Holiday Camping in Ansell

After our awesome desert excursion, we were eager to get Ansell back into the wild. On a whim, we decided to adventure the weekend right before Christmas. We figured getting some rest and relaxation was the perfect way to ease into the holidays.

We initially wanted to go to Laguna Mountain, but – due to fire restrictions – we wouldn’t be able to have a campfire there… and given the temperature was expected to dip into the 20’s (Fahrenheit) that night, Liz quickly determined we would be miserable without a fire. After talking with the park ranger, they recommended that we try Cuyamaca about 20-30 minutes down the road.

I hadn’t been to Cuyamaca since 6th-grade camp and it was Liz’s first time, so we were both very excited. We pulled into the main campground, only to find that we were the only campers there! So stoked. We did a couple laps through the campground until we found our ideal spot. It was perfect – gorgeous tall pines surrounding the site (perfect for the new hammocks) and a nice level spot for the truck to park so we could sleep comfortably.

New Gear

Speaking of sleeping, after our last trip to the desert, we decided it would be worth $100 to get a thick, but foldable mattress to give our wooden platform some padding. The puzzle-piece workout pads we bought worked well, but we knew sleep could be better. So we did a little research and decided on the Milliard Tri-Folding Mattress Full. Let me just say, it was WELL worth the $100. The Milliard is 4 inches thick, folds up nicely when not in use, and is just long enough that we are able to use the full length of the truck, but still close it completely. We definitely recommend this mattress for anyone thinking about sleeping in their vehicle. It also seconds as a perfect living room floor snuggle mattress for movie nights at home with our pups.

The other new gear we had on this trip were our Grand Trunk hammock and Trunk Straps. I have wanted a nice hammock for a while now and the Grand Trunk did not disappoint. Between the brilliant colors, ease of setup, and overall comfort, it was an epic purchase for our camping kit. My only advice is to get two unless you’re ready to snuggle up with your partner because its such a prime spot for relaxing you’ll end up fighting over who gets to rock in it.

Liz in a hammock.
Liz enjoying a book in the hammock


I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that we’re not elite trail runners or avid rock climbers (let’s be real, you can tell love tacos), but we both really enjoy a great hike. We decided to conquer the Stonewall Peak to work off all the great food we were eating. It is a fairly easy 3.8-mile hike that leads to some epic views at the peak.

We got very lucky and were able to catch one of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen. It lit up the mountains in front of us and the desert behind us. Layers of pink, violet, orange, red, and blue painted the rock formations all around us and illuminated the eerie white manzanitas that had burned in fires past. It was amazing to say the least.


Liz dusted off her water colors to finish some Christmas gifts and hammer out a few camp-site sketches. It turns out painting while camping is the ultimate relaxation tool. Here is some of her work:

Watercolors by Liz from the trip.
Some of Liz’s sketches from the trip.


Veggie Chili dogs – one of our staple “easy-prep” meals that I can bust out while Liz gets the fire going


veggie scramble
Our go-to breakfast veggie scramble

Veggie scramble – another favorite “kitchen-sink” style breakfast with all the left over veggies from the week and delicious soy chorizo from Trader Joe’s. Just dice them all up with some salt, pepper, and other desired spices (we love chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika) and throw them into the skillet on your Coleman with olive oil until tender. If you’re adding potatoes, it helps to boil them a bit first so they cook at the same speed as the other veggies. This easy meal never disappoints!

  • Potatoes
  • Soyrizo
  • Bell pepper
  • Onion

Box mac and cheese + fresh or frozen peas (or some other veggie addition of your choice) – because its not really camping to Liz without sufficient servings of melted cheese

Campfire Pizza – This was our first attempt and it was fantastic! We cooked the dough a bit first in the cast iron over the open fire, then added the sauce, cheese and toppings until the cheese was bubbly and the crust golden brown. We burnt the bottom of the crust a bit because our fire was a little too hot (Liz’s inner pyro often emerges when it’s cold out) but it actually gave the slices some much needed structure, making them easier to eat.

  • Fresh dough (from Trader Joe’s – we used the garlic and herb kind this time)
  • Cheese (never too much cheese)
  • Jar of marinara sauce
  • Toppings (all kinds of tasty veggies – peppers, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, tomato)
Vegetable pizza.
Campfire vegetable pizza.

Pancakes (we like the coconut pancake mix from Trader Joe’s – you just need to add water. We also add banana coins to spice it up and get that nice caramelized glaze)

Left overs or just In-N-Out (true confession – In-N-Out always wins)

– Vegan chocolate peppermint drink (in a carton)
– Trader Joe’s “Winter Wassail” juice for mulled wine
– 6 pack of the Trader Joe’s IPA


We had an AMAZING time together at Cuyamaca. Between the wonderful food, solitude, great location (for drone flying and sketching), new mattress, and amazing hike – we couldn’t have had a better time. That said, we will only go back over holidays like Christmas or maybe even the Super Bowl. While our campsite was beautiful, if there was someone next to us, there would have been zero privacy and noise would have traveled easily among the campsites. We love to camp, but 95% of the reason we go is to get away from the hustle and bustle of normal life and being crowded by noisy neighbors would definitely hamper our experience.