Better World Tour: Day 1: Travel day to San Bernadino National Forest

I couldn’t help but compulsively snap shots as I drove. No small part of this journey is to get away from the climate and nature of Southern California I find to be dry and uninviting to humans. Hopefully a collection of these travel day random snapshots out the front of the caRV as I drive will show something interesting of the areas I travel through and in particular the changing climate and how people build around and in it.

Unfortunately all my local business was not completed before I actually left so I found myself otherwise needlessly driving to Escondido as my first stop to return some propane hose that I ended up not needing. It was not a good first stop as I hated going to this place. Not the friendliest store in the world. So far I’ve found that many RV stores in general are not the friendliest businesses in the world. It is unclear if that is a general rule or because of how I come off. By the by it felt inauspicious for my trip.

I took this opportunity to take a photo assessment of the caRV for progressive reference. To my chagrin everything was a bit of a mess.

That big piece of luggage in my bed/backseat is actually an accordion. Since my first major long term stop is to be San Francisco I’ve decided to return Alan’s accordion to him. I had borrowed it many months previous but the second time I went to practice the strap broke. Another dream dead.

It was clear before leaving that I was probably close to overweight on the tongue of the trailer. Especially since the interior of the trailer wasn’t built out at all yet I am storing the water tanks inside and to the rear of trailer to lighten the load. At this point I am already aware that I am going to have do something about the towing situation.

As I drove along pondering what I had done all but abandoning my “normal” life I watched the San Bernadino mountains grow closer and closer. I had been here only a couple weeks previous picking up the trailer kit for the caRV and it just felt like the same suburb as living in Vista. One big conurbation enveloping all of Southern California. Because of this I hadn’t bothered to program directions into my GPS. I was wandering right? In my day dreaming however I overshot my original intended path up the mountain. In fact I was quite a bit farther north than I wanted to be before entering the National Forest. At the time though I didn’t think much of it. I chose another path up and thought I would just circle around once I got into the mountains. This would not be the first time that I would underestimate the massive scale of these forests.

Up until this random stop to check directions again since the alternative route I chose to take, after missing my original path up the mountain, was shut down perhaps because of weather or maybe construction. The view outside the caRV was nothing new. Still driving on freeways I’d been on numerous times, even more strange because only a couple of weeks before this I was in the same exact area picking up the trailer kit. But this shot of this tree lined street gave me hope that I was headed in the right direction, spiritually speaking. Not that I would want to live there, just that there were trees. I like trees.

Looking down the mountain out towards the valley and Los Angeles beyond was the first moment that day I believed this whole trip was a good idea after all.

As I made my way the last miles to Big Bear Lake which I decided at the last stop would be my destination, I kept seeing signs for an “Adventure Pass” which apparently is the local name (or new national name) for the National Park day pass in San Bernadino National Forest. What I really wanted though was to purchase an interagency pass which provides access to all National Parks and covers the entrance and basic amenity fees in National Forests (which surround all National Parks) as well as access to most BLM and National Forestry managed lands. In fact was the only real thing on my todo list for the day. However, acquiring one would prove problematic in turn acting as a sign for how utile the said interagency pass would be.

Though some small shops along the way seemed to sell the Adventure Pass I waited to find the first Ranger Station as I also wanted to get a campfire permit. However, the first official forestry facility I came across was closed. In fact while I standing dumbfounded looking at a cryptic matrix of other places one could purchase an Adventure Pass a FedEx truck pulled up and hollered over asking if they were still closed. I replied, “yes,” and the driver informed me they had been closed for days and needed to deliver a package there.

It was nearly 5pm and I knew that I wasn’t going to find another forestry facility in time so I stopped at a local gas station indicating they sold Adventure Passes. Once inside I requested an interagency pass which brought on blank stares. The woman asked me to wait and talk to her manager who said she didn’t even know what that was. Bad sign. However, she was exceptionally helpful and called around to a few places to see if they knew about it and where I could get one. However the lateness of the day worked against me. In the end I decided to purchase the day pass to avoid any hassles. The generous woman suggested that I wait until the morning to mark the day of the pass so it would actually be good for the following day and not the remaining hours of this one. She apparently sympathized with my desire to not pay daily rates when I would have an annual pass the next day. Or so we thought, but that is another story for another post.

That was a beautiful moment by the lake. Though it also reminded me I didn’t have much time left to find a place to camp before it was dark.

Once up into the mountains it became clear that what looked like a short distance when glancing at a map was actually much farther. Not only was it actually a longer distance but I also failed to consider just how slow you would have to drive just to be safe on some of these switchbacks. Add in the extra concern about towing a new trailer around and I was often far below even the posted speed limit.

The first night’s campsite I had selected prior to leaving was what they call a “yellow post” site less than a mile from a trailhead at the extreme upstream end of the Santa Ana River Trail which more than one mountain biking website listed as a must ride. Missing my exit though and coming up another direction revealed that I was going to need to find another place to camp for the night. There were some “yellow posts” listed just north of Fawnskin and Big Bear Lake so I made that my fallback destination.

As I made my out of “town” in Fawnskin I again misjudged the scale of where I was, this time by carelessly interpreting a curve in the road as a key point in my directions. I ended up driving a decent stretch down into a questionable valley on overly steep sandy road with lots of what appeared to be private residences (I was surprised to learn on this trip just how much privatized land there is on National Forests but again another topic for another post). Once I came up to an A-frame house with pen next to it with a goat eager to say hello I rechecked my directions and realized I was operating at an inappropriate zoom level. While the curve shape had matched what I had seen on the map I was still several miles from the correct turn off. I was a little bummed when I realized this because I had convinced myself that I would be camping just above the lake, possibly with a view. Not quite.

Once on the correct directions and off of the main road heading up to where the “yellow posts” were supposed to be the sun was fading quickly and the road was getting choppy. With memories of being stuck on a rock not that far away in memory I opted for a more conservative unofficial spot off a dirt road off the dirt road I was on which was actually quite nice.

There wasn’t much in the way of setup here. Walked around a little bit. Moved the accordion out of my bed. I made a spam sandwich and ate some canned food my mom had given me. Partially because I hadn’t done any shopping for fresh food and partially because I didn’t know what happened if you got caught using a campstove with a campfire permit. With the darkness also descended a very real mountain night cold. It was down right freezing. In all my preparation and packing I debated the most about whether to bring any cold weather clothing since overall I would be traveling in summer and the thought of having my furry trapper hat, winter-ish coat, a sweater, and a scarf even in the same vehicle while I was dying from heat, humidity, and mosquitoes seemed absurd. Night 1 of this trip validated my decision to bring one each of the aforementioned items.

Part of me was elated watching the stars and the trees. Marvelling at the stillness of the forest air. I tried to entertain myself out of doors as long as I could before deciding I needed to move into the warmth of the caRV which was quite toasty just from my body heat and a comforter. I tried to read a bit and since I still had 3g access out there even tried to watch some videos online. In the end I couldn’t stay focused on anything and ended up wandering off to sleep far earlier than I ever would have at home. Ah, the first night in my new traveling circus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>