South to California

morning sunlight at the KOA Hitch Itch.  Full timers get it, folks with an RV parked in the shed get it too. The past couple of weeks have been focused on work and home chores, and we both knew we wanted to get in another local camping trip before we head for Colorado at the end of the month.  Medicine Lake comes to mind first, a favorite high mountain destination, but we thought there might still be snow there this early.  Then fate stepped in with an invitation to a retirement party in Davis, California for a colleague.  We thought about it a bit and finally came up with a plan.  Oroville!
site 34 at the Feather Falls KOA There is a big lake there, nice campgrounds, my best friend and her husband are right there, and it is just a two hour drive to Davis so I could go to the party.  Calling the State Recreation Area phone number for reservations, we were shocked to find that electric hookup sites (no sewer) at the Bidwell Canyon Campground cost $45.00, plus the reservation fee.  Geez.  California parks are too dang expensive.  So I looked around a bit and came up with the KOA RV Park that is adjacent to the Feather Falls Casino and for $37.00 got a nice site with full hookups, free WiFi, cable TV and a heated swimming pool.  Hmmm, not such a bad idea.  We figured that we could go to the lake for kayaking without paying that crazy price.
morning relaxation in the shade of the oak tree Sunday morning we decided to drive to Grants Pass to check out another possible MoHo property and then travel south on I-5, a route we rarely travel between Medford and Weed.  The day was gorgeous and cool, with a bit of cloud cover and the drive was perfect.  I always smile when bloggers post the photos of amazing Mt Shasta, and decided that I didn’t need to stop once again to take one more picture of “the mountain”. 
The trip was wonderful and as always it feels so freeing to be in the MoHo on the road.  I said to Mo, “It isn’t just going somewhere that I love, it is the movement, the feeling of being on the road, the scenery sliding by, the skies ever changing”.   I guess I like that hum and vibration somehow.  Sounds completely silly to me when I write it, and yet I do know the feeling.  Bet others do too.
When we arrived at the KOA we were pleasantly surprised, but not before a moment or two of confusion.  You see, there are two casinos in Oroville, and I thought we were somehow going to the one that is on the road to Maryruth’s house.  Instead, the GPS kept trying to send me south of town to a completely different area.  Turns out we really DID have the reservation south of town and not on Maryruth’s road at the Gold Country Casino. 
great idea, a holding pen for your dog while you swimOnce settled in, we discovered what I think is the best KOA we have ever seen.  I often avoid these parks because they seem expensive and crowded.  This one won a Presidents Award of some kind and I can see why.  The sites were absolutely, perfectly level concrete pads, surrounded by large lawns, with a wide parking area along the road in front of your site for the toad.  There were picnic tables and plenty of shade under our very own lovely oak tree.  There were even two dump outlets on the site, one in front and one in back which we so appreciated.  So many parks are set up for just 5th wheels and pickup trucks and the dump is completely out of reach of a motorhome.
The grounds were beautifully manicured, the swimming pool clean and heated, with an adjacent holding pen for your dog, the hot tub fresh and hot, and the clubhouse cool and roomy.  The store and office had a great supply of anything you might need.  With the KOA club card, which ended up paying for itself after all the freebies, got us 20 bucks in free casino money in addition to the 10 bucks we got with our site.  We were also informed that a simple phone call would bring the casino shuttle right to our camp site on demand.  Right to the site!  Ha! The funniest part of this story is that in the four days we were in Oroville, we never managed to get up to the casino and our coupons went unused.
thermolite forebay track 02 launch site at the ForeBay Aquatic Center new OrovilleOn Monday, we decided to explore the Thermolito  Forebay area, a part of the huge Oroville Dam complex of water management systems.  The forebay was a perfect place for kayaking since there are no motorized boats allowed.  It’s really nice not to have to compete with jet skiis and bit boat wakes and noise.  I really love the MotionX GPS app for my iPhone, mentioned by Rick recently, and have used it now for several kayak paddles.  It is fun to see just how fast we have paddled, how many miles we have covered and where we have been on the map.  It even links photos to the sites and then I can upload the track to Facebook or send it via email.  Just tickles me no end.  Of course, another quirk of GPS is the excellence of X and Y and the complete goofiness of the Z factor, elevation.  We discovered to our surprise that on our nice little lake the elevation changed by 30 feet while we were out there.  Too funny. 
sunny day at the Thermolito Forebay near OrovilleI have had a few questions from readers regarding how hard it is to get in and out of the kayak so I made a quick video of the process, just for laughs.  I am still trying to figure out how to get the video to embed without any luck, so may just add the YouTube URL in case you want to see it.  If I can do it, anyone can!


Maryruth and Gerald came out to our little shady campsite that evening and we all went up to the Feather Falls Brewery where we were able to use the other coupons that gave us a discount on food.  After dinner when we thought about playing the slots we all thought better of it and just went back to the campsite instead.  Tuesday was our day to visit at their home, to see all the beautiful garden work that Gerald has done, and enjoy some of Maryruth’s legendary cooking. 
Sue and Maryruth in Maryruth's lovely yardMaryruth and Gerald at home in Oroville Often Oroville can be unbearably hot, and just the week before we were there the temperatures were in the triple digits.  For us, instead, we had beautiful skies, not a speck of smog or haze, and temperatures in the mid to high 80’s.  Couldn’t have been more perfect. 
On Wednesday Maryruth took us out to her sister’s houseboat for an afternoon on the water with lots of good food and drink.  The shuttle picks up passengers at the marina and takes you right to your boat, and even let us bring the dog. We settled in with sunscreen, comfy chairs, and good conversation with a view of the water all around us. Abby and I both even managed a good swim.  Mo was a bit concerned about getting her back on the deck of the houseboat, but in nothing flat, with a little encouragement, Abby learned how to climb that ladder right back up on the boat.
DSC_0011DSC_0009 Thursday morning we decided to explore some other areas for kayaking, including the Afterbay and the Diversion Pool.  The big lake itself it fine for kayaking as well, but not nearly as interesting.  The last time we were there we encountered a lot of wind and boats, and there is a large area of houseboats near the launch that require navigating through before you get to some more open water. 
I left Mo in the shade of the oak tree mid morning to go meet my friends in Davis.  There are so many people that I know from California, and it was so good to see everyone.  Dean Burkett, who had a position in Chico like my position in Oroville had also come to detail and map for me while I was there and we developed a great friendship. 
the three suesIMG_2530 When I had my retirement party two years ago, Dean gave up a 22 year tradition of attending a rendezvous to come to my party instead. You can bet I wasn’t about to miss his retirement send off! I also got to spend quality time with the other two “Sue’s”. We are all a rather interesting phenomenon in California, all GS-12 managers, all in California, and all named Sue.  In a career choice that at one time didn’t have many women, this is particularly funny.  We called ourselves “the three Sues,” Sierra Sue (me), Coastal Sue in Arcata, and Valley Sue in Davis.  Plus we all have kayaks!  The three sues kayak trip is still in the works, but we keep talking about it. I still sometimes get emails meant for one of the other sue’s and they get mine.  It IS a funny thing.
very early morning light on the Feather River I stayed much to late and arrived back home to the KOA far too late for Mo and I to attempt to gamble away our coupons as originally planned.  Instead we got a few hours sleep before taking off the next morning by 6:30 AM.  After all, I had a quilt class in Merrill, at the Tater Patch and couldn’t miss it.  It was the final class in a group of three that I have attended.  We decided to leave early enough to take the back route home, via Highway 70 along the Feather River, north to Lake Almanor and Susanville, and then on to Merrill.  It was a gorgeous drive over a road I haven’t seen for more than 40 years and I loved every minute of it. 
We arrived in Merrill just a few minutes before my class started, unhooked the baby car so Mo could go on home, and I managed to finish the series without falling asleep at the machine.  Let me tell you I was one tired puppy when I pulled into the driveway in Rocky Point that evening, glad to be home and completely satisfied with what turned out to be a really great week.
Next up: an amazing kayak on Shoalwater Bay and camping at Eagle Ridge just ten miles from home!

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Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

10 thoughts on “South to California”

  1. “It isn’t just going somewhere that I love, it is the movement, the feeling of being on the road, the scenery sliding by, the skies ever changing”. Yep, sure know how you are feeling & what you are thinking alright:))

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  2. I am laughing here in the 90+ degree heat about your concern for snow “this early in the season”. Really ROTFL!!

    But you clearly picked a winner campground. I've never been to a KOA that was worth the $$ so am very glad to hear that they exist. I wonder if they publish a list of those award winners so I could look them up and plan a trip 'some day' to one.

    Given your luck with the weather there compared to the previous week it is probably really too bad you guys didn't hit the slots!

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  3. My eyes are so glued to the road that I'm driving in this rig that I don't feel liberated until after I arrive at a new location. 🙂 Now if I had a driver, I think I would feel that way…

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  4. I love the joy of moving down the road to new adventures. Of course, Jim is doing most of the driving so I really get to enjoy it. We avoid KOA's also. Glad to hear that you actually found one that was worth the money. But $45 for a state park????

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  5. It's fun to read about places we have been to. We went into Merrill to get groceries last week and I noticed the Quilt shop. Not being a quilter, I didn't go in.

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  6. We're usually too worried about not missing our turns to enjoy the trip too much.

    We can relate to hitch itch. Wish we were some place cooler than Florida. It looks like a wonderful place to be right now.

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  7. I was shocked to see the KOA was cheaper than the CA parks. Shame on CA! And to think CA claims their parks cost so much to run they are closing many of them. :c(

    Thanks for the video clip. We just got a Sea Eagle kayak and are wondering how much fun we'll have getting in and out of it. Hopefully, nobody videos us! It could be ugly… ;c)

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  8. You are so brave. You will never see a vidoe of me getting out of our Sea Eagle kayak. We love to paddle but exiting the kayak is not pretty.

    We love the movement too. Just remember …it's not the destination but the journey. Great post!

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