what is with my fascination with camping these days? your guess is as good as mine. it must be life in california that's turning me all outdoorsy. a friend of mine just returned from a long weekend in big sur, and she proclaimed its glories. i knew all that, even though i've never been. ( i have a runnning shortlist of places to stay and dine and explore... would you expect less from me?) she gave me the lowdown on the cabin- and tent- camping end... and she was able to recommend a few places over others, thanks to her many trips there over the years. before i lose the post-it and get confused by all the pfeiffers, here goes:
- big sur campground and cabins in pfeiffer state park (tel. +831.667.2322) the big sur campground and cabins are in the redwoods. there are other places to stay that are located on the beach, but she highly recommends the redwoods (to start, at least). she said this place is fairly close to the big sur lodge, which means it is located well. she mentioned that it is a bit more spread out than some of the other campsites, which is a good thing - you don't want to be right on top of some irritating family that plays offspring on their radio all day while their bratty kids run amok, do you? as a design-snob aside, i loathe the faux-rustic typeface that the big sur lodge uses. but what does that have to do with anything? it doesn't. oh well.
- fernwood resort and campground (tel. +831.667.2422) this is where she stayed most recently, and says she doesn't like it as much as some of the other campgrounds because the cabins are too close together (as you can see in the pictures on the website).... however, somehow she had great luck on this visit and found a secluded spot, tent cabin no. 10! try to request that one if possible - and if not, at least something a bit more secluded and nestled away in the redwoods. the tent cabins are adorable from the outside - funny-shaped and made of canvas - but make sure to bring sheets to cover up thse creepy vinyl mattresses. fernwood also has a motel with 12 rooms, but i think i'd prefer to rock it cabin-style than suffer those bedspreads. also of note is that fernwood is on a river, with little swimming holes scattered about. tent-cabin rates are $60 per night for 2 people, $10 additional per extra person with a maximum of 4 people per cabin.
- ripplewood resort (tel. +831.667.2242) is also on big sur river in the redwoods, and it seems like you would want a cabin on the riverside (which would be no's. 1-11). there aren't any pictures of cabin interiors on their site, but there are pictures of each individual cabin shown. i found a view on tripadvisor of one interior, though - very country-bumpkin. i'd personally rather have bare-bones than someone's weak attempt at cottage-chic, but oh well. (are you thinking, why oh why can't i afford the post ranch inn? get a hold of yourself, now... we're talking camping!) prices range from $120 - $150, with a few cheaper cabins at $95.
- treebones resort (tel. +877.424.4787) less cabin, more yurt. by the beach and 45 minutes south of big sur town, the yurts are decorated simply, and some have gas burning fireplaces. and let's not forget the DIY waffle breakfast! rates range from $129 to $250 per night, depending on your view, and do have some minimum stay requirements on weekends. you can also pitch a tent (waffles included) for the bargain price of $55.
- limekiln (tel. +831.667.2403) this is a true campsite located on the edge of the national forest, about 20 to 30 minutes outside big sur. you call to reserve a site; they have shower facilities on site. camp on the beach! yeah!
also, keep in mind that big sur can be confusing because there are 2 state parks that are similarly named (julia pfeiffer burns state park and pfeiffer big sur state park). the big sur chamber of commerce has a nice camping guide that spells it all out, with some helpful pdf guides and maps to download and print, to boot.
now, if you forego cabins and just get a tent, you can refer to the big sur camping guide for many other options. if you do go that route, domino magazine has an inspiring little look at camping in their june '06 issue - here's what i would pack (some of their ideas, some of mine):
- how about a cute, old-school a-frame tent? by eureka, the timberline 4person 2 door tent ( $159.90)
a retro coleman battery lantern ($39.95) for nighttime - though i wish i could find the green one they show in the magazine! (not on the website! and not $29.95)
- a big ol' vintage-look steel-belt coleman cooler ($109)
- some cool blankets to spread out and picnic upon - a wool pendleton blanket from their national park series ($160), or a vintage indian rally-stitch dowry quilt?
some games to keep us busy - travel scrabble (the jack spade version, $95) and snatch ($20)
- this rubber wash bowl ($65) for cleaning up our dishes (or, as domino recommends, our s'mores skewers)
- a pie iron might be good for pre-melting the graham crackers and chocolate squares for your s'mores (dno't you hate it when the marshmallow is gooey and warm, and the chocolate is hard and cold?
- some burt's bees insect repellent ($7.50) will keep the pests away
- a filson canvas duffle ($250) to stow all your goods
- a hable construction rucksack ($150)to keep my camera and water bottle in on our hikes through the forest
- and some hable construction camp stools ($95) to sit on around the campfire (oh, and they make a mean camping cot, too)
- this ice cream ball ($29) would be a lot of fun - play catch and make ice cream at the same time? yeah! (it reminds me of when i was a girl scout - let's hear it for troop 887! we used to make pudding in a bag and mini english muffin pizzas in some kind of tin foil oven. not too shabby...)
- an l.l. bean crank radio ($30) would give us some tunes (when we're not having a campfire singalong, that is)