We’ve been doing car camping for nearly five years with the girls, going back to the test run in the backyard when the girls were four months old. It was time for the next stage in the process – an overnight backpack bringing everything we needed in our packs.
I got a text from a friend in early May who wanted to take his 3 year old daughter on a short, one-night backpack trip. It was going to be a dads and daughters trip so I jumped at the opportunity to take the girls out for a night and to give Mary a night to herself.
The parameters for the trip were as follows:
-Within a two hour drive of Encinitas
-The campsite needed to be within two miles of the parking lot
With those constraints, we were able to find a dispersed camping spot at the Agua Tibia Wilderness near the Cleveland National Forest to camp for free for an evening. We hiked up the Dripping Springs Trail about 1.75 miles from the parking lot to find a nice site right off the trailhead.
Typically, a late May backpack in Agua Tibia would have temperatures in the high 80s. However, we got lucky with highs in the 70s and an evening temperature around 55 degrees. In addition, there are no water sources in this area, so we had to pack in all the water we needed for the night and next morning.
The hardest part was strategically packing because I had to carry almost all the gear. The girls each had a small backpack with a stuffed animal, winter cap, and water bottle, while I carried the tent, sleeping bags, jackets, and food. We tried to streamline as much as possible and went without a stove and bought burritos on the way for dinner and the following breakfast.
Because of the heat and the limited activities halfway up the mountain, we left Encinitas around 3pm, got to the trailhead around 5pm, set up camp by 6pm, had dinner, and were all in bed by 8:15pm. The girls and I snuggled in a two person tent with me in the middle. It was a tight squeeze but we fit. We laid two closed cell foam mats next to each other. Each girls had their own sleeping bag while I used a fleece bag liner that kept me warm.
The morning started around 6:30AM with breakfast and breaking down of camp followed by a brisk walk down to the cars. We celebrated with a pancake breakfast at Toast in Temecula and were home by 10AM.
No surprise, but the girls did great. When the dads set up camp, the kids started playing and turned on their creativity with a pretend fire and foraging.
Below are some photos from the quick trip.