Nathanael’s Boyscout Troop is heading out for their first backpacking trip since he joined next weekend. He insisted that before he joined them in this outing we would do our own father & son trek. So last week we made a trip to Sport Chalet for backpacks, sleeping bags & cooking equipment then Saturday afternoon we hit the trail! We ended up getting a late start (5:30) but it was only a 3.5 mile hike so no worries… right?

Starting at Sunset

Our Destination was Big Cone Camp, right up the hill from the Punch Bowls – a destination I have heard about for so many years yet had never actually visited.

The first leg of the hike is just getting to the trail. You have to walk around the perimeter of Thomas Aquinas College then past some oil fields then cross a stream before actually hitting the trail.

There seem to be many small variations of the trail that have been established over the years and I think we sampled a good many of them… which made for somewhat slow progress.

making trail

Surprisingly colorful “flora”…


We made it into camp just as darkness was finally setting in. We set up camp & had some of the best cheese & crackers ever, according to Nathanael (Laughing Cow & Club crackers for the record).

Side note: one of my trusty Vasque hiking boots delaminated 1/2 way to our destination. Thankfully I had my Vibram TrekSport. I wore them the rest of the trip & they worked great!

Next morning we made awesome breakfast burritos with Trader Joe’s chicken sausage (our fave) then headed down to check out the Punch Bowls.

morning campfire



Plenty of refreshing water there just waiting for a swim…


After much cajoling …




Then for the long slog back to the car…


We got a late start back so we were hiking in the full heat of the afternoon sun.


Slow & steady did the trick. By 3PM we were having a late lunch in Santa Paula.

This was a special first backpacking trip with my boy. He kept a great attitude even when he was worn out, we were loosing light and hunger was setting in. I was proud to see his strong character shining through. I look forward to many more great wilderness treks with Nathanael.

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