How to find great Sierra camping without crowds
It’s not that Kimberly and Patrick Wilkes don’t like you.
They just don’t want to look at your messy campsite or listen to you snore when they’re trying to enjoy nature.
And to show it’s nothing personal, they presume you don’t want to spend your camping trip in the shadow of their tent either.
That’s why the husband and wife team from Gardnerville spent two years visiting 3,416 campsites in the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley and rated each by the level of privacy it affords.
Their efforts resulted in a guidebook, “Eastern Sierra and Death Valley Camping with Privacy.”
Kimberly and Patrick, who were engaged at Convict Lake and took their first trip together at Death Valley, each have a passion for camping and particularly the Eastern Sierra.
“Some people consider themselves connoisseurs of fine foods, we consider ourselves connoisseurs of fine campsites,” Kimberly Wilkes said.
The 462-page guidebook is broken into regions, then campgrounds and finally campsites.
For each campground they note the elevation, restroom situation, number of campsites, level of cell phone service, whether it takes reservations and whether or not it provides bear boxes.
Then they list campsites by number and assign a privacy letter grade.
For example, A-level spots tend to be shielded by trees, rocks or some other natural feature.
Kimberly, a freelance writer, said she got the idea for the book during a trip to Big Pine Creek Campground in Big Pine, Calif.
After scouting a map of the campground online she chose what she thought would be a private site, as it appeared to have plenty of space between it and the next-closest site.
When she got there, however, it turned out the site was exposed and she didn’t have the relaxed experience she had anticipated.
“I could see my neighbor and they could see me and it did not feel private at all,” she said. “I wanted to save people that experience.”
During another trip to Texas Springs Campground in Death Valley Kimberly said she could hear a camper at the next site over snoring through the night.
“That’s one of the reasons I like to camp away from people,” she said.
Not an easy task
It was after she met Patrick, a photographer, that they decided they could produce a book that would help people find private places to camp, even during peak camping seasons.
For example, one of their favorite finds was Bootleg Campground, a U.S. Forest Service campground just off U.S. 395 in the Walker River Canyon.
Even though the campground is close to the highway they said it is rarely full. In fact, during their research the couple said the camp host told them that during the Fourth of July holiday in 2013 only 16 to 20 of the 60 sites were taken.
It’s also well maintained.
“It is a very peaceful and quiet campground, the camp hosts do a lot of things to keep it nice and tidy,” said Patrick, including touches such as providing water for people to use to douse campfires.
Although Patrick and Kimberly love camping, visiting nearly 3,500 campsites in two years wasn’t always easy.
During one trip to Grandview Campground in the White Mountains they were inundated by large insects they called, “mystery bugs from hell.”
Still, anyone who likes to go camping primarily to enjoy some quiet time in nature can appreciate the result of their work.
“Imagine being someplace where you sit and not talk for hours at a time and be totally at peace,” Patrick said. “To be able to experience times like that all the other difficulty and struggle we experienced along the way makes it worth it.”
Buy the book: "Eastern Sierra and Death Valley Camping with Privacy" is available at Sundance Books, 121 California Ave., Reno, and on Amazon.