Monday, August 31, 2009

Child goes to Hope Valley

It's been a very rocky month emotionally and travel-wise as some trips have been canceled or postponed due to the death of my Grandmother. A women who never step foot on an airplane after inspecting them during WWII, but a women who still instilled in me the wonders of nature and the outdoors through staycations and walks in her own backyard.

But we have returned west and are finishing out the summer with a couple more camping trip notches on our belt. This past weekend we loaded up the pop-up and headed almost exactly two hours east and south a bit to Hope Valley, California & the
Hope Valley Resort. It lays 1/4mile east on Highway 88/89 of it's sister resort Sorenson's.

We drove in past the cafe to site#10 where our host, Eric Gunnison, greeted us. He is not only the host, but the reservations specialist and cleaning crew. He took one look at our rig and gave us advice on getting it into our site and pointed us down the hill. We proceeded down the rather steep hill to site #16 and our friends would be in #17 (a little trail between the two sites let the kids roam freely between the two). Nestled in the lower campground we had tall aspens all around us and to the north the west fork of the Carson River splashed over rocks making for wonderful music (and nearly drowning out the traffic from the highway above) and pretty small waterfalls. To our south was a massive granite wall. At only 25 sites this was a small campground, but it was nice as the kids quickly made friends with neighbors and the bathrooms/showers were all clean and complimentary. Including having a child potty seat hanging on the back of a door for the little ones in training. That night we dined on the usual night one meal of pasta (I had already cooked al dente at home), salad, veggies, bread, and topped it off with samores.

Saturday morning we topped off our tanks with pancakes and fruit. While clean-up and packing happened for the day's adventures the kids headed off to the end of the campground & a bridge (careful gap between bottom and top rail is quite large and small children should be watched over)that overlooked the river. They also tried making it down the California Trail which was clearly marked and crossed the property. Unfortunately we quickly learned this must not be a popular trail as overgrowth met us rather quickly and we had to turn back. It was kind of a bummer since the trail holds so much historical value.

So we loaded up and headed about 20minutes up the road to Grover Hot Springs State Park. It's very well marked turn in the little town of Markleeville. We were excited as this is another historic spot having been documented in writings back to the mid 1800's. Our first destination was the pools, so rather than turning towards the gate house entrance we kept going straight. We had warned the kids upfront as this was fed by natural hot springs the water may not be clear and it may be yellow or green. The kids jumped for joy and we did too after shelling out $5 per adult & $3 per child to find a "cold" pool (which was still 90degrees) that was fed from the mineral springs, but was treated and cold water added and looked like your garden variety backyard rectangle clean, clear pool. Starting at one end at 2&1/2ft deep and dropping to 6ft on the far end. After using the very clean changing rooms, complete with single shower, and single bathroom we jumped in. After a while their curiosity got the better of them and we ventured over to the hot pool (102-104degrees). Even though yellow in color it was clear and the large number of people enjoying it drew the kids' interest. They loved sitting on the benches that nearly went all the way around the oval pool. So we spent the next hour and a half going back and forth between the two.

In complete sun though...the heat and the activity soon got the better of us and we went to the actual State Park to seek shade and lunch. Immediately past the gate house was a wonderful day use picnic area which ran along a stream and had a wonderfully clean bathroom. We enjoyed lunch and built stick doll houses out of the items we found on the forest floor. If we were not so exhausted after all that we might have tried the Nature Trail which is just a little loop with lots of signs describing the flora. And definitely when the kids get older we would like to return to do the Burnside trail which is 3miles round trip and rises 2K ft passing a waterfall and swtichbacking up to Burnside Lake. This is a rather small State Park with only the picnic area, a campground and a parking lot for the trail head. But it seemed wonderfully kept, had lots of visitors, so we made our way through the campgrounds and marked a few sites intending to return next year.

Back to Sorensons we enjoyed snacks at the cafe. It's very quaint with a few staples, souvenirs, and a bar serving beer and coffee drinks. We were a little disappointed as they advertised ice cream, so we had to quickly dodge angry toddlers/preschoolers with other alternatives when the lady tending the store told us they were all out. gummy treats at $5.50 a container, a beer, cookie, brownie...and we sat out on the front porch and watched the traffic roll by. One other cafe heads credit cards, but there is a ATM outside. Back down to camp for coloring while dinner was prepared. Tonight kabobs, hot dogs, veggies, fruit...and again samores. Bedtime came on time as everyone was tuckered out from the day.

The next morning we packed it up and made one last stop before driving home. The sister resort, Sorensons, boasted free hot chocolate, coffee, etc for Hope Valley Resort vacationers. Unfortunately no good place to park the pop-up we literally pulled it off the side of the road and walked across. We were met with beautiful gardens in full bloom. Wine Barrels and tubs of every kind overflowing. But the kids enjoyed the numerous bears composed of wire and moss scattered around the property. One rather large guy lay on his belly reading a book, a father & son fished, and a family played in the trees. The staff was very welcoming to us campers and the hot chocolates loaded with cinnamon and whip cream were delightful.

A gorgeous weekend in gorgeous country. We will return as a family to this as well as Grover Hot Springs we have vowed. And Mommy and Daddy have agreed a overnight retreat to Sorensons may be in our plans quite soon.

NOTE: There is no cell phone service in this area. Sorensons has WiFi, but still no cell coverage. Bothe Hope Vally & Sorensons has pay phones.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Child Goes to Camp Richardson

Ahhh...what a way to beat the Sacramento Valley/Foothills 100+ degrees than to pack up the pop-up and head to the Sierras with some friends. There is a little jewel where the traffic backs up on Highway 89 after it departs South Lake Tahoe and starts winding it's way to Emerald Bay, Camp Richardson Historic Resort & Marina.

We made our reservations about a month prior to our visit so site pickings amongst it 100 full hook-up sites were very limited. We wound up in #33, but having looked around would have preferred #43, #44, #48, #49. Well, anything that follows my general rules on staying on the outside of any loops/rings. The inner located sites were very cramped, but luckily there is so much to do here we were hardly at our camper anyhow.

After popping everything up we fixed dinner of spaghetti (noodles already cooked al dente), veggie platter, and bread. Then we ventured out on our first explore before bedtime...the Ice Cream Parlor which was located on our side, the south side of the resort. The scoops were extremely generous. The kids could have easily shared a kids scoop and the adults could have had a kid-sized scoop. With probably 15+ flavors to choose from, waffle cones, etc it was wonderful. From opening to closing at 10PM this place has bodies strewn all over it's lawn and on it's picnic tables indulging the calories they may have just taken off on the bike trail, hike, kayak, or swim. We also hit up the general store for a couple of forgotten items and it had it all from souvenirs to sundries...and a deli counter. Again more tables inside as well as a lawn and picnic tables out. These places were always bustling, but well staffed.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early. And after a french toast and fruit breakfast we were energized to hit the bike trail with our tag-along and bike seat. Located on the North/Lake side of the road is the incredible Tahoe bike trail. Well, paved with well-mannered riders and incredible vistas it is a must do. And if you don't have or forgot your bikes the Resort's Mountain Sports Center nestled between the RV check-in and the coffee shop on the South side of 89 has everything you might want to rent...road bikes, mountain, tag-alongs, trailers, kids, etc.. They are also a wealth of knowledge on where to well as very kind to help with simple repairs of your own ride if needed.

Back for lunch we packed up coolers, chairs, and beach play toys and headed again to the south side of the road and the beach. With little kids we didn't want to try to trek it, but we learned it was $7 for parking even if we were staying at the resort. So we asked them for a drop-off pass and unloaded everyone & everything then one adult re-parked the car at our site and made the 7min walk/3min run back over. We set-up right in front of the Beacon restaurant which proved wonderful in the afternoon when a band started playing. We tried to get close to the water so the kids had easy access to us & the water without dragging sand and their wet bodies through other people's areas. The beach did get fairly crowded, but everyone was friendly and the kids did the usual toy swap all day. tip to not losing your sand toys...take a permanent marker and put your last name on everything. Really helps at the end of the day when everyone has the shovel and bucket set from the dollar bin at Target. I walked our 2.5yo back to the camper for a nap while my husband & nearly 5yo rented sea kayaks and went for a tour of the area. Sea Kayaks, Paddle Boats, SeaDoos, Ski Boats...and on and name it and it is available at the Marina.

Lots of sun and everyone was exhausted we spent the evening having your traditional hot dog & brat picnic style dinner with samores for dessert. After everyone was good and gooey we took to the free hot showers to de-dirtify. And all the kids nestled to watch a movie on the portable DVD player before heading to sleep. Which btw was quickly interrupted by a family of bears meandering through the campground. No bear lockers here, but you were advised to bring your food in every night. We opted to put it in the car. We'd rather have a broken car window than an attack on our pop-up with us in it. Apparently we did have a cub under our trailer for a bit until the park ranger with his truck's flashing lights and flash light moved him on to the back of the campground and eventually out all together.

Sunday morning was pack-up time and we squeezed in one more bike ride..this time to the east. We enjoyed a stop at Pope Beach and definitely agreed this is one we will return too. No music close by, but the longest beach in Lake Tahoe, clean, and a lot less crowded.

And even if you are coming to Tahoe to visit and are not a local with all the camping gear they offer cabins and a hotel. Child will definitely be going to Camp Richardson again....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Child Goes 48hrs in San Francisco

We are lucky enough to have a few friends who have managed to stick out the high costs of housing in San Francisco. Lucky because we have people to go and visit...and have free lodging. Lodging in the city costs well over $100 a night...generally starting more at the $150 range. So with an offer from a friend on the Richmond side of Golden Gate Park we headed to the "city" for a couple of days prior to the 4th of July holiday.

Little kids in a big city, especially ours who are from the country...just the stimulation of all the noise, lights, etc can be very tiring, so we plotted out small adventures for each day.

Mass transit may feel completely overwhelming with small children in the big city. But really it is the only way to go...and once you plot your path you will be pleasantly surprised at how well it goes. Because to a child...a train is a train. And they are all amazing fun! The BART, MUNI, and Ferry Services of San Francisco are amazing and easy to maneuver and for children under age 5...FREE!

Day 1 we opted to head out to one of San Francisco's endearing spots...Pier 39. It has it, aquarium, arcade, theatre, rides, ferry boat tours, restaurants...and the Sea Lions. We hopped the mass transit and with one transfer at Embarcadero to a line made of of historical rail cars called the F Line which runs along Fisherman's Wharf and will drop you right at Pier39. The kids' followed their ears to the sea lions and sat on and climbed the wooden tiered seating system for a good 45minutes. Next we ventured to the center of the wharf where the kids enjoyed meandering through a few shops and then a ride on the 2nd floor of a 2 story carousel. And thanks to my husband's watchful you face Pier 39 after exiting the street car on the right you will see some green space. There surrounded by a hedge is a play structure as well as a small house made of vines. We lounged looking out on the city's downtown, Coit tower, etc while the kids stretched their legs. Then we decided to stretch ours and tucked them into our double McClaren stroller and wheeled them back down to Pier 1...The Ferry Building. Again my husband had been watchful that day and noticed it was Farmer's Market Day. Here we grabbed lunch at Mijita. We always tend to choose this location because it is on the backside of the building and has outdoor seating right where the ferries dock and load and unload. This consumed our morning...and with a small cup of Ciao Bella Gelato in their hands we headed back on the trains we made our way back to our friend's for naps.

After naps we went ventured a few blocks via the L bus line to Golden Gate Park's Children's Playground. The playground is makes every adult want to take off their shoes and climb, jump, etc.. Two amazing play structures...for the smaller and bit larger children. A massive webbed climbing structure, waves which hidden in their foam are holds that create a long, tall climbing wall as the crest over a soft padded ground., and swings. As it this was not a gorgeous surrounding...there is a unique slide made of concrete that children descend on via pieces of cardboard...and a beautiful carousel.

Dinner time we deferred to our friends who live or have lived in the city with children. San Francisco is an amazing wealth of culinary delights, so we did not want to stay in every night and dine on mac-n-cheese. We opted for the Park Chow. Always on San Fran's top 100 when we walked into the bottom floor we were a bit worried about our choice as it's long bar and narrow seating. But the bartender said our table awaited upstairs...where the mood was still loud and fun (drowning out our own children's noise), but also under a glass roof and very open and somewhat rustic surrounding. A children's menu, coloring, and fast service...and we had definitely made a good choice.

Day2 we headed over to the Academy of the Sciences. This renovated San Francisco classic has received huge amounts of press and rightly so, but with it comes crowds, lines, etc.. Lucky for us our hostess was a member which put us in a different line than the general public and allowed us to purchase extra tickets at a different kiosk as well. With our children being toddler and preschool in age we forwent the planetarium and Rainforest...both which had large lines even at opening. We instead choose to spend most of our time in the aquarium areas and at touch pools and waving to divers who cleaned to tanks. 2.5hrs later and we had seen it all...and this seemed to be perfect timing for the well as the perfect child on the go in San Francisco.
(NOTE: Above I reference my McClarren Stroller...and I do this because it has been a saving grace in many situations. It is one of the few doubles that folds up end to a short 48hour umbrella like. And a funny connection to San Fran...seems like everyone has a McClarren. I think it is due to it's rugid construction of steel that can withstand the rigors of the city streets and life)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

I have so enjoyed the last 4+ years of my husband being my partner to take my children "on the go!" We have a long list to tackle, but with him by my side I am excited the adventures we will be taking as a family in the years to come.
But for now a little photo collage of our success to date.
Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Start "Go"ing Local

We just had some friends do the cross country transplant...Boston to Northern California. Totally new to the area they remembered that my blog had several entries regarding Northern California and thought perhaps we were here and sent an email. A couple of exchanges later and I had sent a list of places and activities to start them and their family that contains three children, 6months, 2.5yrs, and 3.5yrs "go"ing in their new location.
(Funderland 30mi from home-->)

And they have taken the list and are checking things off rather quickly with the wonderful attitude that "We decided if the kids don't make it very long we'll just pack up early but we'd like to try!" They can do this because they are easing their kids into their new surroundings as well as making them change adaptive by doing lots of activities locally.

(<--Rodeo Park, 13mi from home) The first area to look close to home is your local Parks and Recreation Department or Community Services District. For starters this is generally who maintains your parks system and therefore will have a list of parks with addresses and generally descriptions. What kid does not love a park. And generally you will be surprised to find many you did not even know existed. We literally could probably pick a day every week of the summer and go to a different park within a 15mile radius of us and still not visit them all. My to go list for Parks:
> Sunscreen
> Baby Powder (for drying and brushing off sand from sandboxes)
> Sand Toys (with your family name in permanent marker)
> Hydration & Snack (sack lunches if you want to extend your visit)
> Change of Clothes
> Swim clothes & towel (if park has a water feature)
Other things your local Department or District may offer is classes...from cultural in the arts (dance, theater, media arts, cooking) to sports training or teams (soccer, t-ball, swim, flag football). Some go as far as to offer full blown camps in the summer that may be a mix of classes. And most are very economical especially if you are a resident in their covered territory.

Then there are other local attractions such as zoos, libraries, museums, that if you are good and review their calendars will have special events for kids or even free admission days. These are good ways to get kids on the go and marry that with my favorite quotation which comes from the children's characters Toot & Puddle.."The more you go...the more you know."
(Folsom Zoo, 13mi from home-->)
(<--Amador Co Fair, 30mi from home)

And lastly alway ensure to grab your local paper at least on the day they publish their local calendar of events. In addition to many of the event attractions listed above you will also find local festivals, fairs, and concerts. Or if your community is large enough to have a local magazine it seems as though the focus of the May or June Issue is always the family and summer activities as this is the time kids are getting out of the traditional school year and parents are plotting the summer activities. Another source is the local Visitor's Authority.

So even if your children or even you for that matter are not ready for that road trip quite yet you can slowly work your way there by "go"ing on mini-adventures in your community.

For my local readers here's some of my favorite resources. but for my non-local readers you can pretty much do a search on these same titles, but replace the location with yours:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Child Returns to the Big Trees with Friends

We enjoyed Calaveras Big Trees State Park so much last year that we really wanted to return this year and take along some friends. So our annual wine tasting trip where this blog began seemed to be the perfect reason for the return as Calaveras and more to the point the town of Murphys houses a dozen+ tasting rooms.

We had 2 sites reserved for Friday and Saturday night at the North Grove Campground within Calaveras Big Trees State Park. We arrived approx 30mins after check-in began at 2PM and found there were only 2 choices for us to be side-by-side. They do not make advance site assignments. Upon advice from the Rangers we took sites #41 & #43. which worked out fairly well. Level with huge open space between for our friends and tent-campers to set-up and the kids to run freely between the two pop-up trailers and be seen at all times. Had we had a better choices and had they been open we would have preferred something on the far side of the meadow and away from the traffic of the highway, but not too bad none-the-less. We had bathrooms a 30sec hike up a hill and the coin-operated showers were a walk or bike ride away. Next time for showers we will forgo the handicap/family one for the girls and boys individual. The room was large and open and therefore cold and the only shower head was a hand-held that was set at about 4&1/2ft high with no ability to increase it's heigth.

Friday night we set-up, did a bike ride to the visitor's center to check out the weekend's activities, and had dinner. Bikes are allowed, but not on any trails of course. Dinner was Pasta Puttanesca, which is wonderful as the pasta can be cooked aldente and just reheated as well as the sauce...and for the kids we could do butter noodles. The visitor's center was a wealth of information even when closed...5PM weeknights, 6PM Saturday & Sunday as there was a large bulletin board with the times, descriptions, age requirements, meeting places of various activities. And if you had any questions during the closed hours a very well versed camp host was the first site on the right. This is also where we picked up spare firewood for the evening and were even told could have gotten it at the Ranger Station upfront had our host not been around.

Up bright and early Saturday morning after a chilly night...our heat decided to not work our breakfast was breakfast burritos, various pastries, and cereal, oatmeal for the kids. We set off at 10AM for some programs for the kids. This park had an incredible staff of volunteers and therefore not only held the standard Junior Ranger Programs for the 7-12 yr olds, but also had a cubs program for 3-6yr olds. We tried to get the two 2.5yr olds to participate and even though the volunteers were willing to have them their attention span only lasted a brief while which was fine as the wonderful trails of the North Grove were a few steps away and the parents took them for a walk. The remaining 4yr olds enjoyed learning about various animals, flora, and fauna within the park as our volunteer, Marilyn, made forest soup. She definitely knew her audience as when they got about half way through she had them get up and move around and act our various animals. Then using egg crates they made caterpillars. After the hour program we set off on the North Grove Trails with them to rev up their appetites for lunch and a nap.

Unfortunately the afternoon was drizzly and chilly, so we spent a lot of time in the trailers or under the awnings playing cards, doing puzzles, etc.. During a break we did venture down to the visitor's center again to wonder through the exhibits where there was a lot of tactile items for the kids to handle and touch. The 4yr olds even sat through a beautiful slide show of the history of the park. On the way back to our sites we walked the boardwalk of the marshy meadow. This boardwalk definitely needs some revitalization, but was very nice none the less. Dinner this evening was taco salads for the adults and quessadillas for the kids. Again another meal that much can be done ahead and just reheated...rice, beans, meat, and various toppings...all placed into a bowl. And of course each evening was topped off with the traditional samores.

Sunday was pack-up and move-on time. Sunny and beautiful a few of us took the kids to the boardwalk again on a flora and fauna hunt to keep them occupied while others packed up. We were on the road to Murphys...about 12mi away just after 11AM. Check-out is Noon.

We parked the tent trailers right across the street from 221 Main Street and the home of Black Sheep Vintners. We enjoyed some tastes and made some purchases while the kids all sat on their front porch doodling on the Etch-A-Sketch's they had available. The only slightly annoying rule was you could not step one foot out the front door with a glass in hand to check on the kids. Oh well, we can not have it all. After some q&a with a couple of locals we made our way down to 402 Main Street and Firewood for lunch. Plenty of choices for everyone and the best feature just around the corner was the wonderful Murphys Community Park on the river with a play structure where we took the kids while the food was prepared and just rang cell phones when it started to arrive at the table. Ask any local and they can point you in the right direction. After they enjoyed lunch watching the passersby we ventured up a few doors to 454 Main Street and The Peppermint Stick for dessert. Dreyers choices were made and we proceeded outside to sit on the curb which sat about 15ft off the street where the kids could look at all the motorcycles and if we lost a cone or dripped it was right into the gutter. Heading back for the RVs time for the adults to have dessert and it was at 350 Main Street and the Twisted Oak Tasting Room. A large fenced tree-shaded flat lawn welcomed the kids as did a trunk of toys just inside the tasting room door. They played tag, red light green light, and various other games while the adults watched and lingered in and out of the tasting room trying the various libations. With wine purchased and every child ran through their wonderfully clean and spacious restroom we embarked on the road home. (Photo Insert: Playing Doctor on Twisted Oak's lawn)

The weather cold have been a little nicer for us on Saturday, but all in all we loved this trip. Definitely a do-over either camping...or sans kids at one of the historic hotels in Murphys. But we will be back.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What to Pack When Child Goes Camping....

I finally got serious with camping trip #2 of 2009 this weekend and put pen to paper in the high tech sense and made a re printable check-list of our must-have's...minus food. And I am sure via our own experiences and the wonderful inputs of this blog's readers it will grow and evolve. I left nearly all inputs as generic, but would like to take a minute in this week's posting and share some products or brands we prefer.

Starting in the Toiletries section. Now I know it is hard to go Eco-friendly (most notably because a lot of these items are expensive) all the time on things such as shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste, wipes, but there is something that truly eats away at my consciousness when I am camping in some of the most pristine and preserved lands in our nation and then leave behind a huge bag of trash or soap scum from the showers. So for our camping provisions I do go out of my way to spend the extra dollar and get products to leave a lesser footprint on these areas I hope survive long enough to see my children's grandchildren one day.

Also in the toiletries section you will find sunscreen and bug spray mentioned. We are huge fans of Avon's SKIN SO SOFT Bug Guard SPF 30. At $14 a pop you may feel it is a little pricey, but remember you are getting 2 in 1....bug spray and sunscreen. Also if you keep your eye out you can always find a sale on it about every few weeks. We are also fans of the Off! Towelettes for use on the kids' faces. Spraying their face or wiping on matter how hard I try we seem to always be flushing their eyes due to their rubbing or our misdirection. The towelettes dry quickly and are more error free. We are also fans of the Off! Power Pad Lamp. Stronger than 15 citronella candles, flame is protected in lantern from little hands...and a little mood lighting all in one.

When it comes to kitchen supplies we have pretty much stocked our trailer or camping box with very used things from our home kitchen. The only splurges came in some very heavy picnic plates, bowls, silverware, etc.. And even those you can find on sale at the end of summer or even at a dollar store. Again on the environmental front...we try to only use paper goods for perhaps the first meal or the last meal when you are busy unpacking or packing up. Otherwise reusable plastic that can be washed with your enviro soap is a great way to protect the environment...and over time save a dime and offset the expensive Seventh Generation or other Dish Soap.
Otherwise the list is pretty self explanatory...and here's a few closing remarks. We always keep a crate of kids toys at the ready...with sand toys, bug catchers, etc.. Most are very good about this in general, but make sure to pack your kids helmets if they bring their bikes or scooters. If under the age of 18 most campgrounds require a helmet within their properties and rangers will quickly approach any child out for a spin without one and escort them back to their parents. Always have extra batteries...rechargeable that are charged are best. We carry a utility type bucket...this is good for washing dishes, hands, feet, or carrying your stuff to and from the public restroom or shower as there is generally very little space to sit things in or on... and let's be frank...even the cleanest of campground restroom/shower floors are still a little scary. Whether camping via a tent or a trailer a large outdoor carpet or in our case the cheap way out...a huge swath of faux grass from Home Depot serves as a place to leave shoes and dirt before entering the sleeping quarters. We are also big fans of the Alps Mountaineering chairs, tables, and camping gear in general as well as REI. Make sure you shop around...lots of places carry it and the prices can be very different.

I know...we are missing food on here. I will tell you we pack three ways...1 large crate for dry goods, 1 cooler for beverages, and 1 cooler for cold foods. As the summer progresses I will take the time to share some camping recipes and some of our favorite must have beverages, snacks, and foods while in the wild.

Please review our ever evolving list...and share what's on yours or your favorite brands or products.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Child Goes on 2009 Camping Trial Run

Last year I published an article about the camping trial run. And again stuck to my own advice for 2009 as we embarked on our trial run. This year close to home...down on the property of our friend's on the South Fork of the American River.

We spent the entire week prior with the tent trailer popped open in the the water lines and tanks, charging batteries, and general loading and restocking. We felt very confidant as we rolled away on Saturday afternoon to camp two of the three nights of the long Memorial Day weekend within 1 hour of the house.

We rolled into camp abut 6:30PM...and thank goodness for the group's dinner arrangements, which I loved and are transitioning into my camping trips. Everyone fixes their entree/meat for themselves and then brings a side to share. So while the guys straightened, leveled, and parked the trailer and used random boards to keep our stabilizers from sinking into the sand I got the kids fed from everyone else's good cooking.

We quickly added a few things to our to do list at the beginnig of the season when our definitely charged battery yielded no juice to the trailer...get some contact cleaner because our battery contacts were corroded enough we got no flow. With some light brushing we got it working and our friends who also own a pop-up got lessons of what to do when your water pump goes out and spent the weekend tinkering away on that.

As far as key learnings from packing. We do now have a list saved off in Word that we can print out everytime for the standard items and check-off to ensure they are loaded/stocked. I will ensure to post this list in the coming days as I need to amend it for some obvious ommisions.

We forgot the kids' nightlight and I am a firm believer in routine. I think kids can sleep about anywhere if you have a routine and try to replicate whereveer your travels take you. Well, forgetting the nightlight was a huge ommision in replication and we had to hang out with them until they were well into ZZZ-Land. The nightlight we use at home and travels is more eco-friendly with rechargable batteries...a TykeLight.

We thought we were doing good by having our first aid kit...and I even packed aspirin for the post vino-invibation, but we had no meds for the kids. I didn't panic though as again we were on the trial run...close to home when my son starting running his fever and his digestional tract hit the skids. And luckily our partners in camping remembered their's and additional buy to my list from here on out...Children's Tums. After all the samores and other camping staples do tend to play tricks on the munchkin tummy.
Otherwise we had a great time. The kids enjoyed a tree swing, waving to all the passer-by rafters & kayakers, and painting rocks (not a state or national park, so we can take more than a picture). So with a few minor adjustments and we will be ready to hit the trails at least 3 more times this summer:

Other Camping Related Posts:

...Until next week...get your Child on the Go this weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Home of Larry Bird and much more....

French Lick, Indiana...many people know it for it's having been the home to NBA great Larry Bird. Or folks who even are history buffs remember it's hey days in the early 20th century attracting celebrities and mobsters alike, including Irving Berlin and Al Capone. It also is located about 30minutes from my husband's hometown and we have been keeping a close eye on it the last several years as it attempts to rebuild itself and regain some it's glory from the days past.

This small town of just over 2000 people has been pouring a lot of time and energy into restoring two of it's iconic buildings...French Lick Resort and West Baden Springs. Both share massive pieces of history in their own rite...French Lick being the place FDR launched his candidacy for President and West Baden being the largest free-spanning dome until 1913. Both have feasts of fun for any adult from world-class golf courses, spas, restaurants, shows, etc..

But this blog is all about the kids, so we have been keeping our eyes and ears open to see how they would accommodate our littlest traveling companions. At the two resorts there is a "Just for Kids" club open daily for free play for a nominal fee. Additional fees will get you all kinds of extra organized activities including cooking, dude ranch, zoo, musical parties, etc.. The family can also play together at the arcade, bowling alley, or pools or take a ride at the stables. All of these are located right within the two resorts which you can move back and forth between via a free shuttle service or the many walking paths. We visited at the holidays and the decor was jaw-dropping.

Outside the compounds of the resorts the town is adding additional fun. Big Splash Adventure Waterpark just opened in March. This is one thing that has caught on in the Midwest that I think is great as our waterparks still sit empty here in Northern California awaiting opening days at the end of May.....Indoor Waterparks. Even though medium in size it is the largest with a retractable roof as of it's opening in March. Lazy rivers, slides, toddler has it all. Day lockers, locker rooms, just bring your suit and have fun. It had fun for all 2yo enjoyed all the levers turning water on and off, my 4yo enjoyed the slides aimed at her age group, and Daddy and I even took to the slides aimed at the big kids...or big kids at heart. And we must admit they very much got our pulse a pounding. In addition there is on site arcade and restaurants. We booked in advance as we were not staying here and there are limited amounts of day passes, but it is limitless for you if you book one of the adjacent hotels 150 rooms.

If you have a Thomas the Train lover in your family (our 2yo boy is an addict) then a trip to the Indiana Railway Museum located in town should be on your list. The museum is free and there is a nominal fee for the 2hr 20mile ride through scenic Orange County. A special note...the museum is open year round, but the train rides do not go out December through March.

We're very excited to return many more times in the future as they are adding a indoor go kart track and a Amish Restaurant. Also right down the road is Patoka Lake for the kids to enjoy some angling with their Papa. So if in Indiana or even Northern Kentucky I would highly advise a day or two stop-over in this re-polished gem in Orange County that has something for everyone.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Time "flies" when you're having fun!

Wow, I thought I was taking a two week hiatus from the blog and it's been a month. But I must say it has all been in the vein of the fun that comes from converting from winter "go"ing to spring "go"ing.

The end of April had us enjoying some major spring time skiing and the Easter holiday on the slopes. Nearly all ski resorts in Tahoe host some Easter festivities...from your standard egg hunts to Alpine Meadow's beacon hunt. After reviewing several resorts' activities we decided to stay at our home resort, Alpine Meadows, and participate in their activities. In addition to the beacon egg hunt, there was an all-mountain hunt, 2 hunts at the children's ski zone for the little munchkins, and then another on Hot Wheels for the slightly older kids. Two bunnies provided lots of hugs and traditional cute furry one and your rail jamming shred head bunny. All of this happened before the nap-time...aka melt-down time of early afternoon.

With Easter behind us and the snow starting to melt away with the warm spring temps our last weekend of our ski lease had us itching for one last round of fun in the snow. We joined several snowmobile-owning friends up SR431 .We parked alongside the road and placed several lawn chairs at what would be the end of the kids' sledding run. We parked the cars tight enough on the roadside the kids were well protected from the traffic and easily supervised while waiting their turn by 1 adult. And the adults had easy access to the snowmobiles. Everyone had a blast and I enjoyed putting off the packing and cleaning required to move out of our ski lease.

Alas that evening over a few margaritas our ski lease was clean and we were ready to roll out. Until next season. The nice thing about most owners/agents if you were a good tenant you get first dibs at the same place next season if you meet an early deadline, June 1, and a small deposit, generally a couple of hundred bucks. After the June 1 deadline you still have some preferred customer status by having that agency's properties only available to you and their other existing tenants, but generally if you haven't made a decision by July 1...everything still available becomes fair game for the general public. So even though the season just ended you have to start thinking about next season.

With our decision made it was now time to fly!...literally. We headed out early one AM for the heartland of Kentuckiana and our purpose, The Kentucky Derby. We prefer early AM flights because getting the munchkins up early, say 3 hours before their normal waking hour, forces them on to the new time zone. With every flight we are constantly making notes about what worked and what didn't. Here's this trip's list:
Sony's Children Headphones (Model#MDR-222KD): At $15 were a great buy. After several flights of our children struggling with ear bugs or adult-size headphones we ordered these. Comes in Black and Pink for your princesses. Perfect!
Crayola Beginnings Washable Triangular Crayons 16ct (SKU#52-016T): OK, at nearly $5.50 for a pack you may think forget it. BUT, the fact that I still have the entire pack after a flight and they are not scattered in the 20rows behind me after they rolled off my child's tray is worth every penny. Oh yeah...the triangular shape is also good for their hand-writing instrument coordination.
United Airlines On-line Baggage Check: You should not check your bags in on-line if you plan to check a car seat. Car seats are free, but must be checked in at the airport. So when I thought I was doing a good things by paying for and checking or non-car seat bag from caused a delay at the airport by having to add the car seat after the fact. Next time, still check-in on-line, but do the bag/car seat portion at the airport kiosk
United Airlines Car Seat Policy: Car seats are free when it comes to checked baggage. Unfortunately Unites does charge...even for the first "other" checked bag at $15. So...our family of 4 crammed into one large duffel bag (see article), but to ensure we were not overweight...we crammed our extra shoes and jackets into the car seat bag. So $30 round trip for our checked bags and easily 60+lbs plus car seat.
- United Airlines Gate Check: Double and triple check what the gate agent puts on your gate check tag where you want to pick up your destination or perhaps a connection. I remember remarking to the agent we would need to stroller in O'Hare our connection. We waited and waited at O'Hare...the stroller never showed. The first class steward apologized profusely and I jokingly said he could make it up by helping us with 3 backpacks, 1 2year old, 1 4 year old, and a car seat who had 30min to switch terminals and make our next flight. In the end after some running we made it on our next flight with 5min to spare and the stroller made it to our final destination...about 6 hours after us.
+ United Airlines 1st Class Stewards: Remember the steward above did actually take the time to wait with my husband, check with baggage personnel, and apologized. On our return flight we thought we were in trouble when a first class stewardess came walking through the plane with a ship's manifest, but we failed to see in her other hand was fresh baked cookies for all the kids' on board, whether in first class or us in our cheap seats in coach. Score round 2 for the first class personnel.

So with these tips and tricks from our latest flight to add to our others:
Packing to Avoid Fees
> Lap Child, Car Seat, Seat Belt...Oh My
> Check the Seat Pocket in Front of You....AUGHH!
> I hated the back of planes...Before Kids
...we were ready for a fun filled trip to Kentuckiana, including parades, fishing, KY Derby, and a massive indoor waterpark...and next week's article.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Ski Conditions is Good GO Time!

Short and sweet it will be this week. I have lots of things in the hopper or jumbling around in my brain, but as we are slowly approaching the transition period...end of ski season beginning of the warm weather activities I will keep this week's short and sweet. Plus this Easter Bunny is in the middle of packing the SUV because "of course kids the Easter Bunny knows we will be at Tahoe."

(Photo: Beautiful Morning, Homewood)

Spring ski conditions is a wonderful time to get the child on the go for the 1st time on skis. The days are generally nice & sunny or "Bluebird" as we like to call them. The winter winds have calmed and the snow by mid-late morning is nice and soft...even becoming sticky and slow, therefore making it a bit easier to stop using that pizza, wedge, triangle or whatever lingo you use for it. It seems that spring is when all the elements align for your child to have a good day on the slopes.

Just because the temps are above freezing and the sun is out ensure still to dress your child appropriately and lather on the sunscreen. The sun bouncing off the "diamonds in the snow" as my 4yo calls them can lead to a very fast and very bad sunburn.

(Photo: Ice Bar, Alpine Meadows, CA)

And with spring generally comes lots of slopeside activities to give your child the full ski day experience. There are competitions, outdoor concerts, festivals, barbecues, etc.. Lots of things to keep your child in awe of the snow-capped mountains ambiance and the aire of fun and camaraderie alpine sports bring when their little legs are wearing out. And for Apres or after hours late in the season you will find incredible deals on lodging + lift either by cruising the Internet or calling the resort's central reservations number.

(Photo: Bungee-Trampoline, Squaw Valley)
(Photo: KT22 Sundeck, Squaw Valley)
Also with spring comes season end sales. So if you think your munchkin and you are going to leap into this sport now is a good time to hit the sales and buy things for next season. Discounts can be 50% or more. We just picked up my daughter her first pair of poles at 50% off, but we got them a couple of cm too long in case she grows over the summer and we will just cut them appropriately at the beginning of next season. But you have to move fast...size, styles, etc are very limited.

(Photo: Genetian Cafe, Adaptive Ski School, Alpine Meadows)
So with the ski season end looming larger, especially this year with the obvious pain of the economy impacting the alpine industry, get your child our their for either their first or final go on the slopes!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Child Gets Intro to Go by Run

In the late 1990's when the tech companies were booming I got to travel a lot on an expense account. In fact 1999 is the year I not so proudly claim I ate my way around the world. After Europe, the Middle East, and Far East I had ballooned to nearly 190lbs. I'd like to think I carried it well...all be it a brick house, but it was a New Year's Eve photo that year that spoke the truth in volumes. Turns out I wound up being one of those rare people who take on the New Years Eve resolution to lose weight and did it.

I spent 2000 on a very popular group diet plan and in a gym with a personal trainer. But one part of the regimen there was no getting around was (drumroll please.....) CARDIO. Now I have always been athletic...skiing, basketball, etc.. But I noticed most of my cardio I got in sports were short bursts until a whistle blew or I reached the bottom of the mountain. If I really wanted to lose it...I would have to RUN.

I started out where I was comfortable....doing, then fast...medium....until I was fast all the time. By the end I was running sub 8 minute miles and had lost 60lbs. The summer of 2001 I even started running competitive races...and to my surprise finishing very well. Then in 2004 came the breaks...that would be pregnancy breaks. I actually ran well into my pregnancy. But after the child it was harder and harder to re-establish a routine. Then add a second child in '06...and it was really tough.

But last week when there was a warm afternoon and I took my kids for a walk on our private road and my daughter announced..."I love to run!..." and took off and before I knew it had run over a good quarter mile and was yelling at me to "Move it!" I knew it was time. Time for me to restart the run. Not only for me, but for my kids and to show them what healthy living is about.

So with spring also begins the myriad of running events available. You can find most of them listed at Active.Com And some really neat points to running is you get to go some really cool places to do it. So to get back in the groove April 1 registration opened for the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay which will be held November 15. We have entered it with 2 other sets of parents. Not only is it in an amazing location with tons of things to do before and after the race...the Aquarium will take us the full day before for sure, but this event also includes a Kids Race.

Most kids races start at age 5. Some are timed...this one happens not to be and generally these are called "fun runs." It is generally the day before or before/after the main event race so a parent can participate with the child. Of course your child should be in good physical health to participate in any sports activity. But what a great way to introduce your child to new places and good health by going by running.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring-Time for Child to Think about Camping

I know it's crazy isn't it.  My daughter's locals ski program just ended and we just got a storm last weekend that dumped nearly 4 feet at the Summit of Alpine Meadows that had us skiing powder all day Sunday, but we just hit the panic button.  Spring sprung on us last Friday and with the snowflakes we barely even noticed.  Except on Saturday evening when we all gathered around the table for some serious carbo-loading to ensure energy for the next days pow and summer planning.

We pulled out our calendars of or old-school paper and started plotting out our camping weekends.  See actually we are LATE!  Late you say...  YES!  So now we are hitting full tilt rush mode as we also have the school year to start thinking about as our daughter enters kindergarten.  So summer or alas the one where you can hit the open road at any point on Friday will actually end on August 13 with the first day of the public school year.  And then add on top that many of the major national parks started accepting reservations for the summer months nearly 4 months ago and yes, we are behind.  For instance any shot at camping inside Yosemite is dashed as the next window to open will be April 15 for scheduling of camping dates between August 15 (after school starts) and September 14. 

Being in northern California and having access to such amazing differences in climate, topography, etc. we really try to keep our camping trips varied.  Generally one to the coast, one to the high country, and one "just because."  The "just because" one is reserved for the "because I know a family who has gone there for years and love it," "because it will be our wine country destination this year," "because it has an available campsite,"....

So we have our 3 weekends picked.  And we have an idea as to where we would like to go.  For our high country this year we are thinking to Calaveras and our "just is in the a great wine tasting area"....Santa Cruz/Monterey area for the coastal visit....and then one more TBD.  But now we start our biggest obstacle...finding a campground.

So when finding a campground you also need to be prepared...and know your needs or restrictions.  For instance we need some of the following items:
> Pets allowed, at least on 2 out of 3 of our families have dogs
> Trailers allowed, we can forgo hook-ups, but 2 out of 3 of our families have pop-ups
> Takes reservations...don't want to go all that way for a walk-in and find it's full
> Kid-friendly least some hikes, perhaps a water feature, or interpretive program
> ...

Now the hunt begins.  You may already have some ideas or specific campgrounds...if so you can go straight to some of the web-based booking tools such as:
Otherwise just a general Internet search might suffice.

If you don't have a good jumping in point it may be helpful to ask around.  Of course the first stop should be friends or family, then head to a Visitor's Bureau or Chamber of Commerce for the area you wish to visit.  Also with the Internet age the networking/social websites such as Facebook or Twitter (by the way...I twitter as norcalskimom) are other good places to gather recommendations.

When booking ensure you understand all the fees as well as cancellation policies, then book away and look forward to a summer of your child on the go in nature.

Other related posts:

Please feel free to leave your families favorite campground and why in a comment.