When? September 1st-3rd, 2018
Destination: Boulder Basin Campground
Temp: 80 and Sunny – Low 50’s at Night
Vehicle Configuration: 2017 Tacoma TRD Off-Road & Tepui Rooftop Tent Purpose: Explore & Camp
Thought of the hour: Beautiful, but busy.
CG description: Off-grid campground up Forest Service Road 4S01. Lots of people, but it’s Labor Day Weekend. Beautiful sites with vault toilets, surrounded by tree cover and big boulders throughout the camp.
I was getting the itch to get outside, had a couple days off and figured, why not? I was quite conflicted with going given the holiday weekend, but I decided to give it a try anyways. I packed up the truck with all of my gear, grabbed Kaia and Lu Lu, and hit the road Saturday morning around 9am. I had a couple stops to make on the way out for last minute supplies, but was still able to hit the 15 north about 10am or so. I had been researching places to go up in the Idyllwild area earlier in the week and stumbled on Black Mountain Truck Trail, aka Forest Service road 4S01. From what I could tell, this would be my best chance to get a spot somewhere given the off-road trail up to the campground. The road proved to be a bit of fun, even providing the opportunity for 4W high a couple of times. It definitely wasn’t a must, but just made life a bit easier on the climb up to the campground (7200 feet of elevation). I would say any 2-wheel drive with decent clearance would make it no problem as long as the conditions are ok. Although I did see plenty of low clearance cars in the campground, I’m not sure I would bring a car up here. I guess it just depends how much you care about your car.
Upon pulling into the grounds, it was only about 40% full, giving me the opportunity to drive around looking for a prime spot. After a couple loops around the camp getting the lay of the land, I ended up picking site #11; a great level spot with plenty of room to open up the RTT, as well as some solid tree cover to protect from the sun a bit.
Setting up camp was a little more challenging than normal given my camp partners Kaia and Lu Lu. Kaia is our 55 lb. 2.5-year-old boxer puppy and Lu Lu is our neighbor’s boxer whom is quite a bit larger at 70 lbs. or so. They aren’t keen on being leashed up, so that always brings its own challenges keeping them at bay. They would love to be able to cruise around and say hi to everyone, but with the number of campers, as well as other dogs, they had to stay leashed up. This was my first time camping with both of them, safe to say I learned a lot.
After setting up, I cracked an NA (non-alcoholic beer) and made some lunch. Given I was with the 2 pups and just myself, I did most of the food prep ahead of time at home before leaving. I bought a couple pre-made salads for lunch just to keep it simple, which proved to be a great idea as I was famished after the trip up. After lunch, the pups and I headed for a quick walk around camp scoping stuff out. I tell you what, walking alone with 125 lbs. of boxer is no easy task; luckily they both behaved pretty well (for the most part).
After our walk I relaxed at camp just reflecting on the drive and the days adventure. It had me thinking about how many thousands upon thousands of trails exist all over our beautiful country and how bad I want to explore ALL of them. We truly are blessed to be able to have so many great places to get outdoors, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Before too long, it was time for dinner. As I mentioned, the food was prepped already, making it super easy to grub. On the menu for tonight was some fresh caught salmon paired with grilled asparagus. Both items were pre-seasoned, marinated, and in foil so I could just throw them straight on the grill (see recipes below). Some may look down on this method, but for me it works great. The food steams perfectly and you can eat it right out of the foil, thus reducing dishes and camp prep, saving more time for relaxation and exploration. After all, who likes doing dishes at camp? Not me!
After dinner, the pups and I went on another walk so they could use the restroom and be ready to go to sleep in the truck for the night. The back seat of the Tacoma turned out to be the perfect sleeping spot for them. The only downside is that every time they moved at night I could feel them in the RTT. Oh well, it’s better than them being up in the tent with me. The dogs were asleep in no time, giving me the chance to relax, read a bit, and really just enjoy the peace and quiet. Luckily, there were no kooks in the campground this time around, and everyone was quiet and respectful. I turned in pretty early, tired from the day’s events. As I laid in the @tepui RTT looking up at the stars through the skylight, I thought to myself how truly blessed I am to be able to have these experiences out here in God’s country!
I awoke early to the stirring of the squirrels and the birds chirping. What a gorgeous morning! As the sun peaked through the trees, I made some coffee and got the pups going on their morning routine; water, breakfast and a walk up the mountain so they could run free for a a bit.
Once done with the pups, it was time to feed myself. I usually like to keep it simple and healthy in the mornings while camping. I heated some tortillas on the camp stove, then added some peanut butter, fresh fruit, and then drizzled some honey on top. Super quick and easy with minimal clean up, yet yummy and fairly healthy. Quick and easy meals like this are clutch, especially when you’re by yourself. No need to make it complicated. It’s easy enough to eat great food with minimal effort. Just how I like to do it!
After breakfast I spent some time writing (this blog), sipping on my French pressed coffee, and watching the dogs play in the dirt with each other. Kaia loves to destroy pinecones, stick and even her leash. She literally tries to chew through it so she can escape and play. The little escape artist knows exactly how to back out of her harness if you aren’t paying attention. Lu Lu seems content just laying around, watching the squirrels and birds, probably contemplating how to escape as well, just not acting on it. I wish I could let them run free, but this just isn’t the place.
Then it was time to do some more exploring up the truck trail to see where it takes me. After packing up camp and giving the pups one last walk, I hit the trail and quickly found the yellow post campsites I had read about. They were amazing! Can’t wait to try those out next time. The campground was nice, but it is always better to be off the grid and away from other campers. Next time…
Once I was done exploring the trail a bit further and snapping some photos, I decided it was time to start heading back home. Given I had never been up this way, I opted to drive through town and see what it was all about. Idyllwild is such a rad place! Definitely bringing the wife back at some point. Another quick trip in the books!
Menu / Recipes
-Peanut (I like crunchy) or almond butter
-Fresh blueberries and blackberries (or pick your favorite fruit)
-Honey or agave drizzled on top
****Heat tortillas on camp stove, spread the nut butter on the warm tortilla, add your fruit of choice, drizzle on the honey or agave, then roll it up like a burrito and EAT IT.
****No need for instructions here. These pre-made salads are quick, easy and have everything you need including the fork. At $3.99/salad they are a cheap and healthy option that stack in the cooler easily.
Dinner 1 – Steamed Salmon & Roasted Asparagus
-Salmon steak (fresher the better)
-Asparagus with balsamic glaze
-Seasoning (I used garlic salt, pepper, brown sugar, fresh dill, fresh garlic)
-Butter slices and fresh chopped garlic on top to melt in
-Fresh squeezed lemon and capers on top
****Fish: Prepare foil (cross 2 pieces to fold into each other), lay salmon in the foil skin side down, season the fish to your liking, cut thin slices of butter for the top with fresh garlic on top, squeeze the lemon and add the capers on top, close up/seal and it’s ready to go straight on the grill. Steam the fish on the grill or over the open flame until cooked.
****Asparagus: Rinse the asparagus and cut off the bottoms (white part), toss in olive oil, spices and balsamic glaze, squeeze lemon, add butter slices and fresh garlic. Cook on the fire or over the open flame until cooked, tender and ready to eat.
Dinner 2 – Grilled Ribeye & Roasted Potatoes
-Fingerling potatoes with pearled onions
-Seasoning (I used garlic salt, pepper, steak seasoning, fresh garlic, fresh rosemary)
****Steak: Drizzle oil over both sides of steak and rub seasoning mix of garlic salt, salt, pepper, steak seasoning, and then put steak into a sealed container for safe ice chest traveling. Grill steak over open flame until charred on the outside and medium temperature on the inside. Steak should be pulled once you have reached desired temperature and set to rest for at least 10 minutes. This helps lock in all the juices and makes for a better tasting steak.
****Potatoes: Peel and cut the pearled onions and toss them in a bowl with the potatoes in olive oil, garlic salt, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary. Prepare your foil container by crossing two pieces so they can fold over each other easier. Transfer the mixture from the bowl to your foil and seal them up so they are ready to throw on the grill. Cook the potatoes over the fire or on the grill. Pro tip: the potatoes will take much longer than the steak, so make sure to start those long before the steak goes on.