Our “Wilderness” Weekend

It wasn’t until last Monday that Jeremy and I realized that a glorious, long Labor Day weekend was approaching. On Tuesday night, we decided we should find a fun getaway and go to one of the many gorgeous places near our new Northern California home.

It turns out that if you’re trying to book accommodations three days before a holiday weekend and you’re on a tight budget, you can cross off Tahoe or Yosemite immediately. Cute idea, not gonna happen. When I stumbled upon an $80 a night, “off the grid” cabin on Airbnb, I decided it was perfect… partly because I’ve wanted to try my hand at “roughing it,” and partly because I just really wanted to go somewhere.

We headed up to the Hull Mountain Cabins on Friday afternoon, stocked with all our food for three days, plenty of bug spray, flashlights, and– of course– board games. The cabin was located in the middle of the Mendocino National Forest, and we were told that the roads could be rough but were assured that our little Acura could make it. For me, the scariest part was the fact that our iPhones would lose service once we got onto the mountain. How the hell did people find things without Google Maps? Luckily, our host had sent us directions with fun instructions like, “Go until you see the Soda Creek Store,” and “Continue past Pogie Point campgrounds.”

Let me tell you, the drive up the mountain was no joke. A lot of it was unpaved, and we quickly realized why all the locals had big trucks and SUVs. Our car was The Little Engine That Could, and we were both happy to finally see the sign for the Lake Pillsbury Ranch, where our cabin was located.

Wilderness retreat
Our cabin/the reason Jeremy laughed every time I called our weekend “camping.”

We unpacked our food in the shared co-op, where the host promised it would be “safe from bears.” Perfect. We spent our first evening relaxing, breaking out the beer (for him) and the S’more-flavored Oreos (for me). I even convinced Jeremy, a staunch Scrabble supporter, to give Bananagrams a chance (and he kicked my butt). When it got dark enough, we headed down to a big open field to check out the stars. We tried our best to relax on the quilt we’d brought, but our anxious, mostly-blind dog was not having it.

At least we were able to snap this perfect family photo!

The next morning was an interesting one. We discovered (actually, our host discovered) that one of our back tires was completely flat. I guess it had gotten punctured somewhere along the rugged, unpaved drive up the mountain. Then, Jeremy opened the trunk only to discover we didn’t have a jack…  we definitely looked like helpless city folk. Luckily, the host’s boyfriend had a jack and we managed to put the spare on.

Trying to find the leak. They found it…

Sadly, we had to delay our activities for the day and make the 1.5 hour trip to the closest tire shop in Ukiah, CA. Poor Jeremy drove down the mountain at about 10 mph on our little spare tire, while Henry and I fidgeted and whined anxiously. I am a nervous driver (and  passenger), so the driving this weekend was a big test for me. We made it with no issues, fortunately, and even got to play in a park while we waited for the spare. Henry was convinced we made the drive just to play fetch with him somewhere new.

Our afternoon made up for the inconvenient morning tenfold. Our host had given us a map with some handwritten notes for places to check out, and she wrote that one beach was great for dogs. Oh lord, was she right. We headed over to Squaw Creek and we had an entire stretch of lakefront to ourselves. Henry was in heaven (and so was I). This is my favorite memory of the trip, hands down.

Henry’s still a puppy, so he went absolutely nuts during all of our excursions. He never sat still, and then he passed out hard later. We called him Old Man River, because he was down for the count by about 9:00 every night. Jeremy and I would be playing a board game or talking, and he would sigh and look at us like we were nuts for keeping him awake.


Our big plan for the following day was hiking Bloody Rock Trail, which was another recommendation from the host. We headed off after breakfast, and quickly realized that our little car was, once again, facing an uphill battle. The roads were so rocky and steep that we debated turning around and finding something closer to our cabin, but we decided to stick it out. I’m so glad we did! Our tires were unharmed, and it was a beautiful hike. We found a creek about 2 miles in, and Henry loved it. We have no idea what kind of dog he is mixed with, but he definitely has the water-lovin’ trait of a lab.

When we got back, I really wanted a nap and Jeremy wanted to do some reading, so we got comfortable in the hammock hanging up behind our cabin. That lasted for about 10 seconds before Henry decided he couldn’t be left out, and jumped in to join us. Jeremy said that our overcrowded hammock time is his favorite memory from the trip. 🙂

We finished the weekend with a taco dinner, which was definitely the best meal we Jeremy made. He cooked everything on the charcoal grill next to our cabin, and it was a perfect end to our our long, “wilderness” weekend.

I think the mark of a great trip is coming back tired and content. We were definitely those things, plus pretty dirty. I’m thankful for several things: I’m thankful for my detox from my cell phone and laptop, I’m thankful for Jeremy’s superb knowledge of “camping,” rocky driving, and outdoor cooking, and I’m thankful that this is only the first adventure of many with my little family!

Next up: Sleeping in an actual tent….



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