The sign at the front of Albee Creek Campground inside California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park clearly reads: “Campground full.” It was a Friday in mid-August last summer, and although this stunning space is relatively remote—four hours north of San Francisco on Highway 101, near the coast—all the spots in the park were completely booked. Still, I thought I might have a chance of scoring one if I showed up in person.
“Do you mind if I just drive through?” I asked the park ranger in attendance. She shrugged, then said, “Go ahead. But we’re full.”
On my way along the loop, all the sites, as predicted, had reserved signs out front. But of the 40 spots, less than half were actually occupied. A majority were empty—not a single tent or Coleman stove in sight.
This is not a rare occurrence. In fact, no-shows, as…