Perfect Tent Spot

Boulder Cove Camping

Choosing your Perfect Tent Spot

Before you can choose the ultimate place for your tent, you must decide where it is you wanna sleep OUTDOORS. What ultimate location? Your destination can play a huge factor in you getting a peaceful nights rest. And do you really need a campground? Or, are you ready to try to rough it, without the amenities? Best camping is off-the-beaten-path, and usually on the back roads. Trailhead camps, 4×4 camps, best view camps, creek camps; Dispersed camping, often called primitive camping. Focusing here on car camping, tent camping and backpacking routes.

Sierra Granite ViewsJust choosing a flat tent spot isn’t good enough anymore. You crave the best camping experience and seek real nature, with minimal crowds. No annoying neighbors, no parking hassles, no traffic or cars passing by. We at Total Escape are here to help you get to your wilderness goals and experience nature like never before. Right here, right now and it doesn’t hafta cost you a dime.

California Camping Destination:

Let’s start with a terrain overview. California has it all ­ – mountains, deserts, coastal, rolling oaks with rivers in the countryside, plus the infamous wine country and developed campgrounds within city limits. Desert camping in summer months should only be attempted by the experienced camper who loves 90+ temperatures. Mountain camping in winter can be freezing, so make sure you have the proper gear. Good maps are a must have and the readily available National Forest maps are your best avenue for getting and staying away from the masses. Visit our Destinations page to decide what kinda place you wanna ‘call home for the weekend’.

topo mapsIf you are the “I don’t care where I sleep kinda guy, as long as I can do/see this many things” all crammed into a 3-day holiday weekend, then you best do your research ahead of time. Get a good map, measure the mileage, plan picnic stops and sightseeing. Plan to set camp in a central location close to the main highway to call home-base, so you can be off exploring as much as possible.

Schedule in some “down time” or a full day for relaxing. Calculate driving distances and pad it w/ an extra hour. Maybe make a campground reservation if you are visiting a National Park or busy State Park. If you plan to wing it without reservation, always have plan B or plan C  options already picked out. With millions of residents and tourists on the west coast, chances are you won’t be the only person wanting to do Big Sur, Yosemite or Point Reyes that particular weekend.

camp

Helpful Hints
for a Good Nights Sleep @ the Camp Site

  • Bring a decent Sleeping Pad. Air Mattress with the inflator pumps will be the most luxury, without sleeping directly on the hard ground. Therm A Rest sleeping pads are another fine option, for those who like to travel light and still have air underneath them. Extra blankets, always.
  • Flat & Soft ground is the goal in choosing the best tent spot. Park your vehicles over the rocky slanted ground and keep the best flat areas for your camp site.
  • Do not pitch a tent in a meadow, no matter how inviting it looks. Wetlands and meadows are fragile ecosystems, an area that should be protected.
  • Look at the big trees above your sleeping spot and examine them. Do not place your tent near or underneath a dead tree or a dead limb. Trees do break and fall, especially if winds pick up. This could be a life or death choice, so remember to look up.
  • Bring abundant good tent stakes and USE them. Yellow plastic stakes are for soft cedar and sand. Thin aluminum stakes are for backpackers. Large steel nail stakes (some w/ plastic tips) are best stakes for all-around terrain.
  • Bring a mallet to pound stakes or use big rocks to hammer them. Gloves are also a good idea!
  • Never underestimate the use of a big tarp and some rope.
  • Guy lines help hold a tent in place when windy weather turns to big storm. If wind is in the forecast, then do this task before you head out on your day hike away from camp.
  • Make sure selected tent site is flat. Lay on the ground to check it out.
  • Place head of bedding up hill (if any slant can be noticed)
  • Tents should be at least 10 feet away from your campfire. At least 100 feet away from a creek or lakeshore.
  • Beach camping at the ocean edge; Know the high tide mark; place tent accordingly.
  • Slot canyons are awesome, sandy, narrow washes, many with cliffs and caves. In the desert badlands these can become raging rivers w/ flash floods. When rain is heavy in the mountains many miles away, you could get flooded in the low lands. If you hear any thunder – RUN to high ground. Better off picking another camp site, than to die by a wall of water!
  • Shade in the Desert sounds like an oxymoron, unless you find a place with high cliffs, or slot canyons. Tamarisk trees and palm canyon locations are usually an oasis of RV tourists & travelers. Hot Springs are also busy spots. Pinyon pines, juniper and over-sized manzanita can be found in higher elevation deserts above 1000′. The prime desert camping season is generally October thru March, as April can easily soar close to 90 degrees high.
camp

Campgrounds listed individually on
California town pages A to Z

campfires

morning sunshine

Late Nighters & Sunrise:
Determining East & the North Star

reading the stars

Sequoia NF - The Den

Campground vs. Dispersed Camping:

Follow Dirt Roads
Some people swear by the open spaces and back road camping options, as they have more seclusion, plenty privacy and best off all, no campground fees. You might need a GPS and a high clearance SUV to reach some of these camp spots, but you will be blessed with a unique secret spot to call your own.

Campgrounds come in all styles these days: From small primitive camps on a creek to the luxurious RV resorts with laundry room and showers. And then there is everything in between. This web site Total Escape specializes in FREE camping on the back roads and the smallest of campgrounds.

Reservations are usually accepted at the most popular camp locations, many are wide open on weekdays and the majority of campsites overall are available on a first come, first serve basis.

Camp Clean

Minimal Impact Camping

Camping Tread Lightly

Leave No Trace Camping

Camp Cleaning

  • No Soap in Streams, Creeks or Lakes: Even Biodegradable Soap is not good for the poor fish downstream.
  • Bring a bucket or wash tub – Wash dishes, clothes & yourself 100′ from streams & lakes
  • Food put away & dishes washed up before bed time. Keeping a clean camp will lessen the chances of wildlife or a bear visit
  • Use existing campsite or rock campfire ring to prevent impacting new areas
  • Pitch tent in cleared camp spots only (when primitive camping). No need to trample new spots.
  • Do not set a tent up in a meadow, next to a creek or on a lake shore. It’s too fragile an environment.
  • Bring extra trash bags (heavy duty lawn type is best) for cleaning any litter you might find at your selected camp site.
  • Sometimes you’ll need to shovel out the whole fire pit (full of glass and trash)  to start a fresh new campfire. Building your fire on top of somebody else’s mess means you’ll be inhaling all their left-over garbage.
Always leave a clean camp

always leave a clean camp

leave no trace

Camp Kitchen Outdoors

Try to keep all food, drinks and cooking to one area of the camp. If you plan to cook over the campfire, this choice will make much more sense. Setting up kitchen area in between the tent and the campfire is usually an excellent spot. Having the vehicle close by for proper food storage is also advised, or use bear boxes if available. If you choose to hang your food in the tree, bring adequate ropes and bags.

The last person still up around the campfire at night should double check the cleanlness camp before retiring for bed. Chances are there is a half-eaten snack or left over beverage that could attract the animals. Oh no, the GARBAGE!! Don’t forgot to put your garbage bag away at night, or dispose of it in a proper trash container. Double bag your garbage if you are concerned with it leaking or smelling up the vehicle.

Food Preparation

Potty Breaks in the Outdoors

shovel

  • Bathroom break in the bushes? Don’t leave your toilet paper trash. Dispose of in your vehicle with a plastic bag or back at camp.
  • For human waste – Bring a shovel, dig holes 8″ deep & pack out all toilet paper. Do not bury paper as animals will just dig it up.
  • Certain areas are so sensitive or overused that all solid waste must be packed out, check for the local regulations.

Camp Hygiene in the Outdoors

23S16 – Sequoia NF

Sequoia Camping

Sugarloaf Ridge: Forest Rd# 23S16 – Thompson Camp Spring, Sequoia National Forest

Driving north on Sierra Hwy N of Kernville, California; Passing Fairview & the Johnsondale bridge; After the R Ranch @ Johnsondale, take the left fork on the main highway; After you climb in elevation, look for brown signs on right side of road & turn left on Forest Service Rd# 23S16. Primitive camp sites are located throughout this area along Packsaddle Creek. Do not turn left up Sugarloaf Rd. There are no good camp sites up that way (unless you wanna make one).

RV campers are very common at Thompson Camp Spring, as this road is paved up to this point. The paved road is windy & narrows after this point. It is not advised for trailers or long motorhomes past Thompson.

For the more adventurous, Bear Meadow & Packsaddle Mdw are located up the dirt road a bit on #23S64.

Paved Sequoia route# 23S16 continues to climb, which leads to the Speas Meadow, the Greenhorn Mountains & you best have a real good map if you are heading up this way. 20 miles of awesome open meadows, small streams, dense forest, wildflowers, some primitive camp sites & great viewpoints overlooking the Kern Canyon. All passenger car accessible! Elevations between 6000-7000′. Sugarloaf Peak has cross country skiing. Side route #23S05 will take you to White River Campground w/ 12 spots. The paved road winds west down the mountain to Posey & eventually Glennville on Hwy 155.

Instead, to easily reach Hwy 155 – you’ll need to get on dirt for a few miles. While on 23S16, look for the Panorama Campground (@ 7400′ elevation w/ 10 sites). Take dirt road #24S15 to get back to civilization @ Alta Sierra, California.

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest MAP

Closest small towns are:

Camp Fires Correctly

desert bonfires

Deserts & beaches are the only places for bonfires.

kill your television

Camp Fires
The heat source, the light source, the cook source, the sock drier, the night supplier, the outdoor LIVING ROOM. The campfire is the center stage for all entertainment, true tales and ghost stories alike.

Since the beginning of time humans have gathered around the campfire at dark. This nightly ritual is built into us on the deepest level. We miss this today. We miss the real conversations, the community, the bonding, the stories, the soul searching. We miss the connection with nature, the fresh air and the great outdoors. The night sky filled with stars and maybe a meteor shower, a hot drink and the glow of the campfire coals. Enjoying the wilderness requires certain skills. FIRE is only ONE skill – for survival, for cooking, for warmth, for safety.

Total Escape is dedicated to those who yearn to camp, often.

In Certain Circles

photo – Charlie Sweeney 2010

Some folks cannot imagine camping without a campfire, but we better get used to it here on the West Coast. Weather patterns swing from years of super-dry drought to deluge and drenching – as we’ve seen of recent in California. Dry conditions means high wildfire dangers, tight camp stove and strict campfire restrictions.

Each California region, National Forests and State Parks have their own fire restrictions, so call ahead to rangers for current fire conditions on the place you wish to visit. Certain mountain locations will ban fires in the back country, fires on the back roads and sometimes in extreme conditions, no fires allowed even inside a developed campground.

Campfire Basics

Campfire Restrictions

fire

California is well known for its unforgiving drought conditions and its seasonal wildfire danger. Always know the fire conditions in the area you plan to camp. Most Southern California regions have banned ‘open campfires’ in forested areas, due to wildfire threat and population density. Call ahead to get an update on road closures and current campfire restrictions. Find California BLM offices & NFS ranger stations

Campfire Permits

If you plan on camping outside of a developed campground, you will need to get a free “camp fire permit”, which can be obtained at the local rangers office.

Find more on FREE camp fire permits

DSCN3700

California Camp Fires

  • RULE # 1 – Never leave a campfire unattended
  • Build campfires in designated rings. Always try to use an existing ring when possible. If you must build a new rock fire ring, follow the guide on FireSafe
  • You will need water source & bucket, plus a decent shovel for building, maintaining and controlling a campfire. BRING enough water & tools with you to control a fire.
  • A ten foot clearance – all around, down to the bare dirt is the best practice. No brush close to the ring, no bushes, no leaves or pine needles. No dry over-hanging tree branches.
  • You might need to clean trash out of the fire pit, so bring heavy duty trash bags, or a spare old box. Shovel comes in handy here.
  • Kindling is key to getting a good fire going fast, so gather more of the small stuff. Wood gathering away from camp is usually better pickens.
  • Use environmentally friendly fire starters (with damp wood, if you must); not the BBQ lighter fluid or gasoline
  • Building fires up against a big boulder scars them w/ black soot, and although it can reflect heat back to you, it is seldom worth the unsightly damage
  • Bring chainsaws or hand saws for cutting your own campfire wood in the forest
  • Gathering wood for fuel — use only dead and down wood
  • A ranger issued “wood cutting permit” is required if you plan on cutting a full cord
  • Firewood page – buying locally, in California
  • Never burn plastics, batteries or other toxic materials in campfires
  • Tossing beer bottle caps into a campfire only litters site for future campers
  • While glass bottle smelting is a real treat among boys at night, which one is actually gonna get their hands dirty & clean up broken glass out of the campfire the following morning?
  • Do not leave any hot coals during the day (if you are away from camp). Winds could pick up.
  • Always douse campfire with water completely when breaking camp. Stir it, feel for heat, and drown it more if you hear sizzling or see bubbling.
  • Read more wild fire / campfire info on our FireSafe page

Drown Fires

Last Final Step

The Final Step of Breaking Camp

 

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Campfire Pits & Fire Containers

Stormproof LIghters

Stormproof Lighters

Parks and Recreation Magazine

California Parks and Wreck

step 1. kill your television
step 2. get outside everyday
step 3. sleep overnight, under the stars

For those who may be still trapped in TV-Land, welcome to Total Escape, a dedicated web site all about the “real world” of wilderness and non-fiction, California style.

parksrectv

Before I started my web business people would suggest to me that I need to write a book. So I naturally chose the world wide web. Now decades later, they are still asking the same question. “Why don’t you write a book on this stuff?”

I say “I did, it’s online. On the internet already. Go look.”
Puzzled, they would turn away.

Total Escape was created in the web 1.0 days (1996), so I could easily keep track of my many travels, the awesome destinations, my recommendations, my travel logs, zillons of photographs, camping trips, the back roads, signs, maps, GPS, all of it. I worked my day job doing 3D & then moonlighted starting this small web biz. My biggest draw to the internet format at first was being able to update outdoor info instantly. Secondly, it was the ability to work from anywhere w/ a phone line. (56k anyone?)

No toxic inks, no newspaper. No glossy mag. No waste. Just free digital energy about outdoor destinations, transferred across the cyber waves, just for you the avid Escaper.

park magazine

Then came the buy-out offers and seasonal magazine ideas from sources in San Diego. By late 2003, none had solidified. Several print magazines did however mention totalescape.com in a few articles, which resulted in some nice traffic spikes. Eternally grateful for the early on-lookers and participants!

Quite personally, I had already had my share of smelly inks, papers & paints in art college. Working in a computer career field, I was fully aware of the web in the early 1990’s. I was ready for the computer age & the internet. Eager in fact! Ready to make that leap from graphics & print concepts over to web windows was all I thought about for years.

I did not want to print anything; waste anything. I wanted my biz to be state of the art, futuristic – so here I am, 20 years later. WOW. Thousands of photos, hundreds of destinations, all local to California. All by itself, Total Escape is a Parks and Recreation Magazine online.

DanaMite
Total Escape – California, Off the Beaten Path
http://www.totalescape.com

California Outside Blog

California A to Z

California Photos
http://www.flickr.com/photos/danamite/sets/

propanecampfire
Stupid idea #544967 – the propane campfire; Shouldn’t we be looking up at the stars?

secluded camps

2017 UPDATE:
New Map Shop and later, redesigning the gear section for Autumn.