Jon and I must be rainmakers because everywhere we visit this spring, we seem to bring the rain with us. Starting all the way back at New Years, where we brought rain to the desert around Joshua Tree and Anza Borrego, and even to Death Valley – the driest spot in the continental United States! We spent this past weekend camping in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. It was a last minute decision to head out, as we were already on the road headed toward the Mojave desert. The drive out was drizzly, raining on and off as we made out way there, and it rained lightly through the night. By this time of year, the Carrizo Plain is usually blanketed in wildflowers, but February – usually their wettest month of the year – saw virtually no rainfall… until we showed up. We arrived at the tail end of their biggest rain event of the year, and the staff in the visitor center were sorry to see it go.
As we rolled into the campground, were realized it was nearly full! Five of the eight sites had pop-up truck campers in them, and as we pulled into our site, we felt all eyes on us. As we set up camp, they pulled out a handful of instruments and proceeded to jam, playing some awesome bluegrass and swing tunes. I don’t know if it was that it was our first time seeing so many pop-ups in one spot, or their awesome musical skills, but somehow Jon and I had an uncharacteristic shy streak, and didn’t go over to make friends.
The next morning we woke up, made delicious bagel and egg sandwiches, and then packed up to take a hike. There weren’t really any main trails around the campground, so we took a game trail that cut straight up the hillside to the ridge line above. Although the rain had finally passed, it was an overcast morning, which made for a cooler hike and great lighting for photographs. The occasional bush of beautiful purple lupins dotted the hills, and while they were few and far between, what wildflowers we did find were lovely and added to the pastoral beauty of the landscape.
The hike was so relaxing, with amazing views in every direction, cool breezes and gorgeous sunny patches passing over. We spent time exploring an alcove, looking for tracks and scat on the animal trails we followed, hawk-watching, and laying back to enjoy the lazy day. It was exactly what we both needed after the first few weeks of camp programs. Even when you’re having a blast, working with children over 13 hour days can be exhausting.
We grilled out Saturday night – Jon was grill-master, and cooked the salmon perfectly, with a smear of cilantro jalapeno hummus to keep it nice and moist. I made a side of couscous and some steamed carrots. A simple, delicious meal to enjoy as we watched the sunset. Our neighbors in the campsite were a lovely family with two daughters, who camps fairly often in their retro motorhome. We exchanged stories from the day, and then looked after their campfire while they took a night hike to look for nocturnal creatures.
We were super impressed with how comfortable in nature, and how independent the girls were. While working a residential outdoor education camp is the best birth control there is, Jon and I both agreed that if we ever have kids, we’d want to camp with them as often as this family did, and instill in them the love and respect for the natural world that they clearly had.
It was tough to leave sunday, knowing that we were headed back for another stressful, though rewarding, week of camp. As Jon eloquently put it, “once in awhile we take a hike that is so simple yet charming that it totally rejuvenates our souls and sense of humanity.” Our weekend hiking and lounging on the Carrizo Plain was precisely that. Just what the doctor ordered.