Campsgiving Part II: Hiking Big Pine Creek (North Fork) Trail

I don't think words could adequately describe peeking out of our tent and seeing the sunrise wash over the Sierra Nevadas. Not gonna lie though, crawling out of our toasty sleeping bags into the crisp air was pretty rough. But the morning views and the lure of breakfast and hot coffee made it all worth it. After cooking up a quick bite, we packed up and hit the road north towards Big Pine. 

The trailhead for the Big Pine Creek North Fork trail was about an hour north and easy to find. (No permit is required for a day hike, you'll need to get one at the ranger station for backpacking and overnight camping.) 

The second half of the hike seemed never ending, especially with David telling me that it was only a mile/mile half more every 15 minutes, but when we finally reached a very frozen over first lake...there were no words. Partially because we felt breathless at 10,000 ft., but mostly because it was one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen. We spent a few minutes soaking it all in and refueling on gummy bears before deciding to head back instead of trekking over to the second lake, which was another 10-15 minutes away. Even though it was only 1:30pm, the sun was already starting to disappear behind the mountains and we didn't want to risk hiking down in the dark, especially with the random patches of ice covering parts of the trail. 

We made it back to our campsite around dusk, made dinner (pulled pork tacos!), burned the rest of our firewood and called it an early night. We packed up our stuff and headed out bright and early the next morning. Already planning our next road trip to see these mountains again! 

Campsgiving Part I: Alabama Hills

We celebrated Thanksgiving a little differently this year and spent a fun couple of days sleeping in a roof top tent mounted on our Outback and hiking through the Eastern Sierras, a Campsgiving if you will. We camped at Tuttle Creek, a BLM campground near Alabama Hills, with an unobstructed 180° view of Mt. Whitney and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Even though the weather was brisk, we found ourselves in the company of many other opt-outsiders, most of whom had tricked out camper-trailers and a few others who rough-and-toughed it (aka froze their butts off) in tents like us. Luckily, with tons of blankets, ample firewood and a value pack of hand warmers, we survived two nights of below freezing temperatures and a windstorm. Like they say, those who share a tent together when its 29° outside, stay together. Or something like that. 

We made margherita pizza on the first day based on this Fresh Off The Grid recipe, using our little butane stove to save firewood for the chillier evenings. It was delicious, but if there's one thing we learned about winter camping, food does not stay warm for long after it's transferred onto a cold tin plate. (It may look sunny but it was still in the high 40's during the day.) Tip for future, just eat off the cast iron skillet. 

After lunch, we all took a little siesta in the tent before driving out to explore the famous movie locations and Mobius Arch of Alabama Hills. David totally geeked out after discovering that one of his favorite movies, Tremors, was filmed here. (The first thing we did when we got home from camping? Watch Tremors.)

We got back to camp right before the sun set behind the mountains (it was only 4 o'clock) and felt the temperature drop right away. A friendly camp neighbor stopped by to introduce themselves and gave us some homemade fire starter and our fire was up and burning in no time. Hoku had just shed his winter coat a few weeks earlier (great timing for a winter camping trip) and was shivering pretty badly so we wrapped him up in a Rumpl blanket and sat him in front of the fire. He warmed up quickly and fell asleep in his cozy little nest. 

We bought this ridiculously cheap tent from Amazon to store our camp chairs and stuff while we were out exploring. It also doubled as snoozing pup storage later in the evening. Dinner was supposed to be hamburgers but we forgot to pack the buns. Luckily, we had extra dough from lunch so we made pizza burgers instead and then sat around the fire until the stars came out. It was magnificent. 

How To Throw A Pup-Friendly Holiday Dinner Party

Thanksgiving is around the corner and for the first time ever, we have an actual dining space with a real dining table and get this, matching chairs. I think this officially makes us grown ups now. Our dining table through the years have been temporary make-do pieces like a space-saving folding desk (for our 600 sq. ft. apartment) and a piece of Ikea butcher block we had attached hairpin legs to (a thrifty attempt at midcentury mod). 

Thanks to our friends at Rove Concepts, we've finally found the perfect dining set that will be with us for years to come. We're so excited to have partnered with them to give you a glimpse into our new dining area and show you how we plan to throw the best pup-friendly holiday dinner party ever. And when dog people get together, you know there will be merriment and good eats for humans and pups alike!

Plates, Bowls, Glasses: Rove Concepts  |  Flatware, Napkins: West Elm

PlatesBowlsGlasses: Rove Concepts  |  FlatwareNapkins: West Elm

A minimal table setting of soft, neutral colors with a touch of metallic is my jam. Add some tea candles for warmth, little white pumpkins, and eucalyptus branches from Trader Joes (only $3 per bunch!) and the table is set.

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I love the idea of breaking out of turkey tradition and roasting a chicken instead. My girl chef hero Ina Garten's perfect roast chicken recipe is indeed perfection. Simple to prep, SO delicious, and it makes the house smell amazing. Paired with roasted rainbow carrots and onions and it's the coziest meal for a cold winter's evening. 

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I'm currently kind of obsessed with cheeseboards and its smorgasbord of deliciousness. Sit me right in front of the cheese with a glass of red wine and a pup at my feet and I'm good for the rest of the evening. 

Cheeseboard, Candles: Rove Concepts

Cheeseboard, Candles: Rove Concepts

For the pups, I love this recipe for turkey meatballs from our friend Jane of Winding Ridge Lane. As some of you may know, Hoku is allergic to some common proteins so we tweaked the recipe and made a Tofurkey version just for him. Minced Tofurkey meatballs don't hold its shape as well as real turkey meat, so we added extra egg and white rice as needed to bind the ingredients together a little better. He "gobbled" it up. (Heh heh.)

Serving Bowl: Rove Concepts

Serving Bowl: Rove Concepts

But wait! It's not a party yet without drinks. We love the idea of a simple bar cart for guests to make their own Moscow Mules, one of our favorite holiday cocktails. All you need is ice, vodka, ginger beer, limes, mint, and some fun copper cups. No shaker required. (And for the vino lovers, we always keep red wine on hand too!)

Copper Mugs, Glass Vase: Rove Concepts  |  Bar Cart: Target  |  Bar Tools: West Elm  |  Letter Board: Three Potato Four

Copper MugsGlass Vase: Rove Concepts  |  Bar Cart: Target  |  Bar Tools: West Elm  |  Letter Board: Three Potato Four

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The very best part of a Thanksgiving meal? Dessert of course. True to tradition, we whipped up homemade cookies and doggy pumpkin pies for Hoku and pup guests. I gave it a small twist this year and put their initials in cookie form on top! And for the humans, a lemon berry pie. I wish I could say I baked that beautiful masterpiece from scratch all by myself but it's actually from our favorite, local pie shop. There's nothing quite like finishing a meal with a slice of warm pie and a hot cup of coffee. 

Coffee Mugs, Geometric Vase, Concrete Tray: Rove Concepts  |  French Press: Bodum

Coffee MugsGeometric Vase, Concrete Tray: Rove Concepts  |  French Press: Bodum

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Hoku's favorite spot to hang out during a meal is right under the table, waiting for the occasional dropped crumb. Sometimes he'll even rest his head on our chair or legs and look up with the cutest, most hypnotizing, food-summoning puppy dog eyes and sure enough, it gets us every single time

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Pups get food comas too so don't forget to create a comfy safe spot for them to relax after they finish their pumpkin pies in exactly 10 seconds flat. Happy November, friends! 

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This post was created in collaboration with Rove Concepts. All opinions and photos are my own.