In 1987 we had a two year old daughter and if you have small children you understand when I say that we needed a vacation. Close friends of ours had camped at the Grand Canyon, and they loved it, so a group of us decided to leave our young children behind and give camping a try. After researching places in Southern California we realized that there were state parks that had campsites, and we began to plan for our very first camping trip.
To prepare for our first trip we bought tents, sleeping bags, lanterns, two camping stoves, pans and a few ice chests. We had to read the instructions multiple times before we could even put up our tents. Luckily we had the sense to do that first because as new campers we had no idea what we were getting into and you need to have you campsite up before it gets dark. At that time the pop up dome tents (which are very easy to setup) had not been invented. After our “compound” was set up we were starving, and although this was our first trip we set the tone by foregoing hot dogs and hamburgers. The first night we prepared fajitas, rice and beans, and from that trip on we have taken turns preparing everything from omelettes to salmon or the fresh fish that my husband and the fellas catch.
We assigned a breakfast, lunch and dinner to each couple, and had purchased items to give our individual tents personality. One friend decorated her tent so well that you wouldn’t believe that you were in a tent. To this day we can’t wait to see how she has outdone herself. She had lanterns, a beautiful rug, a boom box for music, flowers and other items to make her tent extra homey.
This was to be the first of many camping trips at El Capitan which is a little north of Santa Barbara, California. Due to the campsite’s proximity to Santa Barbara we were able to enjoy the best of both world. We could leave our campsite and walk down a path to reach a simply breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. We also discovered that yard sales in Santa Barbara were more like estate sales. A story that my husband loves to share is when the women returned from one trip with furniture piled on top of the car like the Beverly Hillbillies. The closer that we got to camp the more afraid we became. Another time we thought that we’d found a shortcut after visiting a Danish town called Solvang. We took a wrong turn on a dirt road and ended up going up a mountain on a one way road for what seemed like an eternity. At one point we were up so high that we couldn’t tell the sky from the ocean!
Camping equipment is so much better these days. Air mattresses have internal pumps. Dome tents are easy to set up and take down in a very short time. There are heaters that have safety features that shut them off if they tip over, and so many other types of camping gear that can make your tent and your campsite feel homey.
The best part of camping using the California State Park System is that most campsites are in simply beautiful locations. Needless to say our favorites campsites are El Capitan and Pismo Beach State Park because you just need to walk down a path to experience a simply amazing view of the Pacific Ocean and a beach that goes on for miles and miles. When our kids were little we spent a great deal of time at the beach. We also sit around the campfire each night to talk over a glass of wine or champagne.
We try to go every year because we have become true campers. We’ve amassed all kinds of camping gear, can set up camp in record time, and now we get two sites because our kids are now young adults. Camping is a wonderful way to spend quality time with friends and family. It is also an inexpensive way to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and truly relax. So buy a tent, air mattress, sleeping bags or a blow up bed and bring the comforts of home to your campsite. No more roughing it! It is more relaxing than you would ever imagine. Once you try it you will be hooked!