Tag Archives: california

Winter Camping

winter camping

Camping isn’t only a summer time thing. In California, it can be enjoyed all year long – if you have the right gear to enjoy yourself. The deserts alone are prime destinations for your winter vacation OUT of DOORS. Star gazing is great & Back Road exploration is a great way to use that SUV.

Most meteor showers occur during the colder part of the year, so winter camping is a great way to experience the full sky & not miss any of these special shooting star shows. Desert locations well away from the city are the “best dark sky” choices. Less crowds, cooler temps and maybe more clouds. desert

stargazeKELBAKER ROAD is perfect place for stargazing, rock climbing, bon fires and free overnight camping.

weather:

We are not talking about making igloo camps in the highcountry. No snow shoes, nor cross country skiing chalets. Not even much snow camping. This page is just the basics on how to tolerate chilly temps in the milder climates for California’s dry destinations.

Make sure to check road conditions & check the closest town’s forecast before you head out on your road trip.

Bring enough clothing for a variety of temperatures. LAYERS, is the best advice for clothing. You may go from shorts to winter jacket all in 10 hours.

rain & wind:

California gets most all it’s precipitation from DECEMBER to APRIL, and a lot of winds along with each storm system. So be prepared for some weather.

Big wind event – can blow old trees down, across the road – trapping you on way back in there, so be prepared for a hike out. Super strong winds (40mph+) are also big factors in these outta control wildfires, as we’ve seen in recent years with the West Redding & Paradise fires.

camping in winter months:

Great desert locations & destinations:

purple mini
More helpful links:

sleeping outdoors:

A good zero degree sleeping bag is well worth the cash you will spend on it and it will make those chilly Sierra nights bearable even in the early season. Where fold-up cots will circulate the cold air underneath you, Inflatable air mattresses can be total luxury!

Don’t throw out that old sleeping bag. Make is useful! Try placing a blanket under your air mattress & another on top for cushion & warmth…and to protect you from the cold ground temperatures that can creep up.

snow camping:
California Wilderness
National Forests
National Park
Rather book a Cabin?

camp comforts!

  • tent heaters
  • zero degree bags
  • good clothing
  • lotsa firewood

metal fire ring

Anza Borrego State Park allows you to camp along nearly any dirt back road, but requires that you use a metal fire ring to protect the soils & sandy washes from unsightly black ashes & coals.

A metal bucket like this can be found at your local hardware store. Old washing machine tubs work well too.

real heat:

Firewood Dealers all over California can sell you a way better deal than those grocery store bundles.

Make sure to bring more firewood than you think you may need. It’s better to have more than enough than to be wishing you had more.

Tent Heaters are the latest great idea to keep you super toasty even inside your tent. Not intended for overnight use. Shut it off before you go to sleep.

mrheater

Outdoor Organizations

free labor? why bother

trashpickup
Litter clean up, just for the fun of it. (Photo by Aaron Linsdau)

Volunteering, it feels good.

While you may think of us Escapers, as off-roading tree huggers or health-nut hippies, we go well beyond that. As travelers we are as diverse as the California terrain. We have one thing in common, we all love the earth. That’s why we’re here! Give back a part – of yourself – to helping keep these forest, parks & trails open, healthy & protected.

Volunteer firefighter, CPR class, trail maintenance, or just helping out at the local Grange.

Looking to find a place to volunteer outdoors?
Below is a list of outdoor related organizations, most local to California.

preservation

leavenotrace
Leave No Trace
http://www.lnt.org

California Wilderness Coalition
http://www.calwild.org

San Gorgonio Wilderness Association
http://www.sgwa.org

playgroundNFS

parks & forest programs

California State Park Volunteers
http://www.parks.ca.gov

High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew
http://www.trailcrew.org

National Forests Volunteering
https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/volunteers

National Forest Foundation
https://www.nationalforests.org/get-involved/volunteer-opportunities

NPS

National Parks Volunteer
http://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm

Calif regional forests volunteering:NFS

Angeles Forest Volunteers
http://www.angelesvolunteers.org

Angeles National Forest Volunteering
http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/angeles/workingtogether/volunteering

Eldorado Forest Volunteers
http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/eldorado/workingtogether/volunteering

Los Padres National Forest Volunteers
http://www.lpforest.org

Sequoia Forest Volunteers
http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/volunteering/

Sierra National Forest Volunteers
http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/sierra/workingtogether/volunteering

Stanislaus Wilderness Volunteers
http://swv1.org/

off road trails & land use

 

tread lightly
Tread Lightly
http://www.treadlightly.org

Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
http://www.arra-access.com

California Trail Users Coalition
http://www.ctuc.info/ctuc/

BlueRibbon Coalition – Share Trails
http://sharetrails.org

California Off Road vehicle Association
http://www.corva.org

San Diego Off-Road Coalition
http://www.sdorc.org

for local trail crews, see also – California 4×4 Clubs

gearedup4work

humanitarian & volunteers

Comunidad – Baja Mexico
http://bajacomunidad.org/

Flying Samaritans – Baja MX
http://www.flyingsamaritans.net/

Habitat for Humanity
http://www.habitat.org

Volunteer Match
http://www.volunteermatch.org

Beware of Campers

Camping: Large groups to aware of

glamiscampers

Campgrounds located closest to interstate or state highways usually fill up fast & can attract all types of campers. For the seclusion, head a few miles off the main roads & enjoy the silence. You will need some good topo maps. Be on the look out for some of these listed below! They could simply make or break your enjoyable experience in nature.

the real animals to be frightened of…

Party Animals
Good Ole Boys
Off-Roaders
Boom-Boom Boys
Family Affair
Big Time RVers
Wild Animals

RV campers love Deserts

to each their own… but,
Beware of these kind of campers

Party Animals

These are the young (teens / college) kids that will stay up late nights with their music cranked, hootin’ & hollarin’ until the wee hours. Copious amounts of alcohol, always. Drunk, belligerent & loud. The ranger is never around to scold them. And they choose small campgrounds, without a campground host. Very disturbing bunch & could care less what you think. Usually found at the easily accessed campgrounds, near urban centers.

Good Ole Boys

Not your occasional yuppie with his new sport utility vehicle. This type of modern day cowboy owns big American made truck. maybe with a lift kit & monster tires. Love to shoot their guns off (&/or camp near a shooting range). Classic rock music & Jack Daniels are the favorites. Where bright clothing & try to stay out of firing range.

welderdude

Off-Roaders

These are the all-terrain-vehicle nuts who love getting dusty, dirty & don’t mind an occasional broken bone or two. Their constant high pitched engine noises are always screaming in the background. At night, they can get loud, but usually crash early due to an exhausting day of riding. Noisy power generators are popular. Usually found at the campgrounds near SRVA State Park (State Recreational Vehicle Area) or any OHV Areas.

dirtbikersrandsburgBoom-Boom Boys

If you are lucky, you’ll only hear the base thumping over the running trickle of the nearby creek. Their low-rider car bottomed out 3 times before reaching this destination. Hanging with the home-boys at the campsite most of the time & talking loudly. Will build large fires in the middle of the day for no apparent reason & possibly play pyromaniac. Usually found at the easily accessed campgrounds near large cities.

A Family Affair

The huge family that brings all the bicycles, toys & neighbor’s children along with them. Plenty of food, BBQ smells & even a canopy or screen room. Loud children are very apparent, not to mention the screaming stressed out mom. This group is sure to awake you at the crack of dawn, with mom a bitching & the kids riding their bicycles thru YOUR camp site. Please note: Mexican families can be very noisy w/ loud music and chainsaws, both late into the midnight hour.

Big Time RVers

These older people will bring everything including the kitchen sink, microwave, TV & satellite dish. Noisy power generators could be annoying. The bright green Astro turf & lawn chairs are all in place right outside the motor home doorway. A small fluffy pooch is sure to be an annoying accessory. Sometimes they blend with the desert OHV campers w/ their toy boxes and bon fires.

Wild Animals

Some yahoos that pull into camp at 10pm & make a huge ruckus. Right when you think they’re quieting down, on comes some Zepplin tunes. You would assume that these are just boys that never grew up & we’ve met some that are 50+ years old. The women rarely stay up as late as their partners, but can ‘out belch’ them on occasion. Some have expensive toys & sometimes haul a separate trailer just for that crap.

Houseless, not Homeless

Over the past decade millions of people lost their homes to foreclosure; and most recently thousands of Californians lost their homes due to super destructive wildfires.

Across Northern Cal, you will find plenty folks living in limbo in their camper trailers.

Many people decide to live on the road in motorhome campers, while searching for a new home, or part time work, bouncing around – free wheelin – where ever they feel comfortable. Now a days, large encampments of full time campers exist within the deserts of the Southwest.

Snowbirds, burners, rainbows, drop-outs, tourists, nudists, hot spring soakers, and off-roaders —– YEP, all mingling out in nature, all winter long, from California to New Mexico. Motorhomes, teardrops, Airstreams, camper vans, truck campers, backpackers. Free camping (without the fees) is always a big concern for these nomads. Several annual ‘gathering’ events exist near Quartzsite, AZ

If you come across a friendly traveler, say hi and make sure they have enough food and water. If they appear unfriendly, they may want you to leave. Be cautious about approaching strangers, especially in the desert. Seen way too many damn movies.

sundaycrowd

Party  Camp Towns

These camp regions below are known for their frequent rowdy campers and partying kids. If it is Spring Break, a 3 day weekend or anytime around a holiday, you can be sure the party will be here. Local pubs, busy restaurants, bon fires, motorcycles, quads, music all night.

Not seeking this kinda camping? ….means you’ll need to stay away.

San Felipe, Baja California
Ensenada, Baja California
Yuma, Arizona
Glamis Desert OHV
Lake Havasu, Arizona
Laughlin, Colorado River
Randsburg ghost town
Panamint Valley @ Ballarat
Jawbone Canyon, Mojave
Kern River, Kernville
Pismo Beach, California
Mammoth Mountain, Eastern Sierra
Belden Town, North Fork of Feather River

Caution: Big Time Grow Area

California cannabis growers & land owners are often well armed. They do not want to see any hikers or lost tourists hanging around their ‘private property’ boundary. KEEP OUT: Pay close attention to signs, or you could hear gun shots aimed in your very direction. Now that legalization has come, this list may soon get longer.

Regions listed below often have large grow operations (GROW-OP).

[Keep away and stay alive]

Honeydew, Emerald Triangle – Mendocino Co.
(Petrolia, Matole, Shelter Cove, Lost Coast)
Humboldt County
Hayfork, Trinity Pines – Trinity Co.
Weaverville, Junction City – Trinity Co.
Igo & Ono, W of Redding – Shasta Co.
Oak Run, E of Redding – Shasta Co.
Berry Creek, Lake Oroville – Butte Co.
North San Juan, N Gold Country – Nevada Co.
Santa Cruz Mountains –  Santa Cruz Co.
Nipton, California NV border – San Berdu Co.

 

randsburg

the real cautions

Ahh, the great outdoors. The thought conjures up different images for different people. Whether you picture warm desert breezes, cold mountain streams or simply lounging about in your campsite without a care in the world, we’re all thinking the same thing – relaxation in a nature paradise!

Still, most folks don’t think about the flip side of paradise; getting lost, inclement weather, wild fires, sprained ankles, poison oak, snakebites, etc. Whether you are headed out to desolate, snow-covered peaks or your local hiking trail, you’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected.

tentinterior

Would you like to be one up on the masses by reading some very simple tips? Or, would you prefer to continue stumbling blindly through the woods and fields, drinking contaminated water, picking up ticks, rolling around in poison oak and wrestling your dinner from a 500-pound black bear?

Check our Fire Safety page & for God’s sake, when the signs are posted “no campfires” it means no fires!!!

People who accidentally start destructive wildfires inside California (even by mistake) are often sentenced to over a decade in jail. Be very aware of all sparks, cigarettes, & any open flames.

hiking

Pack a good map of the area and obtain a recent weather forecast.
Be alert for signage or, as is often the case, lack thereof.
Bring along a first aid kit and know what’s in it!
Know what poison oak and sumac look like and make all attempts to AVOID it!

Bring plenty of water. NEVER trust natural water sources. Use Tincture of Iodine or some sort of water filter system. (Trust me on this one!)

bearboxprovided

camping

When in ‘bear areas’ and developed campgrounds, NEVER leave food in tents or the car, when bear box containers are provided. Community bear boxes are common throughout the Sierra Nevada and some NorCal mountains. Backpackers often use bear canisters. Use bear canisters and devise a sling method to hang your food. The bears will get your food if you do not take precautions, believe me! See more info on CAMPING with BEARS in California.

Flash floods, in river basins and most deserts in California. NEVER build camp or pitch your tent in dry riverbeds or along arroyos when there is a chance of rain (unless your tent comes equipped with oars or paddles). Breaking camp at midnight in 40 mph winds is never an easy task, and will likely have you headed home in the wee hours.

Check the forecast as much as possible when traveling. California is a big state with micro-climates and radical weather, so go out prepared for rain or snow if it is winter, spring or autumn (especially in higher elevation); Summers are generally hot and sweltering in California, over the past decade.

If you feel the absolute need to bring a firearm with you. Please obey all federal and local laws and regulations regarding said firearm. Most State Parks & National Park have strict rules for weapons.

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 ghost towns

Garlock, CA
(ripped down by Knotts Berry Farm, for decor)

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

Montgomery City
(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

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

Out of the Box

city buildings
Feeling like you are trapped in a box lately? Is your daily existence in front of a computer monitor driving you bonkers?

Well, well then, the Total Escape web site is the new place for you. This is Off the Beaten Path, California style. The golden state at it’s very best. Local trips. Scenic drives.

cubical ratNot like the traffic hell you experience on the freeways, but open roads, trees, nature, open spaces, wild grass, blue birds, open fields, sunshine, fresh air & open meadows. Openness!! Plenty land, parks, recreation, leisure & simple good ideas for your weekend getaways.

escape cubical life soon

We all have our version of the BOX. What holds us there, is only a mystery. If you are sick of sitting at home doing nothing on the weekends (a house is a box), or needing a reason to kick the boob tube habit ( T.V. the most controlling box of all) or just wanting to break away after (or before) that big project deadline at work, Total Escape is a perfect place to start your day dreaming. With thousands of pages & photographs to show you where to go, you will wanna bookmark this online resource.

try it, you’ll like it:

winery tour & tasting
bike ride along the coast
a dirt road in the countryside
seafood in Baja, plus a hotel
find a bed & breakfast
cozy mountain cabin
natural hot springs
try SUV adventures

development
While you won’t know who’s doing what on television, I can assure you that your new found freedom & stream side camp will keep you reminiscing for many months.

By traveling locally, you can travel more often, experience a variety terrain, towns & recreational activities. Plenty small towns lodges wanting you to find them. Plus camping will work for moderate lifestyle travelers seeking the less expensive option for the weekend. Less cash, more nature.

How broke are you? Money is no excuse either. You will spend the same amount, if not more, staying in town, seeing a movie, doing one restaurant dinner & running up to the store for a sec (3 stores & a mocha freezy later, $$$). Leave the shopping boxes (malls) for weeknights.

Carpool and save on the cost of gasoline. A long road trip, it’s a great way to get re-acquainted with an old friend.
socalsuburb

Dedicate your weekends to yourself for once. (at least every month or so) Try scheduling in a real weekend away.

If you are a home owner, chances are you’ve spent the last year or more on house projects (or procrastinating on them). Time to stop! Celebrate life. Enjoy yourself & go. Let your imagination run wild while you dream of the coolest, most scenic places you can go. A rustic Sierra cabin, walking distance from a lake. A romantic bed & breakfast in wine country. A fly fishing guided tour up north somewhere. Come on, let go & get out of town.

find yourself
Something you can’t find with a GPS.

Yourself.