This is the first in a series of stories about the inspirations behind our soaps. Many camping stories have contributed to the scent profile of Fire in the Hole, our campfire soap, and this is one. We hope you enjoy these as much as you enjoy the soap inspired by them.
“NO ONE WANTS TO GO CAMPING ANYMORE. YOU ARE ALL PUSSIES.”
It was an inflammatory statement, but it was also true. We used to go camping every couple months, but it had been a long, cold winter and no one felt like planning any trips.
Except me. I was Hell-bent that we were going camping, and I was doing my best to aggressively herd these cats.
I found a great camping spot between Los Angeles (where some of us lived) and the Bay Area (where a lot of the rest of us lived), and I couldn’t see any reason people shouldn’t get themselves together and come camping.
It was Carrizo Plain National Monument. It's still one of my favorite camping spots, and I strongly recommend going there if you ever have the chance.
Jessica was among the first to agree to come. I had been complaining to her and she agreed that something needed to happen, so she was happy to sign on.
Dave and Andrea, from the Bay Area, were also excited to try out somewhere that wasn’t on our usual dry lakebed 10 hours from their home.
Roy, who probably was going camping anyways, also said he was coming.
Really, that’s enough. A couple people made noise like they were coming, but in California, the flake factor is very high. We had commitments from enough people to make it worthwhile, and these were quality people – at least twice as awesome as regular humans – so we would be entertained.
As the weekend approached, the weather reports warned of a storm passing over the area.
“WE ARE NOT PUSSIES. WE’RE GOING CAMPING, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER.”
Jessica phoned me to make sure I was absolutely sure that I wanted to do this. I was absolutely sure.
Dave double checked. Yes, I was absolutely sure.
We arrived on Friday afternoon. Roy had set up his campervan under a big oak in the center of camp. He was listening to jug music and having whiskey. We settled around and got to chatting, not even thinking about the weather. It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny, clear, warm.There was no storm. It was a lie. This was going to be the perfect trip.
This was Carrizo Plains Monument. It’s a massive and beautiful area filled with, yes, plains. The only real feature is the jagged cliffs of the San Andreas Fault 13 miles to the North, and the rolling hills that start at the southern edge of the plains.
The camp was against the hills and the two trees in camp were the only trees for miles.
My then-boyfriend and I started assembling what I called the “difficult-up.” It was basically a knock-off EZ-Up that took what felt like a week to put together, every tube labeled with letters that were supposed to correspond to other letters. We put it in front of Roy’s camper, a little ways away from the fire pit so there was no danger it would be set on fire (these things happen).
We lashed it to Roy’s camper van and assumed all was well.
At 5pm, we all were working on our third or so beer. The camp ranger came up. He was a handsome guy with tattoos and a friendly demeanor. He looked at the pallets we had stacked next to the fire pit and said, “I hope you’re not planning to stay the night.”
Of course we were staying the night! It was a beautiful day! Perfect weather!
Our friendly ranger let us know that a storm was moving in and he was leaving, because the roads would become impassible in the rain and we would all surely perish. It was a “save yourselves” message, and we were grateful.
But grateful as we were, we also weren’t ok to drive anywhere.
He tried to convince us to leave anyways, saying he didn’t mind if we had a few beers, but that he couldn’t get us out once the rain started. He seemed genuinely concerned, and we probably should have taken that more to heart, but our camp was set up! I had just assembled the difficult-up! The pallets were ready to be aflame! Plus, there wasn’t a single storm cloud in sight.
I’m sure you know how this is going to go.
About an hour after the ranger left, the storm came in HARD. It was cold and the rain was coming down in torrents. We huddled under the difficult-up and watched our fire from the protection of the shade…. then the lightening started.
And the difficult-up was filling with bugs, also trying to get out of the relentless rain.
We tried piling more pallets and fuel on the fire, hoping if we made the fire big enough, we could turn the rain to steam before it hit us. We huddled around the fire to avoid the swarms collecting in the shelter. After we got thoroughly soaked, we retreated back to the difficult-up to try to dry out, but of course, that just made us cold.
Meanwhile, CLACK, the thunder and lightning was all around us and we all realized at once that we were huddled under the highest point for miles: the big tree in camp. We half-heartedly huddled around the fire and then decided if we were going to die, being struck by lightning in a national monument was probably not the worst way we could die. We went back to the shelter and talked about how this was most certainly an adventure.
After hours of this, we stumbled off to our tents, which were sitting in small lakes.
The morning broke all at once, with bugs celebrating their early-spring hump-fests and birds singing their fool heads off. It was a bright and beautiful day without a single cloud. It looked like nothing had happened at all.
I went for a ten mile run, since I was training for a half marathon. It was a good day.
We were survivors. Victorious.
Photo note: Most of these photos are not from the actual trip, but are from a different trip to Carrizo Plains a few months later.
The two photos of the actual night (the ones that look very wet) are from Dave Le.