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    Campfire Tales — Camping

    Wandering in Big Sur

    Wandering in Big Sur

    We first did this trip in April of 2015 and had such a great time we decided to do it again the next year.  It has now become one of our favorite locations in California to roadtrip to and camp in. The plan was to load up our 22 footer Jayflight trailer and haul it up the coast to Montana de Oro for an overnight stop which would allow us a leisurely day of driving and stopping for lunch/photos along the scenic Highway 1 to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

    Day 1: Fullerton to Montana De Oro State Park/Islay Creek Campground

    The first day was a 235 mile crawl up through the quintessential California landscapes of the Hollywood hills and ocean vistas of Santa Barbara to the windswept bluffs of Montana De Oro near the sleepy town of Los Osos.  An optional stop on the way north is the Danish hamlet of Solvang. With it's windmills, beer gardens, and cute local shops we had a great lunch stop with our constant companion Bullwinkle. We had stopped here last year and although it was picturesque this is the best photo we got. It's not our fault that Bullwinkle is so photogenic.

    Islay Creek Campground was our next stop and it's located just up the hill east of Spooners Cove. Each site has a picnic bench and fire ring as well as shared vault toilets.   Reservations are highly recommended.  Don't forget to bring your bikes as Montana De Oro has some great bike trails for all levels with a fantastic overlook point.

    Spooners Cove offers easy access to tide pools and a freshwater creek. There's plenty to explore here a short walk away from the campsite. Also you can just sit and watch the water or explore the caves. Great for kids and dogs alike. 

    Here I'm wearing a 10Tree raglan, Poler Campvibes waxed cotton 5 panel cap, and  Kavu Road Warrior Shorts, which are some of my favorite items to rock on the daily as well as out wandering.

    The Bluff loop trail starts just south of Spooners cove and hugs the steep cliffs right above the crashing waves.  Along the 2.1ish mile trail there are a few spots open to make your way down to a secluded beach or tide pool. During this time of year the water is cold, but not too cold for wading, and definitely not too much for Bullwinkle to go crashing through.

    The next morning we packed up camp and got ready for the next leg of the journey - the dramatic central coast past Hearst Castle where the mountains spill into the ocean to the dark redwood forests of Big Sur.  

    Last year due to rain there was some road debris that created a serious pit stop for us. We pulled into the campgrounds with people waving at us, which we thought was just some central coast friendliness. Once we got into the site we realized our mistake, our tire was shredded! Luckily our trailer is a double axle and we safely made it despite it all. We now carry two spare trailer tires for this reason. Better to be safe than sorry! 


    We took our time going north since this leg from Islay Creek to Big Sur would take a little over two hours of total drive time (~100 mi).  Some of our favorite stops along the way are:

    - Lime Kiln/ Pfeiffer/McWay Falls

    - Partington Cove

     By early afternoon we made it to our campground at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  Reservations are recommended.  It's $50/night to reserve a riverside site but it really makes the trip to be right by the water. If you bring a few rafts it's fun to float down to the otherside of the campground, or you can fish everyday if you like! We feel it's worth it unless you are in a site deep in the redwoods (it gets dark and cold fast there, though).  Reservations are Here . Sites we recommend:




    The sites numbered around 170 are close to a nice swimming hole that swirls around a big boulder but watch out for poison oak! Always good to have a small Adventure Medical Kit for those moments. 

    -60 and 61 which are twin sites on the river front on their own secluded spur in the road for ultimate privacy. We loved our site and ended up making friends with our neighbors which was great once it got dark and we wanted to have some friends to jam out with.

    We set up camp and strung up some hammocks for the ultimate in relaxation. We recommend our thermarest double hammocks so you don't have to worry about snuggling with a friend and it not being able to support your weight. Here I am luxuriating in camp vibes.

    We set up camp and strung up some hammocks for the ultimate in relaxation. We recommend our Thermarest double hammocks so you don't have to worry about snuggling with a friend and it not being able to support your weight. Here I am luxuriating in camp vibes.

    Exploration of the campgrounds was in order and there is no better way than by bike! Here myself and the wife decided to try out our selfie stick while feeling the breeze in our hair and enjoying the greenery. She's wearing the California Dreaming tank from Bandit Brand and Komono Sunglasses.

    Dinner that night was a lofty goal of building a dutch oven pizza.  It turned out ok but there were some lessons learned.  Baking is a science but with a dutch oven it's a voodoo art. To help here's a chart of the number of coals needed on top/bottom of the oven to reach a certain temperature. In the end it was still delicious and after waiting a few hours for it to be prepped and cooked we were starving and wolfed it down.  Chart


    We are classy camp folk. Obviously dutch oven pizza pairs well with Carlo Rossi sangria and Jenga. Always remember when your in the mountains the alcohol goes a lot further we were silly by the 2nd drink. Always bring plastic reusable cups for these kinds of adventures because spilling will be happening.

     The next morning we slept in aided by the sound of running water and a cool breeze through the trailer windows. After a hearty breakfast of mountain man pie (hash brown crust, sausage crumbles, cheese and egg holding it all together in the dutch oven) we set out for another little bike ride. 

    Here Liz parked her townie and her favorite pack the Wildwood Poler pack, which we have available in store only by the original Big Sur Park Lodge from 1920. 

     Bullwinkle seemed to like the ferns and downed redwood stumps. He stopped to roll in this field of clovers for good luck! Liz is rocking the  Sol Cool Hoody and Komono Clement sunnies in this shot.

    After a light lunch we decided to head down to Pfeiffer State Beach. Voted by USA Today readers it's one of the top 10 beaches in the US.  It's known for its sea caves, arches, and purple sand.

    It's positively magical, we spent a half day there relaxing in our Alite mayfly chairs and soaking up the sun. Liz is as pale as milk and she was happy she brought her Exofficio Sol Cool Hoodie. Don't miss the sharp turnoff from Hwy 1 onto Sycamore Canyon Rd. You could easily spend all day here.

    With the sun setting it was getting chilly and we hightailed it back to camp. The fixin's were all chopped up and dumped into the dutch oven for a pot of super chilli.  

    We let that cook down by itself over a few coals and got to relaxing by the Big Sur River. Bullwinkle looks very pleased with himself for finding a good spot. 

    Time to dig in!

    The  Wellington Henley is a great layer out in the woods or in town.

    Our last morning called for some breakfast burritos to fuel up for the long drive back home. As always Hydroflasks are a constant companion.

    While we worked our way home we noticed someone's fortress of solitude on the road to Carmel and realized it must be heavenly. One day maybe we will have one of our own. for now, it was time to get back to real life and say good bye to the central coast and head back to Fullerton.

    Cottonwood Lakes

    Cottonwood Lakes

    This was to be the trip of the summer and it definitely didn't disappoint. The Cottonwood Lakes are a series of 5 lakes clustered in the shadow of Mount Langley and Cirque Peak.  Located in the southern tip of the John Muir Wilderness the trailhead shares an inroad with the Mount Whitney Portal in the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine.  The trail starts at Horseshoe Meadow where you can choose to acclimate to the 10,000 feet of elevation overnight.  

    The trailhead - about to enter Golden Trout wilderness.  The Golden trout is only found in California and happens to be her official state fish.

    Before the trip I had outfitted our dog Bullwinkle with a pack of his own. He didn't seem to mind the extra weight.

    The trail passes through some easy terrain  for the first 3.5 miles.  There are a few stream crossings which are a welcome break.

    From there it climbs steeply up to the Cottonwood Lakes basin for a mile gaining the most elevation. Here I am enjoying the climb.

    Once you reach the basin the view of Lakes #1 and #2 take your breath away if the climb didn't do it already. The bear canister on my back is available for rent at the Ranger Station (where you get the wilderness permits anyway).

    Bullwinkle celebrates with a romp and roll. It may look like he's eating it, but he was just enjoying the day.

    The group loaded up on water and proceeded to find a nice campsite above Lake #3 ( the largest) in the trees to shelter us from the wind. I also happened to need trees because of my Hennessy Hammock setup I was using. The camp quickly dozed off into an afternoon siesta.

    After exploring the area dinner was on our minds. I was trying a bag of MREs, Adam was on a steady diet of tuna and crackers, while my buddy Trung had a spam and rice plate.

    After tucking in and feeling the altitude we were greeted with a Southern Sierra night sky, one of the best views of the trip.

    We awoke refreshed and shook off the frost to greet the rising sun. Sleeping bags that transform into ponchos or a convertible sleeping bag from Poler or Alite is a great solution for those cold early mornings.

    Once we were warm enough we got to fishing. Mid morning through mid afternoon we were catching rainbows and goldens on rooster tail hooks and Thomas Bouyants spoon lures. 

    Lake #3 was very active with plenty of shoreline to spot cruising fish.

    By the afternoon towards sunset the lake was bubbling with action. The surface of the lake looked like it was boiling with fish jumping out to snatch flies. Bullwinkle had by then finished his swim and was busy sunbathing.


    We spent another night above Lake #3 and fished the morning.  After a 6.5 mile hike out (much easier down hill) we all agreed for some hot food in town.  The plan was to get a table at the Alabama Hills Cafe (highly recommended breakfast/lunch spot @ 111 W Post St, Lone Pine, CA) but we were turned away by weekend crowds. We were set on large hot plates of breakfast fare and french toast at the 'Bama Cafe but settled for McDonalds and enjoyed the running hot water and flushing sit down toilets.  I had two Big Macs with fries, a shake, and an apple pie thing all to myself. It was heaven. 

    Gear Used:



    Ultralight Med Kit


    Dog Med Kit


    ExOfficio Nioclime shirt


    ExOfficio Amphi convertible pants


    ExOfficio Give N Go Boxer Brief


    Alite Cloverware utensils


    Anza Fixed blade

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