Our maiden voyage airstream adventure was to Sequoia National Forest. Located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California, it is about 130 miles from Los Angeles. It shouldn't take more than two hours to get there, making it a perfect weekend getaway. But since we were hauling a 7,000 pound Airstream, an 7 month pregnant woman, and a 5 year old, it took us closer to 5 hours to get there.
Read on for tips on visiting campgrounds, what is allowed with sleeping in turnouts, and charming towns to visit during your adventure.
We finally reached the sign for Camp Wishon and lo and behold, there was a sign saying the gate (at the end of the tight, curvy, one-way 4 mile road) was closed. Now what? Exhausted from driving and feeling hangry, we decided to come up with plan b. Are you allowed to sleep on the side of the road? I don't see any signs saying you can't? Thanks to some earlier research, we discovered the now very familiar term, "boon-docking": the practice of pulling off the highway to stay at free locations in your Airstream in spots that have limited (or zero) facilities.
After hailing truckers down for advice on where to go to camp, we were told that despite Covid, Camp Wishon was open. We decided to take a drive up to Camp Nelson (highly recommend!), and head back towards Camp Wishon - a delight! Tim, the campground host was lovely and let us stay the night in another spot. A creek runs through the grounds and the spaces are far enough part for a sense of privacy.
Tip: Camp Wishon is perfect for a weekend getaway whether or not you have a trailer. Most of the spots were filled with people camping in tents. Make sure to check the status of the campground regarding fires and Covid alerts, and make reservations here.
Tip: The lack of phone service in the whole area is a delight, except when you need directions. Make sure you download your maps on google maps before losing coverage. If needed, Camp Nelson has wifi at the coffee shop on the way to the grounds.
As you drive back towards the town, you will drive through Springville, a charming little mountain town. Make sure to grab a pizza at the transformed vintage gas station, or stop and fish along the Tule River. Most of the turnouts give you access to hike down to the river - I don't recommend parking in the main lots, they are always crowded and touristy.
For those new to Airstream life, there is a side of it that is less enjoyable: emptying the tanks! Any Airstream made after 1973 has three tanks: gray, black, and water. Depending on the model, each tank has a different capacity. Our 2020 Globetrotter holds 39 gallons in the black water tank, 39 gallons in fresh water tank, and 37 gallons in the gray water tank. So what does this mean? Fresh water is what you use to shower, wash the dishes, and flush the toilet. The shower and sink water drains into the gray water, and the toilet water drains into the black water. We have found that the gray water fills up much faster than the black water, and that if you are conservative with your water usage, it can last up to three days. When you get to the point where the blank tank is full, you have to stop. Campendium is our go to app for finding dump stations (and often our boon-docking locations!) - the basic version is free.
Tip: When boon-docking or at a campground with no facilities, the first thing to go is the fresh water. You can fill up your tank at any place with a hose - most gas stations have one and if not, you can ask anyone with a hose in their yard to have some water (they usually say yes).
Tip: Although still controversial, gray water can be dumped on the side of the road. As long as you are using natural dish and shower soap, it is not a problem for it to be released on the side of the road. I would still be careful about how much of a crowd is around you when doing this - some people do not appreciate the smell of the stagnant water.
Sequoia National Forest is full of great weekend adventures - whether you like to fish, hike, swim, or just sit and read in nature, you will find what you are looking for. Even just two days away can be the refresher you need to get away from day to day (sometimes monotonous) life. Get outside and enjoy!
For any questions or suggestions, please e-mail me at monica@ciaozen. I look forward to hearing from you and sharing tips!