Nobody camps in L.A.

Hey Ranger!I’m not exactly a purist, but I still don’t think you can call it camping if:

1. There’s “free wireless internet” available.
2. Your car is within easy walking distance, let alone curbside to your tent.
3. You don’t need a shovel to bury your own poop (i.e. there’s a public restroom).

Regardless, I spent part of the weekend at Malibu Creek State Park. Just because the entire time was spent outdoors, and we slept in a tent, it doesn’t make this camping.

Looking past all that, the park itself was pleasant enough. Clean bathrooms, not too many bugs, and generally well kept grounds. Its nice to know that even a short drive can get you far enough away to see the Milky Way after the sun sets and fall asleep to the sound of crickets that almost drowned out the drunken frat boys who stayed up til 3am at the site next to ours. (Dudes, if you’re reading this, drunk dialing your friends on your cell phone to say you’re in the wilderness really kills the illusion).

We never ventured farther than our temporary postal of land, but the park boast a fiften miles of trails, a rock pool, and plenty to see to make you forget about living in Los Angeles… like the remains of old sets from M*A*S*H and Planet of the Apes.

After the jump, enjoy some anecdotes from my uncamping experience.

Frat boys performing first aid on each other with onions.The handy onion

Speaking of the drunken frat boys, while playing football and managing to hit each of our cars at least once with a fumbled pass, one of them started complaining of being stung by a bunch of bees, and walked over to our little compound to find out if we had a first aid kit. Our fearless leader (known in podcasting circles as the AmHam) sliced up an onion and told the frat boy to rub them on his stings. He was as surprised as I was to say it really worked – rubbing an onion on the bee sting eliminated the pain and reduced the swelling.

In the meantime, another frat boy playing football also complained of a bee sting, and walked over for help. Again, the onion saved the day. All the while, the rest of the fraternity kept playing football in the same general area, and every couple minutes one or two would complain of a bee sting. Eventually, one suggested that maybe they should move somewhere else to play football.

Nose grease vs. champagne

Apparently too impatient for the bubbly to settle on recently poured plastic cups of champagne, the AmHam showed a trick he’d learned from catering staff: he briefly rubbed his nose with his index finger to collect a smidgen of grease, then tapped the champagne fizz, instantly settling it. After some experimentation, my girlfriend said it also worked with sodapop. I’m torn between disgusted and just disbelieving., Virginia, they do call carbonated beverages “pop”

The Albertsons on Las Virgenes, right off the 101 as you head down to the park, is possibly quite the best organized grocery store in all of L.A.  The first thing we bumped into upon entry was a display for s’mores – marshmallows, Hershey bars, and graham crackers, all on one shelf. Since this is what we’d stopped off for, it was like a blessing from the cavity fairy.

But as someone who was raised in the Midwest, what really struck me was that they referred to soda-pop as “pop” – not “soda” like the rest of Los Angeles. I never thought the West Valley could endear me, but this small touch brought a tear to my eye.

Who needs raincoats?

If there’s one thing I know about Los Angeles weather, its that no matter how sunny it is, no matter the forecast for clear skies, if you’ve planning any sort of outdoor activity in advance it will rain. Alas, while normally I’d have brought a poncho just in case, my girlfriend looked at me like an idiot when I’d suggested we pack a couple.

So, indeed, on our first night under the stars in forever, it rained… the first shower since April during one of the driest years in Los Angeles’ history.

9 thoughts on “Nobody camps in L.A.”

  1. I have to laugh at this one. I’ve camped in the BWCA and portaged distances with heavy packs only to run into “frat boys”. Those were the campers we tended to laugh at the most, they had fun but we had more watching them. To each there own, am just glad there are spots out there where we can enjoy nature so close to home.

  2. Malibu Creek is amazing. I plowed all over that park. I’ve climbed from the Dam to the Rock Pool and over most of the trails. Last year, when we had some rain, I was going to raft the creek from the Park to the shore. Then when I was scouting the route, I peered down into the canyon and discovered one hundred foot high Rindge Dam.

  3. Oh dear. I am abandoning my “Jews don’t camp” stance for a Big Sur birthday camping trip next month. (I had always maintained that after wandering in the desert for 40 years, we’d had enough of roughing it.) I didn’t realize that I need to poop in the woods to be authentic. I thought sleeping on the ground was enough. I may have to rethink this…

  4. Travis, that was funny. You’re betraying the Jews!

    I live 10 minutes away from Malibu Creek Park, however, my idea of camping is staying at a hotel. However, I do love me some day trips and I can’t wait to drag my husband out to the Rock Pool.

  5. If there’s one thing I know about Los Angeles weather, its that no matter how sunny it is, no matter the forecast for clear skies, if you’ve planning any sort of outdoor activity in advance it will rain.

    Hah! So you’re the reason it rained! :-)

    We were on our way home from an expotition to San Pedro that day. We got caught in a shower coming up the Harbor Freeway, turned west onto I-10 so we could watch the sunset through the pink streaks of rain, and then spotted a red’n’orange sunset rainbow over West LA.

    It was gorgeous. Thanks for leaving the poncho at home. :-)

  6. In defense of Jews and frat boys:

    I don’t really have any good argument to make here, except that this Jew camps and this frat boy prefers smores to bee stings.

  7. Fearless Leader and Terrible Amateur Podcaster checking in, just to thank you Dave for making it out to Camp AmHam, and for you contribution to make this a memorable B-Day trip for me.

    As a I have been a resident of LA for 22 years, I enjoy getting out of the City, even just for a few days at a time, and I find it a treat to be out in the wilderness within an hour. Why spend a full day driving to a Camp-site, when you only have a 4 day vacation?
    When it comes to the small luxuries, like not having to bury your poop, but have restrooms with showers and sinks, I am appreciative. It is enough work to get ready for a little get-away, packing the car, setting up Camp, preparing meals, etc., there is just no way that I would want to dig a hole for a BM, and wipe my ass with leaves.
    Been there-done that-not gonna do it again,…(unless we have a natural disaster and there is no other choice).
    I had a great time and I thank you for being part of making it so.

  8. The luxury of a restroom that is often occupied and stinky?

    Real luxury is being able to release your bowels wherever nature takes you, instead of letting “the man” dictate that you need to it surrounded by concrete walls.

    More importantly, let me know when the podcast of the uncamping trip is up and I’ll update with a link.

  9. you’re non-camping is as camping as i get. hell, i’m still proud of having survived a week at a catalina campsite with nothing but a porta poty to use. that’s roughing it.

    i am happy to say that i’ve never yet relieved myself anywhere not purpose-built for such activities. am i lame? to some. but i’m totally fine with it.

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