The Miles Family has been traveling most of the time since school got out in mid-June, and we’re off again in just six days. I have all kinds of wonderful stories to share about that travel, but tonight, just back from the campground and fresh from the bathtub, I want to tell you about the campground we just stayed at: Caspar Beach RV Park and Campground in Mendocino, near Fort Bragg.
If you live in California, you probably know that state park campgrounds book up super early. I tend to be wary of private campgrounds and anything with the word “RV” in the name, but we stayed in this one because the friends we were joining picked it, and it exceeded my expectations.
The campground’s location can’t be beat. It’s across the road from a nice protected cove of the Pacific Ocean. I just looked it up and apparently it’s called the Caspar Anchorage. The walk from our campsite to the beach took just a few minutes, which was wonderful when, for example, the kids asked me to take them to the beach at about 9 p.m., and we were able to take over a departing family’s campfire and stare out at the waves while huddling around it, singing songs. I think it’s better to camp a short walk from the beach than right on it, because we would have been even colder at night on the beach. We could hear the crashing surf and the barks of sea lions from our tent at night.
It was freezing cold at night (low 50s) and during much of the day (50s to 60s) while we were there, which was not unexpected for the North Coast of California, but it was not windy. According to the campground web site this is because the steep cliffs around the campground protect the spot from harsh weather. Besides enjoying your own beach, with tide pools, tons of sand, and icy surf, you can drive just 15 minutes to Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, which we did, and had an amazing time climbing on rocks and watching seals on nearby rocks.
Like, I think, a lot of private campgrounds, this place does pack in the customers. There are rows of sites separated by only a low wooden fence, without greenery between them to block site lines. However, we were really lucky to get site L, which was completely separate from other sites by substantial leafy trees and bushes. This site was on the small side, so we had a little trouble fitting our two huge tents for our group of 10, but fortunately we were able to move the picnic table and even the fire pit to accommodate them.
You can’t park at your site, so you have to use a wheelbarrow to carry your crap from the tightly-packed parking lot. Site L is a winner in this respect as well because it’s just a few steps from the parking lot.
The bathrooms were port-a-potties, which was not a crowd-pleaser with the kids. There were water spigots here and there labeled “POTABLE WATER” (My kids later noticed that the spigot handle said “Do not drink.” I assume the sign and not the faucet was correct, but if we die of cholera this week, you’ll know why.) I read there were coin-op showers, so I bet there was a flush toilet at the shower house as well, but I didn’t visit it so I’m not sure. There were no bear boxes at the sites, which was annoying, especially since it would not be convenient to stash your food in your car. We didn’t have any food strewn about by animals, but Erik swears that raccoons got into our cooler and left their hand prints on our milk jug.
For the kids, there was one small swing set wedged between the port-a-potties and the parking lot. The kids enjoyed it. There was apparently also a game room but what with the ocean and all we didn’t make it there. There was also apparently wi-fi at the campground but I didn’t sign on to it. I was too busy loving up my nieces and nephew and cooking over the camp stove.
I think this is the most important thing when camping with kids. Last year we got stuck in a campground with some large groups blasting loud music and using super-bright lights until the wee hours, and that really sucked when it came time to get the kids to sleep, not to mention trying to sleep ourselves. On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t wanna be in a campground where people are going to be glaring every time my child uses an outside voice. This place was a pretty good happy medium. The adults in our group were up pretty late both nights, since we had friends in a large group at a nearby site. Our group was extremely chill, limiting our late night carousing to talking quietly and sipping beer by the fire. There were plenty of other groups up late in sites around them, and others who had already turned in, but I didn’t hear about anyone complaining about the noise. At our site, at first we didn’t hear any other campers except the occasional person walking down the path, and then another family with small kids moved next store so we heard normal kid noises, which was of course fine. We were camping with a 3-year-old, a 6-year-old, two 7-year-olds, a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old, so we weren’t about to start complaining about other peoples’ kids.
You can get a variety of convenience foods and staples at the on-site store, for inflated prices of course. They also sell hot coffee and a ton of sweatshirts and coats for all the people who came thinking a beach vacation in California means hot weather. In Fort Bragg, 15 minutes or less by car away, there is a nice crunchy granola grocery called Purity, as well as a Safeway and a Rite Aid. So this is not a spot where you need to pack in a week’s worth of food.
They charge by the person, so our group of 10 was expensive: $158 for two nights, or $79 a night. Still cheaper than it would have been to rent a house of course. I think the 3-year-old was free.