I admit, in my 28 years of being alive, I’ve never camped before. I know myself well enough that I enjoy taking showers (I like being clean) that allows me to exfoliate and moisture my skin with proper care, I like washing my hair on a timely schedule, and I like proper plumbing and running water when it comes toilets. Camping does not offer any of those unless you’re lucky enough to find campsites that have flushable toilets (most provide vaults at minimum), running water and shower facilities. As people say it, I’m more of a “glamper”. I prefer booking cabins, do my day hikes and come back to a good hot shower. Call me a princess or whatever, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying clean hygiene and unclogged pores. But in some cases, you really have to get outside your comfort zone and experience new things.
This 4th of July weekend camping trip was a huge gamble. There was a good 80% of me that thought this trip wasn’t going to happen. My friend had the insane idea two weeks prior to the holiday weekend that we should go camping. I told him he was nuts. You don’t plan a July 4th camping trip with only 2 weeks of notice. You just don’t. You plan WEEKS in advance so you can get campsites reserved and submit days off of work on time, etc. It’s a holiday weekend and we’re in white people’s hobby territory (not to be insulting or offensive, but from knowing my own culture, camping is more so a white American pastime hobby than it is for POC) meaning campsites would probably be completely full for the weekend.
Recreation.gov is a great site that many campgrounds use for online reservations so we hopped onto that site and did our research and were correct, all the reserved spaces were completely taken up, and all we had were walk-in spaces. Even then walk-ins could already be taken up by other campers. It was basically a gamble, it was a 5 hour drive for us so we’d have to leave early to MAYBE get a spot. Again, HUGE. ASS. GAMBLE. I was very hesitant with the plan because I like being certain and the whole spontaneity of this plan definitely made me anxious. The back and forth debate went on for a week before I sat back and thought, maybe it’s time I tried something outside of what I normally did and just YOLO’ed. I swallowed my fears, submitted my day off request for the following Friday after July 4th and told my friend I was in. Our other friend also lucked out and managed to pull through on his day off request as well. We’re all set to go!
We now have 6 days before July 4th. We had no campsite reservation and no experience in camping. Although I was fortunate that I already had a lot of camping equipment due to motorcycle tracking (I’ve camped out at racetracks before), but that still didn’t guarantee we knew what we were doing. Our plan was head out at 3AM, camp at Lake Sabrina for two nights, then we’d head out to Alabama Hills to camp out in the wild (with no facilities, egad!) then head home Sunday. We ended up making backup plans just in case Sabrina was full: our main campsite goal was Lake Sabrina Campground, plan B: Intake 2 Campground, plan C: hotel (my friend booked one just in case everything went to shit). It’s always good to have backup plans. I did as much research as I could on different blogs and camping sites and made a list of all the things we needed. Here’s what we went with:
Clothes: Hat, jacket, socks, hiking shoes, sunglasses, hiking pants, sports bra, compression shirt, jeans, sweats, flip flops, swimsuit, water backpack, underwear/bras
Eating: Burner with fuel, cookware, cooking utensils, knife, bowls/plates, cups, reusable water bottle, gallons/bottles of water, towel and biodegradable soap, paper towels, small cutting board, snacks (granola bars, energy bars) food ingredients, cooking oil, table, cooler
Personal: Toilet paper, sunscreen, lip balm, OFF! Spray, Cortizone, first-aid kit, tooth brush/paste, face wash, biodegradable body wipes, Tylenol , Ibuprofen/Advil, Benadryl, towel and soap, contacts, glasses, waste kit/bags
Camp: Tent (pole & stakes), mallet, sleeping bags, cots, pillows, folding chairs, pocket knife, sleeping mat, lanterns, canopy, table (if needed), ear plugs
Electronics: Pack camera, charge camera, camera backpack, battery packs, chargers, two-way radio, flashlights (extra batteries), tripod, download offline maps
There were a few things we realized we forgot in the process (of the rush) that we needed and would be of use:
Missing: condiments (s&p, ketchup), aloe vera (sunburns), portable dish washing bucket, cooking utensils, dish sponge
We packed our stuff the night before, went to bed, woke up at 2:30AM and headed out at 3:00AM. Our first meeting point was at a Shell gas station where the 14 and 395 merged to grab snacks, pee break and take a rest before heading back out. We arrived into the mountains around 7:45AM and hoped to the universe that Sabrina campground was open, but let me just say that Lake Sabrina area is gorgeous, blue skies, green forestry and awesome weather.
LAKE SABRINA CAMPGROUND
“CAMPGROUND FULL” was what we were greeted with when we came up to the entrance and were majorly bummed. We didn’t have time to sulk so we went to plan B and headed down to Intake 2 campground. We got SO lucky, Intake 2 campground had three spots open, two at the lower Intake (right by the river) and one at upper Intake. Me and David waited at the bottom spots while the others checked out the spot at the top to see which one was more fitting. We decided to take one at the top one where the site was nestled inside beautiful trees and provided pretty good shade coverage in the morning and late evenings, we later found out there was also an easy access to the river over the hill for shower rinsing needs. The cost was $24.00 a night and $7.00 extra flat fee for an extra car coming out to $55.00 for two nights. There were two restroom buildings, the farther one was vaulted (no sink) and had recycling bins right outside. The one closer to our site had running water (had a sink and drinking water fountain) and flushable toilets. We paid and set up camp. Our first blessing was the campers next to us were leaving so they gave us their haul of fire wood for free!
David and I had a 6 person tent (don’t judge me 😂) that was easily usable with our cots. It fit very generously that still gave us extra room for our backpacks and duffel. If you do choose to sleep on the ground I highly recommend getting either an air mattress or a mat layer so your back doesn’t get jabbed by the rocky ground below. The first day/night was probably the worst out of the four days we camped. I was very quickly attacked by mosquitoes (literally a few minutes after getting out of the car) that by bed time I had 8 bites already. Thank goodness for Off! Spray and hydrocortisone. I also highly misjudged the temperatures at Intake 2 campground. I kept thinking that because Bishop (city below/flatland) was at 95 degrees, I just assumed it was going to be warm around our area since we weren’t that high up (Intake 2 was lower than Sabrina campground). Albeit I should’ve known better since I saw the temp gauge set at low 70s during the daytime at Intake 2 campground. I should’ve also double checked my sleeping bag before leaving. My sleeping bag only withstood up to 50+ degrees of coldness but our campsite area dropped to easily 30 degrees at night, I was freezing the entire night and didn’t get a wink of sleep. I ended up squishing myself inside David’s sleeping bag in the wee hours of the morning and managed an hour nap before we all woke up for breakfast. To make matters even worse, I got bit by a something that was worse than a mosquito, half my arm swelled up like a balloon/got really stiff by morning. My remedy: I took Benadryl (itch) Friday night, but also made me really drowsy, Advil (swelling) Saturday morning with hydrocortisone (itch) and repeat of ice packing/rinsing with iced river water. By Saturday the swelling was gone, the redness eased by Sunday. The second night there was definitely much better (after purchasing a new sleeping bag in town), we managed to take night time photos and I got a full 8 hours of sleep.
For our meals, we kept it simple: scrambled eggs with sausage spinach wrap (sandwich version for David) for breakfast, ham spinach wraps/ham sandwiches for our hiking lunches paired with energy/granola bars, dinner was already cooked pulled pork salad/sandwich. Unfortunately our friend Brian allowed another person to prep his meals for him and it ended up not being enough that he was hungry the whole trip. Always prep your own food (unless it’s someone like your SO) because you know yourself the best and know how much you eat. Thankfully Bishop was only 18 miles down the mountain so we made a quick trip after breakfast to grab things that we were missing or needed: spatula, new sleeping bag, more ice, food, and snacks. We made a second trip down later in the weekend because we also ran out of bug spray. Which I also recommend getting the big bottle, we got the travel sized one and ended up using all of it by end of day 2.
This campsite definitely one that I liked, we’re right by a river and lake, it’s quiet, the parking lot and restrooms were super close and we had a beautiful view of the night sky filled with stars.
LONE PINE CAMPGROUND
This was our second campground that we landed ourselves in, BUT let me tell you the story of how we it took us 5 hours to get to that point. LOL. We left our serene Intake 2 campground at 10AM and Lone Pine was only an hour away from Bishop so we got there around 11AM.
The original plan was that we would pick a random place in Alabama Hills and setup camp because the land is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as the Alabama Hills Recreation Area so it’s free for all to enjoy. Downside was there would be no facilities and we would have to either dig cat holes or pack our waste (an idea I’m personally I’m not a fan of) as well as wipe with wet wipes. Thankfully that plan never came to fruition as we ended up searching for a campsite instead. We made a stop at Lone Pine campground to see if any spots were open as well a pee break. Most of the spots were taken and had zero shade, we only found one spot open but was it small and sunny. I wanted to stay because a spot is better than no spots, but everyone else decided to keep looking so we headed up the mountain. We drove for about 20 minutes before we decided (after pulling over ad debated another 10 minutes) to head back down because no one was even sure there were campgrounds all the way up there (my offline map wasn’t set to the area we were in). We headed back down and hit Portagee Joe Campground right outside of town (literally a 3-5 minute drive into town). It was blistering hot at the campground, but the site was 95% empty, had a pretty cool river flowing right down the middle and had a lot of trees as well as reception. Cons: because it was so hot and wet from the river, there were massive spiders (we saw 4-5 of them in one bush) which meant tons of mosquitoes. I had really didn’t want to voluntarily put myself in a mosquito infested situation and had hoped to avoid getting bit some more so I asked if we could go elsewhere. After 20 minutes of debating we went up to Tuttle Creek Campground that was referred to us by a local.
Tuttle Creek campground was vast and spacious which allowed vehicles like RVs to be parked there. They easily had over 80 sites that can be used but it’s very dry and desert-like at this campground. The day that we went it was gnarly windy, but we didn’t put much thought into it thinking maybe it’ll die down in an hour or so. We found a few spots that we liked and decided on one that that had decent tree shade. We had started to set our tents up when the wind picked up. We tried nailing down the tent but the wind was pushing really hard because we were facing an open valley where the wind was coming at us at full force. I knew if it lasted into the night, we won’t have a good night sleep and would have to sleep in the car. It was a hard decision, we we weren’t completely happy with the spot, but it was getting really late (3:45PM, and we had missed lunch and most of us were getting hangry) when we all sat down to decide whether or not we wanted to stay or leave. At this point I felt like we went from 0% to 95% back down to a mediocre 30% as everyone was hungry and hot. We chose to divide and conquer with walkie-talkies in hand to keep in contact, me and Carlson went and checked out Lone Pine Campground again to see if any spots opened up while everyone else stayed behind. We prepared cash in hand just in case we did find a spot we liked.
Luck was on our side again. When we arrived back at Lone Pine campground, site #39 had become available (there was a family there beforehand). It was a large and spacious site sitting right next to the river (we had three access points to the river). The campground was higher up so it wasn’t as hot, there was also a stack of free firewood again. There was a tree shading the bench and food box area. The campground was also really close to Mobius Arch where we wanted to take night shots. It was perfect. The price was the same as Intake 2’s, $24 a night with $7.00 flat fee for an extra car so the total was $31 for one night. We dropped all the stuff from the truck to hold our place there and went back to pick everyone up.
1 hour of driving + 4 hours of driving aimlessly and debating later, everyone was finally on site. We started setting up camp when we got lucky again. In the midst of setting up the guy managing the campground came up to us and refunded us the $7.00 for the extra vehicle because apparently the campground wasn’t busy anymore and there was more than enough parking for everyone. We thanked him with a beer. 😂
The river we were camping by was very loud (almost roaring) so I highly recommend getting ear plugs if you’re sensitive to sounds when sleeping. But I loved how close we were to the river that we were able to rinse ourselves with no problem. It was very refreshing albeit the water was freezing and lowkey painful (it’s freshly melted snow water). It was also a very popular fishing river as we saw many other campers leave with buckets full of fresh caught fish. The fire pit was also built much higher and we managed to start a very successful fire (compared to our first attempt at Intake 2). Although I will mention that it does get very hot by 7AM and most of the site besides the food area isn’t shaded by anything. On Sunday we dismantled our tents by 7:30AM because the sun was already roasting. We prepped and ate breakfast, cleaned up our site and ended our camping journey to head home… FINALLY TO A PROPER SHOWER! I’m just playing… A little. You start to be really appreciative of the simple things like a proper shower after days without one. But the overall trip, with only a week’s worth of planning, was a smashing success if I do say so myself. I’m actually really glad that I said yes. It still surprises me how well the trip went. I normally would never had agreed to something so risky, but this trip definitely taught me a lot and opened me up to new adventures that I’m definitely willing to partake in again with proper planning.
Sometimes adversity and taking a risk is what makes the journey an adventure. 🙂