All Thrills, No Chills

Not quite roughing it on the central coast

Then more trivial—and more personal—dilemmas were aroused. The camping purist in us was offended by Costanoa's approach to roughing it, which essentially is to shave off all the rough edges. And the camping delusionist in us was exposed again by Costanoa's evidence that the concept of wilderness camping has become little more than an earth-toned urban vanity. As we've realized before, only to try to suppress it for the enjoyment of occasional backpacking trips, the only camping skills with any real significance anymore are those employed by the homeless.

Beyond the comfort of Costanoa, however, came the realization that its meadows and forests seemed to be in a lot better shape than in many of the traditional campgrounds and trails we'd visited over the years. Grasses were thick, rather than flattened or worn away. Flowers were blossoming, rather than picked. Since each canvas cabin was fixed in place—and its inhabitants limited—there was space and quiet between campsites. The ban on camp and cooking fires left the air clear and the ground clean. The preponderance of European tourists meant we didn't have to talk to anybody. The tricked-out general store meant we could order double lattes before hitting the road.

Oh, and the Costanoa Adventure Guide—a glossy, full-color magazine filled with hikes, bike routes, tours, scenic drives, romantic places and sample itineraries—that we stole from the nightstand . . . well, like we said, two weeks later, we still don't feel very good about what that might say about us.

Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp, (800) 738-7477; www.costanoa.com.
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