Thanks lambertiana, I am guessing you were coming from the north, as you list the northern sites first. I will be coming from the south. I plan to crash in visalia on Friday night and hit the road early on sat morning. I will check out the first come first serve sites on 198 south of lodgepole. If no luck, I am planning to just set up a spot in the national forest area (someone said that you are permitted to do that when I called the lodgepole visitors' center). Sounds like I can even get a fire permit if I stop at one of the ranger stations on the way. If this doesn't sound right to anyone, let me know.
I might check out those other sites that you mention as well.