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By Monith Ilavarasan

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About this blog: My parents, brother, and I moved to Pleasanton when I was in the seventh grade. I then graduated from Amador Valley High School, went to college at UC Davis and started out a career in tech. After several years working in large co...  (More)

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Camping in Mt. Diablo

Uploaded: Oct 5, 2022
Nature and I have an interesting relationship. I’ve written a lot about how I love to go hiking and spend the weekends doing anything other than being glued to a screen. Working a job where you are sitting behind a computer for hours has always motivated me to get out when I can.

Until recently the one area where I drew the line with nature was spending the night. Camping always seemed like a fool’s errand for me. Here in the 21st century we’ve built up all these comforts which insulate us in our most vulnerable moments and help us have a good night's sleep. Giving all that up and spending the night in the wilderness never really struck me as a good idea.

This has slowly started to change over the past five years. Coincidently, five years ago is when I met and started hanging out with my now wife. She is big into camping. She camped all the time growing up, camped during undergrad in Colorado, and camped during postgrad in Oregon. She truly loves the experience, and after months of talking about it I finally went on my first camping trip a few years ago.

We drove up to Tahoe to camp with my friend and his partner. Once we reached the campsite we set up our tents and had dinner. We threw some canned vegetarian chili on tortillas and had ourselves a makeshift Taco Tuesday on a Saturday.

Afterward we sat around a fire roasting marshmallows for our s’mores. This was by far my favorite part of the entire trip. I learned I could stare at an open flame for hours without getting bored. The vibes were great.

Unfortunately that night got frigidly cold and I was not prepared for it. I didn’t bring a beanie and my sleeping bag wasn’t built for that cold early spring Tahoe weather. I drifted in and out of sleep while trying to keep myself as warm as possible.

The next morning we woke up, had coffee and I finally started feeling warm again. We packed up and got ready to leave. Overall it went smoothly, but I didn’t quite fall in love with it.

The next camping trip we went on was a big trip down to Joshua Tree & Death Valley earlier this year. I had some time between jobs so we planned a weeklong car trip with camping stops in between.

If I thought I felt cold in Tahoe, I was not prepared at all for what we were about to experience. The week before we were heading out all the weather reports suddenly read that it was going to be one of the coldest weeks of the year.

We first camped in Death Valley and while the night was cold, the weather was manageable. This time we were prepared with our beanies and had brought an extra sleeping bag that we laid over both of ours for extra warmth.

However that night I ended up having one of the worst sleeps of my life. Earlier that day we saw a coyote roaming through the campsite and I was a bit spooked. My partner mentioned that there was nothing to worry about, they usually leave campsites alone for the most part.

That night I woke up in the middle of the night to what I think is a snarling beast right next to our tent. The noise would stop every few minutes or so but start up again, louder than before. The wind was howling that night so the sounds indicated the animal was stalking all throughout the campsite. I could tell it was just waiting for a tasty, unsuspecting, innocent man to devour up for a midnight snack.

At daybreak my partner finally woke up. She claimed she slept through the entire thing. We asked our camp neighbors if they heard the pack of animals roaming through our campsite all throughout the night. One man looked at the other and started bursting in laughter. He pointed to his friend as he sheepishly looked down. That was him! I’ve been telling him to get that snore fixed for years.

We enjoyed the rest of the trip, but Joshua Tree was somehow even colder so we had to sleep in the car.

My partner insisted that we make one more go at it before I make up my mind for good. She booked a campsite at Mt. Diablo months in advance and we drove up on Friday after work.

After making our way through the windy roads of the mountain to our campsite, we were greeted by stunning views of the entire Bay. A couple hours later we were greeted with an even more stunning sunset.

The weather was perfect and we were able to take our time making dinner. We brought along a small camp stove and cooked up some instant ramen with boiled eggs and scallions. It was some of the best ramen I’ve had in my life. We then went on a walk and played Monopoly Deal until it was time to go to bed. The weather was so beautiful and mild that we didn’t even bother putting on the rain fly. We slept under the stars.

The next morning we woke up, saw the sunrise, and did a hike around the area before heading back home. I’m finally starting to see what the hype around this camping thing is all about.
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