Napa Valley to HWY 1

When we began planning this trip we decided not to spend too much time in bigger cities due to them typically not being very trailer friendly. With this in mind we didn’t stop in San Francisco but we made sure to drive over the Golden Gate bridge. Things Richard loves: dams, trains, and bridges. So, if theres a bridge you can bet we are going to go over it. Once we made it over with white knuckles theres a little area big enough for those in an RV to park and walk around on a little trail. Its a pretty amazing structure and Im (Whitney) starting to understand why Richard gets so excited for these things I once paid no attention to.

Once we made it through adorable Sausalito we went straight to Napa Valley, a first for us both. With only 2 nights in Napa Valley, location was our top priority for a campground. We ended up staying at a Skyline Wilderness and it was just what we needed. Not a lot of trees or privacy but a clean place to lay our heads at night. For those who aren’t wine drinkers, there were plenty of trails around the grounds to keep you busy. 

After we checked in we settled in early exhausted from the days drive. The following day we headed out to Saint Helena. The first winery we went to was Charles Krug. With a drive up to a magnificent facade the the most perfect weather we found a spot outside and enjoyed a glass of their wine paired with one of their stone oven pizzas. Apparently a Monday is the perfect day to go wine tasting because we felt like we had the valley to ourselves. After lunch we ventured to the Beringer Winery. The place was huge and absolutely breath taking. We decided to indulge in a tasting and with each glass we explored the grounds. From the gardens to the two preserved historic houses I think we enjoyed wandering around more than the wine. Knowing we didn’t want to drink anymore since we were driving we headed back to the camp.

On our last day we had a tour reservation at Del Dotto. A friend of ours recommended it and said it was just as good, if not better, than some of the wineries he had been to in France. We did the wine cave tour and tasting and not only was it enjoyable but we felt that we got our monies worth. They take you through the caves explaining the wine making process and how they choose the barrel and the affect that has on the wine. After the tour we tasted their meats, cheeses, and pizza. Which we were not expecting and glad we didn’t eat lunch before hand. I think we tasted a total of 9 wines from a rose to their signature cabs to a pinot noir and finishing off with a dessert wine, which was a pleasant note to end our Napa trip on. I know plenty of wine drinkers that would probably be disappointed that we didn’t see or try more in Napa Valley, but we were more interested in heading back to nature than drinking. 

From Del Dotto we headed straight for the coast and then onto Highway 1, going north. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen views as magnificent as those on Highway 1. My stomach however was in constant back flips with every zig zag turn we made. The views were beautiful but the idea that you are so close to a cliff and could fall over into that view, isn’t a beautiful thought. Red didn’t let us down though. The expedition and Red kept truckin’ and we made it to our first stop on Highway 1, Van Damme State Park. 

The campsite at Van Damme was right across the beach off of Highway one but tucked into the green lush forest. We couldn’t believe how chilly the weather had become and didn’t make a fire that night for fun, but out of necessity to stay warm. With the beach just a hop skip and a jump away and plenty of trails through the forest we could’ve stayed at Van Damme for much longer than we had planned. With just a quick stop over we made our way to the road again, heading north on the coast. 

The second day of Highway one was filled with beautiful views, lookout points, and little coastal towns. As we traveled up the coast the skies became moodier and moodier and sandy beaches began to turn into giant Rocks. We stopped and did a few trails by the ocean with Rosie in Mendocino and we were surprised at how much we felt like we were on the east coast and not in California. We were looking forward to many destinations on our trip but this drive alone took the cake.

Skyline Wilderness Park | Napa, CA | $33/night
wildlife spotted: birds, horses, cows

Van Damme Sate Park | Little River, CA | $44/night
Wildlife spotted: mountain lion (not by us, by other campers)

Exploring the Detour: Santa Cruz & the Redwoods

With a full week that was suppose to be spent at Yosemite cancelled due to forest fires, we had to find a plan B. Once we left Yosemite we started driving west towards the coast to get out of the smoke and ash. I (Whitney) had done a girls glamping trip in Big Sur for my bachelorette party the year before, so I called the campground we stayed at but they were full. Everyone was full. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with Yosemite plans ruined and forced to retreat to the coast. So I started making calls. After about 15 calls and mini melt down, wouldn’t you know it we finally found an opening at Smithwoods RV park near Santa Cruz. 

Neither of us get to worked up about having to change our plans, we are actually pretty easy going, but we still like to have a plan and be in control of the situation. When Yosemite didn’t work out, the places in Big Sur were full, and we were forced to stay somewhere with “RV park” in the title we were discouraged. So, when we finally got to Smithwoods the fact that it was the cutest little place among the redwoods and we got one of the best spots ( I should also add the staff was so nice and helpful) we couldn’t help but laugh. The push and pull with wanting to control a situation is a constant theme in our lives. However, most often than not, when we surrender control, things end up working out better than we could have ever planned.

Walking distance from Henry Cowell State Park, we spent the next few days hiking in the mystifying redwoods and relaxing at our little piece of home nestled in the biggest trees we had ever seen. We liked Smithwoods so much that we extended our reservations and canceled our next stop at Mount Diablo. Richard had to fly home for work for a few days and my sister, Kelly, was going to come and replace him, so we wanted to share this little gem we discovered with her too. We had to move around to a few different spots to ensure our stay but the staff was super helpful in getting us into open or cancelled reservation spots and for us it was well worth it.

As expected, Kelly loved it too. With cool mornings and sunny afternoons we relaxed in the park pool following explorations in the Redwoods. As a film lover, she especially loved seeing sites where scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo were filmed. One day we rode a 100 year old steam engine down to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. While aboard the impeccably preserved train they informed us this was how the Vanderbilt’s and high society of old went camping. Now Ive been to a few boardwalks but this place was the real deal. Shops, rides, games, food booths and the beach! What else do you need? Oh and a wharf with a posse of sea lions putting on a show to boot! While in Santa Cruz, my film loving sister also got to witness the house that Bates Motel was inspired by. Now part of a retirement home, oddly enough. A day trip to Davenport also made our itinerary. Strong winds, crisp air and some of the most amazing ocean views. This was also the first day Rosie got to see the ocean. She had to stay on her leash but finally got to feel the sand between her little doggy toes.

When I exchanged my sister for my husband at the San Francisco airport, Richard and I spent our last day down at Moss Landing. Both being suckers for adorable marine mammals we went there to see the otters, and they did not disappoint. 500 pictures and about 2,000 “awwws” we were in heaven. We watched the cuddly creatures bathe themselves and play with one another. Seals we also an unexpected surprised and we couldn’t help but think they resembled a very lazy Rosie.

Im sure Yosemite would have been jaw dropping but our week was definitely not wasted. I think sometimes we focus so much on visiting National Parks to check off that invisible box in our heads, that we forget how many amazing little hidden gems and unexpected attractions there are along the way.

Smithwoods RV Park | Felton, CA | $55/night
wildlife spotted: otters, seals, coastal birds, sea lions, chipmunks

3 Reason We Love Mammoth Lakes

We have been to some pretty incredible places on our journey in Red together, but so far nothing compares to our time spent in Mammoth Lakes. We arrived in Mammoth late one night in the rain, tired and hungry we popped into a pub to get some food. By the company surrounding us we immediately felt like we were in a ski town and we quickly realized we were going to like it here.

For the first time on our trip we paid for a camping spot at a state park campground. We stayed at Old Shady Rest Campground and really enjoyed it. We stayed at basic site with no hook ups, which was fine since we were used to dry camping, and we were walking distance to town which was perfect. We were suppose to spend 2 nights here but we extended our time to 3 nights because we just fell in love with mammoth, and here’s why:

IMG_0128Our first day in town we spent hanging around our campground setting up and that night we went to town to buy some groceries to cook fireside. On our journey to town we heard music and saw a bunch of people gathered so we decided to check out what was going on. Turns out we had stumbled upon a wine walk and entry price got you a wine glass and different samples from wine vendors from California wine country. We were in. The wine walk was hosted at what is known as The Village, a rather new looking hub for restaurants and shopping, so we got ourselves a glass of wine and explored the quaint shops while enjoying the live music. It didn’t take long till we made some friends and they let us know all the things to do and places to eat. Everyone we met was friendly and welcoming and were eager to make sure we had a good time in Mammoth. We also learned that Mammoth is a popular snow skiing vacation spot for those living in southern California and has only really gotten big within the last 10 years. The shops were cute and we ended up eating out 2 out of the 3 nights we were there because the restaurants were phenomenal. This is the first reason we loved Mammoth, experiencing good food, good wine, and good people while being out in the wild, staying in our camper. We should also add we were blown away by how kid and family friendly everywhere was. This is definitely a spot I can see us continuously coming back to even when we start a family.

The second reason we loved Mammoth was the Inyo National Forest. Not only was the forest beautiful, but most parks and forests are strict about not letting dogs on the trails but at the Inyo National Forest dogs are welcome on all trails and back country camping. On our second day we took the mandatory shuttle to the national monument, Devils Postpile, inside the Inyo National Forest, and Rosie was even allowed to ride the shuttle! Now, she did have to have a muzzle but once we were on the shuttle no one cared if she wore it or not. Devils Postpile, formed by lava and ice, was an incredible site and we had a blast exploring the area around it for the day. Rosie surprised us by taking a plunge into a stream to cool down, which is so unlike her. She usually hates water but I think she is really tuning into her adventurous side. I had read that the Inyo National forest was a hidden gem and its where the Park Rangers at Yosemite went to camp and it did not disappoint. All the beauty but half the crowds.

Mammoth lakes isn’t called Mammoth lakes for nothing. The third reason we loved Mammoth was June Lake. We had met more friends while at Devils Postpile and they recommended we check out June Lake. So, on our last day we went over there for lunch. We expected great views of a lake, what we didn’t expect was there to be a little beach and a bunch of people in the water! We could use a little dip so we ran back to Red and grabbed our suites. We both have a lot of experience with lake life back in Texas but this lake was like nothing we had ever seen before. The lake was crystal clear and our view was of mountains with snow still on the top. The water was the most refreshing thing ever and Rosie, again welcomed, even took a little dip. We ended the day with ice cream and then headed home to Red.

Our time in Mammoth went by quick and neither one of us were to happy about leaving. From the food to the forest we just enjoyed everything about Mammoth Lakes and are already planning on when we can go back.

Old Shady Rest Campground | no hookups | price: $21/night
wildlife spotted: chipmunks, deer, birds