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  • Erin


I started this blog in 2015-ish when we moved further away from the American River (we were a few minute bike ride before our move across town).

Our new spot wasn't as close to the river but was closer to Morrison Creek and a network of creeks south of the city that head west to the Sacramento River.

I thought it might be worthwhile to explore these urban creeks and imagine how they could be better treated / designed (undesigned?) to be less concrete and fences and more American River Parkway-like. So it was a blog about Morrison Creek Exploration turned blog about general Deep Nature Connection, Herbalism, Benchmarking the world around me.

But way back in 2013 I had started a different blog to log how many nights I slept outside in a year. I think in 2012 I probably did a lot of backpacking, burning man-ing, bike touring and wished I had recorded more of it. I think I noticed how great I felt on those longer trips sleeping on the ground and not in a building. So this 2013 blog didn't get much steam and I do wish I had recorded more about my outdoor trips. I only recorded two trips, but in the spirit of consolidation, I'm moving them from some old website to here:

Sleep Outside!

Night 1: March 21, 2013

The first night sleeping outside in 2013 was at the end of a loooong drive down 395 to Joshua Tree. We rolled into the park in bright moonlight. For all four of us in the incredibly tightly packed hatchback it was the first sight of the park. The Joshua Trees and rock formations bathed in moonlight and headlights were even more surreal than any of us had expected.

We crept slowly through two campgrounds not finding a site and finally, exhausted, poached a group site in Sheep’s Pass campground. We set up the two tents in the moonlight. A pack of large and light colored ants crawled all around near where we put one of our stakes. We stretched a bit after the long drive and fell asleep for a few solid hours. Early morning, pre-dawn wind whipped through our tents waking us up and chilling us. I bundled up a little more and fell back asleep.

Night 2 - March 22, 2013:

We set up at what was probably the BEST site in Jumbo Rocks campground. It didn’t look like much at first, and it was one of only a couple sites left, but it was nicely isolated from the road by creosote bushes and the fire pit was tucked between a bush and the vertical dramatic rock wall backdrop. That day we wound our way up Ryan Mountain’s 5,457 feet and later saw a beautiful fox while making our way around the Barker Dam Loop. After the hikes we snacked at the picnic table until Emily rolled up. We climbed to the top of one of the rock formations and watched a sunset and then cooked a veggies over the fire and mac and cheese on the camp stove for a decadent dinner.

Night 3 - March 23, 2013:

This night was not a good night’s sleep. After much debate we finally decided to set up our tents in the soft sand of a wash - a dry creek bed. We were all pretty spent having just hiked the 3 miles with really heavy packs full of lots of water. I was the most reluctant to set up in the wash since the book recommended against it to avoid being swept away by the flash flood. The other options were all 45 degree slopes or a narrow, extremely windy ridge line.

We spent some time scrambling around the wash, enjoying the very aromatic plants and scraping our hands bloody on the extremely rough granite. Kevin and I hiked up the opposite ridge and found what we guessed was big horn sheep poop and tracks.

Despite the flash flood danger, the wash was a comfy little spot and that night’s dinner was had sitting in the sand around a little candle lantern that my parents gave me for my 30th birthday in Big Sur. We cooked up some tasty bites and way too much couscous and invented a new drink. It involved Kevin’s lemon / mint / cucumber infused vodka to top off your Sutter’s Home mini wine bottle. Delish, of course.

Night 4: March 24, 2013

The morning after sleeping in the wash, i was still a bit groggy from waking every hour to check for flash floods. How do you check for flash floods anyway?? A breakfast of leftover couscous and tuna and a hike down to the oasis complete with glimpses of beautiful bright red-headed song birds woke me up. By the time we got back to the wash and grabbed our packs I was in the groove and the hike back out to the car was blissful and felt like a breeze compared to the hike the day before with so much water weighing down my pack. We found another great campsite back in Jumbo Rocks for our last night in the park. We made a bit of a precarious scramble up one of the rock formations and watched a lovely sunset that was even more magical by the almost-full moon rising opposite of it. Other groups of campers were silhouetted against the sky on top of other, distant rocks. We enjoyed some of the couscous for the third time with our dinner of sweet potato tacos around the fire.

Night 5: March 29, 2013:

I didn't even unpack my gear from J Tree; worked three and half days and headed out to Pinnacles with Flo Friday at noon. Mike, Court, and Naz were already out there, so they had left a series of voice mails, red ribbons and cairns for us to find them.

Flo and I paid our registration fee, were told that the campsites were full and that there was no back country camping. We found Naz's car parked at the trail head AND the very large note she left on the dash for us directing us to their campsite. With our names on it. Flo and I readied our packs "stealth style" with the tent on the inside. Surely any ranger would know we were just practicing. Starting out at 6pm...

We luckily didn't see any rangers as we climbed 700+ feet up gorgeous High Peaks Trail. We heard a whistle and rounded a bend to see our buddies on the trail waiting for us. They lead us off trail and down to a gorgeous oak meadow that flattened out just before dropping off into a canyon. The opposite wall was high rock peaks.

We set up the tent just as we were losing light and then made dinner and I shared the trusty plastic single-serving Sutter Homes I had packed in. We toasted to me passing my seventh ARE and to Naz and Court being on Spring Break!

I shared my tent my tent with Flo and just as was drifting off to sleep he started to read aloud from his "survivor" app about snake bites, hypothermia and stings. He tried to show me pictures of snake bites, but I refused to look. Not my idea of bedtime stories... I slept alright though with no snake bite nightmares.

Night 6: March 30, 2013

I got a blurry picture in the very last light of the day. We did an epic hike starting late morning and arriving back at the meadow around 7pm.

We were low on water and there was no water to pump so we started our hike back down the high peaks to refill water.

We used our headlamps to wind through the cave, crowded with big groups of hikers.

We fell asleep on a rock by the reservoir after eating lunch, then trekked up the other side of the high peaks trail. The trail was gorgeous, with dramatic skies and a few rain drops at the ridge. We stopped to watch the condors and they were swooping right over our heads! They were close enough that we could read the tags on their wings without binoculars. We were all mesmerized and sat in wind on the rocks and watched these birds soar.

We cut off the trail back to our meadow, relaxed with wine and hot tea and then started making our dinners. Flo fired up the tea lights he had bought and then created wind shields by modifying the plastic Sutter Home bottles with his pocket knife.

We saw the stars bright in the south sky and clouds to the north. It rained while we slept, but we all stayed dry.

We made a pact to get up early to get one more hike in before we had to leave Sunday. I was the first up and went to the edge of the meadow to sit and enjoy the quiet morning. We were all up by 7:30 and got packed up and headed out by 9:30 in time to do the balconies cave loop. We dropped out packs at the car and did a speedy hike to Balconies Cave. We all forgot our headlamps but made it through with a phone and two cameras for light. It was the perfect hike to end our trip.

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