While neither is better than the other, the east and west cultures are very different. Sometimes clichés are based on truth and that certainly seems to be the case when comparing the two regions of the country. The west tends to be more athletic and health-minded while the east seems to be more interested in its cosmopolitan lifestyle. Art, theater and history can be enjoyed on both coasts, but for sheer quality and numerous opportunities for a metropolitan experience, the east is far superior.
A couple of differences stand out when comparing camping and resorts. In the east, there are many more seasonal vacationers, whether camping or having property, than in the west. Every eastern lake and many coastal roads are lined with summer homes, and the zones of seasonal campers in east coast resorts are many times larger than campgrounds out west. To be fair, there are huge seasonal groupings in Arizona, Southern California and Florida, but the balance of the west coast is mostly devoid of these camping subdivisions. The issue is that seasonal neighborhood residents often view us interlopers as vagabonds or street rats. There are friendly people everywhere, but the large number of seasonal inhabitants makes it much more likely for this view to be shown.
Second, it seems like western campers love dark, serene nights and the abundance of stars, while their eastern counterparts would rather bring the big city with them when they camp. East coast campsites are often adorned with enough lights to compete in a Christmas light contest, with flashing strobe lights, rotating spotlights, electronic lamps shining colorful shapes up into the trees and enough solar lighting to blaze a trail from one end of a resort to the other. These campers are also much more likely to build and man private taverns and public bars, complete with tiki torches and thatched roofs.
Sunrise vs. Sunset
Purely a personal preference, but sunsets seem grander and more vibrant than sunrises over oceans or other bodies of water. I did cross off a bucket list item in the east, however, when I photographed a sunrise from Acadia National Park in Maine.
The takeaway is this: Knowing these differences can help maximize your enjoyment in each region of the country. You can plan on more state-run parks and attractions and extra visits to historical locales in the east and more self-guided tours and longer drives in the west. You can enjoy your solitude in the west and party like rock stars in the east -- savor the differences and revel in the RV lifestyle.
Resort Parks International (RPI)
Address: 700 W. Klamath Beach Rd., Klamath, CA 95548
Phone: (707) 482-2091
# of sites: 91 (plus tent-only sites)
Full hookup price: From $48/night
Open: May through October
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Warnings: Few amenities, stickers in grass, no 50-amp
Situated just a couple of miles up the Klamath River from the Pacific Ocean, the Klamath River RV Park is centrally located to maximize an abundance of outdoor activities and attractions, including the rugged Northern California coastline, Redwood National Park, and all the hiking you might want. See my 360-degree video in the redwood forest.
This park is just a short drive from much of the Redwood National Park, which includes several California State Parks, Fern Canyon and the Trees of Mystery. The redwood forest is a must-see item on anyone's bucket list, and the iconic coastal scenery should not be missed. From an overlook just two miles from the campground, we were 400 feet above the mouth of the Klamath River and were able to view dozens of sea lions on the river bank and and several whales waiting just outside the delta.
The park itself is clean and comfortable with many spacious pull-through sites, and all sites are on grass. They staggered RV's so that they occupied every other space, making the park very roomy. There are fire rings at seating areas overlooking the river and some of the sites had their own.
The laundry room had five washers and four dryers and was open 24/7, so there was no problem getting laundry done. It was a bit expensive, however, with two loads costing $10 for wash and dry. The bathrooms and showers were always open and clean.
Though open for only a few hours a day, there is a coffee shop/snack bar open on the premises.
Though its proximity to natural wonders and attractions is great, Klamath is a tiny, remote town and the closest grocery stores are 23 miles away in Crescent City. Though a nice drive, it is somewhat inconvenient.
The park itself has few amenities. There is no clubhouse, no pool or spa, no pool tables or game room, no tourist activities, no boats or water activities and no market. It is just your basic campground, and entertainment is clearly your own problem. It would have been nice to have a dock to fish off of or a beach to enjoy, since the park is right on the river's bank, but it is one of the swiftest rivers I have ever camped near. Perhaps any activities around or in the fast water would have been too dangerous.
Although their own park map shows four 50-amp sites, we were led to believe there weren't any at all, just 30-amp throughout the resort. Fortunately we did not need our A/C this early in the season. Parking on the grass was somewhat nice, though I did have to use blocks to level up. However, as the week went by, the tires not on blocks sank a bit, making us unlevel in the other direction. I would recommend placing supports under all wheels while leveling your rig.
You would think a grassy resort would be dog friendly, but Klamath River isn't. The lushest areas all had "No Pets" signs, there is no fenced dog run, and there many parts of the park that had thorns or stickers in the grass. I basically had to walk Lucy while staying on the gravel road the whole week.
The weather on the Northern California coast is cold, wet and dreary a great deal of the time. If you are only in the area for a short time, it will be hit-or-miss for sunshine and sightseeing, though only rain and high winds should keep you from enjoying the various redwood forests nearby. We decided not to visit the Trees of Mystery and its gondolas because of the fog -- often the marine layer simply doesn't burn off. I was hoping to have photos with other than white or gray skies and had to bide my time to get them.
The tourist attractions, as plentiful as they are, will be inundated by visitors starting around memorial Day and continuing through Labor Day. We chose the first week in May to avoid the crowds, but even then you could see the coming torrent beginning.
Even with the downsides and lack of amenities, I would highly recommend Klamath River RV Park for its proximity to some of the best sightseeing you can ever ask for. Words alone are just not adequate to describe the giant redwoods, the tallest and oldest trees on the country and some as tall as 35-story buildings. Come camp here and be prepared to be amazed all around you.
Below is a 360-degree view of one spot in the middle of the Jedediah Smith State Park near Crescent City, CA. Here we found an absolutely beautiful forest of giant redwoods. Notice that the some of the trunks are wider than the road?
Address: 33655 Geysers Rd, Cloverdale, CA 95425
Phone: (707) 894-3184
# of sites: 125
Full hookup price: From $68/night
Open: Year round
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Warnings: No sewer hookups!
In the middle of Northern California's heralded wine country, the Russian River RV Campground is snuggled 6 miles from Cloverdale off Highway 101 and 25 miles from the nearest real shopping in Healdsburg. Its namesake is nearby, though mostly a creek this time of year.
The aforementioned wine country is the biggest draw to this campground, though its relative proximity to the Pacific coastline, Monterrey, Big Sur, redwood forests and San Francisco must also be considered huge positives. We enjoyed a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from just north of San Francisco up to Monterrey and were treated to fabulous ocean views from both sea level, where you can watch waves crashing onto jagged rocks up close, to nearly 1,000 in elevation, giving us a bird's eye view of the coastline in both directions.
The park itself has little else going for it, but it was clean, provided a shady canopy of trees and the staff was very friendly. There were nice green views from each of our windows as well. If you like walking taking your dog out, you'll get plenty of exercise, since the resort is on several levels of elevation and each camping section on a slight incline.
There was much to dislike here. The park must have been built in the 1960's when the largest trailers on the road were only 24' long. The sites are tight, with practically no room for the park-supplied picnic tables, which have to be moved even to pull in, let alone mats and lawn chairs. I had parked my truck across the front of my site, barely off the road and stretching into the site in front of and behind me. A Class A motorhome trying to straighten out in one of the few pull-through sites backed into it, and my first thought was, why are you bringing that large of an RV into this park?
The biggest pain was that there are no sewer hookups. When I called Thousand Trails to ask how we can find out in the future whether a park has sewer hookups, I was told they all do in their system. Wrong. For $25-$35 a honey wagon can be scheduled to empty your tanks on Tuesdays or Fridays.
Laundry consists of a single washer and one dryer at each of the five restroom buildings scattered around the resort. Since there were about 40 people waiting for each, getting laundry done was a game of stamina and attrition. Speaking of restrooms, the odor in each was a definite deterrent to using them, but the lack of sewer connection made it necessary. By the way, the cabins had sewer hookups, so what the heck?
Overall this park is not dog friendly. Though they do have waste bag kiosks at the restrooms and a few other locations, but there is no fenced dog run and thorns and stickers in nearly every patch of grass.
We will not be returning to Russian River RV Campground. Even with its wine country location, there are just not enough positives to overcome the downsides. If you must camp in this area, we recommend you choose another resort.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 7 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.