Travel Blog – The North Californian Coast & Camping experiences and dos and don’ts
After our visit to Napa Valley we continued our road trip up north along the coast on Highway 1 between Jenner and Fort Bragg. Although the day consisted pretty much only of driving, this part of our trip was one of my highlights. The north Californian coast line is just beautiful. I only wish to have spent a whole day in one of the sleepy coast towns just to enjoy the sun and cool sea breeze. The drive along the coast is very scenic. The highway is just one lane in either direction and not very busy. There are plenty of look-outs to pull over at, from where views over stunning cliffs or even natural sea lion habitats can be enjoyed.
In Napa we stocked up on supplies at Trader Joe’s (a health food chain) that same morning and packed a week’s worth of supplies in a cool box. Whenever we got hungry we would just pull over at a look out, sit on our camping chairs and eat our salads – or avocado sandwiches. For dinner we ate a lot of pre-packaged healthy lentil soup or minestrone. It doesn’t sound great I know, but it has nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with canned soup from Australian supermarkets that smell somewhere in between cat food and vomit. Trader Joe’s soup is just delicious and it makes me so sad that we don’t have it here. I tried to find something comparable here but failed. I suppose soup isn’t on the top of anyone’s menu in a country like Australia that doesn’t experience more than three rainy days a year and temperatures that never seem to drop below 30 degrees Celsius (at least it feels like that at the moment in this never-ending heat wave).
During this road trip we mostly camped in a small tent. Only once we opted for a hotel instead – because it snowed that night. We were surprised to find the temperatures would often drop below 5 degrees Celsius at night and we weren’t well prepared for that with our little tent. Fun fact: My Australian hair dryer which was a weak tiny one for travel didn’t work in American power sockets. (Always buy power converters, never just power adapters – lesson learned!) I’m not entirely sure if I washed my hair at all during these days but that’s part of the camping experience – and I love it. Camping is hugely popular along the whole Pacific West coast. There were hardly any international tourists at all, let alone did anyone use tents. Most other campers were retirees on a road trip with gigantic motor homes bigger than the house in Newtown we lived in for a year.
There are camping areas with hot showers and laundromats every few kilometres along the road and they were never fully booked. It was very easy to stop somewhere spontaneously for the night.
With only a small cool box and a neat little stove and pot set we had to be efficient with our cooking. It was very cold at night and we didn’t want to light a camp fire because
of the Nazgul we didn’t want our clothes and car smell like smoke the next day which meant we needed a hot meal at night really badly. Like mentioned above I can recommend the soups from Trader Joe’s. Everything that can be cooked in one pot is a great idea. Pasta with zucchini and tomato sauce made from scratch not so much (another lesson learned!). For breakfast we had mixed muesli bowls (nuts, oats and berries) with almond milk. That, the soups, avocado sandwiches and salads made us feel like we were staying healthy after spending so much time sitting in a car and driving. Plus, between San Francisco and Portland wasn’t anything worth eating at any of the inns and restaurants anyway.
On this road trip I realised for the first time how many serious skills camping requires! For everyone who is currently planning a camping trip that stretches over more than a long weekend, here are some dos and don’ts. Learn from our mistakes!
- spend most of your cool box space on Pacific north-west craft beer
- buy dry shampoo
- hot soup
- sleep with a beanie on your head
- and a bear mace in your hands (both hands)
- cover yourself in bushman’s repellent
- wet wipes
- coins for laundromats
- follow bear safety instructions
- leave your warm jacket at home just because it’s summer
- make pasta from scratch and miss the opportunity to take spectacular sunset photos at the beach
- drive a full automatic jeep SUV off road
- save money on power converters
- make a playlist that is only eight hours long (it seems like plenty at first but after a few days…)
- rely on mobile data – or google directions for time estimates
- drive more than 4-5 hours a day and always add a third too your estimated travel time
- panic too much about bears