(Santa) Margarita, On the Rocks
After being evicted from our crash pad in San Diego (thanks again, MB), we began our trek northward. Surprisingly, California does not offer the vast number of free campsites that other western states do, but that doesn’t mean there aren't some out there to be found. Brooke located one free site that offered us a chance to try out some backpacking and camping away from our luxurious rooftop tent. Located just north of Camp Pendleton, you'll find the abandoned Santa Margarita fire lookout. The lookout tower has since burned down/been destroyed by a helicopter crash, but the view is still spectacular.
This spot is located at the peak of a really small mountain/really big hill, and is only large enough for two or three tents maximum. It is accessible by vehicle, but only the kind that is meant to navigate boulders and extremely uneven terrain. There is a chance the RAM could have made it, but we decided not to try and instead use this opportunity to stay in our backpacking tent for the first time.
It is about a half mile hike from where we parked. The weather was favorable, and the view of Camp Pendleton to the east and the Pacific to the west was well worth lugging up a full backpack/full six-pack.
We had the place to ourselves and an entire army base keeping us safe. They even checked in on us in one of their flying death machines. It was crazy. You know in the movies where people hear something and are like "where is that coming from?" then all of the sudden something rises from the depths of a canyon just a few hundred yards away. That's what it was like. This military helicopter (fully-loaded with ammunition, we can only assume) just rose up to our eye level and hovered, observing us for three solid minutes as we tried not to look suspicious. They were so close we could see the whites of their eyes. Since we didn't want them to think our phones were weapons or that we were about to Snowden them by exposing some confidential military information, we didn't take our phones out for the photo below until after they had determined us unthreatening and headed back to base.