Saturday, September 30, 2017

Chilao Campground

We are definitely on a camping kick.  Ever since coming back from Peru, where we "glamped" our way through the Andes, it feels like we haven't been able to sit still!  We went to Sequoia and Big Pine already, and we haven't stopped the habit of hiking out of the Cobb Estate or Chantry Flats, even though there's nothing to train for now.  After a successful first attempt at camping all the way at Baker Creek Campground in Big Pine with our clunky Coleman tent and Asian supermarket gas stove, we wanted to hit up some campgrounds close to home.  Wes just found out about some campgrounds just an hour out of Pasadena in the Angeles National Forest, so we decided to try it out one Friday.  This was our second camping trip ever.  It was fun to get out the tent again and feel that rush when you wake up in the morning and realize that you're outside.  We cooked every meal and just took our time waking up, getting ready for a day hike, and coming back to camp to stretch out on the chairs.  The pace of the weekend is so different when you're off the grid.

It was a little bit of a whirlwind to do this after getting home from work.  I remember feeling super exhausted and I thought that it was very strange that we were loading up our car for a last-minute camping trip (with no reservations) on a weeknight.  It felt sort of unreal and random, and we both decided that if there were no campsites available, we could just drive back home and say that we tried.  That would have been so depressing, though!  The first campground we checked was full, but that one was a popular one.  We ended up backtracking and finding some availability at Chilao Campground.  There wasn't a lot of light left, so we grabbed the first campsite we saw.  Wes busily set up camp while I stuffed $12 in cash into a little envelope and filled out our names in the fading daylight.  Then, we immediately got to cooking our wonderful dinner of turkey chili.  When we were done, we sat back in our comfy lawn chairs and never felt more satisfied - here we were, on a Friday night, five thousand feet above Pasadena, looking at the stars with a plastic bowl of hot chili in our hands.  TGIF.

Let me just say that we will always prioritize hearty food even if we are in nature! We've done some ridiculous things in the name of food, like carrying frozen smoked chicken thighs and heavy jars of pasta sauce on our backs just to avoid dehydrated meals and trail mix for dinner. This first camping trip close to home was at a drive-in campsite, so even though what we ate was simple, we were able to go pretty luxurious for camping. We packed tons of fresh ingredients in that ice chest and cooked two dinners and a brunch. I think we had whole onions, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, pasta sauce, dry pasta, ground meat, spinach, beans, parsley (I know, who cares about garnish when you're camping?? We do.)...

We woke up the next morning to a wonderfully brisk day. Nothing beats being woken up by natural morning light.  I didn't sleep very well the night before though because it was actually really cold... Wes had a hike in mind, so we made ourselves a hearty little camp breakfast and got ready to go! 

...and in the morning we had avocados, potatoes, eggs, and breakfast sausage. We didn't spill the eggs this time like we did in Big Pine when we knocked over the pan while scrambling the eggs, but we weren't expecting to be attacked by so many bees!! So, we had brunch inside of the tent.

I'm a total noob and tried to put on my contacts outside...a gust of wind blew it off my fingertip, so...that's why I'm in glasses.

Despite running on low sleep, we hiked the Mt. Waterman Trail. This is a pretty easy 5.5 mile out-and-back trail starting from the Buckhorn Day Use Area and ending at the top of Mt. Waterman. The view from halfway up is actually more expansive than the top, but the top is pretty cool too with the big boulders. Best of all, these trees make you feel like you're not anywhere near LA! We hiked this trail after breakfast (and doing the dishes, meh), and then came back to camp for dinner. Yup, always looking forward to the food.

And there you go, that garnish that I was talking about...

After we made our pasta and sat by the warm campfire for a little while, I asked if we could just drive home and sleep in our bed. Yes, LAME! I shamelessly took advantage of our proximity to home! As much as I would have liked to stay out, my body was not ready to do another freezing night.

Chilao Campground was really pleasant, just like it sounds - super duper "chill."  We honestly don't know why it doesn't get all the recognition that Buckhorn (the one that we initially tried to go to) does.  It's really nice that we don't need to go all the way to Sequoia or the Eastern Sierra to get a routine dose of the great outdoors.  This whole area in our backyard is worth exploring, and it would be fun to take other people here for a super low-key camping trip.  Funny how we never tried to go in the past, knowing that the Angeles National Forest is right behind us, and the tent was always in our closet.  I never would have imagined that cooking and sleeping out in pure wilderness after work could be a possibility!  It's really nice that we now have a weekend activity to do when it isn't snowboarding season.  I might even venture to say that Wes likes camping even more than I do, simply because of all the survivalist technicalities and gadgets that he gets to play with.  I just sit there and make pasta sauce, haha.

It warms my heart (even though my body shivers) to know that there seems to always be an adventure around the corner... we've since acquired some backpacking gear, so who knows what's next.  I just wonder if we'll end up giving into those freeze-dried mountain meal packets...


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