Well, another year of camping with our pals from Las Madres is officially in the books! Building on adventures from 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 (what a time machine!), we headed down to Uvas Canyon (about 45 minutes south by car from San Jose) to enjoy some epic creek exploration, stick battling, talent showing (at which Finn served as MC), wild scootering, and of course s’more-roasting. When not marveling at the clouds of migrating butterflies, we happily showed off the Westy to our slightly jealous pals as they set up their tents, and Friday being Margot’s birthday, we dug into a gorgeous cake made by our pal & fellow madre Lorraine. Check out our gallery of the dudes & their pals in action.
We’ve just returned from our maiden voyage with our VW Westfalia camper van, and it was great! We decided to spend the last two days and nights of the boys’ spring break on the road, in the redwoods, and atop the bluffs. Thursday morning we set out for Samuel P. Taylor state park, which is just northwest of San Rafael in Marin County, and only a few miles away from the Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
We had a blast tooling up north and then setting up the van for camping. We popped the top, turned on the party lights, cooked up a quick dinner, and then snuggled in for the night. In the morning, we pulled out and headed first for Pt. Reyes Station, a cute little town about 5 miles away. We grabbed some snacks, picked up some new books at the bookstore, and then drove over to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, which is at the veeeeeery far end of a small peninsula within the National Seashore.
It was a super-blustery but beautiful day. After a picnic lunch in the camper, we headed down all 300-odd steps to the lighthouse, learned about the history of the area and the lighthouse itself. Then back up all those steps and back into the van for a little more sightseeing, including kite surfers and wrecked ships, before heading back to the state park for night #2. We feasted on tacos and s’mores, snuggled up for some reading, then hit the hay before heading home via San Francisco on Saturday. Here’s a gallery of our adventure!
We absolutely love Westy – she’s perfect for our family. We already know there are countless more excursions in the offing, and more roadtrip adventures to come!
Continuing our great tradition from the last 5+ years (see previous installments), we were delighted to join our gaggle of Las Madres pals for some s’more-spattered fun in the woods. This year was beset by bees & biting flies (released, no doubt, by the increasingly large & far-ranging kids’ explorations), but fortunately our dudes were mostly spared. Highlights included playing Old Maid, Mancala, and Rush Hour Jr. Check out a gallery from the adventure.
Labor Day Family camping at the Boy Scouts’ Camp Cheesebrough is legendary. We missed it last year but made sure we took the boys this year so they could get in on the fun. The camp is only about 30 minutes away, along highway 9 in the Santa Cruz mountains, has a nice big lodge building and kitchen, and tons of tent camping sites.
Many of the boys’ friends and their families also attended, so the adults actually had time to chat and get to know each other a little better while the boys honed their skills at whittling, archery, bb guns, rock climbing, blacksmithing, slingshots, and “human fooseball.” Here’s the gallery of their adventures.
Other highlights from the weekend included campfires with s’mores, running around in the woods (while hopefully avoiding poison oak), “battling” other groups of scouts, and putting on skits in front of the Saturday night campfire. Cami, the 3 year old sister of Cub Scout Colton, offered to count in Spanish: “One, Spanish. Two, Spanish.” Cub Scout David (whose dad Sabu was managing the bb gun range) kept in contact with his dad via CB: “Dad, whittling time is over, over.” Sabu: “You are free to play, over.”
As we prepared to depart on Sunday afternoon (after picking up trash and cleaning bathrooms), we realized somehow Henry’s pillow pet “Peendee Bee” didn’t make it from the campsite back to the car. We retraced our steps, hoping we’d either spot him or that he’d been turned into the lost and found. As we rounded the corner on the way back to our campsite, Henry spotted Peendee, who’d been set atop the large propane tank near the lodge, and absolutely shrieked with relief and delight. Phew! Crisis averted.
Upon returning home, we spent the next several hours washing the dust and grime off ourselves and doing load after load of laundry. We had a blast but were all excited to be sleeping in our own beds.
This weekend marked our 5th annual Las Madres family camping trip. (I think there’ve actually been six, but we didn’t go the first year.) It’s become a much-anticipated event every summer – the guys get to run around all day and late into the night with their friends, and all the parents get to hang out, socialize, and relax (mostly!). We leave on Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday morning. The boys were so excited this year they were literally leaping and dancing around the kitchen on Friday morning asking me how soon we could leave.
This year we had a total of 44 kids and adults spread out over several camp sites at Portola Redwoods State Park – a real gem deep in the redwood forest of the Santa Cruz mountains. Here’s a gallery of our adventures, which included gorgeous weather, giant trees—including one dubbed the “man cave” by the Nack boys—hiking, a crystal-clear stream with swimming hole, Ranger-led Junior Ranger programs, s’mores (of course!), delicious homemade cookies courtesy of our friends Lorraine and Dina, making sunprints with found items, counting the scores of banana slugs dotting the ground, and religiously reapplying bug spray (LOTS of skeeters this year).
Man cave tour:
And just for fun, here are the galleries from prior years’ camping trips.
This past weekend, I escorted our young scouts to their first official Cub Scout overnight campout in the Santa Cruz mountains. It was held at the gorgeous Camp Campbell, which is deep in the redwoods and offers tons of activities, amazing and modern cabins (hot showers! electricity! heat! bunk beds!), and a really fantastic staff. This ranks as my favorite kid-related camping trip ever! All we had to do was bring ourselves, our sleeping bags, and some clothes. Everything else was taken care of!
We arrived Saturday after lunch, and immediately the boys started their activity rotation: Rock climbing, arts and crafts, archery, the Mole Hole, and the Nature Lab. The Mole Hole is an extremely large corrugated tube that runs down a hillside. You grab a plastic toboggan, strap on a helmet and elbow pads, then shoot yourself down at high speed. It’s completely dark in there until just before you hit the end, so it’s a pretty thrilling ride. Henry went down five times, Finn twice, and I went once. The Nature Lab was full of both live and taxidermied native animals, fossils, rock, and plant specimens to examine. We saw live snakes, birds, and salamanders, and taxidermied Horned Owls, bobcats, and other creatures.
After activities, the lads had some time to horse around with their friends (instinctual prime directive: find the biggest stick you can and start swinging it around) before we ate dinner. After dinner, more horseandalo, then a campfire with skits, songs, and s’mores. Henry was pooped out after all that action, so he and I went back to our cabin to sleep. Finn stayed up super-late with his den buddies in a separate cabin, telling ghost stories, playing games, and goofing off. Here is a gallery of their exploits. (That’s a banana slug-crossing sign to the left, by the way!)
Sunday, after we ate breakfast and packed up, we went on a 1.5 hour hike around the campground, high up into the forest. The kids got to take a nice long break to play amongst giant redwood stumps and Redwood fairy rings. It was a blast. Then we hiked out and headed for home after pit-stopping for a quick lunch in mountain town Ben Lomond. They boys were completely exhausted and barely made it until bedtime last night! They were thrilled to come home, sit still and veg out in front of a movie for awhile before dinner. Our young lads are excited for many many more campouts, sleepovers, and adventures in scouting!
Despite freezing our butts off last weekend (seriously, the temperature dropped 40º en route from San Jose to our Sunset Beach campsite), we had a ball as usual hanging out with tons of friends large & small. Henry, having fallen head over heels last year for our friend Jake’s shovel, was delighted to bring his own shovel this year. To tell the tools apart, the boys dubbed them “Seymour El Macho” and “Seymour Junior.”
Here’s a gallery of some of the first-kite-flying, kid-burying, craft-making, surf-jumping, s’more-toasting good times. 🙂
This weekend marked our 4th year of camping with many of our Las Madres friends and their families. Instead of our usual Big Basin forest camping trip, this year we headed to Sunset State Beach near Watsonville. We camped in the trees on the leeward side of the big sand dunes, and could take a quick walk down the road and over the dunes to the beautiful beach.
Henry made a new best friend this year, and his name is Seymour the Shovel. Our friend Jake brought an enormous shovel along for things like fire-tending, and giant-beach-pit-digging (said pit provided HOURS of fun for the kiddos at the beach). As soon as Henry caught sight of that shovel, he was hard-pressed to ever let it out of his grasp. He spent the entire camping trip happy as a clam, dragging Seymour around the campsite, digging hole after hole in the soft, sandy dirt. By the time we left the campsite, it was as pocked with craters as the surface of the moon! Here’s a gallery of the action.
He also kept Seymour busy at the beach, shoveling sand into and out of the giant pit that Jake had dug. All day and long into the evening Henry just dug and dug and dug. I thought we might find him asleep, curled up with it beside him in the tent! Jake spent quite a bit of time calling out “Henry! Where’s my shovel?” when he needed it! Henry has now asked for a shovel for his birthday, so it looks like John and I are off to OSH to dig one up 🙂
Finn toasts s’more eyebrow hair, braving the campfire as his pal Magdalena looks on:
Check out the gallery from our most recent Pasitos camping adventure! We went to Mt. Madonna with Henry’s preschool buddies and their families. Happily, Pasitos “alumni” like Magdalena and Finn were also in attendance – and everyone had a blast. Everyone was excited about hiking, arts and crafts, games, cookouts, sleepovers, singing and s’mores around the campfire.
We returned home yesterday tired, dirty, and happy from another great camping trip to nearby Mt. Madonna with the Pasitos preschool gang. I’m working to pull together some good photos, but in the meantime here are a couple of glimpses into the hike we did Saturday. Finn & Henry really enjoyed taking turns using the binoculars & chattering on the walkie talkies.
This year marks the second year we’ve taken the Micronaxx camping at Big Basin with a bunch of our Las Madres friends and their kids. Last year John was flying solo with the boys because I had a weekend workshop. So, this year was my first time going! We had a blast! We were the first ones to arrive at the camp site on Friday afternoon, so we had our pick of places to pitch our tent. The boys always get really excited about setting up and then testing out the tent and air mattresses, and then proceed to running around and exploring the campground.
There were tons of things for everyone to do, thanks to many of the crafty and camp-expert moms who helped plan the trip. We checked out a tipi made of large branches at the edge of the campground. And of course, we had s’mores after roasting hot dogs for dinner on Friday night. Then the kids ran around in the dark with their headlamps on – which looked like a giant swarm of fireflies.
On Saturday morning, the kids got to paint some bandannas and water bottle holders, which they then took on a short hike to the little waterfall down the trail. We also looked for, and found, banana slugs, which are now known as “bonobos” based on a TALB that was borne out of last year’s sighting.
Here’s a little gallery of all the proceedings.
Henry being the young king of the goofballs. 🙂
Here’s a little gallery of photos from last weekend’s camping trip with our Pasitos amigos, including banana slugs, hiking, tent hijinks, and s’mores around the campfire.
This weekend marked our first camping trip of the season – and unlike last last summer’s all-dude foray, all four of us went. We even got ourselves our own tent and sleeping bags (last year we borrowed everything). This trip was with a bunch of families from our preschool, Pasitos, so the guys were surrounded by their school amigos, and we got to know some of the parents a little better.
The boys had been anticipating the camping trip for weeks & were ready to hit the road as soon as they woke up Saturday morning. They couldn’t wait to sleep in the tent, have a campfire, and make s’mores. And our Finny couldn’t wait to hang out with his best friend Magdalena. He reported that Magdalena’s family had a huge tent so there would be plenty of room for him to sleep in there with them, and that he and Magdalena had already worked out the details.
When we arrived on Saturday morning, we were just in time to join the gang on an easy hike in the woods. We were surrounded by huge, beautiful redwoods, steep ravines, and a clear blue sky. We encountered five banana slugs, saw (and ate) teeny tiny wild strawberries, and saw some neat hollowed out redwood stumps that looked like little houses. Finny and Magdalena held hands for almost the entire mile-long hike – Magdalena tugging Finny along when she wanted to get up to the head of the pack. Finny even dubbed Magdalena’s dad, David, the “hike chief” since he was the one leading the way.
The boys spent rest of the afternoon running around the campground and playing with their buddies, and helping us get our tent and sleeping bags set up – right next to Magdalena’s, of course. They also participated in a little scavenger hunt with Dad-o (find a spiky plant, touch some rotting wood, listen for a bird). In the evening, there was a cookout, a campfire, and s’mores.
We cleared the Finny/Magdalena sleepover with Magdalena’s parents, and all the kids got in their PJs. David read the kids a story in their tent, then they all came to our tent where John entertained them with some campground T.A.L.B. And to top it off, Finny offered to let Magdalena sleep with Leo! Now that is a true act of friendship. She did indeed sleep with the #1 buddy, while Finny slept with Big Lion, Cuddly Buddy, and the Leomarans. Hen slept in our tent. After some best friend chittychat, everyone fell asleep.
This morning, Finn and Magdalena woke up and totally entertained each other for quite awhile before the rest of us were ready to wake up. The two of them were pretty inseparable the entire time – it was totally adorable. Finny was actually really broken up about leaving the campsite today and missing his best friend (even though he will see her at school tomorrow!) – already asking when we can have her over for a playdate or go camping with her family again. This is the first really good buddy Finny has ever had – and he is already talking about how much he’ll miss her when kindergarten starts next fall (she is going to a different school). It was really fun to see the guys enjoy camping so much, and to see Finny hang out with his best buddy.
We survived! Our guys are officially seasoned campers, chomping at the bit to go again.
Margot & I brought the boys over to Big Basin the Friday before last, rendezvousing with another 15 (!) or so other kids & their parents. Because she had Pilates training on Saturday & Sunday, Margot didn’t sleep over with us, but she did a brilliant job packing & helped us set up the tent. Without her I’d still be out in the woods—if I even got there to begin with!
We borrowed camping gear from my friend Dani at work, but it didn’t occur to us to get air mattresses until we saw all the other families pumping up theirs. The first night was more than a bit bumpy, literally & figuratively. (Note to other parents: When introducing kids to camping, maybe don’t pick the longest day of the year!) The guys bounced around the tent for hours like a couple of popcorn kernels. I was the old maid.
The next day, however, our friend Shay showed up with some good news: “I’m the camping fairy!” she announced, then went to get something from her car. Finn turned to me: “Is she really a camping fairy?” No, she claimed: she was just a “mattress mule,” having been recruited by Margot late the night before to carry a brand new set of air mattresses to us! As I had no phone coverage at the camp site, this was a terrific surprise!
Can I claim we then slept like kings? Well, not exactly. Ensconced in our tent, I thought of the Passover scene from The Ten Commandments: I kept hearing periodic wailing arising from other tents & just thought, “I don’t know who that is, and I don’t know what’s happening, but man we’re just staying behind our door and riding this thing out!” In any case, our backs sure appreciated the “close air support.”
Oh, by the way, parents: When it comes to kids in sleeping bags, it seems there’s about a three-inch window that separates “cozy” from (on one end) “hypothermia” and (on the other) “asphyxiation.” I kept waking up to find Henry totally exposed & turning blue, and then (having remedied that problem) completely missing, having slipped entirely into the bag. Yeesh!
Here’s a gallery of the goings-on. Other random bits from the adventure:
- During our hike to a nearby waterfall, Henry quickly migrated to my shoulders, but he hung onto his “walking stick.” The net result was that he held it in front of me, making me feel like a donkey chasing a carrot. Normally it’s the parent who get to dole out the carrot-and-stick routine!
- The guys were fascinated that bold raccoons kept infiltrating the campsite, even making off with a bag of marshmallows. They liked hanging out in and around the metal containers meant to protect food from raccoons & bears.
- Finn got a very quick & intimate familiarization with banana slugs, accidentally laying his hand on one of the big creatures in a log. He freaked out (hey, I would too), demanding that I wipe off the stickum. Soon, though, we incorporated a banana slug named Bonobo into our T.A.L.B. ritual, alongside a charismatic raccoon named El Bandito & “Ranger Mary” (pictured in the gallery singing to the guys at the ranger station).
- Our friends Doug & Jodi occupied the tent right next to ours, and Doug remarked on my patience dealing with the guys’ “20 questions” routine. It was a nice bit of encouragement. Your can see their son Dillon sporting an eyepatch with Finn in the little video clip below.
- Seeing all the kids coming & going from tents reminded me of the German phrase “Nein fisimatenten.” It means “no foolishness,” but it’s said to derive from a French occupation of Germany during which French soldiers would call to German girls, “Hey, visitez ma tente!” (“Come visit my tent!”) You can see how Henry’s Graham-cracker-powered solicitations would be hard to resist. 🙂