When we were camping in Joseph D. Grant Santa Clara County Park the camp host told us that we were in mountain lion country. The mountain lion is a solitary creature and travels in ones or twos. When on all four legs at its highest point it is just above the knee of a man six feet tall.
The mountain lion is also know as the puma or cougar and prays mainly on deer but also feeds on smaller animals such as raccoons, porcupines and coyotes. Mountain lions are found mostly in California, Mexico and South America but are often found in Canadian forests as well.
So next time you’re camping in the Americas look out for a mountain lion, if your lucky you might just spot one!
There is so much to see in Yosemite, we didn’t spend nearly enough time there, even with Mirror Lake and most of the falls being dried up (normal, by this time of year, though with the drought they had apparently dried up earlier than usual). I’ve selected just a few photos, because the web is already rife with better ones. The enormous granite cliffs, the wildlife, the amazing trees… I couldn’t capture the half of it.
Camping with Kids, Day 9: Stanislaus National Forest – Lost Claim Campground
This is more my memory of camping in America, even though I only came up this way once. Then again, I may have camped in this very campground. I certainly spent a couple of nights up here at a very similar one.
Tall, tall trees (even if a lot of them have burned down recently), pines and ceders, and seemingly no-one around for miles.
Tomorrow we will head down into Yosemite National Park, but tonight we are up here alone among the tall pines, listening to the crickets or cicadas (I never know which is which), and hoping no bears stumble in. We’ve carefully stored all our food, dirty cloths & smelly toiletries in either the food locker or the car, so we should be okay. 🙂
The kids have started to ask me to tell ghost stories at night (my fault, I told them one last night). Have to try to keep it fairly benign!
[5 hours later]
Okay, so this is the worst of camping.* We couldn’t get a perfectly even site for our tent here, but we got a spot that mostly slopes only in one direction. Most of the tent has a mild slope towards our feet, but one end has a slope sideways as well. And of course, that just happens to be where *I* sleep. I’ve spent the night so far fighting gravity, which wants to pull me off my sleeping mat and into the wall. Not a good night!
Early morning at Lake McSwain. First time I’ve managed to be up before the kids. Torn between sitting & writing, taking a wander around the campground to enjoy the early morning light, or getting started on coffee & pancakes.
Just really enjoying the quiet, though I think I hear movement from kids in the tent. Being up before them is a joy, I think I will try to make it a common practice.
[Later, same day]
We stopped at the store in Snelling, California today (population 200 odd), and it reminded me of the corner store in Mossy Point when I was a child. The only store around, so it carried a little of everything. Groceries of course, but also plumbing supplies, camping supplies, hats, toys, some seemingly decades old hair ties, sporting equipment, and more besides. Oh and Starbucks Frappaccinos and a soda & ice machine.
Everyone’s asleep except me, but I am ensconced in the tent with them.
I went out to use the restroom after finally getting Elli settled and down, and the stars tonight are amazing. Being a Sunday, everyone else packed up and left while we were at the lake today, bar one couple in an RV. So there’s no other light or noise (RV couple appearing to be asleep already too). It’s just the beautiful Milky Way, thick with stars.
It’s been hot with loads of flies, and remarkably like Australia here, but different too.We saw blue birds here in the day time, and hawks quite close, and a bat fluttering around against the sky, just as dusk was starting to give way to night.
Next stop: Stanislaus National Forest, and Yosemite.
Camping Day 7. Third campground, Lake McSwain, California.
Got out the stove to cook dinner after setting up camp. We borrowed this stove from some friends I used to go camping with back when I lived in the States, 20 years ago. We used this exact same stove back then, and it’s still going strong. It is a Coleman duel fuel stove, and works really well. Or, it did.
At camp grounds number 1 & 2 we used it to cook pancakes, hot dogs, pasta, eggs…
We got it out today, and started to pump to create some pressure in the gas compartment. And nothing happened. The little metal tube just slide in and out with no effort at all, and no pressure building.
That’s right, one week in, and we have already managed to bugger up my friends’ stove, after they’ve kept it going for over twenty years. After our very inauspicious start, I have to ask – is this road trip doomed?
The scariest part of our first day of camping was when I thought my daughter was dying in my arms.
It was just as well we decided to start our camping road-trip by having a kind of “trial” camp, right in the middle of Monterey, California, rather than setting straight off into the wild.
Otherwise the two – yes two – separate emergency visits we made within the first three days might have been more problematic. As would the call to AAA for car troubles. Although, we might have avoided the fender-bender with the BMW.
Yes, we had an eventful start to our road trip.
We had not been in camp for more than an hour or two before Ms Eight precipated the first hospital visit.
We were still finishing with setting up the tent, when she screamed.
As I turned around, I saw her land on the ground, under a tree. She landed facedown, and as I gathered her in my arms, it seemed possible that she had landed on a rock under her chest. The most scary moment was when she momentarily passed out in my arms, and seemed to start to convulse, and I thought she might be about to die from internal injuries.
It turned out that she had just been swinging from the tree branch, not actually climbing in the tree, so she hadn’t fallen from very high, and passed out probably from the shock and pain, as she did cut up her face a bit as well as hurting her chest. That was why she ended up spending the evening in Emergency at the local hospital – the cut under her lip was quite deep and we thought it might need stitches or glue, which was exactly what happened.
But I mentioned two emergency visits didn’t I?
Master 12’s first ER trip, plus a dingle with a BMW
Up until now, every emergency visit we have had has been down to Mikaela. She’s actually averaged about a year since she was 3!! But two mornings after she had her lip stitched, Mr 12 had his first ER worthy accident.
To be honest, had we been at home, we probably wouldn’t have taken him in at all, he didn’t seem in that much pain. But given we were about to set off for Yosemite, I figured it was a good idea to make sure he was okay. And it turned out, he wasn’t.
Monday morning was dewy and lovely, and Liam decided he would have a go on the swings. With his eyes shut. Which I’m sure was perfectly delightful, until his hands slipped off the wet chain ropes and he fell, landing awkwardly on his right hand.
We had not yet managed to get a compression bandage for our first aid kit (I really don’t know what it didn’t come with one!), so later that morning we made the trip into town to get one. Mr 12 was already complaining that it needed more than that, but we decided to start simple. Surely we didn’t need to make another emergency visit so soon?
It was on the way back from the shopping centre that the next two mishaps occurred. Just after I had texted my friend who was meeting us for tea at our campsite, to tell her we would be there momentarily, Chris made a right turn (Australian readers – think left turn, as we are on the other side of the road here), and didn’t see the car making a right turn into the same road. As Chris was changing lanes to avoid parked cars, the BMW was coming and and – CRASH. Except I massively exaggerate, it was the merest touch, and had it been anything other than a pristine BMW, I can’t imagine either driver being worried.
Alas, it was a pristine BMW, and insurance papers had to be exchanged. This of course, required us to pull over.
And now for the third minor distaster of the day. After all the palaver with exchanging details with the other driver was over, our car would not start! No, I am not kidding. The short time we had spent there with the engine off but the music and fan on had flattened the battery.
My friend laughed at me when I called to tell her, but she she very, very kindly came to collect me and the kids, leaving Chris there to call AAA and get a jump start.
Oh and Liam’s wrist? Yeah, it turned out to be broken. Chris took him to the ER after dinner that evening, just in case. Happily, it wasn’t a bad break, and he got away with only wearing a brace, with the recommendation that we take him in to see another doctor in two weeks time, and again two weeks after that, at which point he *may* get away with taking it off.
Honestly folks, don’t start your road trip this way. It is beyond inauspicious.
We picked a fabulous day to visit the city, with blue skies and a warm sun. Although San Francisco is famed for being warmer in the fall than in summer, usually by November the chill is setting back in. Not today.
We spent most of our time sitting in the sun at the childrens playground, which is a fairly large space with everything from a climbing web to a long slide, and a sandpit for the littlies.
It also has four bucket style baby swings, three big kid swings (the flexible kind that even my hips can fit in), and a full chair style swing with back. Since the swings are always such a hit with my girls, both if whom could swing for hours, it’s always good to find the rare place when there are enough of them.
I actually spent most of the time we were there sitting on our picnic blanket on the grass chatting to my friend, keeping half an eye on the kids, while chris was good enough to follow Elli around. But, we placed ourselves near the sandpit where she was happy to spend a lot of time.
When we’d eaten our picnic and judged that the kids had had enough time playing not to stage a mutiny (a bit over 2 hours) we packed up and went exploring. The Japanese Tea Gardens were our goal, but we didn’t tell the kids that at first, just in case we didn’t make it – there are maps around the park, including one right next to the children’s quarter, but we weren’t quite sure of our bearings, nor of how far it was.
In the end it took us about an hour and a half to get down there, though only about 20-30 minutes to get back (we’d driven, and parked up at the children’s playground), and without meandering five year olds I reckon it could be about a ten to fifteen minute walk.
We walked via the flower conservatory, which we didn’t go into since you had to buy tickets, but we stopped outside and bought hot chocolates and coffees all round. They weren’t terribly good, but they were warm and the guy was kind enough to give me an extra cup half filled with whipped cream for Eliane, which made her very happy.
The kids also had fun climbing trees, running around like fairies, and generally exploring as we went, so I was happy to take the time.
In the end we got to the tea gardens with only an hour to go before they closed, which was okay, though we could easily have spent more time there. The kids enjoyed exploring the paths, crossing the streams on bridges and stepping stones, and admiring the fish in the large pond and the water falls. We enjoyed all that and the serenity of the atmosphere besides.
There is a Japanese tea house in the gardens which sells four kinds if Japanese tea, various small Japanese dishes including a very good miso soup, and some small cookies and soft drinks if you need something ‘regular’ for the kids.
We had a pot of tea which Liam and I shared (they brought two cups automatically, though the other three teas were all sold by the cup for the same price), and a plate of 9 little Japanese cookies which the children shared, and Chris had the miso soup. By the time we finished there they’d locked up the front gate of the Gardens, and we had to go out a side gate.
It cost $7/adult to enter the Tea Gardens, and $2/child of five and over. That seemed reasonable, but still added up to $20 for us (we had an extra five year old with us). They do have three periods of free entry during the week however, though all at morning times on week days.
(Actually, we’re staying in Seaside, not Monterey, but it all runs together…)
One of the great things about visiting with good friends is that even when it’s been nearly eight years since you last saw them, once you get together it just seems like yesterday.
It’s weird in a way. You spend so long building up to this big trip, it seems like it should feel more intense somehow when you get there. Like you should feel everything a little more strongly. Instead, it just feels normal, making it hard to comprehend, at the end, that it’ll likely be another several years before you see each other again. I’ve had this same sense of unrealness with all the good friend’s we’ve visited, where it seems so normal, but by it’s very normalcy, somehow seems surreal.
We’ve just spent a lovely three day weekend with some good friends who I used to live with when I was at university in Santa Cruz. They have three children of similar ages to ours, their eldest just about to turn eight and their youngest just six months old. Last time we saw them they had only a three-month-old baby, and we had a nearly two-year-old Liam.
What makes the time until we see them again seem more poignant, and more real, is knowing that next time we come, the elder children will likely be teenagers, and the youngest two will have skipped right through the toddler and preschool years and into grade school.