High Style Glamping at Yosemite National Park

Photo:flipkey

For some, spending time in the outdoors is about getting back to basics. It's about setting up your own tent and driving those stakes into the cold, hard ground with your own hammer. It's about unrolling your own sleeping bag, and hearing the gentle rustling of nighttime critters.

For others, however, time spent outdoors like this is a form of torture. Which is why "glamping" was created.

"Glamping" is one of those made-up combination words, in this case standing for "glamorous camping." It means being out in nature, but doing so without any of the "bad" things about it. Running water is a must, as are hot showers. TVs need to be present too. And if you're going to do it, well, you might as well do it in style. Which is why this list by TravelPulse of the most "over-the-top" home rentals at National Parks is required reading for any glamper.

For our California-based glampers, the one they have listed for Yosemite is a doozy:

There are four bedrooms, four baths, and accommodations for up to 14 people at any one time. Whirlpool tubs, gas fireplaces, flat screen TV's, not to mention handcrafted log ceilings, a log staircase, and carved animals will get you in the mood for the wilderness.

Also fun: It has a pool table. It's located six miles inside of Yosemite, allowing you to scoff at all of those commoners sleeping outside of the National Park. But folks, this cabin is not cheap: The whole thing's gonna run you between $1,036 and $1,480 a night depending on the season. And that's before your party decides on how much to spend on champagne and caviar arrangements.

Top 5 Old California Lighthouses

Up and down California are relics of our state's glorious past. State Parks, National Monuments, Old Californian Missions. But my own personal favorite look into the old methods of doing things are our state's historic lighthouses.

Here are five of my favorites that are still open for tours:

1. Point Pinos Lighthouse, Monterey: The oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast, keeping sailors out of harm's way since 1855. Tours are offered every Thursday through Monday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and only cost $2 for adults, free for kids.

2. Old Point Loma Lighthouse, San Diego: Constructed in 1855 as well, this lighthouse only remained in operation until 1891 due to fog and low clouds regularly obscuring the light. An old Fresnel lens still resides on site, and tours can be taken daily through the Cabrillo National Monument.

3. Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro: Constructed in 1874, this lighthouse sits on top of an old Italian Victorian home on the shores of the San Pedro harbor. Tours can be had every afternoon except Mondays and holidays.

4. Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, Mendocino: Since 1909, this magnificent wood house has been navigating ships safe passage. The site is open daily during the summer, on weekends for the rest of the year. It also occasionally hosts concerts and special tours of their historic 3rd order Fresnel lens.

5. Point Reyes Lighthouse, Point Reyes: At the westernmost point of Point Reyes sits this classic lighthouse from 1870. There are tours regularly, but it's worth calling ahead as it occasionally closes due to windy conditions. The pathway down to the lighthouse -- 308 steep stone steps -- is not for the meek.

Volunteers Renovate Historic Chinese Fishing Village

China Camp State Park in San Rafael is a portal into history. On the shores of the San Pablo Bay, it was settled in the 1880s by Chinese immigrants. The shrimp fishing village soon grew to nearly 500 residents, with three general stores, a marine supply store, and a barber shop. In addition to the historic buildings, the park also offers a campground, fifteen miles of hiking trails, and boat launch areas.

As is the case with any park, it needs consistent maintenance to make sure that the buildings don't topple over and that the trails don't become overgrown. While resident Frank Quan (a descendant of one of the original residents) does his best as the park's caretaker, he's also nearly 90 years old. Budget cuts to the state park program, meanwhile, have kept it from getting the attention it needs.

Luckily, there's the Park Champions Program. It's a group of volunteers that travel throughout California to assist in maintaining neglected parks by providing trail repair, removing invasive plant species, constructing bridges and fences, and restoring habitats. Last weekend, the group helped renovate the Bayview Trail portion of China Camp, working in two different shifts on Saturday.

If you want to help maintain more state parks, visit their website for more information about upcoming events.

Find Your New Favorite Park with FindYourPark.com

Ever sit and stare at the Netflix menu screen for hours and hours without ever selecting anything to watch? Well, that's a state called "decision paralysis," and it affects a whole lot more than just what movie or TV show you're going to watch before bed. It can also affect what cookies you buy, what beers you get at the microbrew, and what New Year's party you go to. And it's not just limited to indoor activities.

Due to the large amount of federal lands out there, it's kind of tough to decide which one you should go to visit. There's just too many! Luckily, a new program by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation called Find Your Park tries to help with your indecision by cataloguing over 450 public lands to help find the one that best suits for you.

Simply go to the website's homepage, click on "Find Yours" to take a quiz that will narrow down what park you should visit. If, say, you're into learning about history, culture, and you need something family friendly in California, the search engine will return a large number of National Parks, Monuments, and other public lands that fit the bill. (You can also search for a park that's closest to your location.) So, head on over to the site and start planning your summer trips.

Big Bear Lake Boat Ramps Open Early This Year

Despite the news coming on April 1st, it was no prank. One of the public launch ramps at Big Bear Lake, which has been closed for the winter, is now open for the 2015 season. This means that boat owners can head on over to The Carol Morrison East Launch Ramp and take the boat out onto the water. (The Duane Boywer West Launch Ramp, meanwhile, will remain closed until May 8th; both of the launch ramps will remain open throughout the fall.)

For those fishing fans among us, on top of that news is the announcement that the Big Bear Municipal Water District has planted nearly 1 million fingerling trout into the lake. The mass planting means that this is the most trout that Big Bear Lake has ever seen. While they're tiny now, trout will reach a full six to 12 inches within the next three months. There are also plans in place to toss in another two truckloads of 250,000 larger trout over the next two weeks. As BBMWD state in their press release:

This is great news for anglers because it should help increase the population for years to come.

If you're looking to fish, though, you'll have to contact the BBMWD and get yourself a license. However, they have announced two "open fishing" days this season (Saturday, July 4th and Saturday, September 5th) where folks can fish without licenses. For more information on rentals, lodging, or free fishing days, check out the official website.

Celebrate National Parks Week with Free Admission

Every year in April, the National Parks Service celebrates National Parks Week. For this year's celebration -- which runs from Saturday, April 18th through Sunday, April 26th -- 11 California parks will be free to enter on that first Saturday and Sunday as part of opening weekend festivities. The parks include:

- Cabrillo National Monument
- Death Valley National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Lava Beda National Monument
- Muir Woods National Monument
- Pinnacles National Park
- San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
- Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
- Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
- Yosemite National Park

(If you happen to be out of state, the entire list of participating parks around the country can be found here.)

On April 18th, many of the above parks are also participating in Junior Ranger Days, where youngsters will have a chance to learn more about the park and earn a Ranger badge.

For the adults, there is a huge schedule of presentations, commemorations, and demonstrations taking place throughout the parks in conjunction with National Parks Week. Scroll through the massive list to find the one most interesting to you, and plan yourself a day out in America's Best Idea.

Hiker Takes 2,600 Selfies Along the Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail, from the southern point on the Mexico border, to the northern-most point on the Canadian border, runs approximately 2,660 miles. The range in elevation on the hike goes from sea level to a peak of 13,153 feet at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevada. Walking the entire whole journey takes hikers through 25 national forests and seven National Parks. The whole thing takes roughly six to eight months to complete. If one is doing the hike solo, it's a whole lot of time to spend with oneself.

Hiking enthusiast Andy Davidhazy decided to break up the time a bit by pausing, posing, and taking a photo of himself at every mile. And as he wrote on his blog, this habit had a profound effect on his journey:

The process of stopping to take a picture every mile had a big impact on the actual experience of doing the hike. I had to be well-aware of where I was at all times, which was quite distracting in that it took me out of the moment and made it difficult to maintain good momentum. Though I suppose it was nice to have something to occupy my thoughts with as well.

After finishing the trail, Davidhazy sat himself down at his editing bay for about 200 hours, and turned the 2,660 photos into a time-lapse video. Here it is:

Cars Allowed on Griffith Park Road for Feasibility Study

For the first time in 20 years, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks' opened 1.1 miles of Mount Hollywood Drive in Griffith Park to passenger vehicles on March 20 to accommodate the park's growing number of visitors.

To increase traffic flow and improve safety conditions, cars are now only allowed to park on one side of Western Canyon. The overflow has to go somewhere and for the next three weeks, it will be along Mount Hollywood Drive, which will be open to motorized traffic until April 12.

The trial period is scheduled to run both during Spring Break and the Easter weekend holiday which is when the park typically sees its heaviest use. However, the Greek Theatre's 2015 season begins April 24, and is likely to compound the traffic problem, which has now impacted nearly every area of Griffith Park.

The good news is that tourism in Los Angeles is up, and Griffith Park -- the nation's largest city park with urban wilderness -- is more popular than ever. Locals, Southern California daytrippers, and tourists are flocking there in record numbers.

The bad news is that all this popularity is causing massive traffic jams on surrounding streets, clogging up Griffith Park's roadways and parking areas, and choking its visitors with the fumes from thousands of idling cars waiting for a spot. According to the park's traffic counters, 6500 vehicles entered the park on a Saturday alone -- just through Vermont Canyon Drive.

Yosemite's Glacier Point Road Open Early This Year

In a lot of ways, March feels like the longest month. The cold of winter has mellowed out and is in the rear view, but spring hasn't completely taken over the landscape yet. It's 31 days of aching anticipation, and we try our best to pass the time. If you're a baseball fan, this means checking in with your favorite team's spring training news, crossing your fingers that none of your favorite players get hurt. If you're a fan of the outdoors, this means checking in with the Yosemite National Park website, crossing your fingers that the park roads will open up earlier than usual this year.

See, some roads at Yosemite (including Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road) are shut down for the winter, closing off some access to the park. The roads usually close in mid-November, only opening back up when the snow melts enough for the plows to get through, generally sometime in May. Well, Yosemite fans, I've got some news for you: Glacier Point Road is currently open.

The park allowed cars back on the road on Saturday, March 29th, making it the earliest road opening since 1995. Visitors are still urged to practice caution while driving as wildlife may be present. Meanwhile Tioga Road, which runs east and west through most of the park, remains closed for now, with no official estimates for when it will re-open. Stay tuned to the website for more details. You can also call (209) 372-0200 for up-to-date road and weather information.

Celebrate Earth Day By Cleaning Up a State Park

On Saturday, April 18th, the California State Parks Foundation, in conjunction with Pacific Gas & Electric, holds their 17th annual "Earth Day Restoration and Clean-Up Day." This year, 27 different State Parks will participate in the program, with each of the areas receiving a small bit of polishing and slight makeover by gracious volunteers.

In the L.A. area alone, there are five parks in need of volunteers. They are (1) Malibu Creek State Park, (2) Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, (3) Crystal Cove State Park, (4) Chino Hills State Park, and (5) San Onofre State Beach.

Each park has their own check-list of what they hope to accomplish that day, depending on the number of volunteers they get at each location. (Chino Hills, for instance, is in need of some new cable fencing, as well as a better delineated trail, while San Onofre needs more native plants and outdoors speakers and lights.)

For those who use the parks throughout the year, this is a perfect chance to give back some of your time and make the parks more enjoyable for future treks through nature. It's also not a bad excuse to head up or down the coast and clean up a park as part of a weekend road trip, as participating locations stretch as far north as the Oregon border, and as south as San Diego.

For more information, head on over to the CalParks website, where you can sign up to volunteer.