My First Solo Backpacking Trip: Palomar Mountain

Kids screaming, Bros listening to thumping bass, manly loud chopping of wood coming from all directions. This was camping. It was really not that bad but it was not the solitude I was looking for. That would have to wait for Yosemite.

I had purchased roughly one thousand dollars worth of backpacking supplies because I was reading “A Walk In The Woods” by Bill Bryson and I was hooked. The solitude and the self reliance were something that I had always lacked and I figured this would be a great way to get it. Two of my friends, my wife, and I are planning a backpacking trip in two weeks for Yosemite but I could not wait that long. I wanted to try it out now.

I happened to have two days off back to back and I took off for Palomar Mountain. The campsites were $30 which alarmed me at first but once you figure in running water, flushable toilets, and each campsite holds 8 people; it is actually a great price. My wife drove me to the campground and I found a  cozy spot next to the trailhead. Then she dropped me off and drove away which made me realize all at once that I was all alone and without a car for the first time in my life. It was somewhat terrifying. I set up my tent to drop off a little weight (4 lbs.) and I took off.


I first hiked french valley which was filled with tall trees and peaceful meadows. The first part of the hike was under a canopy which provided shade so I forgot to put on sunscreen. By the time I realized and put some on I had gotten a little burned. The hike was very pretty and I was immediately happy about the trip. It reminded me of taking a warm bath for your soul. I hiked another trail past a pond and another one that took me to a camp I realized I went to in 5th grade. After I was done with the trip down memory lane, I headed back to camp. 

I ate a quick lunch and laid down for a bit and passed out for two whole hours. It was lovely. I used my new stove and made myself some just add hot water beefy mac and cheese which surprisingly was good. I layed in bed, read a Stephen King book, typed this up, and went to bed.


Day 2


Shoving a bulky sleeping bag into my smaller sleeping bag pocket reminded me of giving birth in reverse. I just had to share that.

The second day I decided to really take my time. I had my instant biscuits and gravy (Mountain House’s version and it was delicious) and got my coffee. I read my Stephen King book and had camp all packed up by noon. I hit the rest of the trails which were gorgeous. The path went straight up and I ended up close to the clouds. I took a video of them and made a gif to see how fast they were moving.

Palomar clouds

I ended up getting to the Ranger Station where I was getting picked up early so I did an extra trail to a lookout tower that Surveys the indian reservations and surrounding mountains for fires. It was a bit of a climb but absolutely worth it and it ended up being my favorite trail of the whole trip. The views from the lookout tower were breathtaking and put into perspective just how high up Palomar Mountain really is.


I climbed back down to the Ranger Station with half an hour to spare. I was nervous because I had no cell phone reception and had no real human contact in 30 hours. I tried to sit and read my book but could not focus and started to worry as the clock passed 6:45. I saw a payphone and decided to give it a try.

empty phone

I really began to think about my options for how I was going to get out off the mountain when my wife showed up. It was one of the best sights and I gave her a huge hug. The best part was that she actually showed up early. Somehow when I was turning off my phone at night, I changed the time. I was actually an hour behind. I made it home and now I am firmly hooked and can’t wait for my next backpacking trip.

~James Wilder

*Don’t forget to like, share, and feel free to buy me a coffee maybe?

Categories: backpacking, travelTags: ,


  1. Nice. Solo backpacking is quite the treat. I’ve done three in my life, but like you, I’d always get a little restless toward the end and be itching to get back to civilization.


  2. Nice. Solo backpacking trips are a treat. I’ve done 3 in my life, but like you, I’d always get a little restless toward the end and be itching to get back to civilization.


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