Those familiar with southern California would be forgiven for thinking that it is a mostly dry place, with scrubby brush and stubby trees. If you move here from NorCal, as we did, you soon come to miss the tall redwoods and old oaks that dot the hills and valleys.
You’d be forgiven for thinking its a dry place, but you’d still be wrong. Head up any one of the three or so mountain ranges around here and you’ll soon find yourself driving through alpine valleys bordered tall mountains which are often snow-clad even in summer, studded by pines which may not be what you are used to, but are familiar nonetheless.
Idyllwild is a small mountain town nestled at about 7000’, which keeps the temperatures temperate in summer. The easy 2 hour drive from San Diego (or LA) may as well be a round-the-world trip: one minute you are sitting in 8 lane freeway traffic, and the next you are in an alpine village with log cabins and saloons festooned with year-round christmas lights. As part of Marigold ‘Round’s shakedown month, we decided to spend a few days up in these mountains to get out of the lowland heat.
We reserved a spot at a Thousand Trails campground (see below for my impressions of the place, along with a long video of us biking around the park), packed the van, a headed out on a Friday. My wife drove and I worked, as is usual when we’re moving the van during a weekday (it makes a very comfortable office, even while moving). Before we knew it, after driving through beautiful valleys and narrow, winding mountain roads, and after passing through the town proper, we arrived at the park.
We’d never been to a Thousand Trails campground, or even to an RV park, so we didn’t know what to expect. It turns out Thousand Trails (TT) is first come, first serve: you just drive around until you find a good spot that isn’t taken. We found a great spot tucked high enough up a dirt road that it was out of reach for the bigger RVs, and set up camp (which takes, like, 2 minutes on a van – awesome).
I didn’t think I would like TT – from what I’d read, it was basically a chain of RV parks, each with pools, community centers, shuffleboard, etc. Idyllwild is considered one of the best TT properties, at least in terms of the beauty of the surroundings and the sparsity of the layout. It definitely is spacious: you don’t have to park hip to hip like many parks I’d seen on youtube, unless you want to, or can’t find a better spot.
After spending 6 days there, though, I decided I did like it – Idyllwild is certainly beautiful, and TT had some great, easy trails that led to some seriously amazing views. I can see myself camping there often.
Thousand Trails charges a substantial nightly rate, and the fee for the 6 nights put us within striking distance of the yearly membership fee, so after convincing ourselves that we’d get a lot of value out of the membership by staying at TT parks when we needed to rest and recharge (and empty the tanks and wash the clothes), we bit the bullet and became members.
I see TT as Marigold’s “marina” – a safe harbor to duck into in between boondocking ‘anchorages’. For that purpose TT is perfect, and certainly cheaper than a marina :)
We’re already planning our longer journeys (not vacation, not yet: these will be WFV for me), and building TT spots into the itinerary . We’ll let y’all know how that goes.
Finally: a quick word about the TT video: it’s just a raw dump from my gopro, with a bit of narration. That is about as fancy as I plan to get here. The difference between something like that and a fancier video like my Galapagos video below is weeks of work; if I did all my videos that way, this blog would crawl to a halt.