Labor Day Camping: The M*A*S*H Edition

Hello again!  It’s me, Mo.  Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written!  The play that I was working on swallowed me whole and has now spit me back out, refreshed and rejuvenated, into the world.  In case you haven’t visited the “about Mo” section of this blog, I do costume design and make-up, so expect similar bouts of non-communication in the future.

Any who, in my first blog I expressed my frustration as to being stuck in LA.  September is providing a welcome change, as different events and circumstances have me out of town every other week.  It’s not proper globe trotting, but camping for Labor Day weekend, a business trip to San Francisco, and a weekend getaway are providing much needed excitement and relaxation.

This year was the fourth annual year to go camping with the same group of friends.  We’ve known each other since middle school, and while we still see each other plenty during the year, a highlight is always when the five of us are crammed together in a tent the first weekend in September.  We pick a new spot to explore and be one with nature each year, and if we keep going in this fashion hopefully will have conquered all of California.  This weekend we came up with names for all of our camping trips, such as “Rio Peligroso” (along the Kern river), “Passed out in Paso” (wine tasting in Paso Robles while camping by Lake Nacimiento), and “The Slo Weekend” (we were in the Los Padres National Forest but spent a lot of time around San Luis Obispo),  although we’ve also been calling the latter “Mission Impossible” since we visited multiple missions during that trek.

This past weekend was dubbed “Labor Day Camping: The M*A*S*H Edition” since we were in the Malibu Creek Canyon, the very same place that the exteriors of the popular ’70’s television show was filmed.

Myself, Jill and Sara pose with an ambulance from M*A*S*H

As I child I never camped, or really did anything remotely active, but I love it now.  For starters, it’s cheap.  You want to save money on a vacation?  Camp!  If you divide up the cost of the campsite amongst the five of us, it cost roughly $22 in lodging per person.  For all 3 nights!!!  Most of the other cost was food and gas, but we bought the bulk of our food and cooked or did picnic lunches with one meal out and one excursion to neighboring Calabasas for frozen yogurt as it was so freaking hot.  Most of our supplies we had from previous trips, and borrowed our tents from the YMCA since Jill’s husband works there.  We did end up getting a few things from Target though.  Who knew that Target carried Coleman camping supplies?  For those of you unfamiliar, Coleman is a legitimate camping gear company that’s been making lanterns since 1900, so the $11 camping lantern we picked up at Target is the real deal.  Also, we knew that due to the high temperatures and dry brush in Malibu Creek Canyon we would not be able to light wood fires, so picked up a tiny propane party grill for only $40.  That’s really cheap for something that we will be able to use for all trips in the future, not to mention if anybody has a yard party and needs a portable grill. Hey guys, you bring the sausage, and I’ll bring my teeny tiny Coleman party grill that has its own cute little carrying bag!  So Target was a pretty awesome deal.

As we probably should have expected on a Friday before Labor Day weekend, leaving LA took a really long time.  Traffic + dawdling on our errands = it was almost 7 by the time we finally made it to Malibu, which is not really that far.  But we were rewarded with awesome views of majestic rolling hills from our campsite, which was thankfully on the edge of the campground.  We were surrounded in every other direction by large Southeast Asian families, but at least we had our one view.  We pitched our tents, deciding to make one a sleeping tent and one a storage tent, although in hindsight it was a pretty cramped sleep so we should have split up, but at least we were cramped together!  We fired up the party grill and got a nutritious meal of macaroni and cheese going, as well as some margaritas.  That’s the other thing that makes camping cheap: the only bar around is the one you bring with you.  And nobody has to drive home, so you’d better bring a big bar.

My sister Mel with her Simpler Times beer, the cheapest beer in the West!

I’m not going to bore you with every tiny detail of our trip, as I know it can be tedious to read something along the lines of “At 7:28 we roused and were quite tired, I took a piss and had a lovely breakfast of anchovies and Oreos. . . .” or whatever, but I will tell you that if you are looking for a campsite that has beautiful views, nice hikes to film sites and a lovely still lake to cool off in, this is the place.  We are not necessarily serious campers and hikers, but got in a good five miles on Saturday visiting the M*A*S*H sites and Century Lake.  The lake was a wonderful spot for our picnic lunch, as it was thankfully shady and cool after the boiling heat of the film sites.  We pack a pretty good picnic, and some mountain bikers swimming there were pretty jealous of our tuna sandwiches, Jello pudding, and dried apples.  It’s always interesting to observe the behavior of a group of males when out in a group of females.  After one brave one tried to get us to go in the lake, our pleas that we had no bathing suits notwithstanding, they continued to converse loudly about their fancy biking equipment.  I’m sorry, were we supposed to be impressed?

Cooling off at Century Lake

Other highlights of Saturday include the aforementioned trip into Calabasas for frozen yogurt, which was almost another social experiment in itself.  We were very conscious of being dirty, hot and smelly, and here we were voyaging into a fairly wealthy society.  It’s probably a good thing that we sat outside a bit apart from anyone else.  Back at the campsite, we attended a scheduled activity that was certainly intended for the massive amounts of children but who cares.  The Reptile Family was giving a presentation of some of their reptiles, and we all found it to be fascinating, no doubt helped a little by the mai tais we brought with us.  At the end, we were allowed to assist and hold a Burmese python!  It was really cool, and surprisingly gentle in our hands.

Sunday was a day spent a little more in society, with a romp in hippie hangout Topanga Canyon followed by a coastal drive to famous fish shack Neptune’s Net.  Growing up, I went to a summer camp located right next to the net, on the Malibu/Ventura county line, and while our meal of heaps of fried fish and large bottles of beer was tasty, I must say it’s a little disappointing to me how much more popular it is now.  When I first started going there, there would be no one but bikers and surfers.  Now there’s a ton of tourists, and our wait for food was the longest I’ve ever waited.  Sunday is always the most crowded day, since that’s the day the bikers all take their fun runs along the coast, but this was crazy, and it was 3 or 4 in the afternoon!  The parking was pretty crazy too, now that it’s been fixed up and manicured and they even have a parking attendant.  It’s still well worth the visit, but go not on Sunday, and park across PCH by the beach and run across.

Quite possibly the last payphone in existence in Topanga Canyon

We finally did take our swim in the lake later that day.  I had been looking forward to it all day, and was feeling a little groggy and gross from the massive amounts of fried fish and beer, so although it was nearing sundown I insisted on the 2 1/2 mile hike to jump in the lake.  It was so well worth it you guys!  Although Mel and I did have a run-in with our old boss and some associated tools from our old job at the movie theater, it was an incredible swim.  You can’t tell from the earlier picture, but the lake is nestled amongst these majestic mountains that loom up from the edge.  Being there felt so remote and serene.  I wished we could have stayed longer, but it was beginning to get dark, so we dried off and enjoyed our walk back with the sunset.

There were more small details that happened on this trip, such as our spaghetti dinner and the many games we played over the course of the weekend (we’re big into board games), but this post is already quite long and I think you get the gist.  Monday I’m off to San Francisco for a 4 day training for one of my day jobs, and I couldn’t be more excited!  I love San Francisco and have never before been on a “business trip”.  I don’t know if I shall post about it, it may not make for great reading but I’ll “see” you all on the other side!

Good-day and Happy Travels


Famous travel writer Mo Stone emerges triumphant from the wilderness with lifelong friend Sara Fram

7 thoughts on “Labor Day Camping: The M*A*S*H Edition”

  1. soooo you totally forgot to mention that Mel is enjoying said Simpler Times with our friend Mr. Nibbles the leaf bug. importante, Mo, importante! But I am glad you have recorded our adventures for posterity. Will you be documenting slo, paso, and rio as well??

    1. I didn’t mention Mr. Nibbles because I forgot his name!!! And also because you don’t see him too well in the picture. I probably will get around to all the campings eventually. Especially Paso! I can review all of our different wineries.

  2. This was a lot of fun to read! Thanks for posting, I’m glad I’m now a “published” photographer!

  3. Hey Mo! Loved reading all of your postings – you definitely got the writing gene:) Your camping weekend sounds wonderful. I also have great memories of camping adventures with Nanny, Pop Pop and of course your dad. Have to get your dad to put on a slideshow next time we all gather. Have a great time in San Fran and hope to see you soon. Love, A.Marla

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