Do you ever just wish you could escape your life entirely, just for one day?
Like go somewhere with no cell reception, no television, no internet, no one around, and just sit in some fucking peace and quiet for a day?
Yeah, me too. And after spending a couple weeks on the road for work doing several intense 14+ hour shoot days in a row, I was aching to escape. I felt like I’d been doing nothing but talking – talking to my co-workers, to the talent, to my crew, to my roommate, to my car Enrique – for weeks. I needed 24 hours of not talking, to anyone.
Except maybe Enrique. He’s a really good listener.
So when I discovered I’d have a couple days off from work (a real luxury), I immediately looked for somewhere to escape. I knew I wanted to try camping on my own for the first time, but I wanted to pick a place I wouldn’t be too terrified for my first night alone in a tent.
Enter Point Mugu State Park, a place with beachfront camp sites that a friend told me about a while back. I thought it would be the perfect scenario – my own beachfront site in a cove that is only open to registered overnight campers. Less of a chance of some drifter coming in and murdering me in my sleep than, say, backcountry camping in Joshua Tree. With other campers around I’d feel safe, but it was still far enough away from everything that I’d get the isolation I craved. Without hesitation, I reserved a site on Thornhill Broome Beach right away.
I left at noon and was soon coasting through Malibu, breathing in the ocean air as Enrique chugged down the PCH with his windows down. Making it to the park in just under 1.5 hours, I checked in with the gate attendant and made my way to my beachfront campsite.
When I pulled into my campsite’s only parking space, all I could think was WOW.
Apparently I’d made the right choice in coming on a Monday night in April. The weekenders had just left and the summer crowds hadn’t quite begun their yearly onslaught. There was no one around, save for a few RVs scattered every 5 sites or so. I felt like I had the place to myself!
I got out of my car and surveyed the beach in each direction from my camp site. I counted about 15 campsites that were occupied. The rest of them were blissfully vacant, and I breathed a sigh of relief. The solitude I was seeking was finally upon me.
Each site at Mugu includes a picnic table and a fire pit, a parking space and a strip of beach leading down to the water about 30 feet wide. I set up my tent and unpacked my sleeping bag and mat. I left my phone in the car, along with all the accompanying stress of work emails, texts and social obligations.
After setting up camp, I tossed my beach chair at the edge of the water and plopped down. It was time to soak in the rays. I sat in silence, occasionally taking out my book for a bit of reading and then putting it down again to appreciate the soft crashing of the waves and the lack of interruption.
It was my own little slice of sandy SoCal heaven!
As I sat quietly meditating, a handful of campers arrived and unloaded their gear. Despite the new neighbors, the beach remained as empty as when I arrived. When sun started to dip low toward the horizon, I put on my hoodie and decided it was time to make a fire.
I took out the firewood I’d bought on the way up and piled it in the rusted metal-rimmed fire pit, struggling to light it with the tiny lighter I’d brought with me. A couple that had set up a tent a few spots down wandered over and offered me their giant barbecue lighter, and I gratefully accepted.
They asked me if I wanted any of the smores that they were making, and I politely declined. Though there is nothing I love more than a charred marshmallow smashed between a graham cracker and a Hershey bar, all I wanted to do was sit and watch the fire, alone with my thoughts.
It’s funny how being on your own, without the distractions of technology or fun friends, you are able to see yourself a little more clearly in a matter of minutes. You can’t escape your thoughts, your dreams, your worries, your obsessions, your neuroses. You are forced to face yourself.
I always take advantage of moments of heightened self-awareness like these. Sitting by that fire, I took a look at the path I’m on – working hard, saving money and preparing for full-time travel and a foray into unknown territory – and I saw my dreams slowly starting to take shape.
I thought about all the possessions I’m shedding, all the travel plans I’m making and the new path I’m beginning to carve for myself. I felt fear and uncertainty, but also excitement and the anticipation of a new beginning.
I realized for the first time in my life, I’m on the exact path in life that I want to be on. A path that I intentionally set for myself. I’d made a goal, and now I’m actually making it happen.
And it feels fucking fantastic.
After a good night’s sleep, I woke up to the sound of waves crashing and gulls squawking. I looked out of my tent and saw this.
An hour later, I hopped in Enrique and started the drive back to LA. I felt his silent question, like I do every morning: “How are you today?” I answered out loud to him, a big smile on my face.
“Enrique, I’ve never felt better.”
Adventure: Camping on the beach at Point Mugu State Park.
Where: Point Mugu is along Pacific Coast Hwy in California, between LA and Santa Barbara.
My campsite was on Thornhill Broome Beach, where one of two main camping areas in the park. There are approximately 60 sites at Thornhill and they fill up fast! Each site can accommodate up to 8 people.
Cost: $35 per night, plus $8 booking fee. You can reserve your site at ReserveAmerica.com. I realize this is a lot for a campsite, but you’re paying for a fantastic location and your own slice of beach for the night!
When To Go: I highly recommend camping here off-season, mid-week in the Spring or Fall! I heard from several sources that this place gets packed in the summer, especially on weekends. I just had a look at the openings now and there aren’t anymore for the rest of July and August. Trust me, it’s so worth it to have so much of the beach to yourself! And if you are going during the summer, book ahead.
- Keep your food covered and put away, preferably in your car. The seagulls are fiesty and will grab anything with food in it that you don’t have tied down!
- Bring a warm sleeping bag. Even in the summer, the beach is cold at night and in the morning.
- It can get really windy on the beach, so bring a good lighter to light your campfire and consider a Duraflame log to get it going.
Have you ever camped on the beach? Where have you had the best beach camping experience?