Thursday, August 11, 2005

belated camping post :

I was all eager to blog about our camping trip after our return but seemed somehow to lack much time this week and of course now it seems so long ago… Pete had booked us campsite #1 at Ellery Creek Campground on the shores of Lake Shasta for Friday & Saturday nights at campsite number 1. He got the 3rd last site shown available on the website (out of 19). His suggestion was to head out Thursday eve after dinner, spend the nite at a Motel 6 in Redding (3 ½ hours up the road) and drive the last ½ hr or so in the morning. I was hesitant at first as Friday was to be Aidan’s last day of school and I wasn’t sure if there was any big good-bye thing going on. Turns out that it wasn’t going to be much special during the day (other than cupcakes which Aidan was OK about foregoing for camping) but we did miss a pot-luck gathering of most of the families Friday eve that I would have liked to have attended. We had been at the Oakland Zoo the previous weekend with reputed highs of about 92 that really wilted me. I had checked the weather predictions at that time – Redding was showing as over 100 but cooling through the week to low 90’s. OK I guess. But when we checked the weather right before heading out – over 100 for foreseeable future. Uh Oh!

Pete’s plan worked quite well. Got to our motel maybe 11ish – made good time. Woke pretty much at regular time. Finally found a reasonable diner for breakfast (although most diner breakfast food isn’t really on the South Beach diet if you exclude the eggs that I dislike). We followed that up by a trip down the road to the dam. On our hour tour we learned that it is the 2nd largest dam in the US by volume (following Cooley in WA) and the hydro-power plant is powered by water down 5 large pipes into 5 turbines – the pipes could comfortably accommodate a school bus inside each one. Also that Osprey like nesting on the top of powergrid tower shafts. This brought us up to lunch time and it was pretty darned warm. We stopped for a brief supermarket run where we added a block of ice to our cooler and picked up some mini-muffins for the next morning.

Our campsite was maybe 15 miles off highway 5 – at good half hour or more of twisty road alongside the reservoir near the end of one of the lake’s branches. I had forgotten the thing about reservoirs – they go up and down and are flooded land and thus don’t have nice beach sides. Instead quite a bit of the sides are steep hills and below high water point it is brown dirt and rocks. The campground was just above high water and site #1 was quite nice. It was fairly well overhung with trees all around – shade being critical in 100+ degree heat. We had a very nice flat tent area, large picnic table, and a big brown bear box. The guy who collected the fees who came by later said one campsite a few days earlier had been well raided by bears as they had left their food out. He also mentioned seeing a mom & 2 babies. Our second nite I think bears visited one of the campsites as there was quite a commotion with car horns and woman screaming etc. Pete of course slept right through it as did my boys. Pete said he heard something wander by the 1st nite although you never can quite believe Pete… We also had a view through to the lake and no one ended up occupying site #2 during our stay so it was quite private and fairly quiet. We liked our new REI 6 man tent (although we couldn’t figure out exactly where # 5 & 6 would fit!). I loved my $19.99 Target purchase of queen inflatable mattress. Pete liked his new cot (although Aidan got it for the 2nd nite).

Well the above was written a week or so ago – and now my head is filled with trying to get last things done for the nursery school before leaving bright an early Saturday at 6 a.m. (yikes!) for Seattle on to Vancouver Island etc. But back to camping – it was a great intro to camping for us as a family. The only down side was the highs around 105 degrees! Fortunately the Lake – despite an average depth of over 200’ (no anchors) stays between 75 and 85 all year – and of course this time of year was at the top end of the range. So one day we spent probably close to 3 hours in the lake – at least Aidan did. It was easy to stay for an hour at a pop. The kids are remarkably comfortable now in the water after only a few swim lessons at the YMCA. Aidan actually now loves to swim under water and said last Sunday when we went “the funnest part is picking up rings at the bottom of the pool”. He must have spent close to half his time under water. He can’t swim on top of it yet – but that will come! Anyway – Quincy had on his “Mr Incredible” suit – red and black with puffy stuff all around the chest to keep him up. He is quite happy to swim on his own – and insists on it. He barely clears the water with his mouth however so it is a bit disconcerting to let him alone. Aidan mostly just used the “noodles”. I only bought 3 so at times Pete had to do without – I need to head back to the store for more as Pete likes to use 3 all to himself!

We only bothered to fire up the stove one nite for sausage warming along with some mushrooms Quincy had insisted belonged in our cart the day before. Otherwise it was cold cuts and sandwiches and veggies. All fine. We went thru 2 blocks of ice in the cooler.

The last day we decided to rent a ski boat on our way out of town. The first marina we stopped at was out but called around for us – the next place we got the LAST ski boat! I like that the boats now adays have tower things for holding all the skis and gear. And there are some nifty skis/ boards / floats that the boats pulled – we had watched quite a few zoom by our campsite over a couple of days. Quite a few were also blaring out 70’s music for some reason… The tower fortunately gave our poor lily white bodies some shade. 105 heat in a fast boat is just fine – even when all wet! We stopped off at a few places and jumped in. Since there is no anchor we would occasionally have to haul the boat back away from the shore – Aidan was quite vocally nervous about all of us being outside the boat at one time – I was less vocal about it but still wondered. But Pete as to be expected had no qualms or concerns – nor did Quincy. The 2nd time Pete swam in under a submerged tree and tied us up to that (the guy at the rental place did mention tying to trees when I asked about anchors – and the other campers with boats at our site had just tied up to rocks). Aidan was disappointed we never used the oar supplied. We did post the orange flag when we all abandoned ship although we couldn’t quite figure out what hole it was supposed to go in until after we were done with swimming. I got my jollies in putting down the pedal – or pushing the stick forward as the case was. I don’t think I quite maxed out the speed but my eyes were tearing up too much to go any faster. We definitely plan to do that again. When we returned the boat we hopped on one of the rental houseboats for a look-see. Looked like fun especially if we could rent a ski boat in addition. Perhaps another family trip in a few years with some other family?

We departed right around dinner time, stopped off for a nice meal in Redding then put the kids in their PJs and booked for home. Got in before 11 if I remember correctly. I was a bit surprised that I didn’t see more wildlife (birds) – I had our binoculars and bird book ready. I did see quite a few Turkey Vultures, and a couple of flocks of geese, a chip monk or 2, and an Osprey soaring nearby. And of course the possible bear (Pete thought he heard it tromp through our site on the first night). We saw a few deer on shore while we were on the boat. Lots of poison oak around our campground too – and some very yummy sun warmed blackberries – lots in fact. Fortunately we avoided the poison oak and enjoyed the berries.

to see our photos from the trip go to my album
No training wheels!

It is true (so I am told) - Aidan and Pete have been practicing in the local elementary school playyard. Pete rigged up the push bar from the trike to Aidan's bike and took off the training wheels - I was most entertained to see Pete running along side - well behind really - Aidan's bike. But this evening even the bar came off. No spills even. Elation all around. Tomorrow Aidan promises to show his new trick to me.