Line camping: A Tahoe tradition comes to an end
When the temperature dropped below 40 degrees Saturday night, Doug Sloan wasn’t warm and cozy in bed at his home in Benicia. Instead, Sloan was sleeping under the Sierra stars in a rickety cot outside the front desk of Campground by the Lake.
One might ask: Why was Sloan sleeping outside and not in his RV? One also might wonder: Why had Sloan been doing this for five nights in a row? But the real question might be: Why were dozens of other people sleeping in a line behind him?
The answer is that Sloan is part of a Tahoe tradition, in which campers camp out at the campground to make reservations to go camping.
Because the campground has just one phone line, it has only accepted in-person sign-ups on the first day of reservations, according to those waiting in line.
Sloan was the first in a line of over 100 campers waiting to make reservations at the campground for next summer. In fact, campers are so eager to reserve their spots for next summer, they are willing to wait, sleep, eat and wait some more, for nearly a week before the campground opens its reservation list for the next summer.
It’s called “line camping,” according to Sacramento resident Sue Haseltine, who has waited in line each season for five years.
“They used to do it in October — that year it was cold,” Haseltine reminisced.
Down the line 50 feet, Wayne Ames of Davis sat in a chair next to friends he has seen in line year after year.
“We have more fun here (in line) than we do camping,” Ames said. Ames has been coming to the campground for over 11 years. To Ames’ left was Sloan, first in line and a 25-year Campground by the Lake veteran.
“It’s kind of like a party, but it keeps getting longer,” said Sloan, in his premier position.
Although campers seem to like waiting in line, camp officials will be ending the tradition next year, and will be taking reservations over the phone.
“It’s sad they’re going to the phone,” Sloan said. “Even when they used to do it in October and it was cold, we still enjoyed it.”