Ken and I went camping this weekend for the first time in a good, long while to get away, decompress, and just “get in touch with our inner beast and commune with nature.” We made reservations online for a camping spot at Dark Canyon Campground. The spot was purported to be creekside and well shaded in the San Jacinto district of San Bernardino National Forest, approximately 8 miles outside of Idyllwild.
Know where it is? No? Neither did we, and we had directions (that led only to the ranger station).
Unfortunately, we didn’t leave from Huntington Beach until about 6:00 pm on Friday, so it was 9:30 before we reached said ranger station. Fortunately, they posted directions on a bulletin board to help us get the rest of the way there. Four hours after leaving Huntington Beach, we reached our home away from home.
At this point, it was 10:00pm, pitch black, and all I wanted to do is pitch the tent and sack out, which is exactly what we did. In hindsight, I could have picked a better location for the tent because laying with your head on a downward slope is not conducive to sleep, but I got some rest, so it was okay. I woke up at 6:30 the next morning to the sound of the same crows that fight with each other outside my bedroom window. (They’re following us, I swear!) Half an hour later and a forest service helicopter started buzzing around the area, followed by the sound of chainsaws thirty minutes later. (More on this in a moment.) So much for sleeping in.
I wandered around the site, located the pit toilet (which wasn’t as awful as some pit toilets I’ve seen), and started unloading the car. The temperature was cool and dry, and overall pretty comfortable. I had a juice pouch and a granola bar, and read a magazine while I spent some time appreciating how quiet it would have been, but for the hellicopter and chainsaws.
Ken went to the store in Idyllwild to pick up the things we’d forgotten at home (like marshmallows!) and I used his absence to try to catch a quick nap in the tent. It was here that I encountered two problems- 1) that forestry chopper just wouldn’t give up, and 2) the sun came up. In the span of about 10 minutes, the temperature went from cool and comfortable to uncomfortably warm. I ended up laying my bedroll on top of the picnic table and laying on top of it because it was the only shade left at 9:30 in the morning. Some jackass had removed 8 trees from our particular campsite leaving it open to both relentless sun and prying eyes. Come to find out, those chainsaws were forest service contractors taking out predesignated trees in the interest of “wildfire fuel reduction.” I can only imagine that the chopper was looking out for hikers to keep them from being smashed by falling beetle-blighted pine trees.
Come noon, chopper and chainsaws were gone, but it was a sweltering 95+ degrees in grand old Dark Canyon, and there was NO more shade to be had in our site. We couldn’t even seek relief in that creek which was so attractive at reservation time because the whole area is fenced off ten feet from the creek to protect some frog that we neither saw nor heard all weekend.
So it was hot, there was no shade, and hiking for extended periods was out. Sunscreen was warranted, and applied liberally to my back, chest and shoulders too little too late. I forgot about that sunshine through clouds thing and I am now one crispy critter. Eventually, I managed to erect the sun shade by one of our many lovely shade tree stumps and chilled there until the last of the cursed sunlight disappeared over the mountains. Cue the campfire singalongs…
The campsite was packed this weekend, but you never would have known it because everyone was so quiet. But the second I remarked on that fact, here comes Camp Coed with a guitar and a passion for puss-rock. Now, I like music a lot, and I think the campfire singalong would have been an awesome idea! If any of them possessed any musical talent whatsoever. Every guitar riff sounded more or less the same and the only reason we could even identify the songs was through lyrics squawked in ridiculously off key singing voices. Seriously, I love Weezer and Nirvana, and even a little Pearl Jam as much as the next guy, but when the 5-10 dogs at surrounding campsites are baying at your rendition of “Polly,” it’s time to pack it in. I may never listen to Nirvana again.
The rest of the trip went okay. I made some awesome foil chicken and smores, flung flaming marshmallows at rocks, stared at millions of stars that don’t seem to exist here in civilization, and just relaxed a little. This is camping at its finest, people! Another mediocre night’s sleep though and I was over it. Pack it up, pack it in, and let’s blow this tinder box.
Came home to find the building still standing, and still no air conditioning, but a big queen sized bed that I appreciate that much more now, and a wonderful (if somewhat small) shower with plenty of water. One of the really great things about camping is how much you appreciate running water, a clean bed, and air conditioning (even if it’s the one you’re about to go to Home Depot and buy from a box).
And the best part about communing with nature? Washing it off with soap and hot water.