"Sleeping Under the Stars" Family Project Completed!

I am very glad that at the beginning of the year, we inadvertently started an awesome family camping project which has brought us many cherished family memories.  We nicknamed it  "Sleeping Under the Stars".  Twelve months later we have "completed" our family project's goal which was to...

Camp outdoors for at least one night, each month for the entire year

Now you may ask why there are quotes around "completed".  If I had followed my own rules, we should have camped in December but we didn't.  Why?  Well it wasn't because the weather was bad (Is the weather in California ever bad?) or that we did not have time.  The reason was my pregnancy...our last camping trip was pretty painful to sleep on my luxury camping pad, I knew that it would only get worse if we camped a month later.

But the "Sleeping Under the Star" results are in...
  • 21 nights camping, over 11 months in 12 different campsites in two states
  • We camped at five (5) California State Parks, two (2) National Parks, two (2) Regional Parks, one (1) Private Campground
  • One WHOLE week of continuous camping and two successful backpacking trips with our toddlers in tow!
I still haven't had a chance to write about all the locations we visited but I still wanted to share the bits and pieces our year long project!  So here I go!!

January 2014 ~ Half Moon Bay State Beach: Francis Campground - Half Moon Bay, California

Camping by the beach is always fun, throw in a Mavericks surfing competition, friends, and crazy big waves and it becomes very memorable! The huge crashing waves sounded like fireworks all night long.  Half Moon Bay was a great location to start our project.

California winter camping is beautiful, especially when we were having record break warm temperatures for February! We spent a Valentines Day grilling up the BEST heart-shaped rib eye steak and enjoying the California coast with our little family!  We love camping by the beach.

When you think of Orange County, camping is not usually the first thing that comes to mind but we had a very relaxing time at O'Neill Regional Park Campground.  Dry creek exploration along with a visit by some beautiful tropical birds definitely ranked high on our "outdoor fun" list!

We love to road-trip! Throw in some camping are we bound for a great time.  We made a one-night stop at Pismo State Beach on our way to Los Angeles.  We had some delicious Mexican food that night and enjoyed sand dollar collecting the next morning before continuing on down the road to LA.

Our first family backpacking trip of the year with so many firsts! From rattlesnakes, to carrying in our own water, to trying some dehydrated meals, this hike-in campsite was a great way test out the "backpacking with toddlers" water again!

June 2014 ~ Sequoia National Park: Dorst Creek Campground and Pear Lake (Backpacking)

Our longest camping trip EVER! Six blissful days at Dorst Creek Campground in Sequoia National Park.  Wildlife visits everyday and countless memories made on this little piece of National Park.

We decided to incorporate a overnight backpacking trip at Sequoia National Park and do an overnight backpacking trip to Pear Lake.  The kids had a blast on this 7 mile (14 mile Round Trip) in and out hike to Pear Lake, and our 4 year old son hiked the ENTIRE way!

July 2014 - Lake Camanche: South Shore Campground - Valley Springs, California

When we camp, we normally just camp with our family and a few close friends! But once a year we attend my church family camping trip of about 100 people!  This campground might not be my first choice but it sure does have a great place to cool off: Lake Camanche.  A great "plus" of someone else organizing the camp is that someone else does all the cooking!

Pregnant Camping Month #1: This was also the first month, of "Pregnant Camping" but no one knew about it yet except my husband and I!

August 2014 - Salt Point State Park: Woodside Campground - Jenner, California

Not only do we love camping with our children, but we love taking our Jr. High and High School students from my church, camping!  Thanks to our partners at Latino Outdoors, we were able to take our group camping at Salt Point State Park.  Our students hiked through the Pygmy Forest, played soccer on a beautiful Northern California beach, learned to chop wood, make fire, and cook over an open flame!

Pregnant Camping and Hiking Month #2: This is where I started noticing how even in early in my first trimester, I needed lots of WATER and snacks!

September 2014 - Mount Diablo State Park: Live Oak Campground - Clayton, California

I wouldn't call this a "failed" camping trip, but we were so confident in our camping skills we failed to check something very important, our cooking options.  We planned to cook all via firewood but didn't realize because of the drought and Mt. Diablo's fire danger level we could only use stoves and coals.  Thankfully we brought our backpacking stove which we used a lot during our one-night camping trip on the "Devil Mountain"!

Pregnant Camping Month #3: I needed to bring more padding and pillows for my ever growing belly.

October 2014 - Shenandoah National Park: Big Meadows Campground - Stanley, Virgina

I think this was our most memorable overnight camping trip because it was our only "Out-of-State" camping trip, we were dying for cold weather and we finally got to test out how warm our tent and sleeping bags kept our little family!  We still had some hiccups, like not being able to find the water spigot until the morning and running out of diapers. YIKES!

Pregnant Camping Month #4: For some reason this was the best night of sleep I remember so far in my pregnancy!

November 2014 - Spring Lake Regional Park: Group Campground - Santa Rosa California

Photo Credit Latino Outdoors
As a Regional Coordinator of Latino Outdoors I was able to get my Wilderness First Aid Training Certification!  That was a goal that I really wanted to complete this year.  Of course the training was held outdoors and we camped for two nights at Spring Lake Regional Park! Not only did I get my certification, my children were able to come along, my husband and fellow church youth worker Nate also got their certification!  Thank you so much Latino Outdoors!

Pregnancy Camping Month #5: This was was pretty rough couple nights sleeping, even with lots of pillows, and thus ended camping for 2014.

Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...

We had a BLAST camping this entire year!  This family project started off as a "well let's take advantage of the warm winter weather" and turned into an epic year of camping and backpacking for my family.  It has helped us become better campers, our kids LOVE camping and ask to camp all the time now.  Many more posts will come of this project because I have experienced so much and can't wait to impart the things we have learned enjoying to be outdoors as a family.

Related Posts and Links:

  1. "Sleeping Under the Stars" Family Project

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagramPinterestGoogle+ and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!-

The Truth About Family Camping

Now let's get this straight off the bat: I love camping and I actively encourage families to camp but getting used to camping as a family takes a little work and effort.  My kids love so much camping that even when we are day hiking they ask to set up their tent so we can camp.  Just like everything else in life, family camping requires effort and frequent practice, with lots of my own practice I have found a few "truths" about family camping.

Truth #1: Parents are TIRED and Children are Refreshed

Per the photographic evidence, I have major bags under my eyes; parents usually wake up tired and the children wake up ready to take on the day.  Sleep is a struggle for many families when they take the bold leap to go camping for the first time.  My first experience camping as a family was awful but a few adjustments here and there made for better sleep.

My family co-sleeps, so our children feel right at "home" when we are all sleeping in a tent but my husband and I wake up exhausted from our children waking us up for WHATEVER (cold, hot, thirst, etc) reason throughout the night.  Even though my kids wake up multiple times a night they still seem refreshed in the morning and yet I am not.

Tip: Try to recreate the same home sleep environment and have the kids practice sleeping in their sleeping bags at home!  Also including hiking into camping trips helps the kids sleep.

Truth #2: Everything Gets DIRTY!

Cleanliness kind of goes out the window when you are camping, except for food preparation and bathroom policies.  When I became a mom I swear I could see the germs crawling on my pristine baby boy, but camping really helped me get over it.  I realized the dirt on my children hands, face and sometimes in their mouth was just going to happen.  Remember dirt can always wash off, after you get home!

Tips: Empty a camping box aka plastic storage bin and use it as a small bath tub if the kids get too dirty.  Baby wipes are also your friend.

Truth #3: Expect and Plan for Sickness

There's nothing worse than being outdoors and not being prepared for someone getting sick.  I have been on few trips where someone was sick and our entire camping trip had to be changed.  On our first camping trip as a family of four, my son and I came down with a cold on the car ride to our camping location.  Even though we were sick we still managed to have one of our most memorable camping trips.  Thankfully we had packed medication just in case.

I'm allergic to WHAT?!?!
On another occasion I came down with altitude sickness and we couldn't do anything except go to a lower elevation and completely change our plans. If you are wondering about the picture above, I was having and allergic reaction to exercise, no joke.

Tip: Be flexible! If someone in your family gets sick make sure you have alternate plans like camp games so the rest of the family can still enjoy camping while others can recuperate.  Research where the nearest hospital or urgent care in case a real emergency occurs.

Truth #4: Forgetting Something Essential

Something will always be forgotten! From a bedtime stuffed animal, baby wipes, salt & pepper to even sleeping bags something is always left behind.  It's always better to bring less when camping, so what has help me reduce the forgetting essential items is having pre-packaged "camping boxes" with everything I know I will need.  Then all I really need to worry about is bringing clothes, food and my children's "essentials" such as stuffed animals and special items.

Tip:  Truly assess what is really "essential" a few days before to reduce last minute car packing panic!  Does your child really need all those toys while camping?

Chasqui Mom Last Thoughts...

Family camping is fun and worth the me it does get easier when camping with little ones.  In the beginning my kids would not sleep in their sleeping bag and now they love it! We recently spent a week camping and all our "camping practice" had paid off because it was truly relaxing and restful for my family.  The truth is family camping just needs practice to work out the bumps to make it truly a great family experience!

Do you have any family camping "truths" that you have experienced?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts & Links: 
  1. Sleeping Under the Stars Project
  2. Chasqui Mom Guest Post on Family Camping Gone Bad – How to Recover
  3. Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies ~ When sickness enters the camp  

"Sleeping Under the Stars" Family Project

As the Polar Vortex crippled the rest of the North America this past winter, California was experiencing an extremely warm winter.  One warm winter night, my husband and I were reminiscing about backpacking/camping as we were making our summer outdoor plans.  I was inspired by a fellow outdoor blogger, Tanya Koob's "The Camping Project" where her family camped 40 nights from May to September!

We decided that since we were experiencing 70 degree weather in the middle of January, we were going to take advantage of our warm weather and go camping!  One thing led to another and we came up with a little project:

Camp outdoors for at least one night, each month for the entire year

For the past FIVE months we have been able to to continue with our goal with a combination of camping and backpacking:

We currently have plans to "Sleep Under the Stars" until August and I'm pretty sure that we will be able to complete our year long project into the Fall and Winter months with some planning and maybe visiting some yurts!

My kids love sleeping in our tents so much, that they ask to set up our tents when we are just day hiking! I encourage you to join our family with our little project and discover how fun it is to make "Sleeping Under the Stars" part of our lives more than a couple times year!   In 2013, President Obama declared the month of June as Great Outdoors Month but my wish is that everyone enjoys the Great Outdoors all year long as we are doing with our "Sleeping Under the Stars" family project.

What are your family's outdoor plans for the Summer?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Road Trip Camping: Pismo State Beach ~ North Beach Campground

We love to road trip for any reason!  Mainly because we get to see more of our surroundings and it's usually less expensive than flying a family of four anywhere.  Our latest adventure took us on a road trip to Pasadena for the American Hiking Society Board of Directors meeting.  Road tripping  allowed us to bring more of our regular car camping gear unlike our previous camping trip where we flew to Orange County.

This year we have been lucky enough to camp three times on California State Park coastal campgrounds: Half Moon Bay State Beach, El Capitan State Beach and now Pismo State Beach - North Beach campground.

The Campgrounds

In most of my previous beach camping California experiences, beach camping is not really camping on the beach! The campgrounds are usually near a beach but not on the sandy beaches, North Beach campground at Pismo State Beach is no different.  The one thing that stood out about North Beach was the SPACIOUS campgrounds!

Having spacious campgrounds are really great for car camping because we normally set up our mansion tent, but on this occasion we brought our backpacking tent which looked really tiny in our giant campground.  In the picture above, my husband is walking in the campground next to us (empty) and the neighboring camp was the 1st RV in the distance.  The large space did allow our kids to run around and climb trees without worrying about them running into the next campsite.

Almost everyone there had LARGE RV campers, except for us and a few other tent campers.  The tent campers were the minority but once again everyone turned off their generators at the appropriate times.  I have noticed that a lot of coastal campgrounds draw the RV camping crowds.  The RV campers at North Beach were very luxurious and people would lay out rugs, patio furniture, plastic flower decorations, etc.  There was a lot of glamping and comfort camping going on at North Beach.

Location: Pismo Beach, California - 80 miles North of Santa Barbara (Google Map & Campground Map)
Reservations: Seasonal on Reserve America, otherwise walk-up 1st come 1st serve
Daily Price: Off Season Walk Up Rate $25/Night - On Season check Reserve America
Facilites: Drinking Water, Restrooms, Showers, Fire Pit and Tables

North Beach

We arrived at our campsite just before sunset, so we quickly setup our tent and headed for the beach.  I love watching my California sunsets and we had been promising our children to play at the beach for a couple of hours, so we made sure we got there before the sunset.

Pismo State Beach ~ North Beach and Pismo Creek
There are two trails at North Beach campground: Beach Foot Trail and Meadow Creek Trail.  Beach Foot Trail is the path to the actual beach, not an actual hiking trail but a walkway to the beach that passes the campground amphitheater and bathrooms through a eucalyptus grove.  The Meadow Creek Trail (which we did not explore) heads off to the Monarch Butterfly grove and loops around the Pismo Beach Golf Course according to the map.

Beach Foot Trail and the Amphitheater

The sunset was gorgeous and even though it as quite chilly the kids splashed around in Pismo Creek and made sand castles until it became dark.  Dinner was at a Old Juan's Cantina less than 2 miles south of North Beach Campground, near the south end of Pismo State Beach - Oceano Campground.  Unless we are full blown car camping we usually eat out for dinner.  No mess or cleanup at the campsite.

The next morning we cooked breakfast before we headed out to the beach one more time.  The kids were going to be in the car for a few more hours before we arrived to our final destination in Pasadena, so we wanted the beach to tire them out.  We made more sand castles, found sand dollars, ran away from the waves and walked up and down the beach.

This year we have been camping quite often at California State Parks, especially along the California coast.  Even though I prefer a more rustic, out of the way campsites, I am truly enjoying my California State Parks this past winter and spring.

Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting one of California's great State Parks?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Chasqui Mom's California State Park Visits
  2. Pismo State Beach - California State Parks

Spring Time Camping in the OC ~ O'Neill Regional Park

On our most recent trip to Southern California, we decided to add a little Orange County (OC) camping to my husband's business trip.  Thankfully, through my blogging connections, I have met many wonderful #OutdoorFamilies like Traci of Walk Simply, whose outdoor playground is The OC!  She recommended that we camp at O'Neill Regional Park as her family did!

We were not planning on a full blown camping trip, since we traveled by plane but we love to find any excuse to camp.  It was our first time ever camping at a regional park, aka a LOCAL park!  We've camped in National Forests, National Parks, State Parks but never a regional park (county-run), not even in my regional parks in the San Francisco East Bay!  So this was the first time ever camping in a regional park, OC Parks.

Location: Trabuco Canyon, California - 7 Miles East of Lake Forrest
Reservations: Orange County Parks (, Year-Round
Daily Price: $20/night - (Date Camped March 2014) - 79 campsites
Facilities: Drinking Water, Restrooms, FREE showers (hot water), Playground, Campsite Tables, Fire pit w/grill

We stayed at Arroyo Campground Loop, Site 66, which was very spacious and had trees nearby large enough to support our hammock.  Trabuco Creek (seasonal creek) runs along the backside of half of the campgrounds.  As you can see, the creek was completely dry but that allows for dry creek-bed explorations for little ones!

Close to Everything

Normally when we camp we like to "get away" from it all, but it's a little difficult when we are hybrid traveling (business/pleasure), since we flew down to Southern California and did not have all our regular camping gear.  We were close to everything but still far enough that I could feel the outdoor fresh air.  My main concern was food, since we did not have a means of refrigerating our food.  That was one of the reasons we picked O'Neill Regional Park because everything was a 10 minute drive to Lake Forest and Rancho Santa Margarita:

  • Supermarkets 
  • Drugstores
  • Banks
  • Shopping Centers
  • Restaurants
  • Churches
  • Playgrounds (in the park)
Playground: We've never been camping at a park with an actual playground.  I'm normally not too fond of playgrounds, but in this particular case I really loved having a playground, we could burn off our kids energy since we were not hiking at this campground.  It was a small plain EMPTY park.

Food/Restaurants: I love eating out and on this particular trip, I was in the mood for Peruvian food and lo and behold, there was Inka Mama's Peruvian Cuisine down the hill from O'Neill Regional Park in Foothill Ranch.  The food there was delicious, if you are ever in this area I highly recommend eating there. There is every kind of restaurant that you can think of 10 minutes away from O'Neill Regional Park, so you can find anything, even for picky eaters.

Wildlife at O'Neill

Even though O'Neill Regional Park is very close to the city, there is wildlife.  As we were eating breakfast at our campsite we heard a VERY loud squawking from the trees.  I told my husband that those noises sounded like the tropical birds we heard in the Peruvian Amazon jungle.  So of course, I had to investigate the empty campsite across from us and I found bright two bright green red-headed birds or a Red-Crowned Parrots (popping out from the center tree hole).  I even tweeted it out to the Audubon California to try to figure out what these birds were.

O'Neill, like many other California parks, has larger wildlife like mountain lions, bobcats, rattlesnakes and mule deer.  Of course we didn't see any of those animals, only the Red-Crowned Parrots and angry red ants!!

O'Neill at a Glance....

We used O'Neill as a "base camp" for other OC outdoor adventures to the beach and hiking.  It was very well maintained campgrounds and facilities.  By Friday, the campground was completely full but everyone one there respected the "camping rules" and we enjoyed our family time at O'Neill.  Camping might be a little more difficult than staying at a hotel because there is setup involved, but over all I feel more relaxed camping than staying at hotels.  Plus it creates beautiful family memories with our little ones.  

Sometimes as outdoor enthusiasts we look over our local regional parks and we might be missing out on some great locations to enjoy the outdoors.  I love National Parks, National Forests, State Parks but they are a little far from us, so I'm really learning to find great outdoors in regional parks even when we are traveling!

Have you camped at a local regional park? Give a little shout out to your regional parks!

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

California Winter Family Camping: El Capitan State Beach

I mean really, sometimes I almost feel bad for living in California while the rest of the United States of America is in the Polar Vortex.  Middle of "Winter" camping on the California coast isn't really all that bad.  We take any opportunity to head outdoors whether, hiking, camping, backpacking or just a day outdoors.

Over Valentine's Day weekend we extended a Southern California business trip to include a two-night camping trip at El Capitan State Beach.  We were hoping to find a more "Hiking" place to camp but most of my husband's co-workers recommended El Capitan, a place along the coast where they all like to escape to.  We were sold on El Capitan because it was by the beach and I really wanted to drive home to San Francisco by the Pacific Ocean.

Location: Goleta, California off of Highway 101- 17 miles North of Santa Barbara
Reservations: Only seasonal on Reserve America, otherwise Walk-up
Daily Price: $35-45 a individual site (depends on the season). Winter Walk-up Rate we paid $35/night
Facilities: Drinking water, Restrooms, Showers, Camp Store, ATM, Picnic Tables and Grills
Campsite Visited: Campsite No. 29 (Shaded, partial Pacific Ocean View)

We arrived at El Capitan shortly before sunset, and set up camp: our large family camping tent, hammock and camp gear.  I knew by the time we finished setting up camp it would be dinner time and after my husband working all day, driving a few hours, neither my husband nor I would want to cook, so we planned to head into Goleta for some Mexican Food.  We normally don't eat out while camping but it had been a very long day for both my husband at work and as well as me dealing with preparing for our camping trip from our hotel!

Oooh! The Ocean!!
After dinner we headed back to El Capitan and went straight to bed.  There was so much excitement during camp setup that the kids (and us) were exhausted, so we all headed into our mansion of a tent for a good nights rest.  If you follow my blog, you know that my daughter is a TERRIBLE sleeper but our first night at El Capitan my daughter slept ALL night long and I actually got to sleep very well for once!

My kids knew we were camping near the ocean, but we never had a chance to go down to the beach when we arrived.  The second my kids woke up, they heard the ocean and wanted to see it so we just opened our tent window and let them see it.  It is awfully nice to camp on the California Coast!

Valentines Day at El Capitan State Beach

The two times we've been camping this "winter", Half Moon Bay State Beach and El Capitan State Beach have been beach locations.  We normally like to hike during our camping trips but we haven't done any hiking in either of these trips because the beach being steps from out tent!  I love the ocean and my kids love ANY water source so to incorporate the beach into our camping is wonderful.

There are 10 miles of hiking trails at El Capitan but on this occasion we just walked down to the rocky beach.  At first there was actually no beach in sight, just small waves crashing onto the the rocks but we found a tiny sandy spot and as the hours went by the sandy beach grew.  The kids splashed and ran away from the waves, my husband sat on the rocks and enjoyed reading his books and I explored the tide pools.  We all eventually were splashing in the waves but I LOVE exploring tide pools.

During our little lunch break we had pleasure of seeing dolphins and even brown pelican making amazing dive into the water.  There was a large patch of seaweed/kelp floating by so I'm assuming there were fish for the dolphins and pelicans to eat!

We had a great day splashing at the beach but after a "tragedy" struck (a small toy was washed away at sea) it was time to say goodbye to the beach.  We retreated back into our giant mansion tent so the kids could play and my husband and I could doze off in our warm tent.  After we had recharged a bit, we took a trip into Goleta to get a few more food supplies and ice cream to soften the blow of the lost toy at sea.

After returning to camp, we started preparations for our dinner when all of a sudden we heard helicopters above and a crowd had formed by the cliff.  I investigated with my kids and there was a Search and Rescue effort for our kayaking camp neighbors.  A couple hours later, our camp neighbors returned obviously with their spirits down....they had shown up midday, quickly setup camp and headed out to sea.  Another camper came over a little later and offered them beer and I could see they were definitely "deflated".  Worst camping trip ever for them, the "mom side" of me wanted to go console them but then I thought if I were in their position I wouldn't want anyone to ask me ANYTHING, so I let them be.  They didn't seem happy.

It was Valentines Day, normally my husband and I go out for Round Table Pizza but since we were camping, I wanted to do something special, ala Jesse and Melissa Style!  We love steak, so why not get a heart shaped steak?!  It was one of the most delicious steaks I've ever eaten, in addition to mashed potatoes and dutch oven peach cobbler!

Get in my belly you rib eye steak!
After dinner the kids and I laid in the hammock and stared at the almost full moon and stars, while my husband cleaned up.  The kids get very clingy when night falls because they are scared of the dark.  The only time I like it because I get to cuddle with my babies.  The kids fell asleep very quickly and my husband and I enjoyed sitting by the fire and laying in the hammock in peace....silence.

Something I will never forget from this trip is my daughter waking up around 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning on our last night and said "Mommy, those trees are amazing...." in regards to the tree branch shadows on the tent ceiling. Just a random thought she woke up to tell me and then passed out again.  That's my girl.

I love my family, I love California and I love camping.

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Wave Crashing Family Camping & Mavericks at Half Moon Bay
  2. El Capitán State Beach - California State Park Website

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Wave Crashing Family Camping & Mavericks at Half Moon Bay

What a way to start the new year! Family camping by the beach and a phenomenal California surf competition, all before January even finished.  It all started a few weeks ago when we decided to take advantage of our unseasonably warm weather and camp for a night near the coast.  I tried a few other California State Parks but Half Moon Bay State Beach reservations were half empty and it was as close as camping on the beach as one can get.

The Stars (more like the waves) Aligned....

A few days before our quick camping trip, I scanned through my Twitter feed and saw "Mavericks [Surfing] Competition might be held this Friday!"  I literally start going into hyper sonic mode and try to tell my husband what I just read.  I stalked news media for the next two days until it was confirmed that the Mavericks Invitational 2013-2014 was going to be held a few miles from our campsite.  Joy!

Green means, Go! Surfs up!
I'm not a surfer, nor will I probably ever surf but that doesn't mean I'm not fascinated with it.  I'm a California girl, born, raised and I'll probably die here.  I LOVE the beach, it's my happy place and it's a world of wonder especially the once a year 40-60 foot waves where they hold the Mavericks Invitational.  Ever since I found out about this competition I've wanted to attend but it just never happened, so I was beyond thrilled that it happened during our camping trip.

Mavericks Festival: Oceano Hotel & Spa Grounds

A few years ago the Mavericks audience was able to see the competition from the Pillar Point Beach/Cliffs near the area marked as "Mavericks" on the map.  Unfortunately in 2010, a HUGE wave came onto the shore and took down bystanders and media personnel, so now it it prohibited to watch from the shore.  Sadness.  I understand why it is prohibited now but it would still be really cool to see with my own eyes.

The Oceano Hotel & Spa now hosts the Mavericks Festival, here's a quick review on it:
  • Jumbo Tron Viewing ~ There are two huge Jumbo Trons on the opposite ends of the festival, lots of room for everyone to view.  The general audience brought chairs, blankets and set up for the day but there was a VIP area which was more expensive of course.  The viewing was a live feed that occasionally would lose signal but the announcer would jump in to fill the gaps.
  • Mavericks Competition ~ The competition it self was really fantastic to see, each "round" was called a heat and we quickly learned some surfing terminology, like "Air Drop" and of course "Wipe Out".  I didn't know any of the surfers but Grant "Twiggy" Baker from South Africa became our favorite real quick, who eventually won the competition.  I know...there were many Bay Area local surfers in the competition but Twiggy was awesome and no one could deny it.  I loved how the audience would go into a lull but  the energy would pick up along with the waves.  There was a local band playing "beach music" from Pacifica which was entertaining to listen too, GoPro was doing a giveaway which we signed up for but left before they announced the winner.
  • Logistics/Cost/Parking ~ The festival is located in the Oceano Hotel & Spa Parking Lot, no real view of the ocean but it's walking distance away. There were FOUR levels of tickets ranging from $15-1,000/ticket, we purchased the $15 tickets online the night before.  I had read in other reviews that the festival had sold out online in the past years so I didn't want to risk it and purchased it online.  I was able to download all our tickets on Eventbrite App and the ticket hostess just scanned my phone at the entrance.  Parking is available at the Half Moon Bay Airport but we parked for free about a mile away on Pacific Coast Highway 1 and walked along the Coastal Trail to the festival.  There is a bike valet if one decided to ride your bike to the festival.
  • Family Friendly Activities ~ There was only one real family friendly activity, the Skate Park, which is geared more towards older children who can skateboard.  My toddlers were a little bored because they wanted to go to the beach and there weren't toddler friendly activities.  They were only partially interested in watching the surfing competition on the Jumbo Tron.  Hint, hint....maybe more kid-friendly activities (rock climbing, a portable playground or inflatable slides, etc)!  I saw lots of families with younger children, so family friendly activities might be a great addition.
  • Food/Beverages ~ There were food trucks galore!  In particular, The Sanguchon a Peruvian food truck that I've been dying to check out.  It was was DELICIOUS by the way!  I was so fixated on The Sanguchon truck I can hardly remember the other food trucks but other foods included paella, garlic fries, burritos, grilled sandwiches.  Cliff Bar and Red Bull were also there giving out free samples as well.  There was a free water station as well as a a Sierra Nevada station on every corner.

Overall, we had lots of fun at the Mavericks Festival watching the competition and eating delicious food.  We left in the middle of the festival to walk around Pillar Point Harbor and found a little beach and creek for the kids to run around before returning to watch another heat.  News media was all around Pillar Point Harbor, from CNN to NBC with helicopters flying all around Half Moon Bay.  I am definitely going to return someday to the Mavericks Invitational/Festival but maybe when I have enough money to charter a boat out to the waves so I can see them myself!!  Truly amazed by the surfers physical strength, expertise and courage to go out in those enormous waves.

Wave Crashing Camping at Half Moon Bay State Beach ~ Francis Beach

We left the Mavericks Festival before the Final heat and walked along Coastal Trail to our car on Pacific Coast Highway 1.  We couldn't check into our campsite until 2 p.m., so the Mavericks Festival was a good way to spend the day.  My original plan was to hike around Pillar Point but all roads were blocked off due to the competition.

Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail

The First of Many Camping Trips
As I mentioned earlier, we just wanted to get away for a quick camping trip and not spend time driving far away for a one-night camping trip, so Half Moon Bay State Beach was the perfect place to start our camping adventures for 2014.  Half Moon State Beach is actually comprised of four beaches, Francis Beach being one of them, 52 campsites and it feels far away from the city even though it a few blocks away from downtown Half Moon Bay.  We are not RV campers and probably will never be, but I must mention that this was primarily a RV campground, yet with a few tent campers interspersed around.

Mi Casa - ALPS Mountaineering: Three Room Camping Tent
We had reserved Campsite #40, which was an RV/tent site with partial shade, a picnic table, fire pit with a grill and the road ran behind it.  Not my ideal location but cars hardly drove by and in the morning we were able to see all the horseback beach tours ride by, which added the "California Factor" to the campsite.  NOTE: There are Tent-Only sites which are almost on the beach (near the bathrooms), which I'm assuming must be reserved way in advance.

The campground was pretty quite overall, there was close to no RV noise which was hardly noticeable over the crashing waves.  Once darkness rolled around, all the RV campers went into their homes and it seemed like we were the only ones there.  Nice.  I think we were the only ones in our area with a fire going, which we cooked Chicken Shish Kabobs.  After dinner, our toddlers fell asleep (Yay!) and we waited for my friends' husband to arrive.  Once he arrived we all proceeded to have second dinner, one of the many reasons we like camping.  It was a chilly night and we all ended up smelling like smoke because we huddled so close to the fire for the rest of the evening.  Fun times.

Crashing Waves at Francis Beach
Francis Beach is just down a few steps from the campgrounds but be warned it isn't a swimming beach due to its strong currents.  Plus nobody really "swims" in the Northern California beaches because they are too cold.  My toddlers concept of the "beach" is playing in the sand vs. swimming in the ocean.  They like to roll down a sandy beach dune [Cue Video]....

We spent a little while at the beach before setting up camp so the kids could burn off some energy!  I loved being able to still see the waves at Mavericks/Pillar Point from Francis Beach but the waves right in front of me were strong and large as well.  All night we heard the waves from our campsite, but at some point in the middle of the night the waves sounded like mini-explosions which was really neat to hear.  While the night brought crashing waves and a strong wind, they disappeared with the sunrise.  Everyone slept well, except when the winds became so strong that my son woke up to ask what was all that noise, it's just wind little buddy.....

The morning came, breakfast and packing commenced before we went down to Francis Beach. Our camp neighbors had children similar age to ours and they played together in the trees.  Camp friends are nice because we could easily clean and pack up without major disruption.  We spent the rest of the morning playing in the sand and splashing in the water until the kids got tired of the waves knocking them down.

Thus ends our great first camping adventure at Half Moon Bay.  Surfing competition, giant waves, camping at a great California State Park, family, friends and being in the outdoors.  I love California.

What's your favorite California outdoor adventure?

Join in on the conversation by leaving a comment here! You can also join in on the conversations on Chasqui Mom's FacebookInstagram and Twitter that is updated daily with outdoor activities and other wonderful posts and links from #OutdoorFamilies!

Related Posts and Links

  1. The Excellent Año Nuevo State Park
  2. Half Moon State Beach - California State Parks
  3. California State Parks Website
  4. Mavericks Invitational 2013-2014

Summer Road Trip 2013

Just getting back from our whirlwind family road trip to Colorado!  Have too much to write about but here's a little glimpse of our trip all around the west!

The Loch at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Visiting the Allosaurus at Dinosaur National Monument, Utah.

Elk at the Alpine Tundra at Rock Mountain National Park, Colorado

A quick stop at Arches National Park, Utah

A little camping at Castle Rock Campground, Fishlake National Forest, Utah

A jaunt on The Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada!

A desert stop on the Pacific Crest Trail, in California.

Three National Parks, one national forest campground, two hotels, a cabin and a SUV were our homes for the last week.  So many stories, lessons learned and best of all lots of fun!

Related Posts:

  1. Dinosaur National Monument, Oh My!!
  2. The Colorful Colorado River Trailhead, Rocky Mountain National Park

High Peaks at Pinnacles National Park

This is a continuation post of our Youth Group camping and hiking trip from April 2013 at Pinnacles National Park with eleven teenagers, four adults and our two toddlers.

Day 3, Saturday, April 6, 2013:

Bright and early, my husband was already up with the boy breakfast crew.  Apparently the girls pranked the boys by stealing their shoes overnight so the boys decided to retaliated while the girls slept in.  They also made breakfast at the same time.  The girls shoes were missing when they arose from their beauty sleep and let's just say teenage girls are not as forgiving as teenage boys.

What is it with boys/men cooking while camping?
After everyone had been fed, we packed up our lunches we started our enormous task of packing everything up. Some of our youth had never been camping or don't have any experience in properly packing and cleaning up a campsite.  It seemed like an eternity but we eventually got all the camping equipment back in the three vehicles.  There wasn't an obvious competition but the Boy Scouts group (our camp neighbors) were so efficient and fast, they made us look really slow. I explained to our group these Boys Scouts had been doing for years so they wouldn't be discouraged.  We also shadowed them during a good portion of our hike but they were doing their "30 miles in a day" hike and had done few miles in the morning before we even left camp.

Our First View of the High Peaks
Saturday was definitely more crowded that the previous day at Pinnacles! The park had shuttles running between the Visitor Center to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. Our drivers dropped off our group and took the vehicles back to the Visitor Center and took the shuttle back to the Day Use Area.  I remained with the remainder of the group and had lunch while we waited for the drivers to return.

We finally started hiking and I was in front of the group with our youth student-leader Dixie.  My husband graciously took our son and daughter and hiked in the back of our hiking group. The condors were out and we could see them taking off from their nests. They look like little black specks in the picture above but those were condors.  I absolutely loved seeing so many condors because on our previous trip to Pinnacles we did not see a single condor.

There are a few switch backs on Condor Gulch but not anything difficult.  I was really amazed at the teenagers energy and enthusiasm, especially since most of these teenagers never go hiking.  It was one of our student's first time hiking ever and she was at the front of the line being very enthusiastic, motivating everyone to keep hiking.  At one point she said, "Come on guys! If we run that last two miles we will be done in 15 minutes!".  I thought to myself, maybe we got a future trail runner on our hands....

Overlook view of Condor Gulch Trail
Overlook view towards High Peaks
We took a longer break at the overlook and had a little hiking/backpacking survey.  The views were amazing as you can see from the pictures above.  If you look closely on the left side of the High Peaks the white marks (poop) on the rocks, was where the condors nests were located.  We saw many condors take flight from there homes and soar right above our heads down in the the valley, it was truly amazing!

We continued up Condor Gulch Trail which was a total of 1.7 miles until we reached High Peaks Trail.  During the remainder of the hike my daughter hiked with or at least near me being carried by one of the teenagers.  Of course having my daughter with me slowed me down, so my husband went to the front of the group with our son.  I spent the remainder of the hike at the back of the group but it gave me a chance to get to know that group of teenagers better.  Our normal youth group size at our church events are between 15-20 students so it's hard to get to know everyone.  Hiking and camping as a group gives us, the youth leaders, a chance to build a better relationship with our students.

Esperanza Viva Youth Group and Leaders
Some of the youth were very tired at the halfway point and I'm not going to lie, I was too.  There is a big difference when I am camping and hiking with my own family versus taking a group of other people's teenagers in addition to my family.  There is more planning, stress, constant teaching and motivation and I feel like I'm complaining but I'm not! It is so great to see our students grow, view the world in different ways and seeing them be open to the idea that the world does not revolve around them!  During a difficult part of the hike, one of our students asked if we brought them there to punish them! A little later he asked if we had brought him there to show him how insignificant he was! He asked the latter question after seeing the Balconies and the giant rock formations at the top of High Peaks.

Balconies View from High Peaks Trail

Dixie kicking butt on the trail!
Vanessa getting ready to climb up to the Peaks!
This is my California....
We had to teach a lot of our teenagers correct and safe hiking etiquette like not throwing trash on the ground, letting faster hikers pass by and in particular (my little brother) to not hike on the edge of a cliff trail.  Sadly my camera died soon after the picture above so I hardly  have any pictures from the actual High Peaks.

Photo Courtesy of Noe Garay
High Peaks was an adventure! Many of our teenagers said the felt like they were Indian Jones after we climbed up on the peaks and crawled on the very edge of a giant volcanic rock.  I am very glad that I was not with my husband when we went through the "treacherous" portion of the trail because my son told my husband that he was going to jump into the canyon so daddy could go rescue him with a Pogo stick like "Diego" and then tried to run towards the ledge.  I think I would have gone completely gray if I would have seen that.....

The one amazing thing I will remember for the rest of my life happened right after we finished getting through the difficult part of the peaks.  I was standing there with Dixie, Alexis and Manuel and a condor flew right by our heads, literally 10 feet from us.  None of us had our cameras but I'm pretty sure it's better in our memories then any picture that we would have taken.  Now I that have seen California Condors up close and personal, I have to see the Peruvian Condors as well.

We took another break with two miles left and everyone was exhausted.  Some of the youth didn't understand the concept that food and water is energy for their bodies, and that's when we realized some of had not been drinking or snacking like we had been telling them too.  That's when my mothering skills kicked and I knew it was time for "scare tactics" to make them understand the dangers of dehydration and made them understand that food is energy.  As well as letting them know if we didn't finish before 6 p.m. we would have to hike an extra mile back to the Visitor Center.  Then everyone quickly hiked down to the Bear Gulch parking and we made it to the parking lot before 6 p.m.


Apparently hiking with a group of teenagers is as slow as hiking with toddlers, approx. 1 mph.

Elevation Change was approx. 1300 feet, highest elevation 2,500 feet but it felt much higher since we were right on the edge of a rock.

Condor Gulch - High Peaks - Bear Gulch Trail

Overall, it was a great first youth camping trip and will definitely be doing more in the future.  With each trip we learn more and more about our youth and how to lead a camping group better as well introducing our church youth to the great creation that God made to enjoy.

Related Posts:

The Ever Changing Point Reyes National Seashore

Friday, May 10, 2013:

We all woke up very hungry from our first day of backpacking and we quickly started making coffee and breakfast.  I brought Nido powdered milk for my toddlers but my super picky eater son wouldn't drink it and of course my daughter ate everything in sight.  I couldn't figure out what to have for breakfast so we had instant oatmeal and added some powdered milk to make it "fattier".  We also brought Mini-Wheat's Cereal for the kids in case they didn't want the oatmeal, but I eventually convinced my son to eat oatmeal.  Sometimes I think my son survives on air, but I knew if he didn't eat something he would have a miserable day.  Thankfully after a while, he had some food and became a happier little boy.

Foggy Morning at Glen Camp
It was a very foggy morning and none of the other campers had arrived yet so it was a very quiet morning other than my toddlers squealing. We "quickly" cleaned up and got our packs ready for our day's hike to Alamere Falls.  It was a 3 mile hike (Glen Camp Loop-Stewart Trail) to Wildcat Campground and then a 1.1 mile hike to Alamere Falls. That was our plan, an 8.2 mile round trip for the whole day with our much lighter packs so we could also hike faster.

David hiking on Glen Camp Trail
Glen Camp Loop Trail was fairly flat with a very low grade uphill climb to Glen Trail.  Glen Trail was also a fire road like Bear Valley Trail but it was very beautiful.  Park Rangers were out for their morning routes in their trucks and we saw one horse rider and then we did not see anyone until we reached Wildcat Camp.  We nicknamed a section of this trail, "Nana's Fairyland" because it seemed like a very magical place.

Can you find the spider?

We walked along a portion of the trail where there were hundreds and hundreds of plants (pictured above) that were covered with dew. My daughter walked up to the plants and happily poked the plants so the water trickled down to the ground.  We looked at my daughter and she had a grin from ear to ear and my husband said he could imagine her imagining fairies popping out from the plants.  It really looked like something out of a fairyland story book!  The landscape looked like it should belong in a magical land where fairies, elves and other creatures would be roaming around.  I could see my children's imagination in their faces and I loved it!

Foggy Stewart Trail
The landscape was always changing, one of my favorite things about Point Reyes! The first portion of Glen Trail was very covered woodsy trail which included "Nana's Fairyland".  Stewart Trail opened up to over looking a small wooded valley and then opened up to the view of Wildcat Campground and the Pacific Ocean.  It was very refreshing to see the ocean.  I love the ocean because it's so big, open and knowing that it is the end of the land until Asia.  I love the ocean.

We debated about camping here, but it would have been a longer hike into camp and I read that it could be extremely windy and wet.  Normally I wouldn't care if it was windy and wet but I wanted our first family backpacking experience to be an enjoyable one, so we picked the protected Glen Camp.  My daughter fell asleep at this point in my carrier and I was terribly hot because the fog cleared, it was an opened non-shaded trail and I couldn't take off my sweater.  I hiked as quickly as I could down to Wildcat Campground.

I also decided to use my front day pack (the top portion of my Gregory Deva 70) so I could comfortable carry one of my kids on my back, which worked out pretty well.  It was a somewhat steep trail down to Wildcat Campground but it was doable without my hiking poles.  When we made it to Wildcat Campground we took a little break and my daughter woke up.  My son, David had seen the ocean from the trail so he was already excited to go to the beach but it was still another 1.1 miles to Alamere Falls, up another hill.  We decided to take a longer break at the Wildcat Beach and then hike to Alamere Falls.  When my daughter saw the beach, her reaction was priceless! She literally screamed "THE BEACH!!!!!", put her hands on her face, screamed with joy and did a little dance.  That is the truth.

There was a little creek that flowed into the ocean which of course the kids were immediately drawn too. After about 15 minutes of being there +Jesse Avery and I realized we weren't going to make it to Alamere Falls.  The kids were never going to want to leave this place, they were having so much fun splashing in the water, rolling in the sand and throwing rocks.  We could actually see Alamere Falls from the beach and it looked like we could walk to it but we read that the tide can come in all the way to the cliffs and we didn't want to risk getting stranded out there.

Alamere Falls in the distance, so close yet so far away....

We had our Chicken Pita Lunch on the beach and tried to relax on the beach while the kids played on the beach.  The difference between hiking/backpacking before kids and after having kids is that you can never truly have a break! We tried to rest but one of the kids always needed us to clean sand out of their mouth or we had to observe that they didn't go too deep into the creek, etc.

My husband was really amazed that our kids were not cold because we were freezing, especially myself! I don't know what's been going on with my body lately but anytime I finish exercising I immediately get really cold and stay cold for a long time.  My kids on the other hand were dressed in what they were born in, splashing in the water!  My kids eventually got cold and we dressed them in dry clothes and they had a screaming tearful, almost tantrum goodbye from the beach.  There was no way we were going to make it to Alamere time.

We rearranged our packs again and my son (who threw the borderline tantrum) was very tired and needed to take a nap.  I told him he could ride in my carrier and he happily went on my back.  Of course he took a nap on the hardest part of the uphill trail and my husband slowly walked with our daughter because she was determined to walk herself.  We were not in a rush so we took our time, not like I could run up the mountain with my three year old toddler on my back.  We took Stewart Trail (0.9 miles) to Coast Trail which I highly recommend.  It was a very beautiful trail with views of Wildcat Campground, the Pacific Ocean and Wildcat Lake which we had not seen.

Wildcat Lake from Coast Trail
Coast Trail was more "coast-like" trail, short stubby plants and drier than the earlier day's hike, it was windier as well.  Sophia was falling asleep on Jesse's shoulders and I was pretty exhausted from carrying David up Stewart Trail so we stopped in the only shaded portion of the trail for a break.  We tried laying the kids down on our jackets but they didn't survive the transfer and woke up, so Jesse and I laid down while the kids rolled around and had snacks.  Coast Trail had abundant amounts Poison Oak so we made sure that our break area was clear of it.  All I remember from our break was looking up at the sky and seeing the fog roll in and out, it truly reminded me of hiking in the cloud forests of Peru.

Coast Trail eventually became a single track trail and we only passed two hikers who admired us for backpacking with our kids.  One guy said "I saw you guys down at Wildcat and I thought wow!"  I really don't know why people think it's unimaginable to hike with kids, its certainly hard but we love spending outdoor time with our kids. They have taught us to see the smallest things on the trail that I would never stop to see like....

Ladybugs, Flowers, and Wild Strawberries!

 Thank you to my children to allow me to enjoy the little things in life!

Sophia, our Mountain Baby....

David, our Cowboy...

The kids were starting to reach their limit again and we had about a mile of so left picked the pace as well as the kids so we could make it back to camp before sunset and not have to cook in the dark again.  I was terribly paranoid that my son was going to jump in poison oak so I was glad he was riding on "daddy's shoulders".  A few pictures from Coast Trail.....

My friend called this, "Into the Wild".

Beautiful flowers were all along the trail
All in all we made it back to camp with lots of day light to spare so we could actually "relax" as much as parents can with two toddlers.  I was hoping to see some wildlife but we only got to see cute quails roaming around the trails.  We did see beautiful changing landscapes which is always nice to see.  We also had more campers when we returned to Glen Camp, a troop of Boy Scouts and their leaders.  My daughter and I were the only women there for a long time then I saw a few more women hikers arrive later in the evening to set up camp in the campsites behind us.

We had dinner, cleaned up, took a little tour of the whole campground and tried to find some sun to warm up.  My daughter had a late afternoon nap so she wasn't ready to go to sleep but my son was exhausted.  The problem with my son is that the more exhausted he get the harder it is for him to sleep.  He eventually fell asleep and about after an hour of rearranging our packs and cleaning, the rest of us went to sleep.  It was a good day.


Hiked 6.3 miles, in 7 hours but half of the time we were not moving, lunch, breaks, etc.

Elevation: Lowest point - Sea Level 0 Feet, Highest Point 900 Feet

Glen Camp Loop Trail - Glen Trail - Stewart Trail - Coast Trail - Glen Trail - Glen Camp Loop

The Very Green Point Reyes National Seashore, Glen Camp

What can I say about Point Reyes National Seashore? Better yet, what can't I say about Point Reyes?!  This was the perfect place to have our first family backpacking trip.  Beautiful landscapes, campgrounds, weather and fairly easy trails.  It was truly a wonderful place to visit with my toddlers.

Somewhere on Bear Valley Trail
We decided to head out before the normal Friday-Sunday weekenders so we planned our trip to be Mother's Day Weekend Thursday-Saturday.  I had been preparing for weeks by organizing meals, calculation of diapers, gear and equipment needed, clothes and anything that would be essential to backpacking with toddlers.  Before I start off with our adventure story I'd like to list some general information:

Hikers: Two Adults and two toddlers
Backpack Weight: +Jesse Avery 56 lbs, Myself 49 lbs (Total 105 lbs)
Location: Glen Camp, Point Reyes
Day 1 Listed Mileage: 4.6 Miles (Bear Valley trailhead to Glen Camp)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

We started the morning by packing our backpacks to the rim, loaded the kids in the car and headed off good ol' IHOP!  We arrived to the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 2 p.m. and checked in to get our permit.  The visitor center entertained my children quite a bit with their life size animal replicas such as orca whales, elephant seals, sharks and a very interactive animal center.

Bear Valley Visitor Center
We parked our car at the very end of the parking lot and made our final preparations to our backpacks before we headed out on the trail.  As I mentioned in many previous posts that transitioning from the car to actually hiking is always chaotic, a crying toddler, someone having to go pee pee, forgetting something in the vehicle, realizing that we left something at home.  In this case, we realized we had forgotten my newly purchased hiking poles for this very trip!  We laughed it off, we were bound to forget something.

We started at the Bear Valley Trail which began at the end of the parking lot.  The majority of the hike to Glen Camp was on Bear Valley Trail which was primarily a fire road, 3.1 miles to be exact.  There were a multitude of horse riders on this portion of trail which led to both excitement and fear from my children and the fact that we had to dodge horse poop piles.  There were lots of runners as well, which my daughter liked to greet with a cute "Hi!" or "Looking mommy! Running!"

We stopped at every bridge so the kids could throw little pebbles.  We saw a multitude of "centipedes" crossing the trails but after a little bit of research the centipedes which actually almond-scented millipedes. Not as abundant as the millipedes, there were also many banana slugs out on the trail.  Here is one "destroying" a centipede or at least it looks like the banana slug is eating the millipede.  Nature is so fierce...

It was 1.6 miles to Divide Meadow, and it was a  very slight uphill to the Meadow.  My daughter was very energetic so she was hiking but my son hadn't nap on the car ride over, so it was time for him to ride on "daddy's shoulders".  +Jesse Avery and David made it to Divide Meadow before we did, but I could see from afar that my little boy was dead asleep on my husband shoulders.  Divide Meadow is a very beautiful meadow, very open with large trees in the background along with the coming and going fog.  There are tree benches, bathrooms, garbage cans and water source at this location.

We decided to have a little break here and rearrange our son or else Jesse's neck would be killing him later on.  My son weighs at least 35 lbs so Jesse put David in the ERGO carrier on his front-side and his 56 lbs backpack on his back, total weight of 91 lbs!!  My husband is a strong guy.

Sleeping on the trail....
Divide Meadow

Sophia took a little tumble at Divide Meadow, she's a much better hiker/walker than she was two months ago but the trail was slightly down hill and she was imitating the runners by running.  She caught some speed tripped on a rock and scraped her palm of her hand.  After a band-aid  hugs and maybe some chocolate the crying had disappeared into my happy hiking mountain baby again.

The landscape all along Bear Valley Trail was very dense, lots of shade except for Divide Meadow.  It was another 1.5 miles to Glen Trail from Divide Meadow which was fairly flat.  Many parts of the trail reminded me on hiking in the high jungles of the Andes Mountains in Peru, cold, mossy with lots of vines and ferns everywhere.

The Letter "R" Tree

Ferns galore!

At some point on Bear Valley Trail, Sophia got tired and had to ride on my shoulders but only for a short while because I was struggling to carry her along with my pack.  I just put her down and walked along at her pace.  The hike to Glen Camp was only five miles but we calculated with all our weight and our kids we would hike 1 mph, so five hours to get to Glen Camp.  It seems unimaginable to hike five miles in five hours but that is how slowly things go with toddlers.

David woke up just a little bit before we reached the beginning of Glen Trail which was only 0.6 miles to Glen Camp Loop Trail but Glen Trail was "steep" uphill.  Anything that wasn't flat felt steep with my 49 lbs backpack and my 25 lb toddler, minimum of 74 lbs on me which is more than 50% of my body weight.  Let's say I was very sweaty! I gave up and had to put Sophia down again but sunset was coming so Jesse picked Sophia for a little while.  Glen Trail was not a fire road but was still wide on portions of the trail and after the good "steep" portion the trail became a very slight uphill trail, so low grade my daughter was able to hike up the hill.

It was around 6:30 p.m. when we finally made it to Glen Loop Camp Trail and we only had 0.9 miles to go but it still seemed like it took a very long time.  Glen Loop Camp Trail was very beautiful, it was a single track trail with lush greenery all around.  We were reaching our children's limit by this point and we ran out of our daily ration of chocolate so we had nothing to bribed them to keep hiking other than dried cranberries!  When my daughter gets cranky she only wants to be held by me, so I left her behind with my husband and hiked as fast as I could to get to camp. There were easy  uphills and downhills but every uphill was very tiring by this point.  We eventually made it to camp with some daylight left.

Troops arriving at Glen Camp!
As you can see Glen Camp has pit toilet, a water source and solar panels which my husband assumed it was used to power the water filtration system.  The Point Reyes NPS website did state to bring our own water filtration in case the water was not drinkable, but thankfully the water was good to go!  We reserved Campsite No. 8 which was just up a slight hill (sigh) to the right.  We quickly set up camp, started making coffee and dinner.  I was going to include our meals into this post but I think I'm going to make a backpacking food post since I put in so much preparation to calculate the right amounts.

View of Campsite No. 8
Campsite No. 8 was probably the smallest campsite and most enclosed of all the campsites.  We barely fit our two two-person tents in our sites.  We were surrounded by bushes and trees which was ideal keep our kids noise in and other campers noises out.  There was only one other campsite being used and the rest of the camp was empty.

View of Glen Camp from Campsite No.8
Dinner was eaten, dishes washed, everyone cleaned up, changed clothes and we all headed to bed around 9:30 p.m.  Sleeping is always a shot in the dark with our kids but thankfully our kids slept better than they "normally" do our first night.  This was my first time using my REI Lite-Core 1.5 Sleeping Pad, which was very comfortable.  Unfortunately I kept on have weird/nightmare-ish dreams the first half of the night so I kept on waking up, but thankfully I eventually fell asleep and got a good stretch of peaceful sleep.


Mileage Listed 4.6 Miles, but we actually hiked 5.2 miles.

Starting Elevation 100 ft, End Elevation 550 ft

Bear Valley Trail - Glen Trail - Glen Camp Loop Trail
Day 2 will be coming soon but until then I leave you with two of my favorite pictures!

Somewhere on Glen Trail

Hiking toddler at Glen Camp
Related Posts:

  1. Family Backpacking Gear List
  2. The Ever Changing Point Reyes National Seashore
  3. The Longest Five Miles at Point Reyes

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Youth Camping & Hiking at Pinnacles National Park

My husband, +Jesse Avery and I are youth leaders at our church, Iglesia Esperanza Viva in Newark, California so we decided to take our youth group (Jr. High and High School students) camping and hiking during their Spring Break to Pinnacles National Park.

Day 1, Thursday, April 4, 2013:
After squeezing all ten youths, four adults and two toddlers into a 1980's school bus and our Ford Escape, we left Newark towards Pinnacles National Park.  We stopped in Hollister for lunch at Neighborhood Pizza and gas, only to find out that the church bus wouldn't start.  It's been a recurring problem, but long story short we got the bus started and headed down to Pinnacles NP where we waited for replacement vehicles.

+Jesse Avery had recently taken Front Country Leadership Training, through the Bay Area Wilderness Training, which trains youth leaders to take youth outdoors.  Jesse directed everyone to setup camp which went pretty smoothly, after my 15 minutes of irritation that my toddlers where swimming in the dirt.  I just need 15 minutes to come to grips that my toddlers would be dirty the entire trip and then I'm alright.

Casa de los Avery's
It had been a long day, so there were no hiking trips or activities planned because it really takes an enormous amount of time to setup camp for 16 people.  The dinner crew started setting up for dinner which was pre-made chicken fajitas from Mi Pueblo in Newark.  I knew no one was going to have time to cut and prepare food, so I thought to get fajitas would be easy enough to just throw in the skillet!

Jesse taught the youth how to make fire, how to adjust their backpacks for the following days hike as well as how setup camp.  In the meantime I was trying to corral my toddlers and setup our mansion tent.  While taking a break, we happened to see Condors flying up above our campsite.  I was ecstatic because I did not see any Condors on our previous family trip to Pinnacles.

As always, everyone was excited to camp and not tired on the first night so all night I could here the youth girls tent yelling at the boys tent and visa versa.  Eventually everyone went to sleep, I think about 3:30 a.m.  It was a zoo all night long, frogs loudly croaked, owls hooted and there were even pigs fighting with what sounded like a raccoon, not to mention the girls laughing.

Day 2, Friday, April 5, 2013:

I tried to sleep in a bit but my daughter, Sophia was awake by 6:30 a.m. so we joined the breakfast crew and let our son, David sleep.  Everyone ate breakfast, packed our lunches and off we went to Bear Gulch Day Use Area so we could start our hike to Bear Gulch Caves and Reservoir.  We selected the Senior year students to be Leaders and Sweepers (End of the line leaders) and started hiking towards the Caves on Bear Gulch Trail.for 1 mile.

During that 1 mile we hiked through the caves which the teenagers and my toddlers thoroughly enjoyed.  Another adult hiker (not in our group), had hit her head on a low lying rock and was obviously in pain.  Everyone checked on her to see if she needed help but seemed more irritated as each passerby asked if she needed help.  Oh well.

The troops piling into the caves.
Everyone in our group emerged safely and we headed through one more set of caves that were "open" (sunlight lighted the way) and then up the stairs to Bear Gulch Reservoir for lunch time.  Originally we decided to hike to the Reservoir and back, but the kids were still enthusiastic about hiking so we decided to hike past the Reservoir towards North Chalone Peak on Chalone Peak Trail.

There were lots of wildflowers such as California Poppies, Indian Warriors, Shooting Stars as well as others that I don't know their names.  I'm a slow hiker because I'm a slow hiker and the fact that I'm usually carrying a backpack and one of my toddlers, so I take the time to take pictures of flowers, landscapes, etc.  The views of the High Peaks were amazing and we could see the trail that we would be hiking the following day but I didn't want to point it out to our youth because some of them were struggling or just not used to hiking.

My daughter fell asleep in my carrier for awhile which is always relaxing and this time I had company other than my husband to talk to.  One of the other youth leaders, Manuel found a baby rattlesnake during the hike up to the ridge.  Halfway up to the ridge a few of the youth were wanting to turn back but eventually everyone decided to continue up to the ridge, good peer pressure!  At the ridge the more adventurous teenagers wanted to continue to the North Chalone Peak which was at 3,304 ft, but after a long break at the ridge we headed back down the mountain.

We took another break at the Reservoir again and headed towards the caves.  I really didn't care for going through the caves again so I (along with Sophia) took the non-cave Moses Spring Trail with two other youths, Jose and Noe while the rest of the group went cave exploring.  We all eventually met back up at the Bear Gulch Day Use Area.

Everyone happily went back to camp, BBQ some Carne Asada, had some good campfire talks and went to bed.  My toddlers were exhausted and I fell asleep with my children.  I think I was partially dehydrated because I had a small headache and couldn't quench my thirst all afternoon, no matter how much water I had.  Just an extra reminder to continually drink water while hiking even if I don't feel thirsty.  Even the teenagers were really tired and everyone went to bed quickly.  It was a much quieter night except for some "ranchero" music playing in the wee hours.


Hiked 5.2 miles in 6:11 hours.  I thought we'd hike faster than when we hike with our toddlers but apparently we hiked slower, I guess 16 hikers take their time as well.  

Elevation Change of about 1,100 feet

Bear Gulch Trail to Chalone Peak Trail (In & Out trail)

More pictures!

View of High Peaks from Chalone Peak Trail
Evidence I can carry my enormous toddler (35 lbs, maybe more)
My daughter really loves dirt, I mean really loves it.....
Flowers, unknown name
Jesse carrying David down to Bear Gulch
Jose (one of the youth's) enjoying the rock formations.
Day 3 of camping was so awesome it needs it own post!

Where Did We Go in 2012?

Two thousand twelve has been great! The only thing I wish that was different as many parents of little ones wish they could have was more sleep!! Praying that in 2013 my prayer is answered.  Here's a recap of what 2012 brought us.

January 2012 - Still trying to get the hang of being parents of two little ones, this was my daughters FIRST hike at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. She was barely three months old.

February 2012 - We headed out to one of the 60 Bay Area Hikes on our list. San Bruno Mountain State Park.  It was a gorgeous day, first time I was able to see the Pacific Ocean and the entire Bay Area.

March 2012 - Oh March, took us to one of God's most beautiful places in the world, Hawaii. I still haven't had a chance to blog about our Hawaii trip.  This is Beach 69 on the Big Island.  I fell in love with snorkeling.

April 2012 - My husband and I are Youth Leaders at our church, and we took our youth group an awesome youth conference called Planet Wisdom.

May 2012 - This year I turned 30 and loving it!!

June 2012 - We led a youth missionary trip to Ensenada, Mexico, where we served our fellow Mexican brothers and sisters.  We camped at at Rancho el Refugio for one week.

July 2012 - We enjoyed camping at Sunset State Beach over the weekend with our church family.

August 2012 - Brought us to Highland Lakes, where we camped and hardly hiked due to being so sick.  We later made up for no hiking at Highland Lakes with a hike at Jack London State Historic Park.

September 2012 - My first half marathon,  San Francisco Giants Half Marathon.  I don't even know my exact statistics but I think I finished in 2 hours and 25 minutes or something like that.  I was just glad to be finished.  It was really awesome.  We also celebrated my little girl's First Birthday!!

October 2012 - Hiking at my favorite hike of this year, Portola Redwoods State Park.  My kids LOVED this hike!

November 2012 - We found a little gem east bay park, Dublin Hills Regional Park.  It was amazing to see how many people loved this picture on Facebook and Instagram.  People thought I went out of the country, haha.

December 2012 - We went on a mini mission trip, where my husband did his Engineering work at Rancho El Refugio and we visited our local pastors.  We also had the joy of celebrating my little boy's 3rd Birthday!!  I also haven't had a chance to blog about our Disneyland adventure.

I always tell my husband that we need to travel more but as I write this posting I notice that we do travel a lot.  I guess we like to travel and have family adventures.  The one thing I can say is that God is very good to us by allowing us to see the world He created and I can't wait to see what He will have in store for us in 2013.  Happy New Year!!

Lower Highland Lakes Statistics

Here is the trail report for Lower Highland Lakes (distance, elevation change, etc).  Sadly what I thought was a two mile hike around the lake was actually a measly one mile hike.  I would say I'm disappointed in myself but I was terribly sick.  Now I feel like I have to go hiking soon so I can make it up to myself.

Lower Highland Lakes, 1.0 miles, Elevation Start: 8,500 ft - End 8,600 ft, Elevation Change 100 ft.

Highland Lakes Camping: Part 2

There were three things I wanted to do on this camping trip: relax, hike on the Pacific Crest Trail and run nine miles at high elevation. I accomplished none of them but I still had a wonderful time in a beautiful place.

As I wrote in my last post I was slightly sick with a cold and it got worse including lots of sinus pressure, body aches, chest and lymph node pain. Not to mention my toddler son also had the same symptoms but a day later than myself, so I didn't know he was really sick until we got to our campsite. Either way, my son and I were feeling pretty sick our first night plus the altitude was affecting us more than my husband and my daughter.

Highland Lakes Campground is a pretty remote campground in the High Sierra of California, off of Highway 4 in Stanislaus National Forrest. As our friend Nate said, "This is where I would come to hide if the Chinese invaded us!". The 4-6 hour (4 hours if you have no kids and don't stop) ride is worth the time for the beauty of this campground. It has many trail heads such as to the Pacific Crest Trail, Highland Lakes Trail, and trails to Folger Peak and others. Sadly, I was too sick to go on any trail and only hiked around lower Highland Lake a measly two-mile hike but it's scenery made up for its shortness in distance.

Camping with small children (babies/toddlers) is different than older children.  Babies and some toddlers still take naps and in this case a camping with a sick toddler, naps were definitely required.  Napping not the only issue at hand but what to do with a crawling baby that wants to crawl in the dirt and a sick 30 lb toddler who wants to be held. Well you do the following:

Thankfully my husband is a strong man to carry our toddler almost the entire camping trip and I have gotten over the fact that dirt does not kill babies.  I also carried my 11 month old daughter in a kid carrier, but she always falls asleep within 15 minutes of being in there.

This was our campsite, number 7 if I remember correctly and our mansion of a tent.  Looks huge but with all our our "camping stuff" it gets a little cramped for two adults and two children.  I really need to reduce the amount of things I take, something I'm working on.  Highland Lakes Campground had non-flushable toilets, but they are not port-o-potties, a water pump, and no showers and a fire pit at every campsite.

The one thing that did throw us for a loop was the weather.  We had rain, thunder, lighting, and hail storms and a few days of sunshine.  Not 30 second hail storm from the Bay Area, but a real hail storm.  Friday night I think I felt a river going under our tent, only small water leakage in our tent.  It never got too hot during the day, but a few nights it was cold.  I was sick so everything felt colder anyways.

Being sick and having a sick child during camping was not fun, but we made the best out of it.  First two nights were really bad sleeping nights for our kids, so I nor my husband slept either.  I think the altitude affected myself and my son the most because we were sick, so much that my son threw up the first night we were there.  I really wanted to go hiking but I just had no energy and my son was not himself either.  So we opted out for hiking around upper and lower Highland Lakes and searching for more firewood. Our friends, Nate and Michael went on their own hikes.  Nate hiked up Folger Peak and Michael hiked a portion on the Highland Lakes Trail.

Camping is fun, what I will remember most about this camping trip to Highland Lakes is the following:

  • Another camper, who owned a painting company, playing his guitar and singing his heart out on a rainy day as I laid in my tent with my sick son and my napping daughter.
  • Jesse, Michael and Nate working most of the camping trip trying to get a fire started or chopping wood down.  Michael blew on the dwindling fire and looked like a fire breathing dragon when the firewood finally caught on fire.
  • How still the lake was in the morning or if the wind died down, very mirror-like.
  • My children.  Sophia was a completely different baby, she was so happy being outdoors.  David, even though he was sick, loved throwing rocks in the lake.
So I leave you with some of my favorite pictures.

In conclusion, Highland Lakes was awesome.  God's creation is magnificent. Hasta la proxima.

Highland Lakes Camping

This weekend we will be going a our first family camping of four to Highland Lakes Campground in Alpine, California.  We've camped in Ensenada, Mexico for a week in June but it was for our annual mission trip, where camping was not our main focus.  We also camped a few weeks ago with our church family at Sunset State Beach in Watsonville, California, which was lots of fun, but food was provided to us and there were scheduled activities.

This will be our first real camping trip in over a year and a half, since we camped at Sequoia National Park, when David was 6 months old.

I've been debating all week whether to go or not because our two children, David (2 years old) and Sophia (11 months old) have been sick with fevers and sore throats.  They are on the mend and much better but of course I have caught the sick bug now.  We have been planning this camping trip for months so I'm just going to drink a bunch of orange juice, coffee and pray that I feel better tomorrow.  I'm just glad the kids are much better, now if my daughter could sleep then everything would be excellent.

This camping trip I hope to do a few things, such as rest, hike on the Pacific Crest Trail and crazy as it seems run 9 miles. I'm training for a half marathon in September and this week's long run is a 9 mile run, which normally wouldn't be a big deal since its only one more mile than last weeks long run but Highland Lakes campground is at 8,600 ft. I have a few days to acclimate to the altitude.

I'm just excited to get out in the mountains for a few days and hoping my cold goes away as soon as possible.