Saturday, July 31, 2010

John Muir Woods Hike

At the beginning of the summer we sat the kids down and asked them what they wanted to do. 
Besides, camping, playing with their friends, going to the zoo, they wanted to go hiking.  We have so many fun places to go in the Bay Area, the kids have really enjoyed seeing much of it by foot. 

 We decided to take a hike at Muir Woods National Monument.  It is 15 miles north of San Francisco in the Marin Headlands and about a 50 minute drive from our house.  It is a beautiful place with huge groves of redwood trees.

The woods are about 10 miles from the beach, so even in the summer, it is cool.  Since it is so close to San Francisco, there are a lot of tourist on the trails, and a lot from Europe wanting to see the mighty redwoods.  The next set of well known groves this impressive are 3 hours away to the north.

The trail isn't very hard and there is so much to see.

The kids loved this hike. They have seen redwoods before, but not this impressive. But these just towered over us.  
When I was about Myles age, I remember my parents had taken us to the redwoods outside Eureka and I remember how insignificant I felt.  The kids felt the same way. 
 Emma and Myles loved the wildlife, especially when we came across deer hiding under huge ferns.  Emma, wanting to climb any tree she sees, was in her element.  The kids really enjoyed the nook and crannies for them to hide and play in. Myles especially loved climbing inside the tree trunks.

Sophie learned how small a redwood seed is and how big they grow. She also enjoyed the carved bears. They also learned how big some of the birds they have seen flying on many of their hikes.
 It was a very fun and relaxing day for all.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shasta Lake Camping Trip Part 2

What a wonderful way to wake up each morning.  Our tent allows us either the option to have a cover (for rain) or to have a mesh "sun roof" to keep it cool during the day and to see the stars at night without the threat of mosquitoes.  Now for years, the Shasta Lake map as well as the other tourist information would tell us there are no mosquitoes on the lake.  Yea right!!!  
So as mentioned in the previous post, it was pretty hot (100-degree plus).  This means that the lake is normally warm and you know that the fishing will be sketchy but the swimming is going to be awesome.  And swim and fished we did.
Our first day of swimming and fishing started at the Gooseneck.  Mind you we haven't been up this far on the Sacramento Arm since we used to go on Margus  Houseboats out of Sugarloaf Marina. 
 This picture kind of puts perspective though on how high the water was in July.  When we went, the lake level was 15 feet from the spillway.  In this picture, if you look closely, you will see a little island (a patch of rock that doesn't fit against the shore).  When we would go on the houseboat in May when I was younger, this little island was much bigger and was sometimes attached to a peninsula. 
This location is part of a campground where people can camp on the shore.  There are pit toilets, but that is it.  It is pretty rustic.  The problem with this location was that the shore was pretty muddy and pretty shallow. 
So we decided to go up the arm a bit, to Sugarloaf area.  Here the water was perfect.  The water dropped off pretty quickly so, the water was warm up to 10 feet from the shore and cooled down the farther you went.  Mt. Shasta had a lot of snow still on it, so the lake water was not too warm and was very refreshing.
This ended up being our favorite swimming area, easy shore access and very little issue from ski boats since we were close to a wake zone. 

Also we got to see a couple of eagles fishing in the lake.  One dove into the lake, caught something big, and ended up swimming to the shore with the fish in tow. 

So this trip was about camping and relaxing and I kind of figured we wouldn't catch much if anything.  We did fish in the early evening and we also went to Packers Bay where I knew had great shore access and at least we could stare at the fish we were not catching.  And they stared back.  But the kids had fun.  Sophie was a bit disappointed though.  She had gotten spoiled last year when we went fishing in Eastern Washington.  She limited as well as got a hold of a "whopper" that broke free close to shore.  At least she could see the fish.

What I like most about this lake is that you can go anywhere on the lake and see some beautiful country.  Each arm of the lake is different.  The last day on the lake we went fishing next to a railroad bridge.  It was gorgeous.

We began this trip not having taken a camping trip with the kids and a bit apprehensive on the the length of time we had booked our site.  We quickly found that it was not quick enough.  The kids, Beth, and I  truly had a wonderful time.

What made this trip even special was that I was able to talk to my grandfather about the trip when we got back.  I talked with him about the lake level, that we didn't catch any fish but how that was OK. How the kids swam and about I talked with him about how special the lake is to the family and especially to me and thanked him for taking us on the lake. 

My grandfather died the following week and I will miss him very much.  However, every time I go to Shasta Lake I will continue to think about him and what this place meant to him.  I am happy that he exposed me to a place that I can now share with my family and create new memories for them to share  and a place they knew was very special to their great grandpa.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shasta Lake Camping Trip Part 1

So we took the kids for their first camping trip July 14th through the 17th.  We had looked at many areas, both close by (Del Valle Reservoir in Livermore) to far away.  California has so many awesome places to camp.  We decided however, the first camping trip be one of my favorite places, Shasta Lake.  This place has been the source of so many of my favorite childhood memories, it was very nice to share this place with my family.   And it was an awesome trip.  This post will recap some of the experiences.

So Shasta Lake has several campgrounds accessible by car at either a resort or by the Shasta National Recreation area.  We chose Antlers Campground on the Sacramento Arm of the lake. 

The campground is about 1 mile from Lakehead and gives excellent access to most areas on the lake.  It is also close to a grocery store and  a lot of shore access.

The campground was beautiful.  It was very secluded with oak, pine, and manzaninita.  Most of the perimeter sites are secluded and huge!!  Especially our site. It was separated by trees and poison oak ( now that I have had to deal with the scourge of poison oak this year twice, I know finally what it is and what to stay away from!).  There was some nice manzinita trees for the kids to play in.
As you would imagine for July, it was hot at the lake.  The day we arrived was the coolest of the days at 99-degrees.  The next couple of days averaged between 103 to 107.  It did cool down at night to a comfortable 60 degrees.  This meant we spent most of the time in the lake.   That was way OK.  The lake water was about 75 degrees close to the shore and dropped to about 65 degrees about 10 feet from the shore.  We have had a lot of rain and snow this year.  This, combined with a cooler than normal summer in the rest of California meant that the lake was only 14 feet from the top of the dam!!!  To put this into context, the lake level this July was higher than most of the May houseboat trips.  So with it being that hot, you can imagine we drank a lot of water, soda, and juice. Oh, yeah, and the campground host also gave away free ice cream sandwiches!!!   We got to know the host and his wife very well.  Very friendly!

It was a very relaxing trip.  Since this is the first time we have camped as a family, we thought it was going to be a bit of a challenge. Far from the truth!  It took me about one morning to figure out how to cook breakfast, make coffee over the fire.  We should have done this sooner.  Of course I brought my griddle so that I could make pancakes and bacon (like my grandfather taught me when we would go on the houseboat). The first morning I also learned the art of finding free firewood.  In other words, finding the firewood that previous campers left behind.  At the end of the trip, we returned the favor.
When we discussed as a family where we were going to have our first camping trip, the requirements were clear.  Sophie wanted to go fishing.  Emma want to be able to hike and fish. Myles just wanted to go camping. And for Beth and I, the opportunity to relax.  We thought that four days three nights might have been too long; however, it quickly proved not long enough. 
So really what do you do camping.  Well we played cards with the kids.  Ate hot dogs and bratwurst for dinner.  The kids became experts in S'more making.  And we just relaxed.  Every night we had a visit by a couple of Pygmy Owls. Emma and Sophie had never seen so many stars.  One thing that has always amazed me about the lake is how you can see the entire Milky Way Galaxy.

That's it for the moment.  Overall it was a very relaxing trip.  The next post will be more about the activities we did on the lake.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer Softball with Friends

This summer, we have been playing softball on Sunday's after meeting.  The kids have really been looking forward to it, being old enough to enjoy it.  The Lessers have been organizing it and have really taken an interest in the young ones in our congregation, scheduling activities for everyone to enjoy.

The picture to the right is Rob Lesser helping Sophie hit the ball.
Since we play at an elementary school, I have been very surprised that she much rather play ball instead of playing on the play structures; however, she is both out there hitting and fielding.

We have been playing catch with Emma and Sophie too.  Even Myles gets some play time.

We have tried to vary the activities for the kids this summer.  It has been nice to add softball to the mix.  It has also been nice for Emma to play sports for the fun of it, without anyone really taking score.

It has also been nice that so many from the congregation has been showing up.  Everyone gets a chance to play, and it is good clean fun.

At the end of the day, it has been nice for the kids to be with others from the congregation outside of the Kingdom Hall.

They especially look up to the teenagers and we have such fine examples in our congregation.  They have especially taken an interest in our kids like they are their little brother and sisters.  It is still hard for me to believe that most of them were our kids age when we moved down from Washington.

It has been a cool summer in the Bay Area.  We have had less than 10 days over 90 degrees.  Sundays have been especially mild.

What a beautiful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.