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  • Donna

Trip Report: KOA Lake Isabella/Kern River

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

May 10 – 12, 2017

Lake Isabella KOA, Rpod

We scheduled this as a two-night stopover between Death Valley National Park and Sequoia National Park. With full hookups, on-site laundry, and a pool, we envisioned this KOA as a place to rest and recharge while accomplishing a few chores. Instead, we’re sitting at our dinette this morning in Sequoia National Park, water boiling for tea, on our way to recovering from that damn KOA.

Looking back we can’t find anything horrible about the place. Were we just in negative moods, or was it really that bad? We bickered, the kids cried, the dogs barked. It was, as Darwin says, “Not nice.”

I’m not sure why. Groceries were about 10 miles away and very reasonably priced. The pool was clean, there was a splash pad for the kids, the KOA had a really cool little playground, and the dual-hatted office manager/saloon tender was quite pleasant upon our arrival.

But what do we remember most? Our site had a tangle of wires cluttering the ground—the remnants of former cable service—and a little platform Emerson really liked climbing on that was rife with loose boards and erect nails. We were right by Highway 178, and though the kids enjoyed yelling “car!” frequently, the road noise was intrusive. The splash pad was a bust, littered with windswept flower buds and shunned by our children. Emerson cried in the pool and then hit his forehead on the concrete patio, the dryers didn’t dry, and when we sat down for a “nice” dinner our last night at camp, the strong wind gusts were insufficient to keep the flies from landing on our chewy slabs of lamb shoulder.

There was a lot of whining and crying for reasons we couldn’t determine. I even cried a little the night before we left. Perhaps it was the stress of the past couple of days, or the buildup of the sweeping changes we’ve brought upon ourselves over the past couple of months. I don’t regret any of it; I don’t want to go back or undo anything. I understand that just because I’m happy with the path we’ve chosen, doesn’t mean I’m going to be happy with every moment of it.

As for the kids? Our running theory is that they’re still adjusting to this yet-to-end errand. From their perspective, we put them in the car and just never returned home. Plus they’re accustomed to getting 12 – 14 hours of sleep each day; now they’re going to sleep later and waking up when the sun rises, and their solid two-hour afternoon nap is gone. So we’ve decided to make more of an effort to adhere to a schedule that helps ensure they get enough sleep. For example, we’re back to morning naps. In fact, both kids are sleeping right now.

It’s almost like the KOA immersed us all in a depressive whirlwind and now that we’ve left that fly-ridden dust bowl, our spirits have lifted. Yesterday, after arriving at Potwisha Campground here at Sequoia National Park, as Wendy and I stood at the dump/fill station in our desert-friendly shorts trying to get 36 gallons of water into our trailer using a spurting water thief and leaking filter, chilled to the bone as the sky spit on our efforts, we laughed. This was so much worse than anything we’d experienced at the KOA, but we laughed—at the situation, at each other, with each other. And when we returned to the car, wet through from wrangling our drinking water, we felt like ourselves again.

Read the next trip report: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks


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