by Tamara Rice of The Rice Paper
If you ask me, sleeping outside is for the birds. However, it’s cheaper than a Hilton and my children love it.
After a few nightmarish camping excursions when my kids were little (note to self: don’t take a crawling baby camping in the dirt), I reluctantly agreed to pitch a tent with my family at the San Elijo State Beach. For this, you must make reservations in advance, and they are sometimes difficult to get.
If your kids are old enough to carry their own towels, know their limits in the ocean and not wander off–but are still young enough to like frolicking in cold waves–you’ll love this beach. I have friends who swear by it.
However, there are a few drawbacks you need to understand in advance before reserving yourself a campsite:
1. You’ll be camping on a cliff. I wouldn’t lie to you, friends, if you want the beachfront property, you’ll be walking down several flights of wooden stairs every time you want some waves–and back up them every time you forget something in the tent. Every single time.
2. Not every spot has an ocean view. If you want a direct ocean view, you need to camp along the edge of the cliff, where a chain link fence keeps campers safe without completely spoiling the view. You might not be very happy if you are camping for the view and get stuck in the back or behind the road.
3. It’s windy at night. It can be the middle of July and the temperature will still drop at night when the wind kicks up over the cliff. If you are from Minnesota, you might not care. If you are from Los Angeles, you will be cold.
4. They’ve got Wi-Fi. If you can’t leave your internet at home, AT&T provides it for you at the San Elijo State Beach. If you don’t want your workaholic spouse checking his e-mail thrice a day, this is not the campground for you.
5. You’re camping next to the rails. This means you’ll be waking up in the night. A lot. Don’t think for one minute that the trains will care that you are tired, because they are thoughtless, loud and ugly beasts at two a.m.
Of course, my family was hit with a double whammy on our camping excursion. As if the trains weren’t enough to handle, a drunk wandered around the campground for most of the night yelling obscenities.
It was a night so terrible, my husband and I were eventually thrown past frustration into delirious giggles. Only a confused rooster could have made the monumentally bad night any worse for us.
And then, right as we began to estimate how long it might take us to pack up in the dark and scurry to a motel, our little girl woke up. She crawled out of her sleeping bag, across the tent, and onto our air mattress.
“This,” she said sleepily but with great conviction, “is the best vacation of my whole life.”
And that, my friends, is why–despite the steps, the wind, the trains and the drunk–we will eventually camp again at San Elijo.
Photos courtesy of Mark Goodkin (Flickr.com)