Day 1: Dec 28, 2002
SF to Los Padres (470mi)

My first day! I left my home in San Francisco at 7am, before the sun rose. This was my earliest starting time of the whole trip.

Loaded up and ready to go.

I took 101S all the way past Santa Barbara to 33N past Oija to the Middle Lion Campground in Los Padres National Forest. I wanted to stay at Lion Campground, which was described in the Best in Tent Camping book, but I called the park ranger and found out that it was closed to protect some endangered species. The ranger said that I could camp at Middle Lion, which is only a short ways away.

I rode from 7am until 5pm - 10 hours with only a few brief breaks. This was my longest day, both in time and distance (470 miles!).

It was also one of my most adventure-full nights. I arrived at the campground around sunset (5pm). There was nobody else there, so I took my time picking out a place to pitch my tent. I picked a place that was only slightly slanted, and (fortunately) put the door at the bottom of the slope.

At this point I should explain that I haven't been camping since I was a child, and then of course my parents took care of all the logistics and most of the time we had a pop-up camper with beds, stove, sink, etc. The tent I'm using is older than I am - it's one of those 2-pole triangle tents that you have to get the tension in the stakes right for it to stay up. And I've only set it up once before, and that was inside.

So, being the novice that I am, I set up the tent poorly the first time. It was drizzling (which wasn't that bad) and by now it was dark, so I was using the headlight of my motorcycle and a mini-Mag flashlight to pitch the tent. The tent is supposed to be about 2 and a half or 3 feet high, but because I didn't get the stakes taught enough, there was only about a foot of clearance in the middle of the tent.

After realizing I had done such a poor job pitching the tent, I would have tightened the stakes, but it started pouring rain! I threw my gear into the tent and got settled in, and started writing in my journel. After about 10 minutes, my mini-Mag flashlight went out (the next day I replaced the bulb and that fixed it). Luckily I had 2 keychain LED flashlights so I used one of those... Which burnt out after another 5 minutes. Now it's about 6pm, pitch black, with only 1 flashlight left. I figured I should save the flashlight for a real emergency, so I tried to rest or fall asleep.

A few hours later, I woke up and the rain had subsided, so I went outside and fixed the tent. Now at least my head wasn't 2 inches from the top of the tent :-) I was cozy in my sleeping bag, and fell asleep as the rain started up again.

inside tent (after re-pitching)

I woke up at 2am, freezing to death! It was 20 degrees F inside my tent! And still raining! When I pushed out on my tent, I heard the crinkling of the ice cracking. My sleeping bag is warm, but it isn't made for that extreme cold - it's rectangular, not a mummy-style one. To make matters worse, the rain had started to pool at the foot of my tent. I tried to find a way to put my feet so that they weren't in the puddle, and tried to not move, hoping that some warm air would accumulate around me. It never really did, so I slept fitfully until around 6am, when the the rain stopped and the sun started to light the pre-dawn sky. I went outside and saw that the ground was covered with ice and frost, and my tent and motorcycle were covered with ice!

bike seat covered with ice (8am, 29 degrees)

bike bars covered with ice

tent end covered with ice (close-up)

Once the sun had fully risen, I got to see the beautiful scenery around my campsite for the first time:

mountains from campsite


It was hard to force a smile while my hand was resting on my still-ice-encrusted bike:

Matt with frozen bike

I wanted to make sure that my bike would still run, but I couldn't get the key in the ignition because it was covered with ice! I melted the ice off with my thumb (brr!) and got the key in, but the insides of the lock were still frozen so the key wouldn't turn.

I went for a hike as the sun rose. It was beautiful! When I got back everything was still frozen, but I was able to start my motorcycle. What a relief! The sun was shining on some big rocks, so I started to drag out my wet sleeping bag, pad, and jacket, and put them on the rocks to dry.

After writing in my journel for a while, I went back over to where the motorcycle was, and realized that I had left the headlight on! The bike wouldn't start :-( I waited around and dried off my equipment until around 1pm when some friendly hikers drove in with their van and jumper cables. After waiting around all morning, I was finally able to finish packing and get on my way.

This first night was the most challenging night of my entire trip. Everything about camping was new to me, and at times I wondered if I'd make it through the freezing rain at night. But this was actually the most fun night I spent on this trip. It was an amazing feeling to face nature by myself, with nothing to rely on but my wits and the equipment I had brought with me. I don't regret it for a second, and I look forward to more camping like this!

Next: Day 2 Los Padres to Lancaster, CA

Day 1 San Francisco to Los Padres National Park
Day 2 Los Padres to Lancaster, CA
Day 3 Lancaster to Ensenada, Baja
Day 4 Ensenada to Cataviña
Day 5 Cataviña to Campo Miramar
Day 6 Campo Miramar to Stalton Sea, CA
Day 7 Stalton Sea to Las Vegas, NV
Day 8 Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park
Day 9 Death Valley to Minden, NV
Day 10 Minden to San Francisco