Monday, September 29, 2008

Camping in Calaveras County

We were bound and determined as we spent the money on the pop-up trailer to get it out one more time before turning our attention to some travels outside NorCal as well as ski season. Folks camp very late into the year here in NorCal as was evidenced by all the state parks and numerous private ones on the coast being completely booked through the second week of November. So we turned out attention to the higher country. It's been a while since we traveled down to Calaveras County and yes that would be the same county of Mark Twain's famed The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. This traditional green long-legged race still occurs the third Saturday of May in Angel's Camp and dates back to the 1800's. In fact the town lovingly has nicknamed itself Frogtown.

So Friday afternoon we loaded up and ventured the two hour drive from home. We set off as usual during the kids naptimes. Each one got 1 hour plus on the way down. Snacks and juice got us to the Big Trees Market in Arnold where we stopped for a couple of missing items as well as firewood as our campground was at 5000ft. Another 7mi up the road and we came upon our campground...Golden Pines RV Resort and Campground. We had hoped to stay in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, but alas they were full.

We entered the campground to see lots of permanently placed RV's completely with landscaping, water fountains, plastic flowers, yard animals, and permanent wood roof they do lease during the winter months for those who want to ski Bear Valley and use their RV as a "ski cabin." My husband was greeted by our host who had studied the check-in list and knew his first name and our family make-up just by telling him our last name. One downside to this place is you can not make site-specific reservations, but he was nice enough to give us our choice from a couple. But both broke my rules....were inside of loops and close to public areas. We went for a partial pull through with no one else staying at any spots on that particular loop, #73. The only one on the outside not in a lease is #34 (full hook-up). I think 22-27 might have been better choices, even though still on an inner loop, they were on an outter area of the campground away from the main drag.

We un-hooked, pop'ed up and I went about fixing dinner. My husband took the kids and dog (allowed on leashes) for a walk and to the red wood play structure that was conveniently located within sight of our camper. Dinner was spaghetti, bread, salad, and applesauce for the kids. We quickly learned after dinner another demise of our site choice...dirt + sap = sticky mess. As we drove and walked through we had noticed a lot of the "permanent sites" had appeared to have brought in their own gravel, rock, or bark. And we found out why when the kids started digging in the fine black dirt around our campsite after supper. We decided it was a losing battle especially with all the pines leaking sap and let them go to town while we set-up the beds and cleaned up from dinner.

All set-up we marched them off to the pay showers to clean-up. Two closed door quarter operated showers stalls/rooms existed in each the men's and women's restroom. These were located in a commons building which also housed a laundry and a rec room. The bathrooms were clean and well-stocked. And our kids enjoyed the decor of faux flowers, country embellishments of flowered hats hanging on the walls and bunnies in the window sills. Cleaned up it was time for samores and off to bed.

Now quiet hours were 10PM-9AM. And there were a lot of "leasees" in for the start of deer season. And they all knew each other and had a great time catching up. So it really did not quiet down until literally 10PM on the nose. The hosts were zipping through the campground using the golf cart nearly as a taxi service getting folks from one social gathering to another. It was really fun to take in the true RV'ing lifestyle. Thanks to deer season quiet hours ended at more like 5AM as everyone was up loading their big trucks and therefore opening and closing doors as well as starting them up. And remember we had to break our location rule, so they drove right past our camper as they left. So needless to say I didn't feel too bad when my kids were up and at'em full energy by 7:30.

Breakfast was french toast, fruit, coffee, and juice. Then we packed up lunch and headed 2mi back down the road to the State Park. We decided to take in the North Grove Trail which was a 1.5mi loop. It was very well maintained, so much so we saw several strollers along the way. There were more than giant trees with markers, which would have bored my 4yr old within 1/4 mile. There was one which had had a hole cut in it in the 1800's an a car driven through, another that had fallen and was hollow all through such that she cold walk the entire shaft, and yet another giant stump, so large I am guessing you could easily fit 50+ people on top. She walked probably 3/4 of the trail and piggy-backed another 1/4. We packed our son.

Then we turned our attention to lunch and getting our dog out of the car, as they are not allowed on trails. So we ventured a few more miles deeper into the park to the River Picnic Area. We picnicked at the obvious tables located on a bluff above the river. However, we wish we would have scouted better. Across from the restroom is a handicap parking spot, and on the other side of the fence is a trail down to the river. About 500ft which was do-able, all be it a little tough at times, with two little kids, but so worth it. At the bottom was a natural beach right below some rapids and some large boulders to sun on. Next time we are lunching down there.

Back to the campground for naps. Afterwards more play at the playground as well as they had a bounce house inflated. There were a few children at this site, but as there were so many leasees I am guessing most overnighters had grown children versus the small ones. But they still had plenty to keep the small ones busy, including a pool (but it was already closed for the season). Dinner this evening was turkey dogs over the campfire, salad, and veggies. Another round of samores and showers and they were snoozing away. This evening we sat out by the fire with a bottle of wine and again watched the RV social scene swirl around us.

Pack-up morning breakfast is always a easy clean-up one. Yogurt, muffins, juice, and hot chocolate. The kids played really well in the camper for a while, but then went off to the playground when time came to break things down. Next time we would really like to stay at the State Park, but this was a very friendly, amenity packed facility for $30 a night for a partial hook-up (water & DC). There was a huge area in the back behind the RV's for tents-only as well. And as far as the general area we only scratched the surface...there are caves, mine tours, horseback riding, old mining towns, and this is on our list as a potential for our annual winetasting/camping for next year as Arnold and Murphys are packed with wineries. Definitely a do-over destination....

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