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.