Sleeping on the Sand
Our first stop was along California State Route 1 at Morro Strand State Beach, where campsites butt up to the ocean. When we arrived, we were sad to realize we forgot the LED lantern. We also forgot cups and the proper batteries to inflate that air mattress. But drinking coffee out of a flimsy plastic bowl didn’t dampen our spirits.
We had originally mapped out a hike at nearby Montaña de Oro State Park, but multiple online reviews about rattlesnake sightings thwarted our plans. (We’re not that outdoorsy.) Instead we decided to walk just 2 miles south from our campsite to Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic mound that appears to grow out of the ocean. We bundled our bodies in layers and strolled along the sand, oohing and ahhing as the surfers maneuvered the massive waves.
That evening we built a fire to keep us warm and fell asleep to the sounds of crashing waves. I’m not quite ready to trade in my French 75 cocktail for green juice, but I could get used to the laid-back California lifestyle.
The charming surfer town of Morro Bay was about 3 miles south, so we drove there for a seafood lunch at the waterfront Bayside Café and perused at Coalesce, a bookstore that first opened in 1973. On a whim, we drove another half-hour south to the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa, located in the town of Avila Beach. Built in the late 19th century, the resort has attracted visitors who come for the naturally-heated mineral spring water. Anyone — even a couple of sandy campers — can rent a hillside hot tub for an hour. It’s not a shower, but it feels fantastic. And outdoorsy.
As regular outdoors people probably already know, camping feels mostly like an exercise in appreciating nature. We may have forgotten our LED light, but as it would turn out, we had moonlight instead. We learned that when you’re camping in the sand, a fancy air mattress isn’t necessary, either. But you can always borrow from a neighbor — camping is a communal experience.