Our Annual Easter Camping Trip

Happy Monday!

I’m dirty. And no, not in the way some of you might be thinking right now. Get your mind out of the gutter! Dirty as in I-smell-like-campfire-haven’t-taken-a-hot-shower-in-days-and-really-need-to-wash-my-hair dirty.

Adam and I had such a great time camping last Easter (that time in Big Basin), that we decided to plan another trip this year….but this time, to Big Sur!

We LOVE Big Sur.

We also went to celebrate Adam’s birthday! Well it wasn’t technically his birthday yet, but I felt terrible because I’ll be out of town on his birthday for the second year in a row and needed to make it up in a big way. Enter camping.

Camping with cocktails, that is. On the second night, I blindfolded Adam and whisked him away from the campsite to a surprise location for a special (early) birthday dinner and drinks. More on that in a sec!

A few months ago, I booked us one of the last spots available at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It was an okay spot…close to the bathrooms and in the redwoods…but then I stalked Reserve America every single day last week and snatched up a prime river spot when someone cancelled and made the switch. The new spot was fabulous! Right near the Big Sur River with lots of places to hang the hammock or have a picnic. I was shocked at how large the sites were—definitely room for more than one tent! Plus, our neighbors never showed up so it was very private and secluded.

As for food, we grabbed ingredients at a grocery store in Monterey and I cooked up some chili and rice on the camp stove the first night straight out of my new favorite cookbook.

I loved cooking in the middle of the cold, foggy woods! And the chili turned out great. I used ground beef, beans, tomatoes and a special spice blend that I had prepared at home earlier that day and brought with me. I think the spice blend was a combination of cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder and cardamom. It was fab!

The SECOND night (after another meal of leftover chili—yay for bringing a cooler with lots of ice!) was the special night. Unknown to Adam, I had made birthday dinner reservations earlier in the week at The Restaurant at Ventana and couldn’t wait to surprise him. I blindfolded him at camp and then drove us the two miles south—he was so surprised! Just the look on his face when I tore off the blindfold and handed him a cocktail was worth it all.

The food was spectacular!!! I went with the vegetarian tasting menu because it featured both wild mushroom risotto and ricotta gnocchi, my two favorite things.


Amazing ricotta gnocchi with olives, housemade marinara and Parmesan:

Berry crisp for dessert!

Adam had the duck, which he said was equally as amazing.

And lavender vanilla creme brulee for the birthday boy!

We loved every second of our meal and experience, but quickly dragged ourselves back to our tent post-meal…..guest rooms at Ventana go for the low price of about $750 a night. Maybe someday! If I win the lottery, that is.

Until that day happens, just give me an air mattress, a warm sleeping bag and a bottle of wine and I’m good to go.

Naturally, we procrastinated the three hour drive home yesterday and didn’t get home until really late, which is why there might be unintentional spelling or grammatical errors in this post. Sorry about that! Y’all know I love you. Right now as I type this it’s quarter to midnight and I still have my hiking shoes laced up and twigs in my hair.

Oh and one more thing!! I ate the BEST eggs benedict of my LIFE yesterday morning at Deetjin’s Big Sur Inn. It involved chicken apple sausage and totally rocked my world. As I was mopping up the last bit of english muffin, it dawned on me that I should have taken a photo (the camera was right next to me the whole time) but…..that never happened. Forgive me.

Here’s all the deets:

Where we camped: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Where we ate: campsite (chili!), Ventana, Deetjin’s for breakfast (aaaaaamazing!)

Where we hiked: Julia Pfeiffer State Park

Going camping and not sure what to eat? Check out this post I wrote on that exact subject last summer!

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  • Melanie Z
    April 9, 2012 at 3:56 am

    Hey Jenna, we’re thinking of doing some camping this year and right now we’re having the great tent debate. What to buy? What kind of tent do you have? Do you recommend it?

  • mary (sisters running the kitchen)
    April 9, 2012 at 3:57 am

    that berry crisp looks amazing!!!!

  • Averie @ Averie Cooks
    April 9, 2012 at 4:07 am

    Love it that you went camping and surprised Adam and pulled it all off! And it looks absolutely incredible…the weather, the scenery, the campfire and that berry crisp. What a perfect Easter (birthday) weekend!

  • Beki
    April 9, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Sounds like a great trip! There’s something special about camping and being away from it all for a bit, and food always tastes better when cooked on a campfire/stove and eaten outside πŸ™‚ There’s some great spots here in the UK too, you should check them out! Beki x

  • Heather @ Health, Happiness, and Hope
    April 9, 2012 at 4:39 am

    What a beautiful site! It’s been years since I’ve been camping and I’m not much of an outdoorsy type, but I love how you incorporated the upscale restaurant into the weekend for his birthday too. What a great mix of scenery! πŸ™‚

  • The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh
    April 9, 2012 at 4:41 am

    I think that has to make up for not being there on the actual birthday. What a great surprise and so jealous! We went to Carmel last year and the area is just so amazing! I’d love to explore more of the surrounding areas so I bookmarked this post! πŸ™‚

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat
    April 9, 2012 at 5:09 am

    OMG Jenna, you look gorgeous in that photo with the trees and flowers in the back!! Looks like you guys had a fantastic time I love how you photographed the berry crisp – awesome height!

  • Lindsey Morningstar
    April 9, 2012 at 5:09 am

    I LOVE Big Sur! I went there last year with my husband for our wedding anniversary and it was like we feel in love all over again πŸ™‚ We also dined at the Ventana and Deetjen’s and were blown away by the amazing food! We stayed at Glen Oaks Motel (upscale green living motel) right in Big Sur – high recommend! Ok all this talk makes me want to book a trip back out there!

  • Urban Wife
    April 9, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Sounds like you guys had a lovely time! I have “visit California” on my bucket list but now I’m thinking I’ll need to be more specific and list “Big Sur” as one of the places to go see.

  • Sarah
    April 9, 2012 at 5:20 am

    What a perfect weekend! I’m definitely going to check out the reserve america site now!

  • Maggie
    April 9, 2012 at 5:30 am

    An old boyfriend and I stayed at Deetjen’s and we had the cabin to the left of that lovely bench. It’s a really special spot.

  • jenna
    April 9, 2012 at 5:32 am

    what a fun time!!!! that gnocchi looks amazing!

  • Marissa
    April 9, 2012 at 5:33 am

    What great pics. I love the redwoods and Big Sur is def. on my bucket list of places to see!

  • Crystal
    April 9, 2012 at 6:04 am

    My two girls and I just got home from camping in Asheville on Thursday. I think we have the same tent as you! Is yours an REI Half Dome 4? Great tent! Happy Easter!

    • Adam
      April 9, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Yep, sure is!

  • Jen
    April 9, 2012 at 6:15 am

    The third picture is stunning! Like a remote island somewhere πŸ™‚

  • Margarita
    April 9, 2012 at 6:32 am

    I love camping… Especially the part where we get to cook good stuff, it only takes a little prep at home, packing, and LOTS of ice. Big Sur looks gorgeous and you too. Someday…

  • Molly @ RDexposed
    April 9, 2012 at 6:35 am

    Ok. Maaaybe I’d be up for camping in California-not Illinois.

  • Ali @ Around the VeggieTable
    April 9, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Looks beautiful! Doesn’t it seem like the things that we eat that are the BESTEVER, we never seem to snag a photo of? LOL πŸ™‚

  • katie @KatieDid
    April 9, 2012 at 7:07 am

    looks like an incredible time, you really know how to plan a good weekend. And that wasn’t your typical camping cuisine haha! But it looks amazing.

  • Maria
    April 9, 2012 at 7:13 am

    What a beautiful place! Glad you had a good time! And btw you are gorgeous! Love all of the photos!

  • cyrena
    April 9, 2012 at 7:24 am

    i love to camp! i always bring the stuff with me to make s’mores on the fire and use ghiardelli dark chocolate. it makes a yummy mess!

  • amy walters, aDESIGNdock
    April 9, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Those shots are amazing Jenna! Looks like a pretty sweet camping destination. Welcome back.

  • Serena
    April 9, 2012 at 7:31 am

    It is so beautful there! Looks like you had an amazing time!

  • Laura @ She Eats Well
    April 9, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Sounds like an amazing, beautiful weekend getaway! Your meal looks so amazing, especially the desserts! We are so lucky to have Big Sur in CA!

  • Lora Lee
    April 9, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Ventana! We had brunch there last time we visited California (from Ga). The view was spectacular..breathtaking! Of course, the vino was excellent.
    We are avid campers and would love to camp in California, especially Big Sur. In fact, one of our choices for our 10th anniversary/ vacations this year is heading back out to CA, renting a small RV, and traveling wine country and Northern CA. One of the other options is the same route, but via B&B’s.
    Wow! This gets me excited and I’m so jealous that you get to live in CA! I would love to make that move.

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen
    April 9, 2012 at 7:59 am

    That picture of you sure looks pretty impressive for spending a weekend in the woods! If I went without a shower for that long, my hair would be plastered to my head in grease. Attractive, I know. Sounds like an awesome time!

  • Maria
    April 9, 2012 at 8:06 am

    So beautiful!!! It looks like you both had a great time. Sometimes getting dirty and being in the wilderness is just what the doctor ordered.

  • Anne P
    April 9, 2012 at 8:14 am

    This makes me really, really miss CA. So pretty!

  • Ingunn
    April 9, 2012 at 8:17 am

    I’m suffering from camping and backpacking withdrawals, so thank you for letting me live vicariously through you. :o) Big Sur looks amazing, and I am so envious of your dry, sunny trails and campgrounds…here in the Pacific Northwest, everything is still soggy!

  • Carrie
    April 9, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Wow! I love looking at all of the pics – such a gorgeous place!

  • JosephineTomato
    April 9, 2012 at 8:30 am

    No Nepenthe ?!? – was hoping to live vicariously with that view but appreciate these great pictures as well.

  • Liz @ IHeartVegetables
    April 9, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Oh my gosh! What a fantastic birthday surprise!

  • Corrie Anne
    April 9, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Wow. I hate camping, but your site looks so amazing!!!! And what a great birthday mini getaway!! πŸ™‚

  • Jane {In the Pink and Green}
    April 9, 2012 at 8:59 am

    This looks so fun! I’m dying to go to Big Sur…my hubby and I just moved to Lake Tahoe and I’m hoping that we can make the trek down sometime this summer!

  • Whitney
    April 9, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Hubs and I camped this weekend too! It was WONDERFUL!

  • Alison
    April 9, 2012 at 9:47 am

    It looks like such a fabulous weekend.

  • Megan
    April 9, 2012 at 9:50 am

    We love camping too. That looks like a fabulous trip!

  • Audrey
    April 9, 2012 at 9:56 am

    You went to a five-star restaurant for dinner smelling like campfire smoke and without a shower??

  • K @ The Chic Teach
    April 9, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Oh man, that trip looks WONDERFUL! It’s officially given me the itch to go camping πŸ™‚

  • Katie
    April 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Jenna – do you like this place or Treebones more? I booked Treebones Resort for my stay at Big Sur.

    • jenna
      April 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

      Treebones will always be my number one!!! Mainly because it’s totally “glamping” with hot showers, spotless bathrooms, ocean views and a fabulous lodge/restaurant two seconds from you camp. I do, however, like the area that pfeiffer was in more…Treebones is great but it’s pretty far south (about 45 minutes past Nepenthe). There’s not much else around that area…if you come a little further north, you get more restaurants. So my thoughts are to camp at Treebones for two nights then spend a night at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn or Ripplewood to finish off you trip so you get the best of both worlds πŸ™‚

      • MyThy as in "Mighty"
        April 9, 2012 at 11:06 am

        Oh! Great tip! “Glamping”, how funny. Ever since your post last year, I’ve been dreaming of a camping trip centered around going to Nepenthe and Big Sur Bakery. Now I’m going to have to stop at Deetjen’s. (No worries on the egg’s benedict photo. It looks amazing on their Yelp page!

        We did a spontaneous camping trip to Leo Carrillo, CA (by Malibu) this past weekend too. Reserve America wasn’t working so we started at Point Mugu and headed south until there was a site available.

        Lastly, is that an ENO single or double hammock? We’re looking to get one but can’t decide between that or the Byer Easy Traveller.

        Beautiful photos (as usual) and thanks for the tips! =)

        • Adam
          April 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm

          It is a Double ENO (part of the OneLink system).. I don’t have any experience with the Byer, but can vouch for the ENO. I’ve had it for 4 years and have used it well over a hundred times in many different environments. If you get one of the ENO hammocks, the slap strap pro’s are a must have.

          • MyThy as in "Mighty"
            April 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm

            Thanks Adam for your quick reply! I wasn’t sure if I needed to get the slap strap or not b/c the Byer hammock comes with their Microrope hanging system. It looks too flimsy and I don’t trust the thimble even though its rated for 250 lbs. I’ll be buying the Double ENO w/ slap strap then! Tks!

  • gia
    April 9, 2012 at 10:11 am

    wow.. fantastic. that is the way to live. Inspiration for when I hope to move from a more cold and snowy location to a sunny green spot.

  • Cait's Plate
    April 9, 2012 at 10:16 am

    That looks like such a wonderful, rejuvenating trip! Ever since your first Big Sur post I’ve just been DYING to make a trip there myself. Hopefully someday!

  • Luv What You Do
    April 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

    What an incredible way to spend your weekend! I loved all of your photos and your post was well written (even with sleep deprivation and twiggy hair)! I would love to get out west camping one day. It is definitely on my bucket list. I hope you continue to enjoy your new Easter tradition!

  • Traci Lehman
    April 9, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Amazing! I need to go.

  • britt
    April 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    sounds like an awesome trip. and makes me want to go camping asap. you look lovely in that pic btw πŸ™‚

  • Angela @ Happy Fit Mama
    April 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Stunning views! I wish my camping trips were more like yours. We usually battle mosquitos the whole time. My hubby believes in being really rustic and making sure we are miles away from any restaurants or people.

  • Kristen @ notsodomesticated
    April 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Wow, that looks a lot better than any camping movie I’ve ever watched! πŸ˜‰ If I’m ever going to go camping, it will be with YOU haha! Glad you had a nice weekend!

  • Jan
    April 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I really dislike camping, but if we had scenery like that while camping I may change my mind! Gorgeous! Glad you had a good weekend!!

  • Melody Rich
    April 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Ahhhh! I LOOOVE camping. Especially in the cold weather. I’d love to go for our 2nd anniversary!

  • Amanda @ Becoming a BoulangΓ¨re
    April 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Sounds like your trip was fantastic! I’m new to the bay area and am just dying to get down to Big Sur, and your pictures only make me want to go more!

  • Mel
    April 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I went to Big Sur in late February per your recommendation (and beautiful photos) with my mom, and absolutely fell in love. It’s magical there- for real. I could wax poetic about it all day long. Glad you had a lovely trip!

  • Emily @ Life on Food
    April 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Beautiful photos. I have only been camping once and loved every second of it. I could have the smell of camp fire on me forever and be happy.

  • DessertForTwo
    April 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Ohhh Jenna! I adore your Big Sur posts. We went a few weeks ago and had such a good time, I can’t even talk about it yet. We just soaked it up. Big Sur is heaven.

  • Alex
    April 9, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Hey Jenna,

    I am going on my first back packing trip to Glacier Park. Do you have any first time hiking/back packing tips? It would be a post I would be really interested in!


    • jenna
      April 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      I’ve never actually been on a backpacking trip! That sounds super fun though…all I can say is pack a TON of snacks! πŸ˜‰

  • Lea @ Healthy Coconut
    April 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    The husband and I did the scenic coastal drive from Orange County to Monterey last year and we made sure to stop by and explore Big Sur. We ate the Nepenthe restaurant (saw it on your blog last year, I think!) and also friends recommended it….love the view from the that place.

    I hope to do some camping in that area too.

    Do you know whats the nearest camping site to the waterfall? I want to get as close as possible so I can just walk or hike to the waterfall.

    • jenna
      April 9, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      You can actually camp right there at Julia Pfeiffer State Park! The site is pretty close to the waterfall but the spots looked very close together. I’d recommend camping at another campground close by instead for that reason. It’s an easy mile hike round-trip to see the falls…so gorgeous!

  • Meghan J
    April 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Hi, Jenna!!

    I love Big Sur – spent a summer in California (Santa Cruz!) and kept trying to camp there, but everywhere we tried was booked the WHOLE TIME! So, this is a random question, but I have to know… WHAT is that LIPSTICK you’re wearing in the picture of you with the cocktail?! I love it! It’s gorgeous on you!

    • jenna
      April 11, 2012 at 12:22 pm

      Thank you! It’s “Ruby Woo” with “Brick” lipliner—both from mac. I don’t think you can see really from the photo, but it’s BRIGHT RED. I love it!

  • Annie @ What's Annie Making?
    April 10, 2012 at 4:41 am

    This looks like an awesome trip! I love that you surprised Adam like that too. Such a good idea. Our camping trips generally involved popup campers and swimming in lakes you can’t see the bottom of. This looks so much better!

  • Chelsea
    April 10, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Great post, Jenna! Love it!

  • Charise
    April 10, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Sounds and looks like another fun, relaxing trip. And as always, great photos!

  • Kristen @ Popcorn on the Stove
    April 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    That looks like a wonderful trip!

  • Kim
    April 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Looks like you had a great time & what a beautiful place! I work for a small fire hose company and am looking for a nice place to take a much needed vacation!

  • Katie @ Katie Without Restrictions
    April 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    What an amazing looking vacation! I’m so jealous ~ in Wisconsin we really can’t guarantee a good camping trip until at least mid-May. And our first trip isn’t booked until the end of June ~ I can’t wait!!

  • Kimberly (Sketch the Ebb and Flow)
    April 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Oooo great tip for snatching up a better camping spot! They’re usually booked so far in advance. I’ve been to that overlook of the beach with the waterfall. It used to be private property, right? Can you imagine having that as your backyard?!? Insane!

  • Lisa
    April 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I LOVE Big Sur. We went once (drove up when we lived in San Diego) and stayed at Treebones in a yurt! Kind of like glorified camping. It was amazing. Most gorgeous place I have been to (well, maybe besides Greece). Camping there sounds wonderful!

  • Heidi - Apples Under My Bed
    April 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    So much fun! All of it. Looks amazing and totally worth the dirt & twiggy hair. You’re a great girlfriend – camping, chilli and cocktails πŸ™‚ I miss camping!! Must drag my man out into the woods (he’s a hotel kinda guy, but I’m working on it).
    Heidi xo

  • Mo
    April 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    California should pay you for your beautiful display of the lovely state…because of you I have planned out half of my summer around hiking and camping there! Glad you had a lovely time!

  • Jamie @ Thrifty Veggie Mama
    April 11, 2012 at 4:49 am

    Beautiful! That looks like a great time. I always did a lot of camping as a kid but haven’t gone in so long!

  • Shannon
    April 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Looks like a fabulous trip!

  • Paula
    April 13, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Experiencing beauty in its purest form. I love the photos you posted since I also love to go camping. I’m now an avid reader of your blog. XOXO

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    […] Our Annual Easter Camping Trip Every year Jenna and Adam set out for a camping trip during the Easter holiday. This year they ventured to beautiful Big Sur. So where did they camp? What did they eat? Did they like it? Read on to find out! […]

  • Julie
    April 14, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Your trip looks amazing! I’ve been dying to book a trip to Treebones and am thinking of planning it for late summer. Can you post some tips for “Glamping” πŸ™‚ I wouldn’t be bringing a tent or anything (helloooo yurt! :), but what about shoes? Hiking gear? Attire? Does it get super cold by the ocean? AH halp πŸ™‚

  • Lea @ iCooklea
    April 15, 2012 at 4:59 am

    I loooove camping – every year, we take out the tent for a week w/ the family. Tuscany this year! Can’t wait!

  • nichole (the refined hippy)
    April 19, 2012 at 8:06 am

    this looks like so much fun- that scenery is ridiculous and you definitely snagged a prime camping spot. i love camping but the campgrounds in the carolinas (at least the ones I’ve found) don’t look quite like that.

  • tara king
    March 10, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    which riverside campsite # did you snag?