Sunday, May 6, 2012

Memorial Day...what is it all about?

The last Monday of May is Memorial Day. Many newcomers wonder what exactly are we marking with this holiday. It is a uniquely American event, first observed to commemorate soldiers who died in the American Civil War. It is now both a day to remember Americans who have died in all wars and armed conflicts, and an opportunity for more a general expression of memory, when people visit the graves of family and loved ones. Towns host military-themed parades with marching bands, or present fireworks. For many people, however, Memorial Day simply marks the official kick off to summer - a great excuse to host a BBQ or hit the beach. However you chose to spend it, enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reserve America...and do it early!

California offers an incredible variety of camping options. From the coast to Lake Tahoe, Death Valley to the isolated northern stretches of the state, there is a site for everyone....or so it might seem until you actually try to book one. This past weekend, as I furiously searched the Reserve America website for some - any - Memorial Day weekend option, I realized I need to think a bit farther ahead. Reserve America is a great site - you can put in a zip code, a park name, amenity requests or a combination there of and it will - ideally - provide a list of private and public, state and federal camp grounds that meet your criteria. However, the best spots often involve serious pre-planning. You can generally reserve about six months in advance so, as I have now learned, if you want to camp at Sunset Beach in late May, you better be at your computer November 1st at midnight to nab your spot.

The good news is that cancellation fees are nominal if they exist at all, so checking the site regularly a few weeks prior to your planned trip can sometimes land you a spot. This is true even for Yosemite, which books months in advance for peak season, but often opens up if you check again about ten days before you hope to go. The other piece of good news is that many camp grounds do not take reservations, or set aside a section on a first come, first serve basis, so if you don't mind taking your chances and getting up early, you have a decent shot at nabbing a spot. And, while it can be chilly, Northern California is chock full of camp sites, and the crowds are much thinner than the rest of the state, making it a good choice for last minute plans.