Article and photos by Shane Gundelfinger
The rolling mountains of East County San Diego are a beautiful mystery, arrayed in splendor as the I-8 freeway weaves its way towards its desert descent towards El Centro. For years I have gazed at the never-ending layers of hilltops that lie south of the freeway as it winds closer to the Mexico border, but I have rarely made more than a quick detour to get cheap gas at the Acorn Casino. Well it turns out just past that Casino lies a magical wonderland immersed in nature known as Boulevard KOA.
This was my first time staying at a KOA campground; it turns out they are peppered throughout the entire country, each location boasting its own unique charm. Well this location’s charm starts the moment you pull up to the lobby cabin (that’s what I’m calling it) and the absolutely delightful staff greet you to their locally run oasis. A monolithic fireplace stood in the center of the room, bathing me with its winter charm and I immediately felt at home.
Home in our case was one of the deluxe cabins on site. Most patrons, however, bring their RVs and trailers for which the campground provides a plentiful number of sites with full hook-ups. A quaint tent camping area was nestled on site as well, and I look forward to bringing my tent here on a future trip.
Regardless of what form of camping you choose here, every single site has its own campfire ring, and with the lows hitting 25 degrees that night, we were ecstatic to receive firewood from coworkers Lex, Colby, and Elliot to light that ring up as we gazed at the blanket of stars above us.
Donning our winter coats we then took Lex’s recommendation to hike up to the star gazing plateau. “This place is really big but it’s extremely walkable” said Lex when I first arrived, and she was absolutely right. With our headlights and gloves in hand, we finished the night exploring the on-site stone labyrinth under the full moon, which was only a short walk from our cabin.
When movement struck the corner of our eyes, the silhouette of a horse behind a fence cried out, waking up the neighboring ostriches. I love ostriches, and they loved me, at least the following morning.
Everyone loves feeding something. Whether it’s ourselves, our families, or our pets, there’s just some intrinsic satisfaction in the intimate interaction purveyed through the act of the munch. Well if you agree with any part of that statement, then you and all the animals around you at KOA Boulevard are sure in for a treat.
Well, literally the animals, figuratively for you. Maybe for you too if you visit the mini market. Bags of animal treats are plentiful and only $1, while the scope of animals that will give you their eternal love in exchange for a nibble is staggering. Baby pigs? You got it. Goats? Yep. Ostriches? Yes, I fed ostriches.
If you are brave enough, you can even feed ostriches and it is unreal. I would highly recommend gloves if you’re going to embark on such an endeavor though, as their beaks are massive and can easily grab your whole hand instead of the snacks held within.
Back to the animals though. I heard there would be animals here, but that did not prepare me for how many animals. Holy moly! In addition to the animals already mentioned, we also enjoyed Lex’s tour of the adjacent farm where llamas and goats roam free.
One llama took a liking to me and later tracked me down from 100 feet away when I was about to leave. Now we’re married.
The farm had even more animals as we continued our tour, including full sized pigs, chickens, and a horse that should be a model, if it isn’t already. We came back and the pigs were eating a pumpkin. We died, but the pigs brought us back to life.
While it’s always fun engaging with animals in a healthy free-range environment, what was even cooler was learning about the sustainable regenerative farming practices on the farm.
If you haven’t heard of this practice I recommend looking it up, as it’s really something that we should be doing everywhere when practical. A+ to KOA for making it happen in Boulevard.
The KOA has partnered with the non-profit Simply Natural, the ranch next door focused on regenerative principles. By working with the land and animals naturally, they aim to reverse desertification of the soil and create abundance of healthy soil and crops.
The campground emphasizes environmental sustainability and practices being good stewards of the land. They enjoy sharing the beauty of the natural environment and joy of the animals with our guests!
Check out this beautiful labyrinth that predates the KOA. We were told that all of the stones were handmade:
Morning breakfast at our cabin:
The laundry mat:
The clubhouse is a communal spot for games and lounging:
Plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained and exercised!
The general store:
This hike was accessed from the same trail that we did on the night hike It goes along the perimeter of the campground property. The entire property is surrounded by a fence. There are several off-shoot trails from this perimeter that lead back down to different parts of the campground. The star-gazing plateau is also accessed from these trails: