By Claudia S. Palma, Staff Writer
After taking a six-hour drive to Yosemite last year for some good old-fashioned camping, I itched for another outdoor retreat this summer.
But I wasn’t looking forward to another long trek, so instead, my friends and I decided to head back to our old stomping ground — Dogwood — a little over an hour’s drive away up in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Dogwood is a 93-site campground just past the quaint city of Bluejay and minutes away from Lake Arrowhead. It is operated by the California Land Management Bureau.
At 5,600 feet in elevation, this little piece of the forest is surrounded by tall pine and oak trees. It’s inhabited by various forest and mountain creatures — birds, lizards, squirrels and bears, oh my!
After last year’s up-close encounter at Yosemite, (a bear visited in the middle of the night to help himself to the forgotten bag of marshmallows at the bottom of an ice chest), I was not too worried about bears at Dogwood.
The furry beasts aren’t as comfortable with people here as in Yosemite, so we didn’t see any during our three-day stay. But, it’s very important not to give them reason to stop by. Forget the marshmallows!
Each site varies in size. The big ones can hold 16 people with picnic tables, a fire ring and parking spot. Our site, which we called Troop 50, was one of the double-sized spots and sat in a cul-de-sac, secluded from other sites.
We had an entire forest behind us to play around in. We even had our own little hiking trail to explore.
During the day, the sun was bright and warm, with temperatures hovering in the low 80s, though it was cooler in the shade.
A full moon brightened the night sky as we gathered around our campfire to keep warm and share stories. The temperature dropped to about 50 once the sun set.
Fires aren’t permitted when the fire danger is high.
“Quiet time” is from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. We didn’t go to bed, but we kept our voices and music low during “quiet time.”
We didn’t need an alarm in the morning, thanks to a determined woodpecker drilling away at a nearby tree.
Plus once the sun is up, your tent is like a sauna.
The map shows one light trail, The Enchanted Trail, but there are plenty outside the campground. We entertained ourselves by taking a little hike on our private trail, which led to an open area of fallen and chopped down trees.
Here’s where we found lots of creatures, such as the lizard that crawled up my sister’s leg.
The campground offers special family programs on weekend nights.
Next time, I plan on heading to nearby Lake Gregory where there is boating, fishing and a waterslide park.
Only minutes away, Lake Arrowhead Village offers lots of dining and shopping.
Water sports require a permit because it is a private lake. But boat tours of the lake are offered.
Don’t worry about bathrooms, there are restrooms and showers spread throughout the campground. Be sure to bring your own toiletries.
Dump/trash stations are located around the campsite. Trash should be thrown away before calling it a night. Food and any other scented items should be kept locked in the car.
The peak camping season is from early May to late October. Fees range from $28-$58 a night. Early reservations are strongly recommended for weekends and holidays. Holiday weekends have a minimum night requirement. All other reservations should be made at least one day in advance. Same day reservations may be available.
Some sites are handicap accessible, others have recreation vehicle hookups.
The camping fee includes entry for one vehicle and one legally towed vehicle. There may be an extra fee for extra vehicles. There is no ATV/OHV allowed on the campground and no usage of firearms, chainsaws or fireworks. Pets must be leashed at all times.
For more information and reservations, go online to www.recreation.gov or call (877) 444-6777.
We had our site booked for one more day but we couldn’t sleep on nature’s bed one more night so we packed up early.
If you plan it right you can enjoy plenty of nature in just a few days.