Del Valle Lake Campground, For Us a Close Place to Camp

We are always looking for places to camp that are a short distance from our home in San Jose (CA). I judge short distance trips as getting there in an hour or less and total use of gas of less than a half a tank (round trip). Del Valle Lake Campground (map) fits the bill for us. And being close isn't its only plus. A really great feature of this campground is that each camp site is a good distance from the other. Unlike commercial RV/campgrounds, Del Valle's camp sites are spread out with ample space between sites. Very important when you have a noisy neighbor (who thinks you'll love his choice of music, as he cranks it up way too loud). And there are full RV hook-ups for approx. 20 sites at the park. Also a nice feature is the campgrounds (a total of four major sections) are organized around green grass common areas for everyone to enjoy. That is really important with a campground in the very dry Sierra foothills. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="315"] Large green grass areas around major campground sections[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="350"] Ben at the lake with one of our new kayaks[/caption] If your a boater or a fisherman you will like Del Valle Lake too. The lake is a short 5 minute drive from the campground. There is a good boat ramp and a large boat rental area. The prime camping spots (for RVs) are listed below. Full hook-ups are a great feature for a county regional park. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450"] Del Valle prime RV camp sites[/caption] We had a good time at Del Valle for the July 4th holiday week. We will be back soon. Its just so close. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="270"] There were lots of Yellow Billed Magpies around the campground[/caption]

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Yosemite Lakes – A jewel of a campground just outside of Yosemite National Park

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="336" caption="Yosemite Lakes RV Park"]Yosemite Lakes RV Park [/caption] If you are a frequent reader of this site, you know that we went to Yosemite National Park last summer at this time. Well we went back this year, but stayed at a different park. This year we stayed at Yosemite Lakes Park, a Thousand Trails RV park just outside of the Yosemite park entrance on highway 120 (map). We visited Yosemite Lakes last year during our trip to Yosemite (friends were staying there), and we fell in love with it so much that we joined Thousand Trails just so we knew we would stay there this year. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Camping right on the Tuolumne River is heaven!"][/caption] There are some very good reasons we love this park so much. First it has the Tuolumne River running through it with many RV spots available right on the river (which are reserved only for Thousand Trails members, like us!). And it has some very good amenities like a very large family lodge, a large and very clean laundry room and outdoor facilities like a nice volleyball court, a nice playground and a putt-putt golf course that the kids loved. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="400" caption="The kids loved to swim in the river"][/caption] But what really made us fall in love with this place is that we had our travel trailer right on the river. The kids could drop a fishing line right in the river only feet from the trailer. Or they could swim in the river without any worry of their safety (the river in the RV park is very calm and fairly shallow). We also took advantage of the river being so close with our canoe. It was a lot of fun paddling up and down the very calm river. Samantha and I also had the chance to ride horses in the valley from the stables to mirror lake. She really enjoyed it. We also had a chance to travel up to Tenya lake for a day of canoeing and fishing. We all had fun but no fish. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Sammy loves horseback riding"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Ben fishing on Tenya Lake"][/caption]

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Its been a long time

Well you may have been wondering "what happen to familyrvfun.com?" I know, I know I haven't updated the site since December. A big reason is that we haven't been camping for a very long time, and I have really, really been missing it. Our kids have kept us busy with little league, swimming and children's musical theatre among other things. And work commitments have also taken any other free time we may have. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="We had a blast on our Disney cruise"]The Erwin Family on a Disney cruise[/caption] But we have had some great times. For the kids spring break in April we went on a Disney Cruise to Mexico that was one of the bust times our family has had. More on that in a later post. So now the summer camping season is upon us and I must say I'm really excited to get out to the great outdoors once again. Come by the site again soon. We have a big trip planned and once we're back I'll tell you all about where we went and a little review of the place we stayed.

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Merry Christmas from The Erwins at Family RV Fun

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Merry Christmas from Family RV Fun"][/caption]

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The Black Oaks of Yosemite

When you think of Yosemite I don't think you'd think of oak trees. But they are throughout the valley. This beautiful video is all about the black oaks of Yosemite and how they are and were important to the wild life and human life of Yosemite.

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Wrights Lake 2011

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="Sammy at Wrights Lake"]Sam at Wrights Lake[/caption] Getting an early start for the long labor day weekend we made it up to Wrights Lake this year on the Thursday before Labor day. This is the latest time of the year we have been up there and it was a good thing. The campground didn't open to the public until July 22 this year, so by the time we made it up there on on Sept. 1 the short summer season was already winding down. Though by Friday evening all the RV sites were filled-up and there was a lot of adults and kids out and about to enjoy the long weekend. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="Sammy with Joe kayaking up the channel"]Sam in Kayak[/caption] What we noticed this year was there were many more mosquitoes than in past years (I assume because of the very high percip. this winter). It was just a minor inconvenience because we did bring extra bug spray. Also this year we invited some friends to join us (Claire had booked an extra campsite). It made it extra fun inviting the family we met on our first trip to Wrights lake four years ago (the Welton's) to spend the weekend with us. This year we also tried to make sure we did some hiking around the area. We started out Saturday morning wanting to hike up to one of the mountain lakes (maybe Grouse Lake), but only made it a few hundred feet up the hill before the kids started complaining. So we decide to just hike around Wrights Lake, which was more than worth it and very beautiful. I think we are going to have to wait until the kids are in the teens before we attempt a hike like the Grouse Lake hike. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Ben kayaking up channel"]Ben kayaking up channel[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="Kids fishing at Wrights Lake"]Kids fishing at Wrights Lake[/caption] And this year Ben was able to be a little more independent and paddle around in a borrowed kayak. We paddled all the way up the channel to last passable section. And of course the kids tried their had at fishing, but to no avail. Well maybe next year. Also a little different this year is that we invited are friends the Walhs up on Sunday evening for an afternoon picinic and swim at the lake. The kids had a great time and I think the adults had fun too. And because we were dry camping we relied on our battery for the whole five day trip. I think the LED lights really did the trick because our battery never got below 3/4 charge.

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Sky islands: wild flowers in the high country

I always look forward to a new video from Yosemite Nature Notes. This one is about all the wild flowers that grow at high elevations. They call them sky Islands. Rocky plateaus full of wild flowers that only grow at 12 thousand feet and above. Really cool!

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One mistake and the pretty pictures you see along the way

Sean Michael of the Longlonghoneymoon.com produces the absolute best travel log videos in RVdom. This one is about a near disaster that was averted, plus some stunning images of the North Dakota landscape. [iframe width="100%" height="480" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/28059297"] One Dumb Mistake from Sean Michael on Vimeo.

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Switching over to LED lights

We are getting close to our annual trip to our little piece of heaven called Wrights Lake for the Labor Day long weekend. And with that trip it will be our longest "dry" camping trip of the year. Dry camping, for those that don't know, means that we won't have a water, sewer or a power hook-up. We will be totally dependent on our batteries for light and propane for heat. Looking forward to that I began looking into ways to limit the draw on the batteries so we don't have to worry about them going dead during our trip. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="315" caption="Incandescent and LED side-by-side"]LED bulb by incandescent bulb[/caption] One way to save on power is by switching out all the light bulbs in the trailer to LED lights. LEDs are a great way to reduce the use of battery power while still enjoying a brightly lit room. Using LEDs can save almost 85% in juice. An LED bulb draws an 1/8th of the power an incandescent bulb. But they can produce the same amount of light and don't generate any heat. What really swayed me towards LEDs (in part) was this cool chart on comparing LEDs to incandescents and compact fluorescents (CFLs). Looking at that chart you can see the environmental advantages as well as the financial. What was important to me was that by using LED bulbs I would enjoy all the benefits without any downside. So that meant I first needed to test an LED bulb that I thought would replace the existing incandescent while having the same brightness and general color temperature. I found an LED bulb that, in my tests, seem to generate an equivalent or better brightness of the incandescent but only drew 3.24 watts compared to 23 watts for the equivalent incandescent. That is huge! [caption id="" align="alignright" width="350" caption="LED on left - Incandescent on right"]LED comparison to Incandescent[/caption] But incandescent bulbs have a more yellow color temp. (that people are used to) compared to LED bulbs. Most LED bulbs will look closer to day light color temps. It can take a little getting used to, but the day light color temp. can actually be an advantage because the light seem brighter than the yellow incandescent color. So the LED bulb I bought to switch-out most of my incandescents is the Ming’s Mark 1156/1141 330 Lumen LED bulb. It is only $16.98 and available on dyersonline.com (The bulbs available on Dyers are the "warm white" version and will be closer to an incandescent than what is pictured above.)

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Caspar Beach RV Park – Summer fun but winter temp

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="315" caption="Trailer at Caspar Beach RV Park"]Trailer at Caspar Beach RV Park[/caption] We spent our 4th of July week with the Caspar Beach RV Park and Campground (map), right across the road from the lovely Caspar Headlands State Nature Reserve (Caspar State Beach).  It was very nice to be so close to the beach. The RV park was pleasant enough (though on busy weekends like the 4th you will be packed in like sardines). The park store was well stocked and the bathrooms and showers consistently clean and open. But . . . and this is a big but, the weather was quite chilly.  Even though this summer has been on the chilly side, I never imagined that I would spend my time watching the fireworks on the 4th wearing a heavy winter coat; but I did this year. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Claire and Kids at Lions pancake breakfast"]Claire and Kids at Lions pancake breakfast[/caption] The Caspar beach lured us to go down everyday and play in the sand (which the kids did). And we did some really nice small town activities, like the Fort Bragg Salmon feed, Mendocino Lions Pancake Breakfast and the annual Mendocino 4thof July parade.  All were fun and with plenty of flavor of the local ambiance. Also the kids loved the indoor pool in Fort Bragg. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Fort Bragg Pool"]Fort Bragg Pool[/caption] Our neighbors in the RV park enjoyed a great day salmon fishing, meeting their limit.  They shared a huge fillet with us and we enjoyed several salmon dinners at home.  There is nothing quite like seafood fresh from the ocean! The drive to Caspar Beach was LONG and filled with pleasant scenery as we took highway 128 to try to avoid a mountain like pass on 120.  On the way back we decided to take 120 to get a more direct route to 101 and our drive home.  We went from  65 degree weather to 98 degree weather just going from Fort Bragg to Willits. There are so many State Parks in the region of Caspar State Beach; Hendy Woods State Park, Russian Gulch State Park, Jughandle State Reserve and Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.  Unfortunately they are all slated to close next year due to the California State budget issues. Hopefully some will find private management before they close. The people, the scenery and the food were all excellent and we were glad we made the decision to go more NORTH this year for 4th of July but we also decided our next adventures will be more Southward bound for a bit more warmth in the future.

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