As a scout leader you would think I (John) would be the one to push the family into the great outdoors. Ironically, however when it comes time to pick my outings the thought never really crosses my mind. I think this is due to the fact that as a scout leader I get all the outdoors I ever want. I go on about 4 campouts a year with the boys and that is all I really need. Denise however doesn’t seem to think this is enough and has proposed we go out monthly as a family. I am not sure really sure of her motives on this new fascination, but camping is pretty cheap and if she likes it so be it.
When Denise first proposed the idea of going camping she diligently looked up the prices and found out pretty quickly that campsites are not as cheap as they used to be. A few years ago we made a run of several National Parks and were generally able to find campsites in the $10-$20 dollar range. What we found however in our research is that in California camping is not so cheap. The lowest California State Park camp fee we could find was about $27. Denise was determined and found out that on National Forest Land the prices are much cheaper, and that is how we decided to camp at Fern Basin. At only $10 per night (it will cost you a one time fee of $9 if you want to reserve ahead of time), it was definitely the way for us to go.
The campsite was simple. It had vault toilets. There was water onsite but it was not potable. The location of the camp however was nice. It was right next to the Marion Mountain trail and only 6 miles from Idyllwild. We had reserved our spot early, but coming in on a Thursday we noticed that there were still some non-reserved spots.
The first night we were there was pretty much all about setting up. Friday morning was a bit of a challenge as we tried to cook breakfast. It took us a long time to cook those eggs. Since Denise was really excited to go camping I didn’t really ask her much about how she was going to do things. Trying to light charcoal with no lighter fluid is not an easy task. We did however get the water to boil and breakfast was served. For lunch we packed sandwiches and set off to find Humber Park where the Ernie Maxwell trail starts. A nice easy 5.2 roundtrip hike, the Ernie Maxwell trail lived up to it’s scenic name. Going along the edge of the National Forest boundaries we had great views of Mt. San Jacinto and the valleys of Idyllwild. We ate lunch on the trail but had plenty of appetite left for desert. Lucky for us Idyllwild has a great little dessert shop and we enjoyed old fashion dipped ice cream bars. After our ice cream bars AJ said we had to go to the toy store. Denise and I didn’t really know what he was talking about, but AJ insisted there had to be a toy shop. It took some looking but sure enough we found a toy shop. The toy shop was interesting because not only did it have toys but it had a big collection of bottled soda. I particularly enjoyed the lemon creme soda. For dinner we had chicken chili which was a lot easier to make because before we left town we bought lighter fluid.
The next morning I left early to hike up Mt. San Jacinto, Denise and AJ stayed in camp. After about 7 hrs of hiking I returned to camp. By that time Denise had packed up everything and we headed back down the mountain in our little car. On the way home we stopped in Beaumont which was fun because with all the hiking I did I could eat as much as I wanted and so I ordered the biggest chile relleno burrito I could find.
All in all our first monthly campout went well. We had lots of fun even if we returned rather dirty. We learned a few things (like we need a bigger tent), but most of all we did it. Which for us is half the battle.