Autumn, the time of year where outdoor softies pack up their tents and sleeping bags and stow them in their closet until more favorable weather comes back. The hordes of people herded like cattle via tour buses subsides leaving you, the bright minded woods goer you are, to take advantage of open roads through some of the States finest swaths of land. Come by night, come by day it’s just warm enough that snowstorms won’t collapse your tent on top of you or leave you stranded in the woods, just cold enough that a morning fire is more welcoming than a cup of joe and just moist enough where the forest service isn’t worried about a rogue ember from that fire to spontaneously combust into a hellish blaze. There is not a better time to mosey on into the nearest forest to hike, hang, relax and be a pile than the fall. This is what you'll miss out on.
No plan is the best plan. Leaving from Los Angeles at the peak of rush hour on a Friday falls into the much more questionable category. We aim for a 1 million acre swath that is Sequoia National Forest hopeful that a dirt road deep in the trees will lead us to an undisturbed campsite. Attempting this in the middle of the night also questionable but a great idea in hindsight. A 7,000 foot leap in elevation gain can tend to render climate changes…how surprising and mind-blowing. Weather, in general, is not typical of our daily cushy lives in Southern California as it leaves us in a cold misty fog for our first night. Moist air is best combated a beverage and a well-fed to fire to clear the fog keeping you warm and dry until you hit the hay.
Waking up in a tent ridged with ice isn’t as bad once you get past pulling your pants down for a morning piss and revive the coals from the previous night. It’ll be back to burning in a jiffy cause c’mon we really only slept for a couple hours once the whiskey was finished and we went to bed. Stoke the fire and get to making some breakfast it’ll be an hour or so before sunlight gets high enough overhead to break through the trees to melt the frost.
Pack up camp and head out, why on gods green earth would you stay in the same place all day in a forest that spans over 1 million acres. Yeah sounds stupid right. It’s fall so us east coast transplants can’t help but stop by a group of birch’s strutting their full fall colors because despite what we say we’re the ultimate leaf peepers. The only reason we poke fun at out of towners for traveling such long distances to see changing leaf colors is that we live in a place where we can just look out a window and enjoy them.
An hour of hucking pine cones the size of a human head around and climbing trees passes. Next, drive until you find a view, once you find it look out at the landscape and pick a spot you want to camp. A gigantic domed rock ode to that of Yosemite National Park should absolutely suffice for pitching a tent and participating in some 12 oz curls. Getting lost really makes you appreciate the destination much more when you find your way there.
A scramble of sausage, onions and peppers for four stirred with a stick before common sense kicks in and we dig through our packs for a knife. A little pine sap and bark never hurt anyone. Laying down under the stars with a full stomach turns into an all-night dirt knap.
Woken by a rude morning gust of wind blowing sand in your face before sunrise is a welcome occurrence in my mind and better accepted than a tour bus downshifting with a full load of passengers as you sit in your assigned camp spot. Fall is the time, go find your own site off the beaten path, pony up deal with the morning chill and go there's still time.
-Erik Hoffman Staff Photographer / Graphic Designer @erikhoffmanphoto