Blissfully Unplugged: Camping in Lopez Lake

Hello everyone! This weekend, I went camping for my third annual grad school girls camping trip (here are the posts from 2012 and 2013). I met these ladies in grad school, and we quickly bonded over an insatiable need for caffeine, the horrors of mass communication theories, and how many times we cried each week. I jest (kind of. grad school aint for sissies). We drove north from Los Angeles to Lopez Lake near Arroyo Grande, which is about an hour south of San Luis Obispo. Our campsite was “Buck 12” and was on a shady hill looking over the madmade Lopez Lake, surrounded by oak trees. Isn’t this beautiful?

LopezLake_Sunshine_Buck12_Campsite

We set up our tent on Friday night and made a fancy gourmet dinner of fire-roasted hot dogs and chili cheese fritos, in addition to s’mores. In typical Alyssa fashion I enjoyed the indulgence at the time, but later paid for it when I woke up at 1 a.m. in a swirly nauseous junk food haze. I was really excited this camping trip to try out my new Klymit Static V Camping Mattress because for the past two years I’ve relied on a yoga mat or towel to shield my soft body from the unforgiving rocks. This year I splurged a little and got this camping mattress, which comes to you the size of a Nalgene water bottle, you blow it up with 15-20 breaths, and BOOM! Instant mattress. I was really happy and surprised with how durable and comfy this thing is… and it totally doubles as a fashionable skirt. See?

Klymit_SleepingPad_Camping_DoubleChinDiary

We woke up the next morning and headed out on what was supposed to be a 1.1 mile hike, but ended up being about four miles because we got lost several times trying to actually find the trail. It was all good training for the 3-Day, especially because it was in hills, in the middle of the day, in the sun. While we tried to find the trail, we enjoyed seeing the numerous deer at the campground who were totally unafraid of humans.

Deer_LopezLake

We finally made our way to Blackberry Trail and were so excited we had to take a picture with the sign. The hike was beautiful, with lots of fluttery butterflies, shady fern groves, and brambles of berries. Because we’re awesome, we actually got on to another trail after some other hikers had told us they had seen a bear on it (Yes, we wanted to see a bear!). Sadly, we did not run into any California Black Bears, though I did hear one huffing and puffing around our tent later that night (bears have a very distinct huff n’ puff style breathing. See?)

Hiking_BlackberryTrail

Training for the 3-Day has really shown me how important the right shoes are, and I was happy for this hike to be wearing my Ahnu Women’s Sugarpine Air Mesh Hiking Shoe. I actually won these on Facebook (and so did my friend Julie – see? She’s wearing hers, too!), and I have to say I’m loving this shoe for hikes. They have plenty of support around the arch and toe box, and the grip was great as we scaled up loose dirt and tip-toed down shale-covered ravines. Plus they come in cute colors in a size 11, which is actually a big deal because most shoe manufacturers stop making cute things past a size 10 (thanks, Ahnu!).

SugarPine_AirMesh_HikingShoes_DoubleChinDiary

After our hike, we schlepped back down the mountain to the Marine store, treated ourselves to a well deserved cheese burger, and then hiked all over the campground again to go lay on the lake beach for a few hours. Sprawling in the sun felt SO GOOD. Then, it was back to our campsite for dinner for night 2 – ceasar salad and JIFFY POP! Jiffy Pop is kind of the best thing ever when you’re camping, just because it’s so fun to make over a fire. You basically shake it like crazy and then watch the foil on top turn into this huge martian head filled with delicious buttery corn.  It’s worth the $2. Do it!

JiffyPop_DoubleChinDiary

I think I so badly needed this camping trip because early Saturday morning, my phone ran out of battery and I was able to super unplug for the whole weekend. As much as I love tweeting and instagramming, there’s nothing like taking a break from being “on” and spending time really being present, like the amazing colors in this sunset, or the tiny tomato plant growing in the camp water fountain — or, even better, laughing with my friends!

LopezLake_Sunset_DoubleChinDiary

When was the last time you went camping? Are you a fan of camping or is it not for you? I definitely love camping but have learned over the years it’s better to go a little closer to “glamping” and splurge on things like a sleeping pad, bringing a table cloth for the camp, and choosing a campground with showers. Those little things can make a big difference in your comfort level! What did you do this weekend?

GradSchoolGirls

*I was not compensated in any way to write about the sleeping pad or Ahnu shoes, just wanted to share two things that made my trip less campy and more glampy. There are affiliate links in here which will earn me a few pennies if you end up deciding to check either item out 🙂

Girls’ Weekend – Camping in Ojai and Santa Barbara Day Trip

Hi Everyone! I hope you had an awesome weekend and the first day of the work week is treating you ok. I had an amazing weekend, because it was my 2nd annual Grad School Girls Camping Trip! Remember last year we went to Big Bear? Well, this year, we headed up the coast to Ojai, a sleepy little town known for its citrus and hilly retreats. We camped at Wheeler Gorge, a beautiful campground with a chapparal type feeling, covered with big river rocks and low grassy scrub.

Here’s our campsite before we set up our tent.

Wheeler_gorge_CampgroundWe arrived at the camp site on Friday around 5 pm, so we had some work to do before we could settle down with some hard ciders and s’mores. With only minimal frustration (aka one hour of “wtf?!” type exclamations), we set up our tent and got the “mess hall” (aka the picnic table) all prepared. Once that was done, it was time to cook dinner, and I’m proud that I was the official “chef”, serving up very gourmet all-beef hot dogs. Don’t mind my stylish camping apparel.

Alyssa gets grillin'

Alyssa gets grillin’

After dinner it was time for S’MORES! I love me some marshmallows, in fact, they’re probably one of my favorite sweet things. I had previously seen Jumbo Marshmallows and was enamored by the size, so we had to get them. Unfortunately, I can say they’re almost too much for a s’more — and at a whopping 90 calories each, I’ll stick with the normal s’mores size. However, they were super yum despite their monstrous size.

Expert Marshmallow Roasters

Expert Marshmallow Roasters

See how huge they are?!?! Massive Mushmellows! After a couple drinks, we hit the hay… only to be awake all night thanks to our rude campsite neighbors, who decided playing their guitar loudly to crappy Bieber music was the best thing to do from midnight through 5 AM. I can definitely tell I’m getting older, because as a teenager, sleeping on the hard ground was never an issue. Now, I feel all creaky and like a 90-year-old as I lament the dirt beneath me instead of my posh pillowtop. The next day, we got up early and headed to the beautiful Santa Barbara Mission.

Santa Barbara Mission

Santa Barbara Mission

If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you pay a visit to the town of Santa Barbara. It’s a gorgeous coastal town nestled up into beautiful mountains. The Santa Barbara mission is only $6 to get in and you can take a self guided tour through lush rose gardens, see the Friar’s old living quarters, read about the history of the people who lived (and died) there  in a beautiful cemetery, and check out the chapel.

Missiongirls

This mission is also the site of the famous I Madonnari Italian Street Painting festival, so you could see the remnants of highly detailed chalk paintings around the missions grounds. I also caught a glimpse of this Monarch butterfly in the gardens, isn’t he pretty?

monarch_butterfly_

One very important thing I realized about this weekend is how nice it is to be out and about and STAY HYDRATED! I took my hubby’s CamelBak and was able to suck down water anywhere we went. With long days in the hot sun, it felt really good to not feel parched and chapped.

Stayin' Hydrated!

Stayin’ Hydrated!

 

In terms of camping while on the Double Chin Diet, this weekend was way better than last year’s trip in that I really didn’t go overboard on anything. I ate until I was full, enjoyed s’mores, salt water taffy and pasta when we went out to dinner, but I ate without remorse and just tried to remember the trip wasn’t going to be “good or bad” based on the food I ate, but what memories I made. It’s nice to have a healthy attitude towards food!

Santa Barbara Beach

Santa Barbara Beach

 

We ended our trip with a beautiful evening at the beach. I basked in the sun and read magazines, and then later, we all walked down the Santa Barbara pier and had a sunset dinner at a seafood restaurant. This weekend made me so grateful for the amazing state I live in (Thanks for dragging us here 19 years ago, Dad!), my awesome friends, and also, the ability to disconnect for awhile. I had decided the day before I left that my phone would be OFF all weekend, and other than a quick phone call to the husband, I didn’t check Facebook, Twitter or instagram once. Especially because my career depends on constant connectivity and monitoring of social sites, brand pages, accounts, e-mails, etc, I wanted a break. As a freelancer, you’re essentially on call 24/7 — meaning if something breaks online, you’re the person to handle fixing it. It was really nice to enjoy the sights and sounds of Ojai without hearing the “ding ding” of an incoming text. It may sound scary, but if you’re going away for a quick weekend and can get away with being unplugged, do it! You just might find out how nice it actually is.

So that was my weekend, in a nutshell! What did you do this weekend????