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When I heard the news, a wave of relief so great washed over me, I felt the unexpected strain of tears, bits of moisture managing to squeeze through. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized our family camping trip to Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort had had such an impact on me.
I think this area, brimming with green, had produced a powerful impact on our little family because we technically live in the desert. We visited Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort from Los Angeles where we water a lot to make it look green, but in drought years, we remember where we live. The more environmentally-conscious of us have embraced our parched reality and turned instead to desert-scaping. In the summer, regardless of the size of our personal water bill, the brown and crispy hills that surround our homes take away any delusions.
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So, when we arrived at the Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort, our family was unprepared for the vastness of the fairy tale redwood trees that blocked the sky with their tremendous girth. It appeared to us that a giant farmer had planted magic beans in the Northern California soil around Santa Cruz County. The spell he cast gathered the trees into the clouds to dwell among the gods at Mount Olympus. The redwood’s enormity, sustained by regular dousings from the nearby Pacific Ocean, made my chest feel both heavy and light as I breathed in the air scrubbed clean by nature’s soldiers.
So, a few weeks after our return to Los Angeles, we heard about the devastating fire that was consuming acres of these majestic forests. We cringed to think of the beauty lost.
Although we were relieved to find the fire had spared the town of Felton, in which the Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort is situated, McCurley said, “It’s heartbreaking to think of what happened to the other folks.” As of the writing of this article, firefighters have contained 97% of the more than 86,000 historic acres that the beastly CZU Lightning Complex fire has reduced to ashes. As the area begins to recover, and the air returns to its blissful state, families and friends can once again return to and enjoy the Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort campgrounds, next door to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which is only a half-hour away.
What To Do At Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort
Rallies and Group Camping
For the past 8 years, the Facebook-based vintage RV group, Aristocrats Anonymous — or AA for short — has gathered beneath the redwood giants at Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort to share their lives and their love of restored travel trailers. “We’re addicted to them,” said Toni DeCoster, former retail clothing executive and current Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort Rally Co-Wagonmaster, as we spoke in front of the adult beverage bar she had just installed into the tail end of her 1966 Aristocrat Land Commander trailer.
We happened to get lucky to be staying at the RV resort the one weekend in the year that the group gathered there. We got our spot because of a last-minute cancellation. Participants had bought out all their dedicated spots at the campgrounds months before.
Rows and rows of adult playhouses lined the cement pathway connecting the campsites. We arrived late Friday afternoon and on Saturday morning, the collectors opened their creations, social distant style, to curious campers and among themselves. We ooohed, aaaahed and admired all the details and fine-tuning that each of these trailers now possessed. Some offered pictures of the dilapidated condition in which they had bought them. Norman Rockwell could have filled the pages of The Saturday Evening Post with the results of their dedication and creativity. You could see the video of their efforts here.
In the evenings, the preservationists gathered around campfires, like modern-day cavemen, channeling the time when tribes came together to thwart darkness with warm light. “The goal is to get everyone to come back to your trailer to drink and eat,” said former mortgage consultant, Terri Lynn Campbell, also known as TLC. Her charm certainly drew me to her trailer and I sat with members of their group as they caught up on their real lives over the last year. Outside of the make-belief, they shared during this one weekend, “It’s like adults playing dollhouse,” said one participant, on this night, they caught up on all the real things too. Some good, some not so great but the circle of light they found around each other’s hearths extended into their hearts.
As we sat around Campbell’s campfire, eating and drinking on their final night, fourth-grade teacher, Scott Chase said, “This is the kind of place where all walks of life come and intertwine.” As Campbell met her goal.…
Although the group already has over 4000 members, there are rallies nationwide and they always welcome vintage trailer enthusiasts.
Campground During Covid
During our stay, most of the man-made resort amenities were closed for COVID. That’s ok. That wasn’t what we had come for but the laundry facilities, showers/bathrooms and complimentary wifi still worked. Their website doesn’t appear to be giving updates so call for more info (831) 335‑8312
The Clubhouse is a cabin that blends right into the rustic environment. The Clubhouse deck overlooks the craggy San Lorenzo River by site #22. It has a full kitchen, a rec room and holds up to 75 people. Normally, you could gather with your crew here but it’s closed for the rest of 2020. You can pick up to-go breakfasts, though, during the weekends.
While the kids sleep in your RV, walkie talkie by their beds, you can have a night out playing pool or chilling on a couch watching some TV in the Rec Room inside the Clubhouse. Or, bring the kids and teach them geometry with a few well-placed shots. There’s also a piano for some family sing-alongs. Or just relax outside the clubhouse, nursing your cool or hot beverage to the sounds of the running river.
Redwood Grove Playset
Built in 2019, this new three-story playset gives tykes ages 3–11 a place to get their steam out while you get some me time at your site. There is a basketball court nearby for kids of all ages.
My boys brought skateboards, scooters and bikes and no one said anything about them riding around the campgrounds and, in fact, when they asked permission (because our last campground didn’t allow skateboards) our campsite neighbor said she insisted they ride. Sweet.
This was our second RV trip and we appreciated our site allowed us to pull through, which meant we didn’t have to “help” each other back into it. RVers have a joke that Divorce Court is lined with RV campers who once directed each other to back their trailers into their campsites. All the campsites have full hook-ups to power your electricity, provide water and drain all the stuff you don’t need. You could watch cable if you bring your own cord and there is free WiFi, no cord needed.
The redwood trees around the site are enormous and some have hollowed out areas where a fire or lightning strike may have eaten through the middle. These are most excellent spots to take photos.
Things to Do Beyond Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort
Below site #22 is a stairway that leads down to the San Lorenzo River, across which is Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Right across the river is the heavily trafficked Pipeline Trail where we met a variety of friendly folks as we walked along the river and redwood lined cement path. We spoke to a white-haired English couple and the wife said she walked her husband along this path every day since he developed Alzheimer’s. Another cyclist we had met had just recovered from a terrible bike accident after which he had been suspended in traction for months. Even crazier is we learned through our conversation we had rented the house where he currently resides in Solana Beach about a decade earlier! The world is a strange and wonderful place at times. However, this revelation felt appropriate surrounded by these magical woods.
There are tons of other trails and we also explored the Redwood Loop Trail which has a guided audio tour that you should download before you go because once you arrive, the connection is spotty. Day pass parking is $10 per automobile.
A few weeks after our return to Los Angeles, we heard about the devastating fire that was consuming acres of these majestic redwood forests. Learn how you can help them return to their glory on your safe family trip!
Scotts Valley Skatepark
It’s technically called Scotts Valley Skypark and has many super fun amenities like a skate park, a dog park, a pump track and huge, open fields. But the boys were only interested in the skate park. There were rails, stairs and drops into pool-like bowls to keep them amused and wear them out. (Watch the video) I was surprised by how nicely this park was maintained.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Yes, most of the fun activities at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk were also closed due to COVID but all of the artificial food coloring, fake sugar shops seemed to still be open. A few pizza stands and other fast food joints also retained the right to operate while everything else, the carousel, the rollercoasters and the Sky Glider remained closed. Although we had never visited (and were disappointed to see so much of the boardwalk still closed), it looked like it would be a great day for family fun. There were more rides than I imagined possible in a beachside boardwalk. Nearby, the sun enticed beach lovers to sit on their socially distanced blankets on the sand between the boardwalk and the ocean.
Roaring Camp & Big Trees
When we arrived at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a train from Roaring Camp chugged its way down Beach Street, which runs parallel to the boardwalk, whistle blasting its presence into the air like a mushroom sound cloud. Riders sat socially distanced in outdoor and indoor seats on a train that originated close to our campgrounds in Felton. There are two train tours. One goes to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, over a 1909 steel truss bridge and through a tunnel before arriving at the beach. The other goes through the redwood groves and into Bear Mountain while the conductor takes riders through Roaring Camp history. We didn’t get to ride either train because they were sold out while we visited but it looked fun!
Mike Fox Park
About a 15-minute walk from the Santa Cruz Boardwalk we found Mike Fox Park, a slim strip of urban grassy area with a respectable skate park attracting all levels of talent. The boys, of course, enjoyed getting to practice their tricks among people who understood how fun something like this could be.
As we pulled out of our site at the Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort to head to our next at El Capitan State Beach, we didn’t realize how fleeting the calm could be for an area. As visitors, we appreciated the novelty of the enigmatic landscape, so different from our own dry land. Although, the fire may have temporarily charred parts of Santa Cruz, we know that growth is often generated from unexpected heat. We pray for the people who have to rebuild and we look forward to visiting again to help by investing into their economy as they do so.
It’s about a 5 and a half-hour drive from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort but if you’re pulling a trailer add one or two hours to that. We broke up our trip when we stopped to camp at Pismo Beach, so it was only three hours after that. Their website doesn’t recommend following Google Map directions if you’re pulling a trailer and instead use theirs: Take US-101 north to Exit 347 and turn left onto Hwy 129. Follow Hwy 129 through Watsonville to Hwy 1. Turn right on Hwy 1 North to Hwy 17 North towards San Jose. Take the Mt. Herman Rd. exit into Scotts Valley. Go 3.8 miles to Graham Hill Road. Make a right on Graham Hill Rd. and go 0.2 miles to Highway 9. Make a left on Highway 9 and go 1.3 miles. The entry to the park will be on the left at 4980.
Thank you to Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort for hosting our visit with the help from the people at GoRVing.com — a wonderful resource to buy or rent RVs and learn where to take them.
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