Wednesday, November 20, 2013

California Meteor Shower

Vermilion Resort
Originally uploaded by danamight

meteor showers and comets

Fair weather means anytime is a good time to watch the sky.

The high Sierra Nevada is the place to really enjoy the show in summer camping out, but winter means snow is likely and a cabin rental might be a better choice, or grab a guest room at a rustic lodge like this one photographed above.

Meteor showers are best viewed after 2AM, so you first need to decide if you are "a stay up late", or "wake up early" kinda person. Partying and drinking in the early evening means the excitement will be worn off and you will be dozing after midnight, missing the entire possibility of seeing any grazers. Taking a nap in the early afternoon before might help your odd sleep schedule adjust but be prepared to kick up the caffeine when you want to take in the awesome night views.

Mount Pinos and Mount Abel are both popular SoCal spots for annual star parties - tent campers and motorhomes alike. Palomar Mountain is another fine alpine destination. Most all desert parks are excellent sites to view the night skies with minimal moisture the stars appear super brilliant. Mojave Preserve, Red Rock, Death Valley, Anza Borrego, Mecca Box Canyon, Joshua Tree, the list is endless.

campers tips - 
look for open sky at camp spots, few trees
meadow side camp sites, ridge lines
bring a sturdy cot & blankets
use red lens on flashlights
low light campfire (coals, no flames)

cabin rental tips -
lake cabins have open sky views
bring snow chains for the tires
dress warm, bring jackets, hats, gloves
take your portable lounge chairs
remember snacks and hot drinks
compare local motel prices (some have cottages)

You might need to drive inland for clear night skies. Deserts are best.
way outta of the city destinations
Alpine locations are excellent spots for star gazing, if it's not snowing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Romantic California

Romance for Camping
Couple Vacations in California

Why not keep the passion alive all year long. Take solo weekends away from one another and also vacation as a couple. All local, outdoors and on a budget. Kick your creativity into high gear and plan something totally spontaneous: Get a cabin or condo on the slopes for a few days. Book a lake view suite at a small resort, read, relax and fish all day long. Walk in the forest, bring a picnic and lay out to stargaze at night. Travel locally to enhance your love life, snuggle up close to a cozy fireplace, with a good bottle of wine. Hike, bike and enjoy the outdoors.

Holiday season road trips & Valentine weekend ideas

Local small towns in California is what Total Escape is all about. We have only small, independent lodges, but focus more on bed & breakfast inns, camping sites and cabin rentals. Discover more, stay local, spend less and enjoy your honey pie more often.

top romantic places in California

Big Sur
Bodega Bay
Borrego Springs
Camp Nelson
Crescent City
Death Valley
El Granada
Hope Valley
Huntington Lake
Joshua Tree
June Lake
Kings Canyon
La Jolla
La Porte
Laguna Beach
Lake Almanor
Lake Tahoe
Los Alamos
Los Olivos
Morro Bay
Muir Beach
Nevada City
Pacific Grove
Palm Springs
Panamint Springs
San Juan Bautista
Shelters Cove
Twain Harte
Twin Lakes
Yosemite Valley 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sardine Lake

Lake Sardine California

upper sardine, lower sardine lakes

One of the best camping lakes in California. Any lake near Gold Lake is prime pickens. This picturesque lake called Sardine Lake, or Sardine Lakes, is located within the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, north of Gold Country Highway 49 next to the peaks of Sierra Buttes and in between Tahoe National Forest and Plumas National Forest.

A two tiered water storage in granite basin bowls, with the larger upper lake situated up above at the base of the mighty granite spires of the Sierra Buttes. Very impressive views all around the Gold Lake highway.

Sardine Lake Campground, elevation 5,800'
developed NFS campground near lower lake w/ fee, 29 camp sites, piped water, vault toilets. 530-862-1368 Tahoe National Forest

nearest town: Sierra City California, on Historic Hwy 4. Frasier Falls, Gold Lake, Long Lake Trail, and Sierra Buttes are just a few of the area attractions.

more on Sardine Lake

Lake fishing, camping and hiking are the main recreation in warmer months. Snowmobiling is popular around here in deep snow winter conditions.

Sardine Lake Resort and Cabins is the only business on Sardine Lake. It is one of many small, independently owned rustic resorts in the Lakes Basin area. No chain hotels near here!

View Larger Map

2013 NEWS: sardine industry collapse in Canada

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Dirt Biking Trails

California has the most amazing and diverse terrain you can imagine. Ancient lava beds to dense forests, giant boulder rock outcroppings to sand dunes. Off road motorcycles, otherwise known as 'dirt bikes' can find riding trails near home or across the state, in far away locations.

dirt bike routes
dirt bike camping
dirt bike trails

Dirt biking off road trails can be found outside of nearly any urban city in California. In National Forests, on BLM lands, all across the many deserts and in a good portion of the mountains. The Sierra Nevada mountains located in the middle of the state has many high elevation OHV routes to small alpine lakes and primitive camp sites. SoCal has the winter prime-time desert warmth, Central Cal has coastal dunes, steep canyons, and rugged foothills, plus the giant Mojave desert which stretches from Joshua Tree area to Vegas. NorCal has the endless forests, solitude and rivers you seek.

SoCal Off Road Areas

Imperial Sand Dunes
Heber Dunes SVRA
Plaster City
Superstition Mountain
Glamis Desert
Devil’s Canyon BLM
Lark Canyon OHV
Mecca Box Canyon BLM
Anza Borrego Desert
Ocotillo Wells
Idyllwild OHV Trails
Big Bear Trails
San Bernardino National Forest
Juniper Flats 
Johnson Valley OHV
Barstow BLM
Angeles National Forest
Los Padres National Forest

Mojave Dirt Bike Trails

Mojave Trail
Mojave Desert BLM
El Mirage
Barstow Trails
Dumont Dunes 
Randsburg Ghost Town
Rasor OHV
Ord Mountain
Stoddard Valley OHV
Trona Pinnacles
Panamint Valley
Death Valley National Park
Dove Springs OHV
Jawbone Canyon

Central California Routes

Carnegie SVRA Alameda
Clay Pit SVRA Oroville
Hungry Valley Gorman
Hollister Hills 
Oceano Dunes Pismo
Prairie City Sacramento
Rock Front Ranch
Quatal Canyon Cuyama

Sierra Nevada OHV Trails

Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway
Kern Plateau & Kern River
Kennedy Meadows
Monache Meadows
Kern River BLM
Keysville - Kernville
Sequoia National Forest
Bishop Back Roads
The Buttermilks
Eastern Sierra Bishop BLM
Mammoth Lakes Trails
Sonora Pass Stanislaus NF
Niagra OHV
Eldorado National Forest
Rubicon Trail

NorCal Off-Road OHV Areas

Redding Chappie Shasta OHV
Cow Mountain Mendocino
Ukiah California
Samoa Dunes Humboldt
Lassen National Forest
Fort Sage Susanville

Modoc National Forest
Alturas California

Friday, November 8, 2013

Campsites in Southern California

lake cachuma camping

Camping sites in Southern California

While camping in California is an amazing experience overall with thousands of picture perfect settings to pitch your tent, camping in SoCal definitely has it's limitations. The primary reasons are....

Camping in SoCal is -

1. crowded (half the population is located in the lower third of the state)
2. dry terrain (minimal rivers, dry seasonal streams, few waterfalls)
3. wildfire prone (with average rainfall of only 10")
4. costly (all developed campgrounds charge fees)
5. not secluded (with suburbia spread into foothills, busy roads nearby)

With the California population nearing 40 million, you will need to do your research in order to find a good, secluded, scenic camping area.

Coastal camp sites are the most popular on the list and you should seek advanced reservation w/ the State Park system. City camping is mostly RV parks and a few county parks. Beyond the neighborhoods, countryside camping in the coastal foothills are limited to a few county parks and State Parks. All these areas mentioned above are also heavily populated, suburban sprawl and highway dense.

So as you can see, this leaves us with the mountains and the deserts. These are the two regions to concentrate your outdoor vacation searches for SoCal. Below are some of Total Escape favorite destinations for camping in the lower portion of the state. Some may be developed campgrounds with fees, some are primitive camps without fees and a few are free camping area.

agua dulce meadow camp, laguna mountains


The snow is minimal, water is scarce, wildfire danger is high, so campfires are usually limited to developed campgrounds only. Mountain locations in southern California range in elevation from 3000' above sea level to towering 11,500' at San Gorgonio Peak, which is the tallest peak in the region.


best desert camping SocalVast miles of tree-less lands in eastern California are considered desert terrain, which sees less than 10 inches of precipitation per year. High deserts (over 2000' elevation) as well as low desserts (under 1000' elevation) with awesome geological formations, open sandy washes, mud caves, slot canyons, indian petroglyphs, giant boulders and wildflowers are just a few of the sites to be seen. Snow is possible in California deserts starting around 4000' elevation. Off road vehicles, 4x4, quad, dirt bike, ATV riding spots are commonly referred to as OHV (off highway vehicle) use areas are plentiful in desert regions.

If you seek free tent camping, private creeks, plenty water, seclusion on dirt back roads with spectacular scenery, alpine lakes with granite mountain peaks - then you must drive north several hours from Southern California - to reach the much more desirable Sierra Nevada range or NorCal mountains.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

RoadTrip Planner

NEW SEARCH California

road trip planner

Like cooking and gardening, travel and trip planning is an art form unto itself. Local vacations should be worry free and easy, close to home, with plenty of time for relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. Spend some time dreaming, browsing online and planning (well in advance). Laying down a basic itinerary ahead of time will help so you can see more sights - and stress less. is an invaluable tool for planning local road trips, getting an overview, plus an idea of travel time, mileage and distance.

Total Escape is now 17 years old and founder DanaMite is celebrating this milestone by cleaning house, redesigning some areas and moving servers. So, this was perfect time to redo the SEARCH tool, aka search box, search Total Escape featured at the top of every page.

Please take in mind that there are two different sites that make up Total Escape (not including the blogspot blog, flickr photos or any social media pages).

The main content site featuring 4000+ pages of California Destinations - small towns, mountain lakes, parks and forests, lodges, camping, all outdoor recreation, guides, gear, real photos of real places.

This is the map store site which DanaMite sells topo maps in and around California - so you can get outta the city limits, on the back roads and peacefully lost at the creek.

It is also a place to purchase advertising on the Total Escape web site.

The Total Escape main header has a brand new Google powered search tool in the navigation (top right), which means it is super thorough, accurate results, and stylish, but you're gonna have to live with the ads. This spot will search both the content site and the map products.

Topographic map store has a separate search text box for "Search entire store here…" (upper right) that searches only the products inside the store.

If you are looking for "SoCal desert camping", "rock petroglyphs" or "Mojave ghost towns" the map store will show you products / printed maps only - NOT photos and info on the secret fishing hole. You need to dig deep into the main site for that juicy info. Luckily we just updated the ways to search Total Escape.

"Search all of Total Escape Adventures" is now at the very bottom of all the store pages, so you can search Total Escape with ease.

Enjoy planning your road trip:
use Total Escape for cheap weekends outdoors!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Organic California

organic cali

Organic search results proves well for Total Escape data. (Google Analytics 2008)

If you are actually searching for prime Organic finds inside California - organic cafes, organic wineries, organic farms, organic bnbs, organic orchards, organic food seeds, farm stands, fine dining restaurants... you will find organic small businesses listed on the A to Z town pages under local links section.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pismo Beach Camping

Pismo Beach California is the big beach oriented tourist destination along the Central Coast of California & just south of San Luis Obispo. Ocean front sand dunes is the primary draw here at Pismo.

The Oceano State Vehicular Recreation Area (aka Pismo Dunes) is a seaside haven for off-roaders wanting cooler temps & coastal breezes. This off road park is actually located between Grover Beach and the town of Oceano, miles south of Pismo Pier. You can actually drive your vehicle on the beach sand & set up camp on the shore.

Pismo also has a State Park Beach Campground as well & that is more suited for RVs, family camping & tent camping. Downtown Pismo has several private RV parks, which are walking distance from the popular pier and  many restaurants. Oceano has a county run campground near a lagoon and close to the beach too.
Inland from Grover Beach is Arroyo Grande Lake Lopez, for those wishing to camp in a mountain setting with a fresh water reservoir. Up the coastline, Avila Beach has prime RV camp sites that can be reserved, as well as hot springs camping near the freeway, Hwy 101. Up and around the peninsula is the awesome Montana de Oro State Park, where you can camp in a shady canyon next to a rocky cove & sand dunes. This area is super popular with mountain bikers & hikers alike. It is locate next to Morro Bay State Park and Campground, which is next to a large wetlands lagoon.

towns listed from south to north:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Site Down for Repairs

The Total Escape web site is celebrating 17 years online next month, which means DanaMite has a ton of data. 4000+ independent lodges, 800+ towns, 100+ forests and parks, 2 decades worth of photos and graphics, and a 600+ blog posts, just to name a small sampling. This is the big week: Time to clean up and move servers.

will be offline Monday and possibly Tuesday
(Sept 16th & 17th) 

the map store is still up and functioning,
so look for a new map to plan your autumn road trip

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Trinity Alps Wilderness Topo Map

Trinity Wilderness Map 

new edition 2013 

After 2 years outta stock status the Trinity Alps Wilderness Map is finally back in stock at Total Escape. USDA recently updated, reprinted and released this long-waited NorCal title and we expect it to be a great seller (just like the last version was).

Backpacking, day hiking, horseback, high elevation camping - all campgrounds, roads, trails, waterfalls, lakes, mountain peaks and trailheads.

Trinity River, Salmon River, Klamath River, Highway 96, Highway 3, Forks of the Salmon. Surrounded by Six Rivers National Forest and Trinity National Forest, both west of Interstate 5 in Northern California.

nearby towns include - 

Big Foot in Happy Camp, CA

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hume Lake & 2 National Parks

If you are searching for an alpine lake near a National Park to visit - that is driving distance from Southern California, the dual region of Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park are easy access. These 2 popular parks are located in the southern most sections of the Sierra Nevada. Hume Lake is located in between both of these parks & offers a variety of camping options - cabins, campgrounds, primitive camping, backpacking and horse packs.

Giant Sequoia groves are to the south via Highway 198, which leads down the hill to Mineral King Road & the riverside village of Three Rivers.

Big Meadows Road #14S11 is a prime choice for folks who want to camp away from the National Parks, but still be within driving distance. The further back on this narrow road you drive, the better it gets. The wilderness boundary is 12 miles back, becoming dirt roads forking off in many directions. Great horse camping near a big meadow too. Buck Rock Fire Lookout is worth a hike up with spectacular views over the whole area.

Hume Lake offers kayak rentals, sail boats, fishing & swimming, plus it's centrally located between these popular destinations. Several small campgrounds are nearby on back roads, as well as the busy lake Campgrounds. Tourists season hear is all summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Be prepared to picnic on the shady shores or spend a whole day enjoying this Sierra gem of a lake.


Numerous Sequoia groves line the ridge on General's Highway 190, Crystal Cave, Homers Nose, and Mineral King


Hume Lake is on the west side of Kings Canyon. Impressive, deep, granite gorge of Kings Canyon is to the north, with places like Boyden Cavern & Roaring River Falls. You could easily spend a week exploring this canyon.

Hiking trailheads and dispersed camping options.

Horse Corral Meadows - near Wilderness trailheads

Crystal Cave offers daily tours, South end of Sequoia NP