I realized that with a car, camping should be so easy for me that I can even throw other complexities into the operation. One of those is the idea to do it on a weeknight. And the other, of course, is to take Van. With that being the conceptual program, Van and I set out for a nice evening at Dixon Lake in Escondido (33.158382, -117.045524). I'm sure in the not too distant past, this place was way out in the middle of nowhere, but these days, it's just up the hill from suburbia. But that fits fine with the idea of a very low impact camping trip that can be completely accomplished between workdays and planned on the spur of the moment.
This place is in the small set of mountains northeast of Escondido and it overlooks their drinking water reservoir. It's really a nice location with some campsites having lake views and some having city views. We had a nice lake view and several hours of daylight to enjoy it since I allowed a little more time for this first outing.
It was cloudy when we got there however, and I could tell that the chance of rain was "inevitable". Still, having a car with a dry inside and carrying anything you can imagine, how can you go wrong? I set up the tent, laid out the sleeping gear, and rigged a tarp over the picnic table. They want you to not make wood fires because of the wildfire hazard but since the chance of wildfires this week is nil I quickly had a hybrid charcoal/wood fire going. All this took about half an hour and there it was, the scene I was after. Instead of spending a normal night inside, I was sitting on a mountainside looking over a tranquil lake about to cook my dinner over a glowing fire.
The reason the lake was tranquil is because we were the only people in the whole park. Besides simply being a Thursday night in February, the reason we were alone is because the rain did start to come down. But even with hasty preparation and a lot of carelessness by my standards, we were able to sit completely dry under the tarp and eat a meal that was better than what I'd have made at home. By the time we'd finished and cleaned up after dinner, it was definitely dark and the rain was misty and erratic.
With waterproof shoes on our feet and umbrellas in our hands, we went for a little walk to check out the place. It's definitely a very nice spot. Finally we retired to the tent and Van and I played a few games of chess using my little computer (which fits neatly in a one gallon zip lock bag) as a board. Then it was time to listen to the rain and get some sleep.
We both slept pretty well despite the fact that the rain seemed to increase in intensity all night. In the morning, it was still coming down. I decided to not mess around with breakfast there in the rain and quickly packed up. Again, that's much easier than I'm used to because you can just toss everything in the car. About this point Van said something about other campers and I pointed out that I thought we were alone in the place. That's when he said, "Yes. Only we would be here on a day like this." I said, "Yup. You ain't seen nothing yet."
Then came the hard part of this whole scheme, traffic. Because that night we got about as much rain as normally falls in all of February, the roads were a mess with the radio reporting 60 accidents. Rain in San Diego is like an ice storm in normal places. We spent about 75 minutes to go the 35 miles and this included about 10 miles of carpool lane, which allowed Van to profoundly contribute to the mission just by being in the car.
The rain was kind of a drag, but I had just purchased new tarps, umbrellas, a cute little rain poncho for Van, and a very cool hard plastic pannier that looks as bulletproof as waterproof. So my mind never rests when it comes to weather pessimism. With normal San Diego weather and some more practice, I believe this kind of quick trip will become easier than staying at home.