliances, but propane fuel could be costly depending on how many meals you prepare. Propane fridges are most common. RV refrigerators are often one of the first things to fail, so keep that in mind when purchasing an older camper on wheels.

Everything – and the kitchen sink. RVs, camper trailers and some camper vans have it made for cooking. They literally have a mini kitchen to do most of their food prep and cooking (indoors, away from wind, dust, bugs). Or they can easily bounce back and forth between the campfire grilling and the indoor kitchen.

woodstove2000

Cabin rentals w/ wood burning stoves, some specially designed for cooking are a rare find on vacation. These beauties are unique, antique and some still fully functional as a cooking appliance. It’s a slower longer process to cook, but it is entertaining and rewarding. Wood-burning stoves use small hardwood pieces, known as ‘stove wood’. Bring some, or ask about it when reserving the cabin.

tailgatekitchen
Tailgate can be Kitchen counter spot

Otherwise, car campers and picnickers must rely on make-shift kitchen setups:

  • first, flat ground helps immensely.
  • second, a heat source may be needed, so plan ahead.
  • developed parks and campgrounds usually provide picnic tables. pavement, cement flat areas for people to congregate and dine.
  • boulder coves near rock outcroppings usually make good picnic spots and camp kitchens
  • at bare minimum, a ground cloth or tarp for meal prep is best
  • tarps can also come in handy, when raining. bring rope.

camp stoves, BBQ grill or campfire
ground tarp, table or tailgate

camp

cement_table
indestructible – the USFS cement picnic table

@ camp – Step 1

define kitchen area, light up work area & clean prep surfaces; wash basin areas get sloppy, so keep it off the table top

crowded table

@ camp – Step 2

cover table top and seating surfaces; carry extra blankets for bench seats, and bedding. Camp stove needs FLAT surfaces to be most effective – the end of the picnic table, a flat boulder, a truck tailgate, a stove stand, or a portable camp table.

@ camp – Step 3

clean out the campfire pit; only idiots dispose of their trash in the fire ring. always leave the camp site, cleaner than you found it. bring extra black trash bags; respect the land and teach others. do not to litter.

Wild Winds of California 

When nights are chilly and dining by the campfire is preferred, line a folding camp chair with a thick blanket. This will keep the cold wind off your back.

If the wind is harsh (20+ mph), you can park your vehicle to block most of the wind toward the campfire and/or camp kitchen.

contained fire
a contained fire, a good fire

Do not burn ANY FLAMES or FIRE when weather conditions are severe. HOT, DRY, WINDY = red flag warnings; all fire permits and burn permits are suspended.

Know current fire restrictions before you light up!

tablestv

NON-FOOD ITEMS vs. FOOD

When packing your kitchen box in advance, do not load food items that have a scent – NO SPICES, no tea bags, nor hot chocolate mix. No coffee, no snacks and small smelly items. Bears, raccoons and  wildlife would love to find your food (even if you only stepped away from the camp for 2 minutes). Crafty types will even attempt opening the cooler or getting inside the hatchback.

Store all food related / scented products inside the ice chest or the easy to manage, grocery bag – aka the FOOD BAG.

This Food Bag concept and style of storage is best for packing up at night after meals. The EASY and fastest way to get to bed early and avoid sorting food items in the dark. When the dishes are done, laying out drying, all grocery bags and food related items go in the car or in the steel bear box (provided at camp ground).

Remember these scented items also includes – toothpaste, cough drops, deodorant, creams, candy, medications. We’ve seen a tube of Ben-Gay chewed open by critters. Yuk. Save the animals from eating your foot cream. Store your creams and meds in a zip pouch with the food bag. Problem solved.

cloth bag
SOLO TRAVELERS TIP: Cloth bags are handy for camp dishes.

Prep @ home before the trip:

Freeze large juice bottles for cooler ice. BLOCK ice last much longer than small ice cubes. Freeze smaller water bottles for smaller coolers. Prevent bottle bursting, (water expands when ice swells) by pouring an inch off the top and screwing cap down loosely.

food

If you absolutely must have ice cubes for your drinks, take a smaller zip-lock bag. If it melts fast, buy another one in route.

Pre-chop vegetables; package fruit chunks. Think of hike-able meals, proteins, fast snacks and fruit. Fresh veggies w/ the meat grilling @ the deluxe campfire dinner.

Select a sturdy reusable bag with wide bottom. This can be your designated FOOD bag. Groceries, spices, coffee and teas, anything with a scent. Garlic, apples, raisins, oatmeal pouches.

The FOOD BAG (see orange notes above) is also a great place to store small items when traveling and camping. Items like lighters, matches, pocket knives, candles, pen and paper, headlamps, batteries, bandana, napkins, half roll o TP.

Solo travelers may even want to pack a ‘place setting’ (plate, bowl, utensils) inside the food bag for on the go meals and easy access.

Pack &  pre-cook:

precooking certain foods
(that would normally take lots of time and fuel, or mess)
rice, pasta noodles, steel cut oatmeal, homemade chili, cakes, bread, sausages, bacon

XtremeCooler58qt

ICE CHEST

2 coolers may be needed. depending on the situation, eating habits and amount of travelerssunshine

One large ice chest for storage, located in the back w/ a blanket on top to block it from the direct sunlight.

Smaller, portable ice chest up front, near the driving compartment for easy access to snacks, trail mix, sandwiches, beverages. Picnics will be easy with a small cooler. Freezing plastic water bottles days ahead, for block ice without the soggy mess.

sandwich

JUST HEAT UP

If you want to do more exploring and less cooking, then plan your meals dining out (at home, online), well in advance. Fast food drive-thrus should always be avoided. Budget at least $10 per meal and expect to pay more in smaller towns. Pack lots of snack bars, beverages and easy to fix meals. Sandwiches are great for day time, cuz you’ll be out sightseeing. Night time you can have a camp fire to cook on, or break out the camp stove or grill.

Left overs are super quick to heat and serve. Pancakes, bacon, quiche, casseroles, enchiladas, stir fried rice, pre-chop salads. Save the salad dressing and top salad just before eating. Other easy prep meals include: scrambled eggs, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, soups, tacos, or if all else fails, the dreaded MRE. Pre-packaged backpackers meals in foil pouches have come a long way, but are often expensive and always look so unappealing, like mush.

We’ve seen the city-boy bachelors show up to camp (after midnight)  w/ a cooler packed full of beer and Subway sandwiches. Chips and nuts were their only side dishes. Needless to say, but the second day they we’re done w/ their food and wanting ours. BBQ ribs?

condiments
Condiment packets take up less space than full size containers and they don’t need to be stored in the ice chest

EASY COOK MEALS
one burner stove
one steel pot / one pan
cutting board
ziplock bags
utensils

Baja Kitchen

check

CAMP COOK
2 burner camp stove w/ fuel
skillet & lid
medium size pots and pans
spices
utensils
camp lantern
BBQ grill?

skillet
CAMPFIRE CHEF
cast iron
dutch oven cooking
campfire grill
tripod
foil  &  ziplock bags
fireproof oven mit / gloves
extra long tongs
sturdy table

castirondutchoven
Cast Iron is the preferred cookware for campfire cooking.

shop for campfire cooking

campsite

wood saws and camp tools

Campfire Cooking Advice: 

Start the campfire before sunset, so it has time to burn down the wood to make adequate coals.

Cook over glowing hot coals rather than the flames of burning wood. Use flat rocks and/or metal grills for positioning cast iron cookware.

campfireWait until the campfire becomes hot coals to do the cooking. Rearrange the glowing coals and rocks for optimal cooking spots.

You’ll need plenty of small wood – to keep feeding the fire and pushing the coals in place. Direct flames on cookware means black soot and often burnt chicken. Flames are okay for some food – like roasting wieners or shish kabobs, but generally it is the coals that offer the most even heat source.

dutchoven

Dutch oven (pictured above) is often the first cast iron campers purchase. Positioned over the campfire, it becomes a mini oven for heating up left over food dishes. You can heat them w/ a camp stove as well. Start with a smaller size and buy larger ones as needed.

Cast iron skillets are very handy for cooking up meat or fish dishes. Re-heating left overs, cooking eggs, pancakes and bacon. Books abound on dutch oven cooking show baking breads, desserts, making chili, and lots of recipes.

Aluminum foil and a roll of paper towels will come in handy. Ziplock bags help with leftovers. Metal spatula and tongs are ideal when cooking over campfires. Choose a can opener w/ a bottle opener built into it. Bring a corkscrew if you are packing a bottle of wine.

Washing up all dishes and pots immediately after a meal is best practice; Before bedtime is mandatory. No food or beverage smells should be found overnight around camp. Tie and pack garbage away (inside a vehicle), or dispose of in trash cans – before retiring for the night.

Remember: No toothpaste or snacks allowed inside the tent. Keep a clean camp to prevent unwanted visitors (wild animals).

fish

Do not Wash Dishes
in the Creek or Lake

A bucket is a required item for tending a campfire, so use that to fetch water – and wash dishes way away from all waterways, restrooms and sleeping areas. Use bio-degradable soap!

camp

Use the metal bear boxes, when provided. These may be required for proper food storage in bear country.

bearboxes
Steel bear boxes help to protect your food from wild animals. It is best to use them when provided. Sharing boxes with neighboring campers is common.

Bears are after your food (not you).

tentNfire

see also –
Camping w/ Bears
Bear Bells & Canisters

Camp Kitchen Rules

springtable

check

rodents to raccoons / bats to bears / fish to frogs

Outdoor Kitchen Rules:

    • At home you can let your dirty dishes sit for days in the sink, but not out here. As much as you hate to, wash the dishes right after your meal – so you don’t attract wildlife to your camp. Heat wash water to make cleaning up easier on your hands. A large towel helps w/ drip dry process, so carry old towels.picnic
    • Picnic tables outside in the elements and are used by everyone, including the animals and rodents. Bring a table cloth, plastic, or an old sheet to cover the table. Hold it down with heavy objects on each end.

Hantavirus is a serious and deadly lung infection that is caused from inhaling fine dust particles from rodent droppings.

      • Avoid eating or preparing food directly on the ground. Place a ground tarp down and then a picnic blanket, at the very least.
      • Use caution (and a wet sponge) when staying overnight in rustic cabins, tent cabins.
      • Beware of older buildings that may be or may have been populated with rats or mice. Bring tarps, sheets and extra blankets to minimize the dust level. It’s advisable NOT to sleep or eat in any place that has evidence of mice turds.
      • Avoid sleeping or camping in caverns or caves, as rodent populations are in excess.
      • Do not feed wildlife, birds, squirrels or rodents. They can carry rabies and/or many other diseases.camp

    garbage (pack it out)

        • Put food left overs in the ice chest as soon as it cools. Use paper towels to wipe food residue out of pots – before washing. Dispose of trash food into paper grocery bag.  Dispose of paper bag & towels into the campfire. Let it burn down all the way w/ the last wood scraps; No more food smells to attract bears!
        • Do not leave the garbage outside overnight. Deposit trash in a dumpster at campground, or treat it like food and lock it away in a vehicle. Double bag it – in case it leaks. Always carry extra black trash bags when traveling, to clean up litter. These large bags can also be used as storage for blankets and pillows.campfire

      campfire (safety)

        • Obtain a free campfire permit from the local ranger station, if you plan to cook outdoors, using a stove or a fire. Know current fire conditions and obey RED FLAG restrictions on fire.
        • Do not leave campfires, lanterns or candles burning unattended at camp. Make sure the propane or butane fuel is turned off (at the stove and at the tank) after a meal. Drowned campfires before bedtime, or when you leave camp.

      washing (clean)

          • Do not wash dishes or cookware directly in the stream (lake, creek, river). Bring a large bucket or wash tub. Avoid dipping dirty dishes or pans into the lakes, rivers, or creeks. Wash nearby without putting soap into the natural waterway. Some campgrounds do not have piped water, so carry your own.
          • Disperse wash water over the ground at least 200 feet from nearest stream, river or lake.
          • Use a sponge scrubber with soap in the handle for convenience w/ minimal liquid. Store it is a ziplock baggie. No more chasing the floating soapy sponge down the creek, in the cold, swift current.
          • Same rules apply when washing your hands in the creek or bathing your body in a lake. Keep the soap to a minimum and rinse soap off – away from the shoreline of the lake, river or creek.

          water (raw water)

          • Do not drink untreated water from a lake or creek, no matter how fresh or clean it looks. Boil water, or bring a portable water filter for use when camping/hiking. If you carry bottled water, pack trash out; recycle bottles.
          • Boil water, Boiling is sufficient to kill pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa.
            • If water is cloudy, let it settle and filter it through a clean cloth, paperboiling water towel, or coffee filter.
            • Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. At altitudes above 5,000′, boil water for 3 minutes.

          Giardia is usually found in rivers and streams. These organisms exist in waters because they exist in our digestive tracts and those of other animals. So anywhere that there’s poop near water, that water could contain pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Aeromonas, Yersenia enterocolitica, Leptospirosis, Listeria, or Vibrio, in addition to a suite of viruses and protozoan parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Some only cause short-term, if severe, gastrointestinal distress. Others can cause issues that last for weeks, months, or even years.

          califrepublic

          wildlife

          • Bears? If you are camping in ‘bear country’, do not cook in or near the tent or sleeping cots. Cook downwind from your sleeping area. Use metal bear boxes for food storage, when provided at campground. If not, use the trunk of your vehicle. Windows up!
          • Two large plastic boxes/containers with lids help in storing items properly, away from rodents & rain. Use one box for kitchen wear & Use one box for food storage. Wooden crates or plastic crates can also work.
          • Keep cooler in the shade -always! When stored in a vehicle, place blankets or tarps over ice chest to prevent sun from baking down on it. Overnight – put the cooler inside a vehicle. Windows up!
          • camp
          racoonwarnsign
          click to enlarge
          • Raccoons are super-crafty creatures and can get into almost anything. Close your car windows at night. Tarp down the truck bed securely. Bring an extra tie down strap or two, to wrap the cooler or food box.
          • No food or SCENTS in the tents! Animals are attracted to smells. No BBQ sauce t-shirt or greasy jeans. No snacks, no candy, no cough drops, no toothpaste, no ointments, no deodorant. Store those scented items closed up in a vehicle, or in a metal bear box.
          • Bats may come in close at  night to eat mosquitoes and other flying bugs. On occasion they may find your cabin interesting and want to explore; Or a well lit motorhome could be inviting, so keep the screen door closed.
          taters
          Breakfast taters, coming up.

          How to deal with Bears & food storage

          RUBtub

          A large rubber container with lid is great for storage & doubles as a wash tub, so you don’t end up adding suds to the stream. Many mountain streams are used for local water sources & the less polution in them, the better.

          watercont_i
          Camp Kitchen Care

          tarptenttub
          Ground tarps help keep gear clean and provides for food prep space.


California Car Rentals

Auto Rentals, 4×4 Rentals
in and around California

Thrifty Rent-A-Car System, Inc.
california

Automotive Rental Agencies
Baja Car Rentals
Bus Service / Tours
Camper Van Rental Shops
Hummer Rentals
Jeep Rentals
Limousines
Motorcycle Rental
Off Road Rentals
SUV Rentals
Tesla Rentals
Trucks 4×4 / 4WD
RV Motorhome Rental

4x4    califrepublic    camptruck

Tobin Bridge California
Tobin Bridge California

#1 RV Rental Marketplace

CaribouWoodbridge
Queen Lily bridge, Caribou Road, North Feather River
tesloop
San Diego to Los Angeles = drive a Tesla. electric vehicle

Auto Rental Service Agencies


Alamo 844/354-6962
Budget 800/218-7992
Enterprise 855/266-9289
Hertz 800/654-3131

SFthennow

Rent-A-Wreck San Francisco, CA 877-877-0700
Thrifty Rent-A-Car System, Inc.
hwy highway

june lake loop
June Lake Loop is a popular spot for Autumn Colors

camp

bajaexplorin
Paved roads are the main highways in Baja, everything else is usually DIRT

Baja California Mexico Car Rentals

Some San Diego car-rental companies will rent vehicles for driving into Baja California & will provide Mexican auto-insurance. Franchises below can have location drop offs & pick-ups in the US or over the border in MX.

ABC RENT-A-CAR
Costa Mesa, CA 949/200-3367

AVIS Rent a Car
San Diego, CA 619/688-5000
Otay Tijuana 619/588-1309
Mexico 800/770 2847
Baja California Norte, Mexico

DOLLAR
800/800-4000 MX & SD
San Diego Airport San Diego, CA
Tijuana, Baja California

ENTERPRISE 855-266-9289
San Diego, CA 619/696-5000
Mexicali, BC 686/514 2406
en Español 1-877-416-0000

NATIONAL CAR MX
800/716-6625

CALIFORNIA BAJA RENT-A-CAR
619/470-7368
Trucks, Vans, Jeeps, SUV, 4×4 vehicles

Baja Insurance
Buy Baja Insurance online

SequoiaSUV
Toyota Sequoia in Lakes Basin Recreation Area
SUVtrips
Access more roads w/ a Sport Utility Vehicle

SUV and 4×4 Rentals

These days most all car rental agencies have Sport Utility Vehicles for rent, but if you need 4 wheel drive for your trip, then make sure 4WD is an option.

4 wheel drive rentals

Camping Jeep Rentals w/
Cypress Overland

East Bay San Francisco, CA

4x4

snow & ice?

Heading up to the mountains for anything fun? then you better ask rental car company about snow forecast and tire chains – or buy some in route.

OFF ROAD

If you plan to drive on serious dirt roads for hundreds of miles, a week of camping, rock crawling mountains, take a spin on the desert sand dunes, or want to drive into Mexico, then you will need extra insurance. Ask and expect to pay $$$.

likearental
Drive It – like a rental. (Perosi) Moab UT – Crawloween 2000

wildflower

mountains

snow

Air Travel

California Airplanes & Travel

Baja Mexico Flights
Best Times to Fly
Cheapest Airfares
California Local Air Charters
Sightseeing Flights
Small Town Airports

Air planes burn major fuel. More than one-tenth of all transportation-related carbon emissions across the United States comes from air travel, according to the EPA.

Estimates say rail travel emits less than one-third of the CO2 relative to what air travel does. Consider a longer journey, taking in more scenery and traveling by train; California has lots of options.

SDskyshot
San Diego Harbor from above.

 

airportBiggest destination airports in California

SAN – San Diego

SFO – San Francisco

LAX – Los Angeles

ONT – Ontario

SMF – Sacramento


Logo OneTravel 125x125

Popular connector flights include – 

  • RENO, NV
  • LAS VEGAS, NV
  • PHOENIX, AZ
  • PORTLAND, OR
  • SEATTLE, WA
  • DENVER, CO
  • SALT LAKE CITY, UT
fly2sacto
Flights to Sacramento

Best Times to Fly

Time of the Flight:
Book a flight before 7:00 am or after 7:00 pm. Also, Saturday & Sunday flights may eligible for off-peak pricing.

Day of the Week:
Certain fares are priced lower on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Saturdays

Holiday Travels:
Days surrounding a holiday or 3 day weekend are usually not the best choice for a deal. These are considered “blackout” days. Try to get a “red-eye” (late night) flight just before the holiday rush.

Six major airlines control nearly three-quarters of the air market & airfare prices.


Keys to savings:

Be flexible. Jump on bargain prices and then figure out why you want to go there. If you must travel to Point B for a specific visit, only purchase during deep sale periods.

Familiarize yourself on discount airline routes. You may be able to travel to a city within 150 miles of your final destination, but save hundreds in doing so.

Check out the number of Internet sites that sell tickets below the official, or published fares. Many offers are completely non-refundable and not exchangeable for other travel dates.

How to fly on a private jet for under $150 per person

takeoff
San Diego airport take off

California – Local Air Charters

Stratos Jet Charters, Inc.
888-593-9066

JSX – JetSuite Air
800-435-9579

Premier Air Charter, LLC
San Diego, CA
619-316-5637

LGB – Long Beach Airport
serving: Mammoth, Reno, South Lake Tahoe, Grand Canyon
562-570-2600

Desert Jet Service
Palm Springs, CA
800-381-JETS (5387)

Sierra Aviation
703 Airport Rd. #A
Bishop, CA
760- 872-2202

mountains

Sightseeing Flights

Small Town Airports
Rural California and Remote Destinations

California A to Z

Municipal airports, county air fields, remote landing strips, regional air port links are now listed individually on the town pages under local links.

Cabo

Baja Air Services

Aero Mexico
800-237-6639

serving:
Cabo San Lucas
La Paz
Loreto
Los Cabos
Tijuana

Los Padres National Forest


Popular Airline Deals !

Ghost Towns in California

California’s Historic Ghost Towns

Historic cities and towns are commonplace inside California, but very few towns are totally abandoned. By definition ‘ghost towns’ are population locations that have previously thrived (usually in mining), but they’ve ultimately have been deserted.  Sometimes a few residents will stick around for the seclusion, but the place often appears empty. Finding an open business is a rarity.

generalstore
inside the old general store

North Bloomfield allows visitors inside the buildings to examine the furnishings, decor, fixtures and the interior style. As part of a ranger guided daily tour, you can explore these historic structures up close and personal.

ghost towns

towns in business

Calico, CA
Oatman, AZ
Pioneertown, CA
Randsburg, CA

almost abandoned

Ballarat, CA
Bodie State Historic Park
Cerro Gordo, CA
Darwin, CA
North Bloomfield

shackleaning

California mining ruins

findingfall
Malakoff Diggins State Park

California ghost town

deserted mines & ghost towns

Garlock, CA
(ripped down by Knotts Berry Farm, for decor at their amusement park)

Panamint City, CA
(old mining camp, way above Panamint Valley)

Montgomery City, Hwy 6
(old mining site, 4×4 required. N of Bishop, CA)

Skidoo, Death Valley NP
(old mining ruins, near Wildrose Canyon)

Tucki Mine, Death Valley NP
(old mining camp, near Wildrose Canyon)

field deserts
North Mojave Desert
greenshack
Randsburg, California; circa 1999
skidoo
skidoo mine, DVNP

woodsiding

Seasons of California

spring summer autumn winter

All Four Seasons in California

californiaWhile some may think there are only 2 seasons in California

WINTER (the wet season) and SUMMER (the dry, hot season) which may also be known as Fire Season (as in wildfires).

There are indeed 4 Seasons in California:

However – Spring and Autumn are much shorter, as rapid swings in rain and drought (weather related events) often dominate the West Coast region.

And by the way, Earthquake Season is any time of year.

june lake loop
June Lake Loop is a popular spot for Autumn Colors

campCamping Season can be all year long in California, where we often have mild winters, sometimes without much precipitation.

Southern California has camping and hiking all the time, in every area. Deserts are a favorite camp destination in the winter months, usually December thru March. Find more info on Desert Camping. See also, a page on Winter Camping.

The Central Coast and Central Valley regions often have campgrounds available and open year-round. Northern California and the Sierra Nevada mountains get most of the real wet weather, between November and April, so campgrounds usually close (for half the year) depending on weather conditions.

tableviews
High Country Sierra Nevada mountains

Often the higher elevations of California (5000’+) can only be accessed by vehicle during summer months. Deep snowpack means paved roads are usually closed for the majority of the year (Nov-May) and sometimes, during a ‘good’ winter, the main Sierra highway routes do not open up to public access until June or July. Read more on Sierra Road Conditions.

potrerocabin

California Road Conditions

snow conditions

Camp Hygiene

Traveling & Camping: Personal Hygiene

You’ll often hear city folks or gay guys exclaim ” Geesh. I look like hell” – which is usually followed by, “but I am having such a good time this weekend”.

Yep, I hear ya sister. Who cares what you look like! As long as you are enjoying nature & breathing fresh air, that’s all that matters. Bonding with the Earth is something most of us all crave, at one level or another. We’re here to help make that experience better. Soul searching solo camp-out, group camping at a campground w/ reservations or just a weekend fishing in a remote wilderness, via backpack.

looklikehell

aquarius_trio

  • bathroom breaks
  • be bear aware
  • body odor
  • blisters – feet (see below)
  • breath & teeth
  • chapped lips/nose
  • constipation
  • dry eyes & irritation
  • dry skin & bug bitescheck
  • food storage
  • outdoor hair-do
  • sex outdoors

The vision of a typical “Mountain Man” has changed drastically in the last several decades. Lumbersexual, anyone? Pioneer homesteaders, Trappers, Hunters, Fishermen are rare, mostly found in mountain regions, like Sierra Nevada or Northern California. Chainsaws and all.

Grizzly Adams – big, rugged guy with long hair, un-shaven, dry skin & maybe even white cracked lips. Now-a-days it’s all about the comfort, convenience and healthy choices. The city-life and polished look will not be practical, nor last very long outside in the elements.

cyamacapeak_i

Media can glorify outdoor recreation, and feature extreme examples of super fit people, or once-in-a-lifetme adventures.  It misleads the general public into a ‘Barbie style vision’ of what back country, wilderness & camping will be like.

Mainstream news about camping and hiking is often BAD news of river drownings, lost hikers, bad accidents and avalanches. Rarely will they focus on the positives of enjoying the outdoors. Remember, THEY want you indoors, glued to the tube and sucking up all that advertising!

campUNLESS YOUR FAMILY CAMPED while growing up, most of us get “into the outdoors” with little to no education on the wild. The Wilderness: areas without electricity, spotty cell phone coverage, and no medical facilities. There is a lot to learn, if you want to actually enjoy yourself outdoors, be well fed, comfortable, get good sleep – and not get lost.

Orienteering (using a real compass) and topographic map reading are skills worth exploring. Campfires and cooking over the fire may interest you, if you plan to spend large amounts of time outdoors.

BATHING outdoors? When a cold creek is not readily available, then search for piped water and a spigot. Or pack your own solar shower, designed for campers in mind. Only certain campgrounds have showers available and many will require coins (quarters) to operate.

campfire

The topic of ‘outdoor hygiene’ rarely, if ever, comes up in camping conversations. This is what we’re here for. To answer all them embarrassing questions you never had the nerve to ask.

We’ve got the remedies for some physical discomforts many experience while enjoying life outdoors. In the last several years, with new products surfacing daily, there is no excuse not to be comfortable out in the wild. Much of this technique is simply being informed or packing well. Anyone can take advantage of enjoying the mother nature… comfortably & prepared.

< start here >

  • Choose a Gender (if this is impossible task, then maybe camping isn’t a good fit for ya)

potty

 

Cooling Feet
Cooling Feet in Baja’s Guadalupe Canyon

Feet First

Blisters on feet is usually due to friction, heat and moisture. Sweat makes the pore of your skin open up and expand. That along with hot temperatures, tight shoes or hiking boots and mileage, means you must stop and take more breaks.

Shoe/boot laces should be snug, but not too tight.

Take breaks and remove your shoes/boots – once per hour if needed. Pace yourself; know your limits on hiking distances. Plan to be setting a camp, or back at the car before dark.

Dipping your feet into a cold mountain stream is quite refreshing and can add pleasure to your day. Refilling water jugs while you’re at it. Dry feet thoroughly before putting socks back on. Remember the wilderness goal is not always to reach the destination, but to have a great time outdoors. A rewarding experience, but worn out. When feet hurt or become blistered, the fun becomes physical pain.

NO SANDALS

Do not hike miles in sport sandals or flips flops. You can ruin your arches and injure your feet, especially on granite mountain trails. Sandals are great around water, lounging at camp or walking to the outhouse, but consider wearing good shoes if you plan to walk or hike any significant distance.

hiker

NEW BOOTS

New footwear is notorious for creating blisters. Best to ‘break in’ your new shoes or boots on local trails, close to home. Wear them to work, wear them around town – so your foot can fit the boot, well before you try to “hike” in them.bootslandsend

Buying cheap hiking boots may have you swearing out on the trail, so bring backup shoes, just in case. While we’ve found top brand name (expensive) leather hiking boots failing faster than anticipated, we like the abundant shoe options now – trail runners, trekking boots and snow boots.

MOLE SKIN

Backpackers and avid day hikers like to carry this thin, soft fabric. A sticker side w/ mole skin  on one side. You might carry it for years, before needing it. Nice to have, cheap, thin and lightweight.

  • Clean and dry area around the blister.
  • With scissors, cut a piece of moleskin larger than your blister. *
  • Fold moleskin in half, adhesive side down.
  • Using blister as a reference; cut a semi-circle out of the center of the folded end of the moleskin. Result should be a square piece of moleskin with a hole in the center.
  • Remove adhesive backing and place over your blister, aligning your blister with the hole you made. The circle should completely surround blister without touching its edges.
  • You may need to double up if the blister is big. Mole foam is also available.

* Pre-cut sizes to avoid hiking w/ scissors.

TWO PAIR O SOCKS

Thinner nylon pair of sock worn against your skin can help with friction. Wear a thick or thin pair of cotton or wool socks, as the outside layer. Most of the friction will now be in between these sock layers.

OINTMENTS

Athlete’s foot, blisters, sun burn, foot powders, bee sting or injury; there are numerous cautions to consider. Feet are the wheels for your body. They get you to and from; feet are very important for your survival. Taking care of them is key, especially when outdoors.

see products for healthy feet



mountains

footed
Footed Rock at Bald Rock, Berry Creek, CA


June Gloom in California

june gloom

seasonal weather patterns

Late spring in California is a wondrous time of year for getting out and exploring. Thousands of prime hiking trails and camp spots, coupled with relatively mild weather throughout the state, should insure that your ‘gotta see’ list is long. Total Escape is stuffed full of weekend ideas and your excuses for not leaving the house could be vanishing with the warm weather.wildflower

However, for those dwelling in the coastal regions of our great state, spring isn’t all it is cracked up to be. I’m talking about the dreaded marine layer fog, more affectionately referred to as ‘June Gloom’ or ‘May Gray’. This weather pattern can even last into July and August!

The hotter it is inland, the more likely the beach will be cloudy. Advection fog occurs when warm, land air moves out over cool, ocean water. The cold, California Current and upwelling produce cool, moist marine layers that blanket the entire coastline up and down the state. San Francisco is notorious for its dense fog.

birdsandfog

Many tourists and newcomers in California expect warm summers with plenty of sunshine, only to be disappointed by dreaded cloudy days. Otherwise known as overcast!

April was warm, but May is gray. It can be annoying, but why wait it out at the beach? … just head east to catch some rays.

califrepublicIf you’re like most folks who prefer the bright, warm sunshine to the gray, cold mist of a heavy marine layer, you might want to head inland. In most places throughout the state it is warm & the sun is shining and very warm inland by June. It only takes only a few miles of eastward travel to lose the gloom and be basking in the warmth of yet another classic California day.

Although, triple digit heat can also begin around June 1st in parts of the southwest. Regions like Death Valley, Vegas, Arizona, and the Central Valley of California often see temperatures creeping past 100 degrees, in the month of June. Consider that tidbit in your road trip planning. Check the forecast.

You may need winter jackets for the campsite at 5000′ elevation – but air conditioning on the drive there. A wide swing in day time temperatures can be expected in Cali.

Coastal Fog California

marinelayer

campCamping season is warming up and the crowds are often sparse at the start of the season. Campgrounds are most crowded when “school is out for summer break”, so if you want a quiet camp, choose to explore the back roads.

Travel season is non-stop in California, all year long; and now, so is Wild Fire season.

campfireJULY 1st typically marks the start of the seasonal NO-BURN DAYS: no more open burning, no residential brush burns, no campfires outside of developed campgrounds.

Check with the local rangers for specific conditions. Cal Fire, USFS, BLM, County Fire Agencies

snowSNOW MELTS – June is also the month that many of the snow covered mountain passes finally open up for the summer season. These are the main paved routes that go over the highest points in NorCal and the Sierra range, making Wilderness Areas and alpine lakes accessible. Wildflowers will bloom May-July in the Sierra Nevada!

weathersnowmap
California Road Conditions (click map to see more info)

(California State Routes, Interstate & US Highways)

drumtribes
Summer Solstice Campout – JUNE 20-22


Avoid the Crowds

How to Avoid Tourist Crowds when Traveling California

We are sure you’ll agree: Too much of life is spent sitting in traffic jams and waiting in line. Check out the traffic page. This page is created as a warning – CALIFORNIA IS CROWDED.

bus loads

“Hell is other people.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Bus loads of senior citizens travel in luxury motor-coaches to casinos; Airport shuttles bring sightseers to local attractions on full day excursions; Mountain bikers head to the trailheads by way of a personal automobile, a sport utility or pickup truck; 4x4s caravan to their meeting spot, in route to the trail destination. People on their daily commute to and from work, school, play. California has loads of traffic, tourism and terrain, with a massive freeway system, plus some awesome state highways. Popular destinations tend to get crowded at certain times of the year.

California Road Trips & Peak Travel Seasons

California population may be ever growing, but they’re not building any more Yosemite Parks. The migratory path westward started w/ the historic gold rush – the trend has literally lasted over 200 years!

Make sure you plan your trip & book your lodging or campgrounds well in advance. In this west coast world of tourism, 3-6 months is not unheard of. The more popular the locale, the more people want that perfect weather month and the further in advance you should reserve. Remember a good portion of these mountains destinations are closed half the year for winter snow.

There’s nothing worse than planning a trip, only to fight traffic on your way outta town, stand in long lines & see way too many tourists running about. Enjoying nature shouldn’t have to include thousands of other people. Try these helpful tips for avoiding the crowds. Get more solitude & relaxation out of your vacation. Check our Fairs, Festivals, & Events list to know when certain towns & areas will be busiest.

california maps

With California population near 40 million people it’s a wonder we don’t kill each other faster. Slow down on the freeways and enjoy the back roads with Total Escape. Statistics show: One outta 8 Americans lives in California!

This staggering large population is ever growing and expanding. College students, retirees, world-travelers and young families flock here, bring relatives and friends to migrate west… ever since the gold mining boom of 1849.

Still we are cranking out babies and building more communities in California. Add a huge tourism industry that brings in millions of outta state folks for conventions & outdoor vacations.
4x4 roads

Although Cali is a huge regional paradise to explore, it is amazing that locals can find any secret refuge for weekends or week-long fishing trips. With vast deserts, mountains and countryside, half the golden state land could be easily considered public land, park, wildlife refuge or neighborhood open space preserve. Total Escape has this back roads thing covered. Getting you out in the boonies to relax, in nature, is exactly what this site is for.

more nature, less people

desert campgroundTry out new areas! If you’ve never heard of it, chances are most people haven’t either. Go ahead, explore a little. California is a really big state.

California’s Busy Season

Summer is definitely the tourist season in California. All the out-of-staters coming in to see the amazing Golden State: the recreation & the sights it has to offer. Summertime is the busiest time to visit the well-known areas such as:

National Parks
State Parks & Beaches
National Forests
Coastal Towns
Mountain Regions
Lakes in California

Best time to plan trips to avoid summer crowds is –

Before Memorial Day (last weekend in May)
After Labor Day (first weekend in Sept.)

Plan your trip to overnight in the National Forest lands adjacent to a National Park . You can still enjoy nature and scenic attractions without having to sleep with the masses in the expensive campgrounds, which take camping reservations a year in advance.

Plenty of secluded primitive camping & small campgrounds are available in the NFS. California State Parks are very abundant too, often less crowded during the week days and non holiday weekends.

Winter can be the busiest time to visit these areas:

snowdesert towns (with spa resorts)
mountain resorts (with skiing)

Off Seasons

Catalina Island
Off Season = November and April

Grand Canyon
Off season = November and April

North Rim Grand Cyn
Closes for winter. October – April

South Rim Grand Cyn
Open all year. Off season = November and March

Sierra Nevada Mountains
Off season = November – March

Sequoia NP – Open all year long
Kings Canyon NP – Open all year long

West side Sierra foothills
Hwy 168 – Shaver Lake
Hwy 108 – Sonora Pass
Hwy 4 – Ebbets Pass
Off season = November – March

Gold Country – Hwy 49
Off season = January – March

Eastern Sierra
US Hwy 395 – Mammoth
Off season = November – April

best time yosemite

Yosemite NP
Yosemite Valley – Open all year long. Parking limited.
Off season = November and March

Christmas in Yosemite Valley via Amtrak train is spectacular way to see the park in its full winter wonderland bliss.

High-country / Tuolumne Meadows
Hwy 120 – Tioga Pass
Closes in the winter months: November – May

traffictown

book a lodge

Better Book It – Below is a list of some super popular California destinations that have pretty limited accommodations. Tight quarters, limited capacity. Total Escape recommends you book early if you wanna spot at one of these prime places, especially in summer or winter months.

Big Bear Lake
Big Sur Coast
Cambria
Carmel
Catalina Island
Gold Country
Joshua Tree
Kings Canyon NP
La Jolla, San Diego
Lake Tahoe
Mammoth Lakes
Monterey
Mill Valley, Mount Tamalpais
Palm Springs
Point Reyes
San Francisco
Sequoia NP
Yosemite Valley

rivercamps
Mokelumne River, Central Sierra

 

We all have things that annoy us. Campers Beware

Snow Mo the Sierra

Snow Mobile in the Sierra Nevada

snowHidden well above Fresno deep in the Sierra National Forest, in between Yosemite & Kings Canyon, is the area of Lakeshore, also known as Huntington Lake. Secluded, remote & largely undeveloped wilderness offers much to the sport of cross country skiing or snow-mobiling. With hundreds of miles of groomed backcountry snow triails, it easy to get away from it all.

snowmobile CA
 

snowmobile in CaliforniaRancheria Enterprises is a short walk from Lakeshore Resort & rents snowmobiles by the day or half day. Most machines are tandem, so you can ride 2 people & split the cost. NOTE: Maximum weight per machine = 300lbs.

Rancheria Enterprises
Lake Huntington, CA
Western Sierra / E of Fresno
at the end of Hwy. 168
559-893-3234

100+ miles of groomed trails

snowmoModerate driving distance from Bay Area or Los Angeles & fairly easy to get to, depending on weather (of course). Saloon and mountaiin dinner resaurant at the old lodge, newer lake view condos up on the hill and Sierra Summit Ski Resort. Not bad for the middle of nowhere in the Sierras.

Central Sierra Nevada Mountains get a fair amount of deep snow most winters. Since there is a ski resort locate back here, HWY 168 is open year round; with very limited access to the backcountry. NFSMono Hot Springs Resort may be open, but double check before you plan your trip. Lakes Edison & Florence are usually inaccessible for more than half the year.

LOCATED SOUTH OF YOSEMITE
Sierra National Forest

sierra snow mobiling
Meadow is a Play Zone

California snowmobile rentals Winter wonderland overnight stays in this area

Lakeshore, Huntington Lake, Shaver Lake

Huntington Lake, Lakeshore, California

Cabin Rentals, Condo Rentals, Restaurant & Saloon

Shaver Lake, California

Bed & Breakfast, Lodging, Ski Rentals, Restaurants & Shops

lake cabins

The historic and rustic Lakeshore Resort offers small rental cabins set in pine forest. Kitchenettes or full kitchens available in all the cabins; No fireplaces or wood burning stoves. Super basic, yet older cabins. Affordable.

If you want your campfire indoors and all the ambience it brings, choose a more expensive lake view condo – on the hill, overlooking the lake. These high end units can usually sleep 6 or more w/ fold out sofas and extra bedrooms. Very spacious rentals w/ lake views and balcony.

condo

pano1
Backcountry Views

Winter recreation on the Western Sierra:

sledding

Muddy Roads Trio

xcski Tamarack
XC Ski Tamarack

Sierra Travel Options:

Drive partially (at night) and stay overnight in Visalia or one of many other country towns that dot the rolling hills of the Sierra Nevada foothills.

After the snow-mo adventure: On the return trip, make sure to take a slight detour on to Tollhouse Road which runs parallell to Hwy. 168 and rejoins it on the way back down the mountain. Spectacular rolling hills with meadows full of wildflowers and oak trees in mid to late Spring.

snowtrees