Camping at Calaveras Big Trees State Park

This month, I went did something for the first time! With my husband and friends, I went camping at Calaveras Big Trees State Park.ย 

To get ready for the trip, I made sure to plan ahead and reserve our items at Sports Basement. I assumed that not many people would be camping in October, but I didn’t want to take a chance that they would sell out.

While researching on Pinterest and through other blogs, I made a list of items that would need to either rent or buy. Plus some bloggers shared some items that I wouldn’t have thought of packing.

Helpful items to make camping easier

  • Sleeping mat – padding between the ground and sleeping bag
  • Blankets for keeping warm by the fire at night or in the tent
  • Griddle Pan – for cooking eggs, chicken, and other items on the campfire
  • Electric lanterns
  • Trash bags – to separate recycling and shorten trips to the trash container
  • Body wipes – because showers are unnecessary
  • Disposable metal trays for storing food and cooking on the fire

After our trip was over, Ernie and I thought about the items and tips we learned to make the next even better.

Helpful tips and tricks for camping

  • Citronella candle to prevent the wasps from coming near our food
  • Headlamps – the lanterns were good but did not provide enough light for walking around
  • Dog bed – Mochi was fine, but he might have been more comfortable on a dog bed in the tent
  • More storage containers for food
  • Prep the food ahead of time, less waste at the campsite, and easier to just get to cooking right away
  • Mochi got into a lot of tree sap. I don’t know how to prevent this, but maybe bring scissors to cut out the sap?
  • We learned about widow-makers. After our first night, we learned that you should never sleep under tree branches because they could fall and kill you!
  • We needed way more firewood than we brought. Bring a lot of firewood because it’s probably more expensive at the campsite.
  • I had rented a camping stove, but it was only helpful to boil water for coffee. Probably not necessary to bring for next time.
  • Zipline for the dogs – we tethered them to the cooler when needed, but a line between the trees would have been better.

We rented the Toyota Highlander Hybrid for the weekend to make it easier to carry all of our supplies and two dogs. Not only was the SUV large enough for everything we needed, but the 30 MPG was fabulous!

Highlander Highlights

  • To make sure our phones were charged for the weekend, we used the included five USB ports
  • Ernie loved that the high beam lights turned off automatically when another car approached us on the road – no more blinding drivers
  • Blind spot monitoring – so helpful on the freeway at night
  • Lane departure alert – plus steering assist
  • Birdseye camera for backing up – a great way to fit the SUV in trees
  • Three-zone climate control – even the dogs could get cool AC in the backseat
  • Rear seat entertainment – we should have planned ahead to set the dogs up for a movie ๐Ÿ™‚

Throughout the weekend, I had highs and lows of enjoying camping.


  • During the night, I hated that if I needed to use the bathroom, it was faster to go in the woods. I was also fearful of bears and several times in the night, I thought I heard one.
  • I was sad that Mochi got a lot of sap on his paws and it was bothering him. It could have been the time of the year with all of the pine needles falling, but his long hair picked up the worst of it.

But, there was a lot that I did like about camping!


  • I loved walking around the trees with the dogs. They went absolutely nuts for all the new smells.
  • Sitting by the campfire with my husband
  • Seeing all of the incredible stars at night
  • Hanging out with friends
  • Roasting s’mores
  • Foraging for sticks to start a campfire
  • Watching my husband start a fire and seeing his excitement

I actually really liked that there was no cell service in the woods. It was great to not feel the need to check my phone for 48 hours!

After coming home, finally showering and washing the dirt off, I kinda missed camping! It’s a lot of effort to pack everything you need for the weekend and live “off the grid” for the weekend, but it was worth it to disconnect from suburban life.

Tomorrow, I will be sharing what we wore on our camping trip!



25 responses

  1. shootingstarsmag

    Sounds like a nice trip, and that’s so exciting that your dog was able to go with you!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I haven’t been camping in years but a friend of mine loves it!

    -Lauren Becker (from FB)


    1. Yes, with our friends and our dogs, we made sure to find a place that allowed pets!

  2. Gloria Gordon

    Your doggie is so cute! And the pictures sure showed what a great time you had. I can’t wait to go camping as soon as I can.

    1. Thank you so much, I will share with Mochi ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Amy Slaight Douglas

    Wouldn’t you know that the last time I went camping, we forgot the tent?! Each thought the other packed, and when we got there, we had to leave to buy one at the closest store (45 mins away). Your post, included helpful items to pack and you of course didn’t have to put tent because only someone like me would forget. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Amy, you won’t believe this. I was in charge of picking up all our supplies at Sports Basement. The guy there set my shopping cart up with all the things I rented, and didn’t include the tent. It wasn’t until I was putting everything in the car that I stopped to count everything and realized that one of those items didn’t look like a tent. Luckily, I noticed quickly or we would have been in the same spot as you!!

      1. Amy Slaight Douglas

        Haha! Oh that was a close one! Phew! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Have a great time!

  4. Denay DeGuzman

    What gorgeous images! I love Calaveras Big Trees State Park. But I’ve never camped there overnight. I love glamping like in Yosemite where there are canvas tent cabins with real beds and nearby bathrooms – a huge must for me! I’m sorry to hear your little Mochi got sap on his paws and was uncomfortable – such a bummer.

    1. Well, I am definitely the glamping kind of girl, so this was “different” to be roughing it. But usually those glamping sites book up really fast for the year, so we are going to schedule those for next year! Trust me, I would have loved a real bed to sleep on!

  5. Brianna

    What a beautiful place to go camping! I’m sorry your pupper got sap on him. I have used peanut butter to remove sap from my dog’s fur. It comes off a lot easier that way.

    1. I had heard that recommendation too, but we drove right to the groomer when we got back and the sap wasn’t budging. Unfortunately it had matted in between his foot pads ๐Ÿ™

  6. Looooove camping. And your dogs!! Eep! x

    1. Thank you!!

  7. Joscelyn | Wifemamafoodie

    What a beautiful place! This looks so fun!!

    1. It was really beautiful!

  8. What an enchanting place! I love that you give tips to camp with your dog… but I have a question: how does Mochi stay so calm, sitting freely in front of the camera? ๐Ÿ˜€
    We just rescued a 6-year-old dog, and we can’t wait to go camp with him, but I fear he’ll never stop running *everywhere* or barking at every leaf, bird… :-

    1. I loved that you guys rescued a pupper! Mochi has been used to the camera since he was a puppy. I have TONS of pictures of him so he is used to a camera in a face. If I need a lot of pictures from him, he gets a treat every few photos…that certainly helps! We did bring our friend’s beagle with us and he was constantly walking away to sniff another tree, so I would recommend getting a zip line to attach their leash to!

      1. Hey Lauren, thank yo so much for answering! I’m using treats to teach him basic things like “sit” or “stop” that obviously he only performs only when he wants to ๐Ÿ˜‰ but I never considered using treats to teach him to strike a pose for the camera! You’re a genius ๐Ÿ™‚ thank you so much for this tip. I will try

  9. Christina

    This trip looks like so much fun! I haven’t been camping in years and I miss it! These are some really great tips and things to think about that, as someone who hasn’t been in so long, I wouldn’t have thought of. The idea of turning off my phone and unplugging for even just a weekend sounds seriously amazing too.

    1. This trip was a lot of fun. Except the first night, we had to set up everything in the dark! It was like a forced disconnect, which is great because then no one is checking their phones!

  10. Eileen Mendoza Loya

    That looks like an awesome campsite. We have not been out camping for the longest time since the kids suddenly turned into young adults overnight. We must do this activity again. I would love to see the stars at night. The Toyota Highlander was the perfect vehicle to take too.

    1. It was the perfect car! Big enough for everyone to be comfortable. You should make a plan for camping next year, so it’s something to look forward to when it gets warm!

  11. This looks like so much fun. You’ve inspired me to do some fall camping! Also, cutest pup ever!! Poor thing with the sap in his paws though.

    1. I know! I felt terrible because he kept focusing on them and trying to get the sap out…which kinda made it worse. I am assuming it’s not always that bad for dogs!

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