Our friendly rangers informed us to check in at the office early in the morning to see what sites would be available for us the next day. At this point it was the highlight of our trip and our luck went successively downhill. After waking early, we headed over to the office only to find a different and unfriendly host tell us that "nothing is available and you have to book 6 months in advance".
We decided to hang around for another hour or so to check out the beach which was nice.
Then we drove off to San Onofre State beach which is only 15 minutes away. None of the available sites were particularly attractive so we decided to try South Carlsbad State beach. We had no luck there as well as San Elijo State Park with completely full campgrounds. After this we tried 2 other campsites that were somewhat nearby with even further bad luck. I also found out that regular civilians are not allowed to camp at any military campgrounds even though I mentioned that we had been driving almost 4 hours with a cranky 1 year old. At this point we decided to either head back to San Onofre or back home and call it a weekend. Luckily there were some sites left so we set up things and made the best of it.
I read some negative reviews on San Onofre and now understand why. Our site (along with most others) had no ocean view, it was actually quite the journey to get to the ocean. It took us 3 of these "Sheep Cliff" signs to finally realize they had been defaced from Sheer in warning us that we shouldn't proceed (but of course we did).
and when we eventually made it, here was our beach.
Although scenic, it was all rocks and I ended up smashing my ankle when the waves threw some boulders my way.
The reviews also mentioned the noise levels of this campsite. The sounds from nearby I-5 were noisy but consistent and not so much of an issue as the hourly passenger and freight trains that were literally 20ft away from us. These trains were obnoxiously loud and impossible to ignore during the night even with a pillow over my head. Despite this, Brooke somehow managed to have a nice sleep.
Having reached the low point of our trip we decided to make the most of our camping pass by hitting the day use section that was much more accessible and enjoyed our spot right on the beach.
California still holds true as an incredibly beautiful, vast and diverse state. Our final beach location at Dana Point certainly made up for the hardships encountered with plenty of sand, water, and waves. Here's my wife doing what she loves.
Although this was far from a relaxing camping trip, we believe we made the best of things and were able to enjoy some beautiful sights. Brooke took everything in stride and slept soundly on the way back home.