Growing up in the sunshine state, my camping experiences were limited due to hot, sticky and mosquito-y circumstances. The last time I tried for real was in 1994 when I was about 5. I remember because it was my sister's birthday and she got the Crazy, Sexy, Cool album by TLC as a gift (have I mentioned that I'm a pretty hardcore TLC fan? Should've added that to my fun facts). Anyway, after accidentally stepping in her birthday cake (resulting in my hysterical crying), encountering a multitude of giant, crunchy centipedes and contracting all sorts of diseases from all the mosquito bites, we called it quits and my poor mother transported a bunch of miserable children back to our safe, air-conditioned environments. Ever since then, I've added "camping" to just about every bucket list I've ever made and never followed through until this past weekend. Now that I'm in California where it's cool every night and the only mosquitos I've seen haven't tried to suck my blood, I had the no-excuses mentality despite the daunting itinerary for the weekend (I need an ice axe? What are crampons? Can I wear my running shoes? Balls.) I may have miscalculated a bit, but I bought my first pair of hiking boots, packed up my most camping chic clothing and hit the road for Spring Lake.
First stop was the fanciest roadside fruit stand I've ever seen. There were about 12 different types of pies and all sorts of gourmet beef jerky. I was impressed until we stopped at the Burger Barn in Bridgeport where I ate an epic guacamole, bacon burger and the best tater tots of my life. The map at Burger Barn even showed where Hogwarts was in relation to us, so I was clearly a fan. Next stop was our campsite at Spring Lake where the wind was not unlike that of a hurricane. Still, we somehow managed to pitch the tent and head off on the first hike of the weekend to get the altitude acclimation process started. We went about three miles up to Gem Lake and I started to wonder what I was getting myself into considering this wee baby six-miler was a little more than a quarter of the hike looming ahead of us for Sunday and I was already feeling it. The views, however, were killer and every five minutes I squealed because oh-my-god-these-mountains-aren't-even-real.
When we got back we joined the rest of our group who were off taking a quick 13-mile run in Yosemite to warm up (yes, you read that correctly--I voluntarily went on a hiking trip with runners who think 13 miles in Yosemite is an appropriate warm up), ate some delicious food and retreated to our tents shortly after due to the ridiculous wind. The rest of the night was spent hoping that closing my eyes would result in some sort of rest as I listened to the wind rip through the tent and hoped that it was actually just wind and not a giant bear with an appetite for camping newbs. The wind finally stopped when the sun came up, coincidentally just in time for breakfast, and thus began the most adventurous, sleepless weekend of my life.