Santa Cruz is arguably the easiest area from the Oakland area for an impromptu camping trip so to be somewhat adventurous, we opted to give Big Basin State Park & Campgrounds in Boulder Creek a shot.
Big Basin is a gorgeous, redwood-riddled park and the town of Boulder Creek is an adorable town in the mountains just NE of Santa Cruz. Boulder Creek is particularly nostalgic to DH as he spent several summers working at Camp Harmon, an Easter Seals camp for the developmentally and physically handicapped.
|DH, dwarfed by the redwoods|
The one problem with Big Basin SP is that it is capital C-O-L-D COLD in February. That the weather would be cold camping in Northern California in Winter was a given, but there was no preparing us for how cold it actually was. It was 39 degrees when we arrived just after dark and only got colder from there. For all intents and purposes, it was freezing. And we were miserable.
The next morning, we made the executive decision to move camp.
After cooking up some Nepenthe pancakes and New Orleans style chicory coffee, we packed the car and headed to New Brighton State Beach & Campgrounds just outside of Santa Cruz. We'd camped there once before and couldn't have been happier to return to bright sunshine and warmer conditions.
After setting up camp, we headed straight for the beach, mere footsteps away, to read and soak up the sun. From there, we headed into town to check out Soif, a wine bar and shop friends had raved about. In fact, Soif's wine list (and pricing) was remarkable.
We picked up some fresh fish & spinach and headed back to start dinner. After recently preparing Jerusalem's risotto style barley, it struck me as the perfect camping recipe.
Simply sautee celery & shallots in butter & oil, mix in pearl barley, bay leaf & smoked paprika until coated then add passata, chopped tomato & veggie broth and bring to a boil. Bring the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot and within a half hour, you'll have a delicious barley risotto. While the barley is cooking, dry toast caraway seeds in a pan then mix with feta cheese to top the barley. The feta-caraway adds a lot to this dish.
For the fish, sautee finely sliced lemon & garlic confit (with oil), add in the cod and a bit of white wine e voila!, fish is complete.
Lastly, make a quick lemony-shallot vinaigrette for the spinach and throw cara cara oranges & marcona almonds into the mix for a near perfect salad.
The next morning we opted to explore downtown Santa Cruz in lieu of a lingering breakfast at the campground. After cappucino's at the always outstanding Verve Coffee Roasters and sandwiches at Zuccoli's, we happened upon Well Within, a day spa featuring private rooms with a soaking tub, cedar sauna, shower and lounge space for the same price as a campsite. On a whim, we booked the room for one hour. It was arguably the best hour of the weekend. There is nothing quite like a hot shower after camping for a few days; unless of course you add a hot tub and sauna to the mix, then it's pure bliss!