Thursday, July 5, 2012

Campground Full (Base Camp at Lake Casitas Recreation Area)

“Sort-of-Sabbatical” Day Six, Friday, June 8

I’m quickly learning that camping in California presents special challenges.  As I’m making my plan for the next few days, “No Vacancy” seems to be the norm rather than the exception.  No matter what day of the week, no matter what campground.  When a space IS available, it comes at a price.  I’ll soon find that the standard fee seems to be $35 night, with a few - very few - exceptions. Tack on an extra $8 if you reserve in advance and that makes $43.  In Arizona, $15/night seems pricey!  But because of my ever present worry of finding a space before the sun hits the horizon, I’m entering my credit card number to book sites for the next few nights.  My immediate need is for a base camp near Ventura Harbor.  The only spot to be had anywhere, at any price, is the very last one at Lake Casitas Recreation Area.  Over 400 sites at this campground alone (already, I know it isn’t quite my ideal) and I seem to have gotten the last one.  The last one for miles, actually.  But when I look at the map, I do, indeed, see a benefit. Lake Casitas sits at the base of the fun looking part CA-33.  And I really should ride CA-33.

Campsite secure, thanks and farewell bid to my Pasadena host, rush hour over (as much as it ever is, anyway), and I’m launching for my final battle with the hyper-tangled web of asphalt that is SoCal.  I enjoyed my visit, but it feels good - so good! - to escape.  Soon, the olfactory landscape shifts. I'm riding through Oxnard and the sweet floral scent of berries is positively jolting. Next, I’m spying wine grapes growing on hillsides here and there.  Excellent.

My journey to Lake Casitas is a short one, leaving me the rest of the day to explore.   CA-33 is not a bad way to kill a few hours, as you can see.

CA 33

Not just a fun ride, but a fragrant one, too! These flowering shrubs line the road more often than not, and fill my helmet with their scent.  It's "Spanish Broom," or so I'm told.

CA 33 (2)

I seem to be the only one on the road, until I come a cross a little fleet of cars pulled off the road.  Why?  Because there’s a swimming hole down below!

CA 33 Swiming Hole

I had envisioned pictures of the Ducati with glorious backdrops across the west.  Here’s one photo, anyway.   It’s hard to focus on all the hobbies at once, and for this trip I heeded the call of the road, not the shutter button.

CA 33 (1)

Playtime over and stomach rumbling, I wander into Ojai.  It’s a charming little village, filled with art galleries, cafes, and wine tasting rooms, but… it’s a madhouse.  Turns out there’s a music festival this weekend (which I’d love to attend, but can’t since I’d have to ride back to camp after dark to do so), and the difficulty I have in parking and pulling back out onto the street is bringing back memories of the freeway traffic I thought I had left behind.  Once parked, though, I enjoy a stroll, an enormous slice of apple cake, and take special pleasure in meeting American Impressionist Dan Schultz at his gallery.  I absolutely adore his dreamy, gentle works.

The Grebe Loop of the Lake Casitas campground is a cross between a Motel 6 and a block party.  The individual sites are tightly spaced, and every square inch is filled with pickup trucks, portable shade canopies, and loud music. Not exact a Dan Schultz oil on canvas, if you know what I mean.  Ironically, just a few steps away… the Elysian Fields! I find uninhabited picnic areas with grassy hills, wise old trees, and peaceful lake views.  Where would you eat your cheese sandwich?

Lake Casitas Recreation Area

Oh, and let’s not forget this guy:

Gopher Snake
The photo angle doesn't make it obvious that this guy was a good three feet long.  Gopher snake, I think.


PhilB said...

Sounds like a good time, and quite familiar. The snake is pretty. We had one similar go right through our campsite near Lake Cachuma (above Santa Barbara) once. If you going up the PCH from San Luis Obispo, there are several nice campgrounds, with 4 or 5 near Big Sur, but they tend to fill up so look ahead.

Paula said...

Indeed! I ended up making my Big Sur reservations at the same time, and again, I seemed to get the last spot available for miles around at Pfieffer Big Sur State Park. Julia Pfeiffer would have been the bomb, but gotta nab that one a year in advance!