Getting outside and exploring is the antidote to those long weeks when the walls of your home start to feel like they’re closing in on you. A quick weekend trip away from the city and into nature is often exactly what our souls need to recharge. Disconnecting from modern life and reconnecting to nature can make a real difference in one's mental health.
My plan was north. Admittedly, it was an overly simple plan. But something was calling me north. A road-trip. No hotels, car-camping, destination unknown. I would drive until I felt like stopping. I’ve slept in my Jeep Grand Cherokee before, but never for a couple of days in a row, so this would be the test. I loaded up the essentials and told my best furry friend, Kikos, we’re headed in the direction of adventure!
Insider Tip: Don’t forget your National or State Park Pass!
What does one pack when your destination is unknown? Not much is the correct answer. 2 nights = 2 changes of clothes. Shoe choice is critical. This trip called for my favorite adventure flip flops, the Supreems, and the Sky Trainer Knits for hiking.
For food, simple and healthy—premade salads for lunch and dinner in my small cooler and I’d pick up breakfast and coffee on the road. The sleeping arrangements were going to be tight, but I threw in the dog bed, a sleeping bag, and pillow for comfort.
Kikos is always Adventure-Ready!
Insider Tip: Bring a couple of tools and be prepared for anything. I like duct tape and a wrench, it makes me feel like MacGyver!
For car camping be sure to throw in extra sheets, curtains, or towels; something to hang up over the windows at night.
By the time I made it north of LA, it was already late, and the sun was setting. I googled campgrounds nearby and made a reservation in Ventura. It was dark when I pulled into the campgrounds and so busy—a band was playing and a BBQ underway—it was the craziest campground I’ve ever seen! I was grateful for the sheets I had to drape over the doors and windows for some privacy. I turned my well-loved Jeep into a private metal tent.
Insider Tip: If you’re going last minute, avoid popular campgrounds, especially in the summer. These tend to book up months in advance. Look for something off the beaten path. If you know where you want to go, call ahead to make a reservation. Be sure to verify you’ll be able to gain entry at your estimated arrival time.
My sleeping arrangements were not the most comfortable. In the future, I imagine a twin-sized gel or memory foam mattress topper would be PERFECT for turning this Jeep into a great bed!
Insider Tip: Crack the windows overnight, both you and your dog will appreciate the fresh air!
On Sunday, I made it to Pismo State Beach, and loaded up on gas before heading out to the beach, where I learned the key thing about road-tripping alone…
Insider Tip: BE OBSERVANT. Especially when you’re doing something new that you know nothing about. Check out what others are doing to make sure you don’t miss something.
I sat in line at the busy gas station closest to the State Park entrance and noticed everyone was either letting air out of their tires or putting air back into extremely low tires. I asked a nearby traveler, who gave me the low down, let some air out of your tires before hitting the beach. Soft tires are less likely to get stuck in soft sand due to a longer footprint.
Insider Tip: 15-20 psi for driving on sand.
I drove down the beach until I found a spot for myself, near enough to other people in case I needed assistance. I noted the high-tide line in the sand as I pulled up to park, and then checked the moon cycle and surf report to see if we were in for an extremely high tide event that night. Having been a surfer in a previous life, I knew to tune into those critical details.
I walked Kikos down the long stretch of beach, enjoying the day, the cool ocean breeze, and people watching. Countless people were digging cars and RV’s out of the sand. My inner MacGyver wanted to know, would tire chains work in sand? And if you had nothing else, could you make a mat with duct tape to put under the tires to help create traction? Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out!
Insider Tip: Throw in a small shovel if you know you’re taking your car out on the beach or to sand dunes.
Once the sun set and the crowds had faded away, a feeling of inner peace and calm came over me. I watched the family next to me playing flashlight tag. I drank in the ocean sounds until I was drunk on negative ions. I bathed in the vast array of stars twinkling above the back window of my metal tent. This was the adventure I had sought. This is what had been calling me north. A moment of solitude on this darkened beach in Central California.
Insider tip: Note this feeling and return to it often. This is what city life is lacking. This is the internal reset button that drives us to get out into nature.
By Wendi Murphy
Wendi has been with Freewaters since 2013. She wears multiple hats, working across many departments doing whatever needs to get done. An avid lover of adventure, the beauty of nature, and a keen observer of human behavior drives her in her constant pursuit of life’s greatest stories.