Car camping at Strawberry Reservoir

I went on a car-camping adventure with someone I had never hung out with before! Read how Emily and I's trip to Strawberry Reservoir in Utah panned out.

Car camping at Strawberry Reservoir

Let me set the scene for you. It is Saturday, October 11th, the temperature is sitting around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. A light sprinkling of rain continues to dust the already damp ground from the previous day's precipitation. My SUV rambles along a wet road heading east, out of Salt Lake City.

I am seated next to my new friend Emily. When I say new, I mean new. I knew her back in college because she studied abroad, and went on to mentor future study abroad students exactly as I did. But, we had never actually hung out until this impromptu trip to visit me.

Cold weather, rain, an unfamiliar person, driving towards my first-time car camping. And I have to say, even with the external factors pushing against us, the Saturday camping trip at Strawberry Reservoir was awesome.

Exploring the Reservoir

Strawberry Reservoir is about an hour and 20-minute drive from Salt Lake City. The drive was beautiful. We could just make out a small portion of the snow-capped peaks because the rest were shrouded by the rain-filled clouds. It was as if cotton candy was sitting atop many overturned cones. Fields of yellow trees speckled the lower portions of the mountains, giving an otherwise dreary day a burst of beautiful fall color.

After driving for a while, the reservoir came into view. It was massive, and portions of it jetted off into separate bays. When I say massive I mean it. For context, the length at its longest point is 10.6 miles. It really was a stunning sight and we took our time driving around, making sure to stop at various viewpoints to take in the scenery. Varyingly colored clouds hung over the water ominously while the mountains on the other banks jetted straight up into them. Closer to us, the banks and hills were dotted with clumps of vibrant yellow trees.

Dark clouds moved around in the distance

Emily and I had originally planned to hike around the lake but decided to punt the idea because it was cold. Strawberry Reservoir also doesn't have very many prominent trails to sites you couldn't already drive to. We still had a wonderful time sightseeing by car.

Camping on Free Land

After getting our fill of the views, we turned around and drove back to the western side of the reservoir. The main road along the west shores intersects with various forest roads that shoot off further west. The land that way offers various camping sites that are completely free. We drove around and searched for an ideal site to set up shop for the night.

There was no method to our madness. We picked one road and drove down it, passing many RVs and other vehicles already posted up. The landscape was really grassy and very open. After a while, we decided this was not the move. We returned to the main road and tried the next dirt road that looked promising. This one instead brought us up into a forested area. Some spots were taken, but we eventually landed at a beautiful spot that overlooked the reservoir from afar. We were nestled fairly close to a forest of yellow trees as well. It was about as good as anything you could ask for.

Emily and I went to set up. We unfolded my brand new car camping platform, setting up the blankets and sleeping bags. We then went to set up camp, but the light rain started to come down harder. We were relegated back to my vehicle. With the bed set up, we lounged for a short moment while the rain pitter patterned against my vehicle.

Eventually, the rain passed, we set up the rest of camp, and I got to cooking. Cooking while in the outdoors is one of my favorite things, and I had a blast putting together an amazing dinner of steak and peppers in a fajita seasoning. Emily and I enjoyed a warm meal in the cold weather.

Camping chef at work

Afterward, we were once again forced to shelter in my vehicle because of the pestering rain. We lounged on the bed for longer this time, talking about life, reading our books, and playing some games on our phones.

The sound of the rain came to a stop and we warily opened my car doors and stuck our hands out. With no rain falling down, we decided to take our chance to try and start a fire. I gathered some paper and cardboard and worked with my lighter to try to spark a blaze.  The cardboard caught, but I was struggling to get the wet kindling to light. It would smoke, but it would not seem to catch. With my cardboard supplies dwindling, I finally managed to craft a solid flame. I blew on the surrounding sparks coaxing the fire to appear. Eventually, a self-sustaining blaze was finally going and I was able to bring in the larger, dry pieces of firewood which created a warm, beautiful, crackling fire. Emily and I wasted no time breaking out the s'mores.

As we roasted our marshmallows we played what I have donned 'the celebrity game'. The premise is that one person says a celebrity's name, and then the next person has to say a celebrity whose first name starts with the same letter as the previous celebrity's last name. For example, I said Michael Jordan, and then Emily said Jennifer Anniston. The J of Jordan matches up with the J of Jennifer. As simple and trivial as the game is, we continued playing around the fire for like two hours, all while munching on some delicious s'mores. The best part about the game is that it provokes related conversations about movies, books, and other works by the famous people you name. After a long time relaxing around the fire, we retired to bed.

We both awoke the next morning to the sun rising over the mountains to the east. It slowly crawled higher into the sky, illuminating the beautiful landscape once again. I boiled some water and made tea. We sat on our chairs and sipped on our drinks while breathing in the crisp, morning air.

A morning tea

After a bit, I began on breakfast. Soon the aroma of bacon filled the air. We feasted on a large breakfast before beginning to pack up our temporary home. After finishing packing the last of our materials into my vehicle, we took one last breath of the fresh mountain air. We departed, and as the wheels rolled over the muddy ground, we both admired the surrounding sites one last time.

Shoutout to new friends

As I mentioned earlier, the odds of having a successful trip were not in our favor, and yet it was still an absolute blast. That was largely thanks to Emily! I need to give her a massive shoutout because she never once complained and she played a large  part in keeping our collective spirits high with her constant stories, laughs, and overall adventurous spirit. For being someone who was inexperienced with outdoor adventures like camping, she took everything head-on, enjoying the little aspects of the our adventure.

You can't tell but she is totally wearing gloves on her feet right now for warmth

To Emily:

Thanks for bringing your spontaneous, adventurous spirit to Salt Lake City. I hope you know you haven't gotten rid of me quite yet because I am already looking forward to planning our next undertaking. See ya soon!

Parting Words

Mindset really is everything. Although we didn't have the ideal conditions, the combination of our positive energies fueled a brilliant trip that created fond memories for years to come.

I feel blessed to have had a weekend filled with a new friends and new experiences. In the end, I couldn't ask for anything more.

Interested in following along with my journey more or connecting with me? Make sure to follow me on my socials!

Until next time!