We landed upon a remote, palm dotted, slice of coastline, just as the state transitions from “NoCal” to “SoCal”. I take that back – I don’t fully understand where that border lies, and I don’t want to start that debate. My definition of the line, was due to the palm trees we now see near the beach.
We are camping at Jalama County Park. This place is special. We’ve met a half dozen, or so, people whom have been coming to this campground for decades. We’ve learned there have been several evolutions about the care, the vibe, and “caliber” of guests. It’s a similar story we all can tell.
A Pismo Beach park ranger recommended this campground because it had about a dozen walk-in sites, something that didn’t exist in “her campground.” Well, we had a night at Woody’s sisters in Grover Beach, and did a little research on Jalama Beach – we noticed that there was actually a site up for reservation – a Monday & Tuesday night! We took it.
We checked in and settled in. Then we did a little reconnaissance. As blogged about earlier, this so-called “Full Campground” was quiet, un-crowded, and according to our check-in ranger, booked solid through Labor Day.
Why in the world would the ranger say this, and their website indicating all the walk-in sites were taken? Why is the “reservation-only” spot next to us, vacant – save a 10 gallon water spigot? Look at this, 3 walk-in spots, right in a row, vacant???! Well, this looks like good news to us because we would enjoy staying more than our two night reservation – and those walk in sites, either right on the beach, or on top of the bluff, are gorgeous!
Giddy at all our options, we practically skip to the ranger, to lock in a site. That’s when we learned of “the system”.
Get ready for this, it’s a little complicated: people new to the park, looking for a walk-in site, are able to put their name on a waiting list up to 11:00 in the morning. If you’ve been at a reserved spot, and want a walk-in site, you wait until 3:00 to get on the same list. The benefit of a walk-in site (other than the awesome locations) is that it’s yours for up to 2 weeks. We’ve seen cars here as early as 7:30 to get on this list (maybe earlier, but I’m not fully alert to validate that notion.)
Everyday at three o’clock a group gathers around the flagpole to hear their camping fate.
In the above situation, we were third on the list. Number one, is in front of the ranger, and just paid for 7 nights. She WON’T be using her walk-in site the first four nights! In a twist of last minute fate, number two was not present at the time of the call. This surprised me, yesterday at 3:00 they seemed HUNGRY for a spot – they had a full truck which was towing a 25 foot fifth wheel. So we – number three – had a chance to pick one of two walk in sites. No sooner had the ranger tore off my validated ticket, he glanced to find his spot on the list, but number two’s girlfriend comes sprinting from the wait line of cars, “did you call Merlot, we’ve been stuck in the line…..?” I told Woody to pay the guy fast -I want to keep our spot on the bluff.
I’m imagining it’s a long road back if you don’t plan for a couple days of “this business.”
At first I thought this worked to an advantage: less demand on the parks resources, its infrastructure, not to mention the reduced impact on the plant & animal habitat. But, then, monopolizing this prime, camp real estate, does not seem fair either.
Basically, none of this bodes well for the through traveller. Or, at least it isn’t easy. I’m so grateful for the fortunate camp spots we’ve secured so far! And, as August is fast approaching, there is a good chance we’ll change things up a bit. Try something different.
For example, we are looking into an extended work-stay opportunity in Grover Beach!