My sister’s text said it all: “Memorial Day 2012: Mammoth, men, mountains.” Although we didn’t make it up to Mammoth (it snowed!! I am just as confused as you are), the rest of the text was entirely accurate.
My sister, her boyfriend, and myself packed up her station wagon and headed to Thousand Oaks on Saturday morning, where we were met by the other five members of the expedition, a 12-seater van, a breakfast of eggs and sausages, and six and a half pounds of raw beef to prepare. After much packing and maneuvering and eating and chopping of onions, we loaded ourselves into the van, and were off.
Destination: unknown, but we were prepared with a grill, a propane stove, a 12-person tent, and 50 beers. We were limited only by our meagre bladder capacity, and so stopped for lunch as soon as some of our party had to pee. At Los Olivos market we found out that there were campgrounds a mere 12 miles away, and so made that our destination.
After 30 minutes of windy, one-lane mountain road, we located Figueroa Campgrounds, a sheltered outcrop of manzanita and oak trees nestled in the rolling hills of Santa Barbara County. We felt lucky to have found a spot, and erected our 12-person tent and portable hammock. The wine, beer, and scary stories flowed as we feasted on what was supposed to be kabobs, but ended up resembling misshapen meatloaf. Although the night was frigid, we slept well and awoke to prepare for our main activity of Sunday, a hike.
Although coffee took an hour to prepare over the propane stove, we were fed and caffeinated, and took off in search of a trailhead marked on our map. Our destination ended up being an hour away, but the hike itself was beautiful, and we lunched by (or, some of us, in) a creek.
Sweaty and smellier than before, we made our way back to civilization, to the town of Los Olivos, which, it turns out, is home to about 50 tasting rooms, and proceeded to wine taste.
We began at Qupe, a winery I was excited to see because their Marsanne did quite well at the store last year. We were immediately put off, however, as they saw the size of our group (and most likely, noted our appearance and scent) and tried to shunt us off to the back room. The tasting, however, was lovely, and we proceeded to Alta Maria, Dragonette Cellars, and finally, Stolpman. We had a great time up until our final destination; pourers were friendly and admired our attempt to combine camping and winetasting, giving us extra pours, offering advice.
Stolpman was an entirely different experience. It was apparent that the gentleman behind the counter was tired of pouring and that we had come way too close to the 5 pm closing time, and his impatience combined with the building rambunctiousness of our group had a disastrous effect. Instead of composing ourselves, completing the tasting and going home, several of our members let their instincts and personal needs take over, and before you knew it, board shorts became short shorts, an already deep v-neck was ripped into something that resembled Andy Samberg’s belly-button baring shirt, and planters became benches. All in all, we exited Los Olivos quickly but triumphantly, and returned to our campsite, pausing quickly to frolick in a field before settling in for our last night.
Bacon-wrapped hotdogs completely redeemed the cook, and we exhausted our stores of scary stories and marshmallows, turning in for one last, and much warmer, night. We packed up and left much faster than anticipated the following morning, and made it back to Los Olivos market for our first encounter with running water since Saturday morning, and a quick breakfast that lasted for several hours and included a couple bottles of champagne. The return trip to Thousand Oaks was not the fast drive of Saturday morning, and we managed to listen to Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe at least 20 times. Although I was thankful that we made the trip without any serious incident (there are a few fears of poison oak, and quite a few scrapes and bruises), I already miss the party van, though the scent of campfire lingers on.