Outdoor Adventure with Tom Stienstra

1. Why is camping becoming the top outdoor getaway this year?

Camping can provide the portal to a world where all can feel right. No matter what your financial situation, there is no reason to put your life on hold. In a recession year where money is tight, tent sales are up 28 percent in the past month at REI. People have figured out that camping provides a low-cost gateway to many of the prettiest places anywhere.

2. What should you do if you arrive at a campsite and it’s completely full?

The worst feeling possible on a vacation is to show up at a park, discover every campsite is taken, and then you have no idea where else to go. Even as the author, I never head out without having Moon California Camping on the front seat. Knowing all the places – and they’re all in there – I can always find a great spot any day of the year.

3. If you do not have reservation, where are the best places to still find a campsite for summer dates?

Plenty of campsites are available. The Redwood Empire, Mount Shasta, north Sierra in Plumas County, and Sierra foothills, provide the best opportunities, but there are many others. The real key? Know all the spots. Moon California Camping details every spot, up close and personal, and includes exact directions to get you there.

4. Once you’ve found a campsite, what are the most important factors to make your trip work out great?

Three things: 1. Know how to sleep great when camping; 2. Know how to stay dry; 3. Know how to bridge what I call “The Family Gap.”

Sleeping: For camps you can reach by car, buy a tent big enough for an air bed, cot, or six-inch foam. This will get you off the ground. Your sleeping bag at car camps should be a puffy poly-filled bag. With an air bed, foam or cot, and a puffy sleeping bag, it will feel like you’re submerging into a giant nest.

Keep moisture out: To stay dry and warm, the key is to keep moisture out of your tent. Make sure you put the rain fly on your tent, even in dry weather, and don’t bring wet boots or any other wet clothing inside your tent. These tips will help prevent condensation from forming inside your tent and help keep you dry.

Agree on activities: Before your trip, have a meeting, and agree on activities. Remember that you don’t always have to do all activities together. Some days, the best idea is to use your camp as a base of operations and launch point, where each member heads off to do what they want. But remember that the most prized moment in the outdoors, regardless of age or background, is sharing campfire time that evening.

5. What are your favorite campsites?

I like following the arrival of spring, from coast and valley lowlands to the Sierra Crest. This is when the landscape springs to life with grass, wildflowers and budding trees. This is the best time to see wildlife, gobbling up all the new goodies, and the best time to fish for trout and bass. Follow the arrival of spring as it climbs in elevation and you can’t miss the best hiking, camping, wildlife watching and fishing in California.

6. What are a couple of the best destinations for families?

Some of the best destinations for families include Camp Richardson at Lake Tahoe, Siskiyou Camp Resort near Mount Shasta, Convict Lake in the Eastern Sierra, MacKerricher State Park on the Mendocino Coast, Big Bear Lake, and El Capitan State Beach near Santa Barbara.

7. What are some fun outdoor activities, and tips, when camping with kids?

Remember to take kids to places where they are guaranteed action. Try to camp in a park where large numbers of wildlife can be seen, go on a fishing trip, or to a hunting spot. Be enthusiastic, it’s contagious. Another tip is to remember to show kids how to do something rather than lecture to them. The biggest tip is to just let kids be kids. Let the adventure happen.

8. What is your favorite near-water campsite?

I have a raft, canoe and power boat and use all of them when camping at lakes. What works best are boat-in sites where it feels like it’s my own personal lake.

My favorites are Big Lake at Ahjumawi State Park, Shasta Lake near Redding, and Lake Sonoma near Healdsburg. Looking into the crystal ball for late May, Union Valley Reservoir in Eldorado National Forest looks like a can’t-miss winner for the Sierra Nevada. Other good ones are at Bullards Bar and Jackson Meadow. If you take the boat shuttle out of Oxnard, the trips to Santa Rosa or the other Channel Islands can make it feel like the island is all yours.

9. Where’s the best campground for a bear sighting?

Probably Dorst Creek at Sequoia National Park. Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite also gets nightly visits. Remember that bears are nothing to be afraid of. Just store your food and trash in the bear-proof food lockers and cans and the bear will go on its way to the next campsite, like a postman on a route, hoping the next camper left something out. Never leave your food or trash out, and you won’t even know they cruised by.

10. What is your best advice for the camping season?

Go. Do not put your life on hold. If you think back over the years, you will remember striking moments in the great outdoors as some of the best days of your life. With a little preparation you’ll sleep well, always have a campsite, and have the best of the outdoors right outside your tent. Like many have already figured, camping is how you beat the recession. It’s affordable, fun, and can change your outlook on the entire year ahead.

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