[Day 1] Camping at Cleveland National Forest

My friend invited me to a local camping trip and at first, I said no because I didn’t have any camping gear. But when she offered to lend me some, I just had to say yes! The last time I actually went camping (like legit camping) was when was 12 and was on a cross-country trip with my family. I was excited to get back into camping but I haven’t had a chance to do so. So I took this invitation as an opportunity to learn how to camp again.

We were heading to Cleveland National Forest and camping at El Prado Group Campground. I was going to carpool with my friend so I headed over to her place. She has a hatchback and thought it would be enough space but we ended up moving everything to my Tuscon. And good thing we did because we filled the backspace!

Gif: packed trunk space

The two of us had a lot of stuff. I think we had 2 tents, 3 sleeping bags, 2 sleeping mats, 1 box of arts and craft things, 1 icebox, 1 box of cooking utensils, a guitar, 2 folding chairs, and our clothes and shoes?

We took the 8 for about an hour and a half and made a small pit stop right before heading into the Park. Once you get off the Sunrise Hwy exit and take Old Hwy 80 to find the last supermarket and gas station. We followed signs for the gas station but if you want the actual pinpoint, use Mountain Super Market. We ended up getting ice here and noticed it was already really cold.

We wanted to get to the campground before sunset so we were rushing but when we saw something amazing, we stopped to take pictures. And that was right before getting into the park. There was a viewpoint and the sunset was just beautiful. We took a moment to take in the beauty before getting back on the road. If you have more time, drive slow and enjoy the mountain views.

pic: mountain view from the viewpoint

Once we got to the campground, the sun was already gone. So we pitched our tents as fast as possible. It got dark really quickly and it was also very windy. My tent almost flew away! Thank goodness a tree branch caught it. After pitching the tent, I got to meet the other ladies. They were all friends of my friend and they were all awesome ladies! They all pitched their own tents and all brought an abundance of camping gear, including snacks 🙂

The sun was gone instantly and we started our firepit right on time as it got to freezing really fast. We all sat by the fire and got to know each other and talked about life. It was really peaceful. Because it was still winter, there weren’t a lot of campers. When we were all sitting in silence, the sound of the wind, the branches brushing against each other, birds and other animals, and the firewood crackling, were all sweet sounds of nature.

pic: campfire

We ended up going to bed a little early to make sure we were prepped for the hike the next day. Once I was in my tent, the temperature hit me so hard. It was FREEZING! Even in the below 0 degree sleeping bag, my toes were not heating up. Plus, the high-speed wind that was shaking my tent didn’t help. It took a while but I think eventually, I passed out. If you are going camping during the winter, make sure to pack thick socks to keep your toes warm, maybe double layer your sleeping bag, and take some heat packs to keep you warm. (This is my notes for future events)

pic: my tent under the stars

Right before going to bed, I took this picture. The wind was so strong that even on my tripod, my phone couldn’t standstill. But I really loved being able to see so many stars with my naked eyes. Not my best photo of stars but I hope you enjoy it.

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