Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Montebello Open Space Preserve Backpack Camp

Last year's S24O with Bowen gave me confidence to propose another camping trip this year to him. He enjoyed the camping, but didn't want to go beach camping again. For this year's trip, Arturo had told me that there's a backpack campground on the Montebello road in the open space preserve. I'd ridden past the site before, but always thought it didn't have water, but it turned out that the site is fed by a spring. At $2/person, and an easy 2 mile hike in from the parking lot, it was a great idea.

When I broached the idea to Bowen, he was enthusiastic about it, and was constantly looking forward to the trip. You book the site via the website at the MROSD. They e-mail you a permit, which you print, and then you pay after you camp, which is very friendly. They note that  the spring water requires not just filtration, but chemical treatment to make it safe to drink, so we bought potable aqua tablets. That didn't turn out to be necessary because we ended up boiling all our water.
We left the parking lot at around 2:00pm, and started the walk towards the campground. Bowen asked to be carried at first, but then we offered him marshmallows in exchange for walking, and that got him motivated. Heck, after enough marshmallows, he didn't just walk, he ran, and we actually had to jog along to keep up with him.
It was a beautiful spring day, perfect weather for hiking, and we saw plenty of poppies, deer, and had great views of San Francisco and the Bay from the ridge, but could see a fog bank hanging out near the coast. A couple of backpackers passed us on the way to the group camp, but we were the first to arrive at the individual tent sites.

The first order of business was to pitch the tent. This went well, but I broke my Easton tent stake. It was very disappointing, as these stakes hadn't been used for very long. Fortunately, Arturo had extra stakes, so we pitched the tents anyway.

Bowen got excited and crawled into the tent, as I handed him all the sleeping equipment. He played for a while while Arturo and I unpacked, stuck all the food into the food lockers, and setup the stove to make tea, Apple Cider, and hot chocolate. He liked the hot chocolate, but once he tasted Arturo's apple cider refused to try anything else! On our last camping trip I'd made the same Apple Cider but he refused to have any of it. What a difference half a year makes.
After this, we walked up to the top of black mountain for the panoramas, availing ourselves of the late afternoon light. It was sweet: I'd cycled up to the area and hiked up to it many times, but had never been here near sunset. It's gorgeous.
We went back to the campground for dinner to find that everyone else had arrived. I expected that Bowen would be one of the youngest kids camping, but I was wrong. There were two 1-year olds, and 1 2-year old, and Bowen was in fact the oldest kid at the campground! The 1-year olds were carted in on bike trailers, with the dads riding mountain bikes to ferry the camping gear as well as the kids. The two year old was carried in by his father.

After dinner, we went to see the city lights from the top of the Black Mountain summit, and got to identify where our house might be from the well lit streets of the area. Since the park's closed half an hour after sunset, this is the only way to get those night views of the area, which makes this trip all the more special. Arturo has a tripod which he used to shoot more pictures of the night scene, and I look forward to seeing them.

The next morning it rained, so we quickly ate breakfast in the drizzle, packed up our wet tent, and then quickly walked down the mountain. Bowen got his socks quickly wet, and begged to be carried. Well, this was the downhill direction, so Arturo and I took turns adding the 30-pound handicap weight to our shoulders and hoofed it back to the car.

I'd never considered camping on Black Mountain before, since when I had time, I'd always want to be further from home. But that's a mistake. It's a beautiful location, and an excellent site to boot. The closeness of it to the trailhead makes it such that bringing along a small child is plausible and enjoyable, and easy if you use bicycles. And you can't beat the price.

Recommended. P.S. Because of running out of Google's quota, I've switched to OneDrive (where I have 250GB of free quota) for photo hosting. Here's the complete photo album for this trip.

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