I mentioned last week that we were on a mini vacation. We worked with KOA to go camping at Lake Isabella and it was such an incredible couple of days.
People constantly ask us questions about camping. How to pack. How to reserve a site. How to keep little kids happy on the road. Honestly, there as many styles of camping as there are people who go. It's important not to get hung up on the right way to do things at the expense of learning your way of doing things. Start small with day hikes and easy trips, tweaking and adding gear until you find what works for you.
For our recent trip camping at Lake Isabella a few hours drive from us in Southern California, this is what worked best for our family.
Trailer Camping at Lake Isabella
We use a military trailer with a rooftop tent because it serves our big crew and variety of adventures well. With young kids it's easy for us to head to a KOA, pop up the room and enjoy the amenities. While we often boondock far away from civilization, camping at Lake Isabella was a nice low-key experience for us as we try to get back into the swing of things with the new baby. There were community bathrooms, showers and food easily at-hand in case we started feeling overwhelmed with all three boys.
I've talked a bit about our love for KOA; they offer sites for all sorts of campers from beginners to lifelong enthusiasts. They have primitive tent sites, RV hookups, pre-setup glamping spots, one-room buildings and deluxe cabins with bathrooms and kitchens and TVs. Some even have trailers and teepee sites you can rent out. This was one of the nicest ones we've been to, with all sorts of adorable Western-themed decorations all over the place.
Camping at Lake Isabella isn't roughing it, my any means. I needed comfort for one of our first trips out with the new baby. There was WiFi, a pool, a convenience store, play area, games, even a little restaurant. Some Boy, now 4 years old, is rapidly becoming social. He kept chasing the other kids around the property yelling, “Hi! Are you on a bike? Are you camping? I'm camping! I'm making hot dogs.” He cracks me up with his endless narration of any scenario we're in. Four-year-olds are chatty as heck.
The kids' favorite amenity was the splash pad, of course!
I liked that there was a huge open space behind the KOA for exploring as well as a dog run. You can see our review on the Trekaroo site for a more in-depth explanation of the site amenities (it includes some recommendations of tasty spots to eat nearby, too!).
It's important to Nate to be able to take the dogs along as often as possible. Early on in our relationship I remember having a discussion where we listed some of the things that were priorities for us in life. I wanted to travel often. He wanted to have a family dog, just like when he was a kid. We both got our wishes! Having Kraken and Bjorne along as we see the west coast is really special. We're taking a bit more of our home life with us, which helps keep the boys feeling confident and secure in new situations. It's all part of creating a personal experience that's unique to our family.
Exploring the water of Lake Isabella was a big highlight for me. We live near the coast and go to the beach often, but the calm and clear surface of a still shore made for easier shell discoveries and worry-free splashing. The lake was pretty low as California has been experiencing a severe drought, but the boys had a blast wading around looking for fish. We spotted a few campers along the shoreline who claimed to be getting some sizable trout.
The town offered up some quaint sights like this mini ghost town museum and a popular Audubon preserve. The boys are reaching the age where they're starting to understand things like this. “Spooky! It's spooky!” they exclaim.
We took the chance to drive about an hour up the mountain to see the Trail of 100 Giants. The massive sequoias were utterly breathtaking. Sidekick, my sensitive little 2-year-old, was terrified of them. They're so huge and old and craggly, I think he couldn't even identify them as trees. He was straight-up convinced that they were going to attack him.
If you go camping at Lake Isabella, be sure to leave time to make the side trip. It's well worth the steep climb. This place seriously looks like Narnia.
Nate got some incredible shots that we'll be sharing in a video soon. His drone signal unfortunately got crossed with another videographer about fifty yards away and our poor little Phantom lost control and came crashing out of the sky.
It made for an interesting opportunity to meet our fellow flyers, though. It seems we always encounter the coolest people when things go wrong on our journeys. Stranded travelers whose cars we help recover, well-packed trail mates who lend us sunscreen, campsite neighbors we have a drink with when they ask for helping lighting a fire. It never ends.
The drone loss was well worth it, though, for the chance to make priceless memories with our little boys camping at Lake Isabella.
Do you know of any hidden California gems we should explore?