Perfect Weekend Camping
Do you have a favorite local campsite? Somewhere close to home, where you return to again and again when you just want to spend a weekend outdoors? Somewhere familiar, where you’ve hiked nearby trails, and know the beaches? A place where you look around and see not just the individual campsites, but the history your family has with the place?
We are at the beginning of our relationship with our favorite local campground. This spring, we visited for the second time as campers, and for the fourth or fifth time as hikers. We first visited the Costanoa KOA in 2017, when we camped in an RV with the boys. We rented a Class C and we wanted to go somewhere within the 100 mile radius that was free with our rental. Set between the beach and the foothills, between my beloved Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, it’s an easy spot to reach on a Friday afternoon. I was happy to snag a reservation one weekend in early March.
Weekend camping is definitely getting easier. For this trip, we had so much space available in the truck, in the camper and in the fridge, I wondered if we’d forgotten anything important. The beauty of the trailer is that most of our gear lives there full time, and we just need our clothes and food, and we’re ready to go. Still, as a chronic overpacker, it’s weird to leave for a trip with a lot of empty space.
We arrived at Costanoa after dark, and checked in at the office. For the first time in our camping experience, the rules stated we couldn’t fly any flag other than the US flag, and then only at a certain height above our trailer. We hadn’t packed flags of any kind, but it made me wonder what sort of flag problems had occurred for the rule to be drafted. I asked if we could bring our cats with us next time, and the hosts said cats were welcome. We found our spot in the third of four loops at the campground. Nathan hopped out to give directions and I backed the Alto into a campsite for the first time. Twenty minutes later, we were in the camper, toasting dinosaur nuggets in the new toaster oven.
We had rain Friday night, and the sounds of rain and pine needles falling on the Alto roof were unfamiliar, but still peaceful and soothing. When we woke up Friday morning, there were already dozens of birds investigating the “lawn” behind our trailer. Each of the sites in our loop had a generous space of grass behind the paved pad, and each included a wooden deck for chairs or a tent. Our boys mostly used it for climbing. Between our trailer and the deck I could see plenty of busy quails eating their breakfasts in the grass. I got up to start the shuffle, the relocation of boys and gear that allows us to transform Miles’ bed into our breakfast table. As we toasted bagels and boiled water for oatmeal and coffee, Miles realized he could see the ocean from our campsite. Also our neighbors on both sides had dogs. This was shaping up to be a really good day.
Miles hadn’t packed a sweatshirt, and the jacket I packed for him no longer fit, so we made a quick trip to the gift shop. Costanoa KOA has an awesome gift shop. Great books, spa products, fancy cheeses, and a nice selection of sweatshirts. We got a bundle of firewood on our way back to the campsite, ready for some real s’mores after dinner. The boys spent a good hour watching the birds with their binoculars. Quail, redwing blackbirds (Noah’s very favorite), jays, crows, Brewer’s Blackbirds, and something iridescent and sparkly I hadn’t seen before that turned out to be a European Starling, all happily eating and chatting around out campsite.
The campground has a giant chess board in the middle of their lawn, and Miles challenged Noah to a game. The grass was wet from the rain, but the sky was clear and the temperature was perfect. The game went on a long time, but that gave me a chance to check out everything blooming in the gardens around the gift shop and the restaurant. Costanoa has cabins, RV sites and tent sites, and an even fancier resort just up the road, so they are set up for all kinds of campers. After one round of chess, we ate a quick lunch and headed to the beach.
We walked across Highway 1, and found the Franklin Point trail, and strolled a leisurely half mile or so to the water. I had heard grey whales had been spotted off the coast recently, so we carried the big camera lens. Elephant seals, harbor seals, and shore birds were also a possibility. In the end, we didn’t see any creatures beyond sea gulls, and it was so windy on the shore the boys didn’t want to stay very long. We snuggled under a hillside for an hour or so, and then strolled back to camp. Usually, when we are further from home camping in a place we don’t visist very often, I push the family to hike, to see as much of the place as we can in the time we have there. In Pescadero, we know the trails nearby fairly well, we’ve seen many of beautiful places nearby, so there was no rush to explore even more. We could go slow.
Back at the campsite we settled in for an afternoon of reading, birdwatching, and petting the dog in the neighboring campsite. Miles became very good friends with Bea Arthur, and spent a good chunk of the early evening giving her pets. We got our fire going, and ate dinner. On our list of things we wanted to accomplish in 2021, Noah made a special requests for s’mores outdoors over a campfire. In California, we struggle with near constant drought conditions, which lead to fire bans. The ridge above Costanoa shows the damage of last summer’s devastating wildfires. But on this March evening, right after a rain, with cool, damp air surrounding us, we were able to make a campfire. Our first outdoor campfire since we’d been in Washington three years before. We had an awesome evening around our little fire. Nathan worked on capturing a slow motion video of the flames, we told stories, the boys tried to find Orion in the sky, and we at a LOT of marshmallows.
We packed up the next morning, and headed back home, already planning our next trip back. Hopefully Cloud and Solar along for the ride.
Watch the video here: