Hiking and Driving

The middle of February finds me at Anza-Borrego State Park in southern California boondocking with several other Xscapers who are still in the area after the Annual Bash in Quartzsite last month.

Feb 14, Wednesday

It’s been far too long since my last good hike! In the afternoon, a group of us pile into vehicles and head east on S22 to what on Google Maps has labeled Calcite Mine Slot Canyon Trailhead.

There I park Bertha just off the road. You can start the hike right from there, but if you have a 4×4 vehicle, you can drive down the dirt road and get closer to the slot canyon. One of our number has such a vehicle. We overshoot the slot canyon and end up on top of a plateau overlooking the badlands first, whoops!

A bunch of goofballs

But the view from up here is pretty great. It’s a good day for hiking, not as hot as it has been and some clouds are moving in from the west which keeps the worst of the sun off us.

Eventually we find the right place to enter the canyon and climb down into it.

The first part of the canyon is more open with occasional shrubs. We all hike at different paces, I’m farther in the back with the other picture-takers. We’ve all been camping together for quite a while now and the conversation flows easily.

There’s actually two slot canyon sections on this trail. The first is smooth and has several little winding twists in it. There are a couple spots where it’s so narrow at the bottom you have to be very careful where you place your feet.

The second is taller/deeper and more visually impressive. I visited a different slot canyon in Anza-Borrego last year and I’d say this one is prettier than that one, and longer too.

All in all, a fun outing!

Feb 20, Tuesday

Today, I drove through Los Angeles.

Doesn’t sound very fun, right? You’d be correct, it wasn’t.

From Anza-Borrego, Joni, Marshall, Kelly, Michael, and I take off in the morning and go up 86 to Indio. From there we get on I10 going west.

The drive is a blur. From maps it looks like we probably stayed on I10 all the way to Santa Monica, I was just doing what GPS was telling me to do while navigating big city traffic. There were accidents and thus slow downs. I lost some rubber when a car pulled in front of me then stopped suddenly. But, all five of us make it to our destination in one piece – kind of a miracle I reckon.

If you can avoid taking your RV through LA, do so. I’ve driven through several big cities with the trailer and I’d rate this the worst experience, not only was it busy but it was such a long stretch of busy. Look at a map and you’ll see the urban sprawl starts long before Los Angeles proper. If you do need to drive through a large city, Sunday is really the day to do it (I had a rather pleasant drive taking Cas through the heart of Atlanta on a Sunday once).

Our destination? The parking lot of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, within walking distance of the beach. There’s a ticket dispenser to get in, it costs $14 to park there overnight (the daily max), and that’s per spot, so for Bertha and Cas we’re talking $28 to stay in a parking lot.

But I mean, a parking lot where you can walk to Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park.

There are several other RVs already there when we arrive. Marshall had called the Civic Center ahead of time and confirmed that it was legal to park an RV there overnight. We settle in together at the back of the lot with the other RVs, I’m the last to arrive and the sun has already gone down. We’re all bundled up – a front has come through and it’s unusually cold for the area.

We walk downtown. It’s something of a culture shock after having been in the sparsely populated desert for so long. We pick Thai Dishes on Broadway to eat at. Everyone enjoys what they get. I get the Orange Chicken which isn’t Thai food, but it’s what I was in the mood for.

Then we walk to the Pier. Given that it’s late on a weekday night and cold to boot, there’s hardly anyone here. Most of Pacific Park is closed, but the iconic ferris wheel is open. The signs and display for the end of Route 66 are also pretty cool.

We’re all worn out from the drive and don’t stay out late. There’s some sort of sporting event going on next door and still plenty of cars driving around, but I have no problem falling asleep.

Feb 21, Wednesday

Joni and I sleep through the night. Michael, Kelly, and Marshall on the other hand get a knock on the door at 5 am from the police.

They claim it’s legal to park an RV here overnight, but not to occupy it from the hours of 2-6 am. Unlike other parts of the city that are covered in signage saying no parking from 2-6 am, there is absolutely nothing like that posted in our lot – and remember Marshall had called and confirmed it was okay.

The police don’t knock on everyone’s door, and they don’t kick anyone out. Were they just bored and decided to pester us for something to do? Do they have a legitimate claim? It’s hard to say. Just know that if you decide to overnight in this lot, you may get the knock. Kelly makes a joke that if we stay here again in the future we just need to go out partying from midnight to six and then sleep during the day.

Joni, Marshall and I have breakfast at nearby Nico’s Tacos (good), then go back to downtown Santa Monica for a bit to see it in daylight. We finally pull out around noon, the attendant at the gate takes my $28 without comment.

It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Highway 1 from the parking lot. Also called the Pacific Coast Highway, a lot of RVers say good things about this drive. It’s scenic for sure, with the cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. It’s also good for ogling fancy beach houses. But for the full-timer on a budget it is lacking one important thing: cheap camping. We won’t be here long, but the brief break from the desert is nice.

We drive almost 30 miles on hwy 1 to Point Mugu State Park, which is technically in Malibu. Sycamore Canyon Campground just across the road from the beach and day-use area costs $45 a night… that’s without hookups and during the off-season. We’re only staying one night.

The pads are concrete squares, max length for a motorhome or trailer is 31′. Since it’s a square, trailers are pretty much required to unhitch and park beside the trailer. We get around that by having those of us with trailers (Kelly, Marshall, and I) sprawled across three consecutive sites. There are pay showers, water spigots, and a dump station on site.

That’s the shower house over the bridge

It is a pretty area. The campground is, as the name suggests, in a canyon among large trees that I’m guessing are Sycamores.

But the day use area on the ocean, that’s the real reason to be here!

Related Links:

EDIT 3/1: For those of you commenting about how LA is cracking down on vehicle dwelling, the official page explaining the code and where it is and isn’t okay to overnight on the streets: https://www.lacity.org/for-residents/popular-services/comprehensive-homeless-strategy-implementation/los-angeles-municipal

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Becky on March 2, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    You’re welcome Hoot. I haven’t yet, someday! I do know there’s a section in Big Sur that is still closed due to mudslides, hopefully by the time you plan to drive it that’ll be cleared up.

  2. Hoot on March 2, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Thank you, Becky, for all the detailed info. I want to drive the Pacific Coast Hwy at some point. And, with your info, I can be better prepared. At any time on your travels have you driven farther north on the PCH? Thank you.

  3. Wobblycat on February 28, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    I’m glad we were able to share the slot canyon hike with you Becky! It was my first time seeing something like this and it was so cool. Also, thanks for ferrying Margot and I to/from camp.

    • Becky on March 1, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      Yes I’m so glad we had the chance to meet and do that hike together! Thanks for the photos, you’re welcome, and I hope things are going well up in your neck of the woods.

  4. Clare Sente on February 28, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    What great pictures and blog Becky. Looks like a great group to travel with. I hope one day to find a fun tribe to do the same in my Casita (Amelia). April will be my first camping trip with her in the Midwest.

    I have a question. Do you have a regular toilet in Cas or did you switch out to a composting toilet for Boondocking?
    Clare Sente recently posted..THERE ARE NOMy Profile

  5. Dawn in Michigan on February 28, 2018 at 4:35 pm

    Loved the Santa Monica pier when we were there a couple years ago…would have definitely loved to hike that slot canyon. Have never done that in any canyon, but would love to some day.

  6. Pamelab on February 28, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Hi, Becky –
    A few years ago, I took my granddaughter to San Diego and Santa Monica. Not in a trailer, but we enjoyed the area very much. Third Street Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier were favorites as well as the San Diego Zoo.
    Sounds like you had a fun time. I hope I have a chance to hike a slot canyon on of these days.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Becky on March 1, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      It is a pretty area, I visited the zoo (the safari park actually) last time I visited.

      Slot canyons are great fun, I hope you don’t have to wait long to hike one!

  7. Michael on February 28, 2018 at 8:48 am

    Allowing RV parking in a garage is not the same as allowing occupying. L A passed these laws to crack down on the numbers of folks living in RV’s on city streets and the ensuing mess they left in front of peoples homes. The few spoiling it for the rest of us. The interesting point is they allow the tent cities to take over parks and other public areas without much intervention. I have experienced horn honking at all hours when parked overnight in Walmart lots. There seems to be some underlying resentment for the RV lifestyle in certain quarters in our culture.
    Slot canyons are some of the most fun and interesting areas to hike, I do everyone I can. The ocean is almost overwhelming after long months, even years inland. Thanks Becky

  8. Syl Jones on February 28, 2018 at 4:27 am

    Perhaps the knock came because they were snoring loudly.
    That is a screwy regulation. They give permission but still harass folks. Hmmm…
    Beautiful hiking pictures. Fun!
    Thank you.

  9. Phil Roll on February 28, 2018 at 2:53 am

    Los Angeles is not RV friendly at all. They have a city wide ordnance: No vehicle is to be “occupied” between 2 and 6 am. They’re targeting the homeless population.

    • Becky on March 1, 2018 at 2:49 pm

      Actually, one of the people I hiked the slot canyon with lives in his Class A on the streets of LA most of the year and we talked about it. LA proper does have some places RVs can park overnight, it’s the surrounding areas like Santa Monica that are harder. I’ve edited my original post with the official LA website link on vehicle dwelling, it go into detail about the code and includes maps of where it is and isn’t okay to overnight.

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