Tired of waking up at campgrounds with a stiff neck and back in the cramped quarters of a Honda Element, I made the rash decision more than three years ago to spend most of my savings on a used truck and camper. Since then, my trusty co-pilot Klaus the dog and I have been to dozens of campgrounds in seven states, from Southern California to near the U.S.-Canada border in northern Montana. We’ve camped on coasts, mountainsides, friends’ driveways and at RV parks.
We’ve survived breakdowns, camper doors that wouldn’t open, truck doors that wouldn’t close, plenty of dead batteries, a flood (in the camper) and multiple fires (outside). I’ve learned to overpack food, medicine and beer, to appreciate air conditioning and to roll slow in my studio apartment on wheels.
With a second canine companion in tow, we continue a series on campground reviews with a visit to California’s Morro Bay.
Morro Strand State Beach
Not for the first time, I realized after reaching my spot I could have avoided driving through an entire campground had I read the map or looked around.
Not that it took long. The campground at Morro Strand State Beach on California’s Central Coast is small, with 76 sites smooshed into a long, thin parking lot.
The southern, inland section includes some full hook-up sites that cater to RVs and trailers up to 40 feet long, while rigs in the northern end must be 24 feet or under. Unlike many campgrounds where length limits are unenforced, the blue lines of tape 24 feet apart at the entrance kiosk show these rangers mean business.
And for good reason. My 24-foot camper filled almost every inch. When I arrived, the front end of my neighbors’ van poked into my spot while they busily unloaded a small trailer with their tents and other supplies.
Friendly as could be, they apologized for the intrusion and moved out of the way. I parked and took Klaus and Grace the dogs out for a walk, realizing as I passed one of the few spigots with thread that my water tank was empty. After moving the camper to fill up I pulled in facing the other direction. Otherwise my camper door would open to the front of the neighbors’ van, a few feet from their tents. I hoped the site on the other side remained empty. Luckily, it did.
In addition to drinking water, the park has two restrooms with running water, but neither showers nor a dump station. A ranger said campers could access both for free at Morro Bay State Park six miles away.
Cramped it was, and home for a time to at least one loud conspiracy-theory-spouting loon, Morro Strand ranks as my favorite place in town, and one of the better beachfront campgrounds in California.
It is right on the beach, after all. Bushes block what would be ocean views for most of the sites on the side closest to the water, but they also dampen the impact of frequent winds, and well-placed gaps let people view the water from fencing set up to protect snowy plovers, a small, threatened bird that breeds on beaches.
Those forced to slum it on the inland side can see the ocean from picnic tables set on a slight hill above the sites or climb the hill above that for a more encompassing view, including that of Morro Rock a mile to the south.
The last in a chain of long-extinct volcanoes known as “The Morros,” Spanish for the hills, the 576-foot rock sometimes called “the Gibraltar of the Pacific” was much larger before crews mined away large chunks to create breakwaters throughout the California coast.