Surviving the California Coast on a Budget

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The title may sound dramatic for somewhere so pristine and beautiful, but you may feel you are purely surviving this section of your road trip, due to the strict limitations enforced on freedom campers. In most large cities and Southern California towns it is illegal to sleep in your car, California is a travel destination that is favourable all year while unaffordable rent leads to more homeless. The problem is exasperated by lack of budget campsites and crowded sites at weekends, some people may view $30 as inexpensive, but for most travelers with modest funds this will eat away your daily budget.

Towns by the coast along highway 101 have strict overnight parking regulations, when evening comes you will want to drive a little further inland. Use your acquired knowledge to suss out a suitable overnight parking area; perhaps you find a park with few residential homes around it -but parking regulations in the parking lot, if there are no restrictions on the road you are also unlikely to be infringing on someone’s property in this area. Consider that if it is a dead end there will likely be little traffic or people disturbing you overnight. Finding a decent night sleep in Southern California is a bit of guess work and a lot of luck; ‘Walmart’ and ‘CampingWorld’ alike will refuse you overnight parking in this part of the USA, in some cases you may be able to ask a manager permission, but check for signage and restrictions first. If you have a car rather than a huge RV it is far easier to be subtle and not be noticed by cops or annoyed locals.

In cities such as Los Angeles or San Francisco you may have to leave the area for the night, with car camping being illegal and the unsafe feeling in certain areas, it may be best to drive away for the night or pay for a campground. Weigh up the cost difference between paying for a campground or paying for gas and driving out of the city overnight. Another way to save those extra dollars is to try and share campground pitches with other travelers, most campgrounds allow for two cars in one space making it possible to share, it is also a great way to meet fellow travelers and share advice and information.

Hanging at the beach for the day gives you a perfect opportunity to use free benches and barbecues for cooking, as well as the chance to shower off the sand and sun lotion. There will always be fresh drinking water at beaches, so ensure all your water containers are filled before you head off.

Don’t be off put and avoid the California coast line on your Western USA road trip, Highway 101 and the surrounding coastline is too beautiful to miss. You can see why people love California life and never leave, you won’t want to either!

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Joshua Tree NP
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FREE Vancouver Activities

With Summer arrives ample opportunities for FREE activities in Vancouver, hopefully the rain has finally subsided and you can get out and enjoy what Vancouver does best, the great outdoors. You don’t need a big budget visiting Vancouver (living there is a different matter), especially when you are car camping and cooking your own meals, here are some free activities to get you excited.

Stanley Park
Surprisingly, bigger than Central Park in NYC; Stanley park has excellent hiking trails as well as the Sea Wall to walk around, giving you stunning views of the surrounding mountains and North Vancouver. Hike around Beaver Lake and through the trees, if you want to splash out to $4.50/hour you could hire a bike to cycle your way along the Sea Wall. Parking is steep at $13 per day in the summer and it fills up rapidly, it is best to leave your car outside of downtown and take transit.

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Kitsilano
Spend a sunny day lazing on the beach or walk along the shore and be staggered by the landscape both urban and wild. Swim at the giant (137m long) outdoor swimming pool at the reasonable cost of $6.50, it is cold but nowhere near as much as the Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of benches along the sea front; Vancouverites take barbecuing seriously, making it the perfect place for a beach picnic.

Granville Island
Start with a wander around the market, if you are on a budget it is hard to resist all the vibrant foods on offer (watch out for the gulls if you eat outside). Walk along the front and take in the essence of the city, there are routes leading to Scienceworld in the East and Kitsilano in the West, you can walk as far as you’re inclined. If you have the money to spare, splash out on a beer at Granville Island Brewery; and if not take a beer to so called ‘Beer Island’ aka ‘Habitat Island’.

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Granville Island

Pacific Spirit Park
Here, there is a spiritual feeling incomparable with any other place in Vancouver – Pacific Spirit feels less like a park and more like an enchanted forest. Some would say it is even better on a rainy day as you are ensconced by trees and can enjoy the calm of a hike. When you are this far-out West you might as well take a trip to Wreck Beach, Vancouver’s famous nudist beach, for a walk or sunbathing.

The Grouse Grind
Test the limits of your fitness with the grueling right of passage that is the Grouse Grind. Open from late May until October, join locals and tourists alike to climb the 2.9km ascent to the peak of Grouse Mountain. Once at the top you can see birds of prey and delight in the tongue-in-cheek lumberjack show. You aren’t officially supposed to descend the Grouse Grind, but there are alternate ways down, or it is worth paying the $10 for the cable car after the exhausting incline. Take the free shuttle to Grouse Mountain from Canada Place, don’t forget to check the schedule.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of hikes on the North Shore and many more parks to be visited; this list is a starting point if you only have a few days. Wishing you sunshine in Canada’s rainiest city.

Reasons to visit The Yukon this Summer

The Yukon is possibly one of the most underrated provinces to travel to during the summer, here’s why you should make it a top priority on your Canadian adventure.

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The wildlife
Bison roaming along the highway, herds of them, so many you will have to stop the car to let them past and capture a photograph. Black bears and moose can be seen along the calm roads, no need to leave the car if you don’t want to. There are fishing spots to take respite from driving and spot beavers swimming in the water, maybe even plunge in yourself to cool off in the summer humidity.

Learn about First Nations
In most provinces First Nations feel like an after thought in post-colonial Canada, the Yukon does not follow suit. Natives account for a quarter of the Yukon population, and compared that to the national population percentage of 4.3% that is a significant increase. The Yukon gives much more control and consideration to the Aboriginal population and runs a Self-Government system. Learning about the rich history of tribes and being amazed at the intricate art work can be done in one of the many museums, galleries and learning centres.  It is a chance to buy real native art and clothing, knowing that your purchase will make a difference in their community, rather than funding large corporations.

The Scenery
The Yukon’s official flower is Fireweed, as it grows in such abundance after the forest fires which occur throughout the hot summer months. Lakes are vast, surrounded by mountains and so undisturbed by people you can pull up by a river at the roadside and sleep peacefully all night.

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Dawson City
Gold rush history
Ghost towns and ruins of the gold rush era of the past are left intact in the wooden shacks that were once people’s homes; you will find tins of unopened food left on the shelves, as well as cars which have been left to rust over decades. Visit Dawson City and be met with full gold rush period costumes and buildings preserved in the style of the time.

With a population of just over 33,000 it is easy to escape the busy tourist traps and take your trip at a slow pace; while still soaking up culture, history and nature. Make sure to add the Yukon to your Canadian road trip bucket list.

Where Should you Sleep for the Night?

thumb_DSC_0986_1024It’s amazing how quickly you adjust to finding places to park overnight and sleep peacefully. Your creativity and ideas will improve with experience, you will learn how to blend in and keep your profile low. Here are some ideas to start your imagination running wild:

Free Campgrounds
If there are any available nearby then use them. Free Campsites and Allstays Camp and Tent can help you search nearby for free campgrounds. The facilities are basic but you will usually end up with a bench, fire pit and a pit toilet at minimum; there is also normally a river or lake for washing up. Check out my posts to find some awesome free campgrounds in British Columbia, Canada and The USA.

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Walmart (or other department stores)
Use the Allstays Walmart App for advice on Walmart’s that allow overnight parking, App users input comments reviewing their experience. Other stores that may allow overnight parking are Camping World and K-Mart, but be sure to check with management wherever possible.

Casinos
Often have parking that can be used overnight, discretion is key and you should try and cook away from the parking lot in a picnic area.

Rest Areas
Usually rest areas have signage for 8-10 hour parking limits, overstaying this time will depend on how regularly the area is patrolled by security. Flying J truck stops often have a separate area for overnight parking of RVs or an area where smaller cars can park for the night.

National Forests
You may find gems of free places to stay in National Forests, often campgrounds are well established with a pit toilet; they are not always easy to access; be sure to check that the area is accessible by road.

BLM
In the USA the Bureau of Land Management is in charge of an abundance of free campgrounds and areas you can stay overnight, use Allstays Camp and Tent for ideas as well as searching BLM on Maps.me.

Churches
Usually have a large and safe parking lot that is fine to stay in, so long as you leave early in the morning; ask whenever possible.

You could also try parks, residential areas without too many houses, or bars and restaurants that will be used to seeing cars left in their parking lot overnight. Keep a look out for signage forbidding overnight parking or only allowing residents to park. Do your cooking away from the area you intend to sleep, picnic areas and parks are usually best for this, to draw little attention to your stay. If you can, do a scout out of the area and decide if it is suitable returning once it is dark.

Make Denali National Park the next stop on your Roadtrip

Every National Park his its own merits and misgivings, Denali National Park wins outright for freedom, escaping the crowds and that feeling of untouched wilderness. These are only achievable if you get off the shuttle bus through the park and hike, there are no routes, you can walk anywhere you like.
Here are the reasons to make Denali a must see on your next road trip:

d2There are no Backcountry Trails
Contrary to how this sounds, there is backcountry available, the novelty being there are no set routes. You choose an area (or areas) with permits available and make your own way around using a topographical map, or gut instinct. You will encounter many natural barriers, rivers, ledges, scrub; you must learn how to cross them and how to camp leaving no trace.

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You won’t see anyone for days
Hiking out in the park is an incredible experience and one that is extremely solitary, likely the only living beings you will see for the entirety of your hike are the caribou, moose and maybe a bear, if you are lucky. Other National Parks, especially in the USA, have a ‘theme park’ feel due to their popularity and accessibility to all.

Backcountry permits are FREE
That’s right, whereas most other National Parks will charge you left, right and center for all types of permit, Denali gives them out for nothing; so long as there is space you can get a permit for the area that appeals to you most. Before you are given the permit you have to watch a film to ensure you know how to be ‘bear aware’ and how to safely cross rivers as Denali has no bridges.

Have the ‘real’ wilderness experience
Following a set route with a well marked path is great fun and how National Parks will usually set up their backcountry, oftentimes you don’t have to do a whole lot of navigating or even consider where you should be camping. Denali allows you the freedom to decide for yourself and sometimes it is inconceivably difficult to know whether you have made the right decision, but ultimately the experience is so rewarding.

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There’s an abundance of wildlife
If you stay on the bus you will likely just see caribou for the entirety of the ride, head out into the wilderness and there are so many creatures from wolves to eagles. Imagine waking up in the morning, opening your tent and seeing moose running past; it is an extraordinary sight to behold.

Endless sunlight
…In the summer that is. Lost? No worries, it will be light until 2 a.m. anyway, so keep on walking. This also messes with your body clock, waking you up in the middle of the night and thinking it is morning; checking the time and realizing you still have hours of sleeping ahead of you.

Are you persuaded yet to make Denali National Park the next stop on your roadtrip? Great! Start planning your route along the Alaska Highway and enjoy the adventure.