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Heading Up The Mountain

CrtrGrl and I finally got the camp kitchen finished and all of the accessories mounted on our FJ. It was time to try it all out together! We decided on a quick April weekend trip to give it a shakedown. We were on a tight timeline because we were planning a longer, 2 week, road trip the following month. The camp kitchen cabinet and drawers, combined with plastic crates, helped us organize our gear. We packed up our FJ Cruiser for an off-grid weekend and decided to head up to the Yellow Post dispersed camp sites outside of Big Bear, CA.

After a three hour drive through LA on a Friday, we headed up the mountain to Big Bear. When we finally made it to the dirt forest roads, we breathed a big sigh of relief. We headed towards a familiar site and were excited that we were able to snag our favorite Yellow Post site. It’s the same one that CrtrGrl and I tent camped at for her very first camping trip 5 years prior.

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Setting Up Our Off-Grid Camp In Big Bear

The first thing we did when we got to camp was get setup. We opened up the roof top tent, popping out all of the windows. Next, we got out the solar panel to see how well it helped keep the battery charged with the ARB fridge running. CrtrGrl then prepped a yummy pasta dinner using the camp kitchen. She used the hose attached to the roof mounted water tank to fill a pot with water for boiling spaghetti. It was so convenient not having to unpack the rear of the FJ to get to the cooler/fridge or light up the gas stove! The prep surface also came in handy, holding our plates while they were being loaded up with pasta.

After dinner, we hung out in the roof top tent, waiting for the sun to set and the full moon to rise. I went outside and took some night shots of our campsite, using the bright moonlight to see. We were in bed by 9 PM and slept comfortably with our little dog Indi in between us.

Day Hike and Relaxing

The next morning, we woke to sunshine and warm oatmeal with fruit and nuts for breakfast. We followed that up with an easy day hike down to the local creek. After picking up a mylar balloon and other people’s trash, we followed the creek for a little while, checking out the miniature waterfalls and meadows that surrounded it. After a couple of hours, we looped back up the hill towards our campsite, using GPS to navigate.

Back at camp, CrtrGrl and I had a nice lunch, followed by some much needed relaxing. We found a large boulder overlooking the nearby valley and pulled out our books to read. Indi napped in the sun while we sat reading, surrounded by the sounds of birds and the wind in the trees. Then we had a quick dinner that evening, as the temperature dropped more than the previous night. 

We were happy with how everything was performing and we were adjusting to how we’d organized everything in the FJ. The Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium battery did great with the ARB 50 qt fridge. We didn’t really need to use the solar panel for just a couple of days. With colder temps, it can last longer due to the fact that the fridge isn’t working as hard. Also, the almost 12 gallon roof mounted water tank performed well, especially for washing dishes. We had plenty of water. Overall, we could have stayed off-grid in Big Bear for a lot longer than 2 nights / 3 days.

Night Flight

We were in bed by 8 PM, which was fortunate, because it was going to be a short night! Around 3 AM, our little dog Indi woke us up with a rapid heartbeat and panting. We know that she has heart disease and believe that the 6500 ft of altitude may have made her little heart work extra hard to pump oxygen with the thinner air. We decided the best thing to do was to get her back down to sea level.

In the dark, we hurriedly packed up the roof top tent, our camp chairs and table and started the long drive back to Carlsbad. Even packing up in the middle of the night, we were careful to make sure we left no trace. One of the beauties of off-grid, dispersed camping is being away from civilization and closer to the wild. Nothing takes away from that beauty like seeing human trash. Please leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in and leave it cleaner than you found it!

CrtrGrl and I got to see the sun rise while driving through LA, which made it seem a lot nicer than it is. We arrived back in Carlsbad too early to wake up CrtrGrl’s mom, who was house and pet sitting for us, so we found a secluded spot near the Buena Vista Lagoon. In a quiet cul-de-sac, we stopped to make breakfast and rested. Indi was doing a lot better, so there was now no rush to get back home. We took our time and let CrtrGrl’s mom take her time as we made it home late in the morning.

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