One of the happiest experiences of my North American cycle tour was camping in national, state and county parks. Costing between $4 and $24 a night, I was happy to pay for a place to pitch my tent.
Yeah. Yeah. I know I could of wild camped, but I chose not to. Deal with it. Take your escalating machismo elsewhere.
My five favourite campsites, in the order I visited them were:
- Pederndales Falls State Park, Texas | This is the first place I camped on this trip, and my first experience of camping somewhere really remote on my own. You follow a green and rolling gravel track for several miles, wetting your wheels in burbling streams with names like Bumblebee Creek, to get to the primitive camping area. Before bed, I backtracked to one of these creeks to bath my first-day-sunburn.
- Seminole Canyon State Park, Texas | This amazing desert campsite has stunning views across to Mexico, great phone signal (you really appreciate this when travelling alone) and Paleo-Indian cave paintings. I liked it so much it was the first place I stayed for two nights. The quiet was occasionally interrupted by US Border Patrol helicopters, reminding you how close to Mexico you really are. The landscape, like the Rio Grande river in Big Bend, demonstrates how brutal and badly thought out the fantasy of “THE WALL” is.
- Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, Oregon | The South Oregon Coast is magic. A rollercoaster of climbs and descents, with rugged scenery to distract you from challenging riding, and ocean winds to help, hinder and cool. After a brutal climb away from the coast, past the Lighthouse itself, you will be lulled to sleep at this verdant campsite by the eerie howl the lighthouse makes as its reflector rotates.
- Humbug Mountain Park, Oregon | Reached via more stunning coastal scenery, the cheapo hiker-biker sites are beautifully organised (each flat with a picnic bench and fire ring, hedged in making them private) and within each shot of a waterfall. The only downside of this en-suite-waterfall is that, however dry and sunny the weather, you inevitably wake with a condensation drenched tent.
- Agua Calliente County Park, California | I am in love with this desert park. I swear I’m going back in winter, as it was almost unbearably hot in mid-April. As the name suggests, a natural hot spring is at the heart of this campsite. With three bathing pools of different temperatures, free mineral showers, road runners and bunnies keeping you company and views of big horn sheep in the beautiful hills that surround it… The downsides of this campsite, besides the desert heat, is that it’s a tough ride or tougher cross country hike-a-bike (there’s a blog post in the works here) to reach and there is no phone signal for literal miles.