September 13-16, 2016
Jedediah Smith State Park, California
The effort to get our 31 foot fifth wheel into the Jedediah Smith State Park campground, around each necessary loop and avenue to our site, and backed snuggly into place was an adventure in itself. I’ve been anticipating this campground for weeks with some trepidation, because we visited here once before years ago, and I remembered that the roads were narrow & lined with the mammoth redwood trees throughout. Traversing the crazy narrow curvy road into California that leads to this campground on our way to the beach last week didn’t calm any of my fears. Then the night before we came here I double-checked our reservation and was reminded of the sweet little detail that the maximum trailer length for our site was 31 feet. I think when I booked this site weeks ago, I saw that and thought, “Awesome! We will just fit perfectly!” That was before we had backed this puppy up at a few different angles, so it’s not what I thought when I was reminded of the size limit.
Before I get to describing our entry, I want to mention that at Harris Beach State Park I had delayed making our reservations until late August, so by the time I got online to do so there was no 1 site open for all 5 nights we’d hoped to stay. So I had to piece-meal our accommodations there from site to site as they were available for 1-2 nights each. So in the 5 nights we stayed at Harris Beach, we moved our trailer 4 times. It wasn’t as awful as it could have been, but it wasn’t exactly as dream either. Basically every day there (except 1!) our day from 11am-1pm was taken up by checking with the ranger station on the status of our next site, closing up Stumbo, finding something to entertain children while we hooked up, moved sites, unhooked, and set up our house again. So it was a bit of a bother, but we got a lot of practice backing our trailer into new sites both simple & complicated, and lots of practice tearing down & setting up. This really helped my anxiety about backing the trailer going into our time in the redwoods.
So when we arrived at Jedediah Smith, it was too soon to check in, so the rangers sent us over to the day use area to wait until 2:00pm. This meant going forward into the campground, turning around, going back out to the other side of the state park, parking, then looping back an hour later. I don’t know how to put into words what these campground roads are like, but I’ll do my best…
The are all the width of one-lane, whether it’s one-way or two-way traffic flow. And they are BEAUTIFUL because they are lined with the most enormous trees I’ve ever seen in my life, growing next to and sometime into the road itself. Even driving just our pick-up truck we have to weave from side to side on these roads to avoid the mammoths on each side without clipping our rear view mirrors. So pulling a 31 foot trailer that’s 13 feet high in between these giants who sometimes grow at an angle into the road above you…was somewhat challenging. Closing my eyes as Brad navigated the tiny road down to the day use area felt like admitting my anxiety, so instead I tried to look at Facebook to keep from hyperventilating, but connection is awful out here so I just scrolled through a bunch of posts I’d already seen the day before. Once parked, we got out & picniced near a lovely small river, and tried not to let the dread of repeating this drive back to the campground and the fear of how tight our campsite might be ruin the entire hour of leisure. (but it kinda did anyway)
Once it was time, we headed back up the tricky road, past the ranger station, and began to make our way to our site. The giants of the forest lurch up on each side and way above the road which seems to have been made to well suit a motorcycle. Even though our site was near the ranger station, with all the one-way paths we had to weave in & out of several other camping loops to reach ours. At one point we had to drive up a hill with a tree on our right at a horrible angle reaching toward the top of our trailer, and then make a 90 degree right turn through a narrow gate. I won’t go into all the details, but we had drawn a small audience by the end of it. I will brag that neither truck or trailer got so much as a scratch, but I did say on the walkie talkie to Brad (who was not spotting me as I drove), “OK, I’m not going to turn around to look, so just tell me if I need to stop.” I felt all at once angry at these road-intrusive giants for making this so difficult, and also guilty at the overwhelming knowledge that I was actually the intruder here, trying to tow a mechanical giant of my own through this primeval forest of natural wonders who took root here around the same time the Colosseum closed for business.
When we finally approached our campsite, relief actually washed over me as there was no tree to maneuver around as we backed in, and even though it took me 3 tries and 1 request for a friendly neighbor to move his truck, it was actually an easier process than the 1st state park in Oregon.
My immense relief was not even wavered by the fact that we couldn’t open Stumbo’s door all the way because I was so close to a giant tree on the far side of our campsite..”Honey, do you want to try one more time & get it like a foot over that way?”
“Nope!” was my cheerful reply. “Not being able to open our door the whole way is not a big deal!” Nor was it dampened by the realization that we did not have utilities at this site, which would be no big deal except that it was a surprise and we were not prepared for it.
So…a few unexpected days without water hookups or power…
Gratefully, we were able to make shift a way to fill our fresh water tank partially full with the spigot in our campsite. And although the fresh water tank hasn’t been used or rinsed in years so I’m not eager to drink from it, we have at least been able to wash dishes, wash our hands, and flush the toilet. Since we were plugged in at Harris Beach for a few days, our battery is nice & charged, so this has become an unplanned experiment to see how long the charge will last us. Since we don’t have a generator and need power for some essentials – extending/retracting our slide out, water pump, some lights, etc. we have been conserving power as much as possible. No lights on inside during the day under the canopy of these enormous trees has meant twilight conditions inside our home at all hours. It’s also meant pour-over coffee (so glad we threw this into the cupboard at the last minute) but boiling water in a saucepan as we didn’t even leave home with a tea kettle. It also means washing dishes in a basin so that we don’t fill up our tanks, and dumping it in an outdoor drain so that we don’t attract bears.
It’s interesting to be unexpectedly in camping conditions, and it makes me realize how plush this RV is when we have full hookups. It’s not very unlike a regular home when power, water, and dumping station is all right outside the door.
It’s also interesting to see that we can be self-sufficient and camp as we are. But it will be much more fun when we know that’s it’s coming so that we can fill our water tank, fill our propane tanks, plan our meals accordingly, and make sure we have enough coffee ground for the necessary number of days!
Through the event of having a neighbor move their vehicle when we backed in, we made a new friends in our campground and they were even from Washington. They invited us over for some fire time that night. It was a sweet young couple and their almost 2-year old daughter Amelia, whose name Coral was convinced was Chameleon.
We enjoyed several short hikes through the incredible groves in our days here, including an Ed-venture Quest to earn a badge at the Visitors Center, one ranger-led walk to learn about the flora & fauna, and another Junior Ranger Program book of activities. Sunny was so determined to finish hers on our 1st trek, I was worried she was going to miss all of the trees.
We also spent one fun day in Crescent City, where we found that coffee shops are not the most effective place to accomplish Road Schooling assignments, but sometimes it’s a nice break anyway.
We also found a really fun playground, a lighthouse, some sea lions (or were they harbor seals? who can tell…), more over-friendly squirrels, and a really fun playground. We also enjoyed our first night dining out since we began our trip. It was a welcome break!
It’s been a wonderful few days of camping in a beautiful forest of these amazing trees, but we are all excited for our upcoming week of a private RV park in Fortuna, where we will enjoy full hook-ups, wifi, a pool & hot tub, hot showers, civilization, and not moving for a full week!!