Los Padres National Forest, CA.

By Maggie -- Sep 24, 2014

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We had heard it from so many people, "be sure to make a reservation for Big Sur", but we still didn't make one and it came back to bite us in the booty! 

Big Sur is by far the most packed camping destination in the USA that we've seen. We've never seen so many campers in each campground and so many sites reserved for months into the future. So after backpacking, we needed a place to stay, and we were forced to go back east instead of camp on the coast like we had wanted to. Driving up through the National Forest was an intense hour-long ordeal of winding fire roads. Once we got to the campground, we weren't sure if it was even open or not - there was not a soul in sight. We parked, and no one bothered us or even came around to collect dues. We maybe saw two other people for 24 hours straight. Both of us crashed hard by 8pm, and it was lovely.

The forest in the area east of Big Sur is huge and barren, minus the oak trees and millions of squirrels. After driving through most of the mountains, we saw a sign for a mission - the first one we'd seen in California so far - and we stopped and walked around for awhile and bought some cold water in the gift shop. Mission San Antonio de Padua was Ryan's first mission experience. I told him about my mandatory 4th grade art project where every kid in the class had to create a miniature version of a mission and bring it to class, and he thought it was insane. When I think about it, it was sort of ridiculous. Usually, the parents or grandparents got stuck with most of the work, and more often than not it was a source of unnecessary fighting and tears. I can remember one kid came in and stole the whole damn show because his dad installed a battery powered lighting system throughout his mission (watch this! flick! the entire mission lights up!), and also a water fountain that slowly dribbled out water. I mean, what a jackass.

That aside, we did have fun at the mission. We stole some figs from a tree in the courtyard (forgive us, Father, but they looked so good) and took off back on the road. We wanted to see a little bit of San Luis Obispo and find some camping near there.