Wednesday, October 26, 2011

GO'ing to Yosemite with Child

We had been to Yosemite several times prior to having children…camping, day trips, hiking Half Dome, etc..  But we have been holding out on our first visit with our children.  We wanted them to look in awe at El Capitan and Half Dome and not just see it as another mountain…after all they have a view of the Sierras from about every window in our house.  We also wanted them to appreciate some of it’s history.

So this summer at the ages at four and a half and nearly seven we felt it was time to go.  And by accident (I was actually on line the night of the 14th looking for sites at a completely different area of Northern California when I saw Yosemite availability for Labor Day opened the next morning.)  I happen to get us 2 campsites for Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend for us and 2 other families.  This is an amazing feat as campsites are made available 5 months in advance on a first come, first serve basis...which means you have to be on your computer (not Yosemite's site, but at 7AM sharp on the 15th of the month that is five months before you want to visit.  And then be ready to act fast.  And if you don't camp...there are lots of other lodging options.

To ensure we had energy to do a lot on Saturday we actually started our drive down on Friday night.  And we stayed in Best Western in Sonora, CAGreat place, especially as we called ahead and got rooms adjacent to one another that had sliding doors out onto a lawn area as well as the pool and hot tub.  We also enjoyed a Happy Hour reception with wine for the adults and juice/sodas for the kids and a spread of cheeses and crackers.  After a good swim and play we ordered take-out from the hotel restaurant and dined on our patios.  The next morning a hot breakfast as well came along with the cost of our room.  So with that we were fueled and on the road…and pulled into the Upper Pines Campground guard station right at check-in time.
Day one found us setting up camp and getting around on our bikes.  With over 12 miles of bike trails ...this is the way to go rather than being at the schedule mercy of the very crowded buses.  Even if you drive in for a day trip I would still bring your bikes.  We made our way to the Village and looked around and then did the brief hike up to Lower Yosemite Falls.  The kids took in one ranger-led programs at Curry Village’s amphatheatre while the adults enjoyed a beverage and plotting out Sunday’s activities.  Yosemite's website is chop full of links, articles, etc to help plan your visit.

Sunday we awoke and after breakfast some adults went for a free photography class led by an Ansel Adams gallery employee….a blend of Adams history and how to photograph like him class.  The kids and a couple of adults took in another ranger-led class.   Then we all met up and biked over to the Vernal Falls trail-head.  With grand plans to get out 4 and 6 year old to the footbridge…they surprised us and hiked all the way to the top of the falls.  They were so proud of themselves and we were of them too.  After heading back down we rewarded the kids with some play time in a gentle section of the Merced River and afterwards the adults got their reward with drinks at The Awahnee.  Back at camp some cooked dinner while other helped the kids complete their worksheets for the Jr Ranger badges.

Monday morning of Labor Day weekend Yosemite very quiet.  We made our way up to the village to do some souvenir shopping as well as the kids met with a Park Ranger to complete their Jr Ranger Program.  After she quizzed them on their efforts they were sworn in.  The Friday and Saturday evenings prior a line snuck miles back into the valley as people tried to exit at the end of the day.  So we were amazed when at 11AM check-out we found ourselves proceeding right to the exit without an issue.  After speaking with several Labor Day weekend regulars they said it’s generally an easy weekend for the campers….both in the terms of getting a site as well as entering and exiting the park.  

Hmmm…after a wonderful weekend this is one we all agreed to give this one a GO again in the years to come.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Child Goes to Camp Sacramento - AGAIN

Our friends have been after us for when our youngest, our son, turned 4 to join them at Camp Sacramento. A family camp located just beyond Strawberry on Highway 50 after you round the Horsetail Falls bend and start climbing to the summit. It is operated by the County of Sacramento and this year celebrated its 90th birthday.

Three years ago they called us the last morning of their mini-camp the summer our boy was still 3 and we placed a deposit. Why when he was still 3? This camp is so popular families return for years on end and priority goes to those already in the system. The only way for a new family to get in is to have a family already attending watch for an open cabin and stand in a long line the last morning. And with their phone call we are in for our first mini-camp, a 3 night, 2 full day session.
Why 4? 4 years old is when children can start attending camp counselor led activities. Counselors are pulled from wonderful high school to college age young adults who hail from all ethnicities and backgrounds, but above all they are all really personable and great with the kids.

No food to pack or meals to plan as there is also full kitchen staffed by again incredible young adults feeding you three hot meals a day and snacks around the clock. And if you still have not had enough to eat a general store with ice cream, popcorn, and gourmet coffees.So with a boy age 4 and a girl age 6 we were in and packing, but just the essentials and bed linens and a few other items to make camp comfy; camp chair, head lamp, etc.. We would find our cabins to be rustic, but plenty comfy. There is a full list of suggested packing items on their website.

We pull under the big “Welcome to Camp Sacramento” banner and park our car and go into the main lodge building. Here we get sticker name tags, lanyards and our cabin keys to go on them. We also meet many of our counselors along the way. Then off to our cabin to unpack and decorate. Well, the adults unpack and the kids really go play on the playground. There’s never much traffic in camp as once you are there there is no reason to leave until we caravan to Pope Beach on the 2nd day, but we still like to keep our eyes on our younger children and therefore book a cabin with clear visibility of the playground. Oh and yes I said decorate…not mandatory, but every year there is a different theme which you may choose to decorate you cabin to match as well as bring costumes for the last night’s family dance. This last year it was the groovy 70’s and we took 3rd place with big smiley faces, peace signs, and a beaded entry door.

Evening 1 is spent meeting your counselors and making name tags to replace your sticky ones. These will hang from your lanyards so misplaced keys can be linked to a name. Children get a tour of camp including all the off-limit areas…and new adults may take a tour as well. The adults also get a talk from Tim, the long-time manager, where he encourages you to loosen up and allow your children to explore a bit more freedom within the safe confines of camp. Then on to a wine social and dinner and a great evening of camp fire songs.

Day 2 starts with the traditional pajama-rama…i.e. wear your pj’s to breakfast and the children colorful slippers and all line up to ring the dinner bell or call to breakfast. After breakfast and change of clothes everyone starts their first sessions with their counselors. 1.5-2hrs in length these sessions include everything from arts & crafts, archery, hiking, tie-dye…and much more. Lunch, another counselor session, dinner and then Day 1 wraps with a dutch auction. You have 10minutes to go to your cabin and bring back anything they may have on this secret list of items…which may pertain to the year’s theme, camping in general, or some off the wall oddity.
Day 2 finds 80% of campers head to Pope Beach in South Lake Tahoe for a day of sand
and sun. This is where the camp chairs come in handy…also some spare beverages. The counselors and some kitchen staff join us and do a BBQ on the beach which is followed by a sand
castle building contest. Not to toot our horn too much, but our group we joined is undefeated for many years now in a row. Back at camp this evening to a learning/fun carnival for the kids. After a closing campfire complete with skits by the counselors about 75% of campers don themed-costumes and have an blast at the family dance

complete with hula-hoop contest. Now before dinner on this day you will have needed to re-up for the next year if you want to continue the fun.
Day 3 morning finds most packing. Check-out is 11AM. But if you want to change cabins or get some friends into the Camp Sac family you will need to hop in line early for the cabin swap and deposits for new visitors. And as most folks are traveling a distance to get home the kitchen staff loads you up with sack lunches and with a quick goodbye and photo-op with your counselors you are on your way with another wonderful year of memories.

Next year will be our 3rd year. And they now have friends they only see at Camp, but have started some pen pal relationships with. If you are interested check out the what to expect page. And as long as our kids want to GO….we will return for this incredible mini-camp nestled in the Sierras

Child has continued to Go....Mom just hasn't had time to blog...UNTIL NOW!

I found several comments needing moderation asking where I have been. Well, obviously I started this blog because I love my children and love to travel with them. But also most of the year when we are not traveling of course they are in school which is exactly what has consumed me for the last year. So those of you in California know when I say public can simply say enough said. But we have not stopped's just this Mom has been consumed with the state of public education.

But now to catch you all up on where we have been going and
....hopefully inspire you to go!