This past week my boyfriend and travel partner, Aaron, took me on my first, long overdue, camping trip. Both being from Los Angeles, we find it extremely important to get out of the city every chance we can get to detox our mind and body in nature. I graduated from college exactly one month ago and before this trip, I was feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders as I looked for a job and new apartment. But after being out in nature for 4 days, I was quickly reminded of how vast our planet and universe are and how small and yet connected we are to the Earth. There's a unique and overwhelming feeling you get when you stand beside the largest trees in the world. A flood of insignificance washes over you at first, but then you are left with the greatest feeling of purpose because you realize that you and those enormous trees were produced by the same forces. Being out in nature had a profound effect on me and I have come back feeling refreshed and eager to embark on my newest journey as a graduate. Below is a brief photo summary of the trip!
We set off early Wednesday morning and headed for the Sequoia National Forest and set up camp at the secluded Atwell Mill Campground in Mineral King Valley. We chose to camp away from the main park to avoid rowdy RV campers and those looking to use nature as a backdrop for their usual city antics. The campsites at Atwell Mill are quiet and spread out, allowing for lots of privacy and relaxation.
Even though this was my first time camping, I do have a few tiny tips for sprucing up your temporary outdoor home. Sleeping outside in a tent isn't exactly the most comfortable and it's not supposed to be, but it doesn't hurt to try to make it a bit more homey. Despite Aaron's disapproval and eye-rolling, I hung some string lights on the inside of our tent and lined the floor of the tent with a foam, puzzle piece play mat from Toys R Us. It may sound silly, but it saved my back and made sleeping much more comfortable. Oddly enough, instead of those alphabet or numbered play mats, I was able to find one in a faux wood floor pattern that made our tent look a little bit more like home.
We hiked a few miles up to Sawtooth Pass, only to realize that there was still far too much snow to continue on the trail, however the first 3 miles were absolutely worth it for the views (we were literally above the clouds). We started the hike early, at about 6:30am, and were greeted by families of deer along the trails. Hunting in national parks is illegal, therefore these wild deer were totally comfortable around people and stared right back at us with curious little faces.
After our first hike, things took a turn. As we were driving back down the steep windy road to our campsite, we noticed the car was overheating as steam billowed out of the hood. We pulled over and also realized that the car's battery was low, which was odd since we had just replaced it.
As we sat on the side of the road, waiting for the car to cool down, a park ranger drove by and pulled over to see if we needed any help. He took a look at the engine and noticed that there were little clumps of fur in the engine. The ranger looks at us and says "Hmm, I think a marmot may have gotten into your engine". We look at him like he's crazy because what the heck is a marmot? But believe it or not, we looked in the engine and sure enough, a chunky looking squirrel popped it's head up! It was a cutie, but had caused a real mess. I don't know much about cars, but it had clearly chewed up all the important looking stuff in the engine.
The real fun part was trying to get the marmot OUT of the engine. Apparently they like to hangout inside car engines for warmth. Note to self and others: If you ever go to Sawtooth Pass, wrap up your car with a tarp or chicken wire! Oh and in case you're wondering how many park rangers it takes to get a marmot out of your engine, refer to the photo below.
I hope these photographs and corresponding tales have inspired you to get out of your comfort zone and explore new places. A few years ago I would have scoffed at the idea of camping, and now it's my new favorite thing! Don't let fear of the unknown hold you back. In the words of Neale Donald Walsch, "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone".