Into the (mildly) Wild: Camping in the Los Padres National Forest

Posted by casey weaver on

Organizing stuff is hard.  And if you're anything like us, you like to do stuff, and the number of people in your orbit you can always count on to help plan and participate in even mildly adventurous trips is not a huge one.  That is why our long time friends at Topanga Creek Outpost, legitimately one of the greatest bike shops in the US (they've been bestowed this honor by the bike industry and continue rack up recognition year after year for their crazy antics) are always at the top of our list of contacts when it comes to planning any outdoor adventures, especially those that involve bikes.  

Night riding mountain bikes in los padres national forest

For the past five or so years, Topanga Creek has been hosting their near-weekly "Unpredict Your Wednesday" in addition to their weekly shop rides in Topanga (which we highly recommend if you are ever in the LA area and looking to get out on the dirt on a Saturday morning with a fun crew).  The concept behind Unpredict Your Wednesday is a simple one - show up to the shop on a Tuesday night with no expectations other than to have an adventure that involves riding bikes and usually sleeping on the ground in nature.  At the beginning of the Unpredict concept, the week's location was always kept secret until your adventure began...but this proved too...um...unpredictable for most responsible working adults.  So now Chris (the owner of Topanga Creek) at least plans and announces a location a few days in advance.  Though that's usually about the most planning that happens.  

On this particular Tuesday night, we met up with the crew for a burrito at around 7:30 pm just a few blocks from where we live in Ventura with a plan of heading up into the hills above Santa Barbara - about 45 minutes away.  With everything going according to plan, this would put us at the official campground right around sunset - but things never go accordingly to plan, so we definitely showed up in pitch black and still had an unclear distance, mostly uphill, to ride to our back country campground.    

Being a life long surfer in Southern California, where there are way too many people to comfortably participate in the sport, I've grown up to be protective of good "spots" for just about anything in the outdoors.  But since the birth of the iPhone and our culture's perpetual connectivity, resulting in an increasing inability to unplug, along with our stance as a company to encourage people to build healthy bodies ready to get outside and do cool stuff, we'll happily and shamelessly tell you where we camped and how to get there. And we hope you will go and enjoy the outdoors.  The backcountry site we rode to was called 19 Oaks (which after Googling it appears to be temporarily closed...oops) and it is off a trail out of the Upper Oso Campground in the Los Padres National Forest.  Google it - you'll find it.  It takes some effort to get to...but anything in life worth doing takes some effort.

Now back to our particular adventure.  We showed up after dark, equipped with lights, trailed by dogs, and with our bikes and backs loaded down with equipment for a single night of camping (me carrying an impractically large pillow - which I did proudly).  Admittedly, I am not a regular bike packer and don't have the "proper" equipment, but managed to load up my backpacking pack with what I needed and survived just fine.  Along the way in life I've found that although a lot of specialized equipment can make your life slightly easier in certain circumstances, by and large it is not needed to have fun most of the time.

Chris is a notorious under-planner (did I mention that?), and finding the campsite in the pitch black was not easy.  By the time we arrived after a few miles of some fairly sketchy single-tack in the dark (the trail fell off into a riverbed of varying depths below us - which for the most part we could not see...probably a good thing), it was nearly midnight, we were soaked in sweat, and all just happy to have made it.  After setting up camp we drank some now mildly chilled IPAs that tasted GREAT, had some conversation, and eventually all nodded off.

Come morning it was coffee, Primo protein oatmeal to fuel the ride home back, and breaking down camp.  Before we knew it we were back in our cars and back to real life, refreshed from a single night of sleeping under the stars and satisfied by the little bit of effort outside the safety of our daily routines that our adventure required. 

As always, a big thanks to Chris for instigating and motivating the trip.  It's so easy to NOT do these things, but so worth it in the end.  Until next time...we'll #seeyououtthere.

Here's our Primo Protein Oatmeal Recipe - perfect for camping or any other instance when powered up oatmeal is required!

-Rolled oats

-Almond milk (we use unsweetened vanilla)

-1 to 2 packets of Primo Smoothie mix

-Fresh berries and nuts

-A touch of maple syrup

Cook the oats in the almond milk over low to medium heat and stir in Primo powder until dissolved.  Top with fresh berries and maple syrup to taste! 

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