If I Can Just Get Off of that LA Freeway…

“If I can just get off of that LA Freeway without getting killed or caught.” Yep. Another song lyric – written by Guy Clark, made famous by Jerry Jeff Walker, circa 1972, for those who might not recognize it. A popular hit from my University days in Austin, hanging out at the Armadillo World Headquarters.

Anyone who knows anything about Los Angeles knows there is no “LA Freeway” per se. Everyone speaks in idioms of numbers these days, all proceeded with a “the.” In Atlanta or Dallas, we would never say “Take ‘thuh’ 35 to ‘thuh’ 635,” or “Take the 75 to the 285.” No, it’s just “Take 35 to 635.” But in L.A., every numbered freeway begins with “the.”

The lovely Nature Center at Ronald Casper's Wilderness

The lovely Nature Center at Ronald Casper’s Wilderness

Only open weekends, though...

Only open weekends, though…

I have reservations booked just north of Los Angeles for the second week of May that I made months ago, and I don’t really want to change them. At the time I made them, I was waiting on the weather. But now I seem to have ended up with more time in “SoCal” than desired, having budgeted too much time on the south end of the state. Not that I can’t find anything to do, mind you…There is plenty! But rather I can’t find a place to do it!

The little Winnie, enjoying being all alone in the campground...but not for long!

The little Winnie, enjoying being all alone in the campground…but not for long!

hhhmmmm....maybe I need to close the blinds.

hhhmmmm….maybe I need to close the blinds.

With the exception of the far left tree, this is all one long tree branch.

With the exception of the far left tree, this is all one long tree branch.

The LA area has a nice network of county and regional parks, most of which accept reservations. But the catch is, you can’t reserve less than fourteen days out. Within the two week window prior to arrival, the left over sites become “first come, first served.” That’s great Monday through Thursday. But come Friday and Saturday when the mass of commuter humanity pours out of the LA area, prepare to be shut out.

The beautiful Dana Point Harbor is only twelve miles away.

The beautiful Dana Point Harbor is only twelve miles away.

Stand-up paddle board races

Stand-up paddle board races

In similar circumstances, my MO has always been to retreat to a Walmart or even private RV Park on overbooked weekends. But in the LA area, there is a lock down on overnight parking. My Allstays app is a sea of “red W’s,” indicating “No Overnight Parking.” And private parks are few and far between.IMG_0016IMG_0055

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I find a county park in Orange County in the Ronald Casper’s Wilderness on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest. With my “Senior Discount,” it’s only $15 a night, and they have availability Monday through Friday. In fact, I only have one neighbor, and have the entire campground to myself for three out of four nights. It is a lovely campground! But before I list what’s not to love, let me just get this one caveat out of the way that will no doubt rule out 90% of my fellow full timers…..”No Dogs.” Not “No dogs on the trails.” No dogs period. I have never been in a campground that does not allow dogs on leash. Being in the wilderness, I could understand, were it not for all the horses on the trails and the nearby fancy, expansive Equestrian Camp. I don’t get why one is allowed while the other is forbidden.

No dogs on the trails, or in the campground!

No dogs on the trails, or in the campground!

(gulp!)  Maybe this is the reason for "No Dogs?"

(gulp!) Maybe this is the reason for “No Dogs?”

Could it be??  naaaahhh...too few toes.

Could it be?? naaaahhh…too few toes.

Otherwise, the park is pristine. The sites are randomly spaced, wide, gravel, and most are reasonably level (except for #18 and #25.) Most sites overlook the small canyons. The park is filled with sprawling Coast Live Oaks and Sycamores, thick enough to offer privacy, but due to the shortness of the main trunks and long lean branches, they tend to grow wider than they are tall, so plenty of solar rays. And the best part? The kids playground is far, far away. ;-)

Trails are easy to follow and well marked.

Trails are easy to follow and well marked.

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There are over 30 miles of hiking trails in the Ronald Casper’s Wilderness, though the majority are fire roads. Even the “Difficult” rated trails are just steeper, more rutted fire roads. What few paths exist were once Nature Trails through the old oak groves, now closed due to too many dead or dying trees from drought conditions and shrinking germination habitat. Man’s inhumanity to Nature.IMG_0036

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Day One, I hike a grueling, eight mile series of fire roads through Bell Canyon, up the Oso Trail, across Cougar Pass. The dirt roads leave me bored, until that is, I get atop the Eastern Ridge. Being up on the ridge line, feeling the cool breeze in the late afternoon sun, the rolling hills and puffy clouds are so beautiful that I go back for more the next day. Bell Canyon to Star Rise to the Western Ridge for a total of nine miles the following day, both hikes done right out of the campground.IMG_0049

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It’s a lovely week in the solitude of the Wilderness, falling asleep to crickets chirping, and waking up to birds singing. But all too soon, I am invaded. Friday night comes, and a massive group of tent-camping, stroller pushing, baby-shrieking families surround me. Time to move on and face that LA Freeway…which is a whole lot less stressful than a Saturday night in a regional urban campground!IMG_0241

“Pack up all your dishes
Make note of all good wishes
Say goodbye to the landlord for me
That sum-bitch he always bored me

Throw out them old L.A papers
And that moldy box of vanilla wafers
Adios to all this concrete
Gonna get me some dirt road back street

Put the pink slip in the mailbox
Leave the key in the old front door lock
They will find it likely as not
With all the things that we have forgot
Oh Suzanna now don’t you cry, babe
Love’s a gift that’s surely handmade
We’ve got something to believe in
Before you know it’s time we’re leavin’

If I can just get off of that L.A. freeway
Without getting killed or caught
Down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain’t bought yet
If I can just get off of that L.A. freeway…”

~Guy Clark (as sung by Jerry Jeff Walker)

Harbingers of Spring

Some might be wondering (in fact, even I am wondering!) why someone would come to a place named “Desert Hot Springs” when it is already hot.   Who wants to soak in a hot springs when it’s ninety-six degrees hot??  My friend John got it halfway right in his comment on my last post.  He writes, “Sounds like you’re looking for a place to park the rig for a while, while you take a walk on the wild side.”    Only half was true.   I was looking for a place to park the rig… Continue reading

Walking the Wild through the Wilderness

Back in February while camped in the middle of Anza Borrego State Park, I came across a news article that President Obama had just signed 1.8 million acres of southern California wilderness into National Monument status; Mojave Trails National Monument, Sand to Snow National Monument, and Castle Mountains National Monument Continue reading

Forecast Calls for 96° and Snow

Where can you sit poolside and bake in the 90+ degree sunshine in a lounge chair one day, and hike in snow the next without ever packing a bag?  Why, Palm Springs, CA, of course!

I say my goodbyes to Jim and Gayle in the Joshua Tree south boondock, with plans to meet up further north this summer.   We are off to pursue our mutual passions Continue reading

Pilgrimage to Mecca

Mecca Hills, California that is, not Saudi Arabia. Hhhmmm, wonder if that blog title is gonna get me any extra traffic.  😉

While having a beer with the Jacumba Hiking Club, one of the members mentioned a “must do” hike in the nearby Mecca Hills which he called “Mecca Hills Ladders” hike.   It sounded so intriguing that I didn’t want to chance it to memory.  Continue reading

Flattery, Fans, or Flocking?

I have no shame in admitting that I steal some of my best ideas and tips from other bloggers.   It’s how I began shaping this dream back in 2010, when I first found “Jennifer-Living-in-my-Car’s” blog, as well as To Simplify Glenn back in his “Falcon Days.”   They were like “pushers” in the schoolyard, teasing out something in me that I always knew was there…the gypsy element. Continue reading

At Home in Hole in the Wall

The intention on arriving at the Hole in the Wall Campground in Mojave Preserve was that we would spend a night or two while scouting around for a suitable boondocking spot to finish out the remainder of the Spring Break week/Easter weekend.   However, we are unable to find a signal on our nearby scouting attempts, driving down dusty roads in Jim and Gayle’s Subaru while monitoring our respective devices, me with a Verizon Mifi in one hand and an AT&T iphone in the other, both which indicate “No Service.”   Continue reading

These ARE the Good Ole Days!

Having moved from the thriving energy of Manhattan to “Fatlanta” in the “aughts decade,” I was pretty miserable. I had not yet established any relationships in Atlanta, and missed my lifestyle back in New York so badly it hurt. I was now owned by a 3 bedroom beige ranch-style home, and confined to house arrest by an imprisoning job. I would sit at my desk with the only 3 x 3 window in the room at my back, and stare at travel pictures on my “Wall of Inspiration.” Continue reading

Mojave Meet-Up

It’s no secret that the trifecta of monochromatic monotony; first Quartzsite, then Yuma, then Anza Borrego all did a number on my mood this winter.   I just couldn’t seem to overcome the austere bleakness of my surroundings on the heels of what was a difficult holiday season.  So the prospect of heading back into a place called the “Mojave Desert” seemed a bit daunting.  But Jim and Gayle were headed there to wait out the spring break and Easter holiday crowds, which seemed like a good idea after yielding to a human train of hikers coming down Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree. Continue reading

In Joshua Tree with Generation Z

The downside of staying in Slab City longer than I planned is that I am now approaching Joshua Tree National Park during the Perfect Storm; Spring Break, Easter Weekend, and the annual blooming of the Joshua Trees.   But I don’t want to delay.  I was headed to Joshua Tree last spring when I learned of my brother’s demise, and had to abort the plan driving the 1,367 miles home to Texas.  So it’s still a National Park not yet crossed off the Bucket List.   Crowds or not, I must go! Continue reading