When vegan bloggers head out into the wilderness, you can expect two things—great food and great photos. Our names are Chris Petrellese (consciouschris.net) and Jasmine Briones (sweetsimplevegan.com), vegan lifestyle bloggers living in Los Angeles, who share a passion for plant-based cooking, writing, photography, and exploring the great outdoors. We recently adventured out on a 5 day camping excursion up to Big Sur, CA and Sweet Pea Farm in Arroyo Grande, CA with the help from our friends at hipcamp.com, and we are excited to share with you our recipes, stories, and more!
With many scenic views, we couldn’t help but make frequent stops on the way up the coast. One particularly memorable experience was at a vista point along the Pacific Coast Highway where we encountered some of the friendliest squirrels we had ever seen.
Jasmine broke out a bag of cashews to feed one, and out popped ten more looking for a snack. Quickly becoming overwhelmed, she shied away, not knowing what would happen next. Luckily, they turned out to be super friendly, and were just looking for a mid afternoon snack.
After a beautiful five-hour drive up the coast, we finally arrived at Ventana Campground in Big Sur. Thankfully we made it before nightfall, so we had time to leisurely get our camp situated. While setting up camp, we worked up quite an appetite and decided to warm up the Vegan Chia Chili (recipe at bottom of post) and rice that we had prepared the night before. We thought it would be a good idea to have some meals cooked prior to our arrival to make things quick and easy our few days at camp.
The next morning we started our day with a hearty breakfast before heading out on the trails. Jasmine opted for a Right Foods Superfood oatmeal cup with a banana and cereal on the side, while I decided to get a bit fancier and make a Vegan Egg Sandwich (recipe at bottom of this post). When we were browsing camping checklists prior to our trip, we took notice that eggs were frequent on every pack list.
Since we are both vegan, I knew the Follow Your Heart VeganEgg was a must have on this trip—boy did it come in handy. Not only was I able to whip up a delicious breakfast, but also transporting the VeganEgg was a bit simpler, as it requires no refrigeration and comes in powder form, making it the perfect travel companion. I recommend this egg alternative to all campers, vegan or otherwise.
Feeling fueled up and energized, we packed up for the day and headed out to Andrew Molera State Park. We brought along our picnic basket to keep in the car, filled with ingredients for our lunch, as well as snacks in our daypacks to keep us going throughout an active day (full pack list available here). Andrew Molera State Park is filled with some of the most picturesque scenery you could ever imagine—from vast mountain ranges to beautiful rocky beaches, and dense redwood forest groves in between. After a long afternoon of snapping photos and basking in the bright and beautiful landscape, it was time to eat.
Our initial plan was to set up a picnic near Bixby Bridge, however our plan was foiled after discovering the long narrow road that led to our ideal location, was rather intimidating. We quickly mustered up a contingency plan and headed down to one of the many beaches to picnic. As we began setting up, the high winds once again foiled our plan. Making the most of the situation, we head back to the car and picnicked from there, on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway—situated right between a mountain range and the ocean.
We made hummus & veggie sandwiches and enjoyed them out of the back of my car as the day gave way to the night. Find the recipe at the bottom of this post!
That evening, under the full moon, we wandered down to the Esalen Institute to enjoy their natural hot spring baths. The institute opens up these baths to the public each night between 1-3 am, however space is very limited. With only 25 spots available nightly, they can be reserved at 9am the day of, but are usually filled within minutes. We were lucky enough to reserve two spots, and were so grateful, as this turned out to be one of the most magical and fulfilling experiences of the trip. Situated right on the beach, over looking the ocean, these natural hot springs have a very high mineral content making for a relaxing and therapeutic experience. Afterward, feeling warmed and refreshed, we headed back to camp.
The following morning we awoke feeling rejuvenated. As we packed up camp to head to Sweet Pea Farm, we lit a fire and baked some sweet potato s’mores. In under an hour, with only a handful of ingredients, we had a delicious morning treat, which can also be made for a dessert. The recipe for our Fire Baked Sweet Potato S’mores can be found at the bottom of this post!
It felt as if we left Big Sur as soon as we arrived. Only spending 2 nights and 1 full day there, we did not have as much time to see and do all of the things we hoped to. However, from the little time we spent there, it was just as epically beautiful as we expected it to be. With plans to return soon, we were off to Sweet Pea Farm!
What a change in scenery our new camp location was from Big Sur, CA. And I say that with nothing less than a positive light, as it was equally as beautiful, but in a whole new way.
We were greeted by Lorraine, one of the property owners, with a warm and welcoming hello. She guided us to our site, and made sure we knew how happy they all were to share their space with us over the next few days. One of my favorite parts of our whole experience on the farm was simply being able to learn about the property from Lorraine and the goal and vision of their space. The Sweet Pea Farm is a family-run organic farm on the Central Coast of California, working to ultimately achieve 100% sustainability (currently at 85%)!
They have transformed what was once merely dirt and a declining fruit orchard into their own mini farm oasis to say the least, with the two full fields of raspberry canes, three raised garden beds, and organic veggies and herbs. Along with their beautiful vision, Lorraine and Suzy work to share their land with like minded people from around the world, to both give and receive knowledge.
The site offered to us had a spacious area to pitch out our tent, as well as a dining area, stovetop, and even a bathroom and shower located in a trailer available for our use. Lorraine even showed us a preview of the new camping dome that will soon be available to Hipcampers and WWOOFers.
Chris and I set up camp, which was fairly easy as we did not need to set up the pop-up tent and table as we did in Big Sur, nor did we have to fully unload our car as it was right next to our tent. Afterward, we decided to cook a wholesome meal and spend the rest of the evening relaxing.
For dinner, we decided to pick some of the fresh asparagus which was growing directly behind our camp and combined it into Jackfruit Carnitas Burritos (recipe at the bottom of this post). This was some of the best asparagus I have ever tried! I think it was a combination of the freshness, the fact that we were able to pick it ourselves, and the love that encompasses the farm and campsite, that enhanced the taste.
Using boxed beans, leftover rice from earlier in the week, and the plethora of veggies we had in our cooler, we were able to whip up some bad ass burritos if I do say so myself. Upton’s Jackfruit Carnitas are now what we would consider a go-to ingredient for camping, but also something we always have in our refrigerator at home. It is pre-seasoned, shelf-stable, and is packed with the perfect punch of flavor to bring life to any meal.
After dinner, we headed over to the fire pit to relax under the beautiful starry sky. The fire pit was ready to go for us, all we needed to do was light it and sit back and enjoy. We learned that it was constructed from a 100 year old cauldron from a friend’s family in the area! They know what they are doing here, because this fire was up in minutes…we could have really used their assistance in Big Sur. We had an early night, and decided to rest up for the day ahead of us.
We started our first morning at the farm with a warm and healthy breakfast, utilizing the stovetop that was available to us. What was on our menu? One of our favorite meals: Zucchini Oatmeal (recipe at bottom of post). It may sound strange to any of you who haven’t yet been introduced to this dish, but trust me, it is a must try. The addition of zucchini to the oatmeal brings a heartier and more filling breakfast, which is necessary on the active days we had on our trip.
Our plans for the rest of the day? Well…we did not really have any. Poor planning on our end, I know, but at this point we figured we could Google what to do in the area and trust the judgment of others who had previously visited. It seemed to be fate, as Lorraine came to the rescue. She came bearing just what we needed to guide our day, a hand drawn map of the area with her top 4 recommendations of what to do in the area, and best believe we made sure to cover every single one.
The first stop from the list was Butterfly Grove. My mom loves butterflies, so we went in her honor. It wasn’t quite what we expected, but after a short walk through the grove and a sight of the handful of butterflies present, we found ourselves at the beach. We stopped to collect a few photos, take in the view, then headed off to our next stop.
We took a ride to explore Downtown SLO for the afternoon. We definitely recommend Bliss Café for some delicious vegan food and Scout Coffee for an afternoon pick me up.
After we ate, we headed off to another recommendation on Lorraine’s list, the Sand Dunes. Was this even real life? We were instructed to drive to and through a trailer park near camp, and there it would be. I’ll be honest and say we felt a bit of discomfort walking through the area, but if we would have known what was coming for us at the end of the walk, we would we have immediately disregarded all of this.
The Sand Dunes were breathtaking, to say the least. It was as though we were talking into a whole different realm, into a dream. With the sun beginning to calm for the day, along with the light winds that were creating natural ripples in the sand, I felt at peace and truly grateful to be able to experience these views. If you’re ever in the area, this is a must visit spot.
We worked up quite an appetite during out day, and we headed back to the farm to put together dinner before heading into Downtown SLO for the evening. We picked fresh greens from the farm and put together a Grilled Veggie Salad w/ Garden Greens & Chickpeas (recipe in part II!). Since it was our last night on our trip, we tried to throw together what we had left in our cooler, so a salad seemed like the perfect idea.
We headed to the San Luis Obispo Farmer’s Market, and this seemed to be the happening spot of the city!
The following morning we packed up our things, said goodbye to our friends at Sweet Pea Camp, and began our ride home. Along the way, we were able to reminisce on all of the wonderful experiences of the past week.
For Recipes from this post, check out Part II!
Editor’s note: Unfortunately, Sweet Pea Farm is temporarily closed, but check out nearby Hipcamps linked to at the bottom of this post!
Words and photos by Chris Petrellese & Jasmine Briones
Chris is a vegan lifestyle blogger, photographer, and life enthusiast living in Los Angeles, CA. See what he’s up to via Instagram. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ca, Jasmine is a plant-based wellness and lifestyle blogger working to promote health and self-love. Follow her adventures on Instagram!