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Friday, June 24, 2011

More Fun with Family Camping-Cuyamaca State Park Day 1

Tuesday came and it was Juniors last day of school. Being one for tradition I guess that meant we had to go camping again. Last year it was Zion and Bryce which can be found here-


This year we had a few options but after reading some reviews on Yelp and other sources decided on the semi local friendly confines of Cuyamaca SP in San Diego County outside of Julien California.

Reading about the sites there are 2 actual campgrounds and neither one of them are actually by Lake Cuyamaca. The lake itself is about a 15-20 minute drive I'd estimate. There is a stream though that runs to the side of the Green Valley sites that was not available at the Paso Picacho camp sites. I generally find that barring someplace that is absolutely amazing in view and scope such as Joshua Tree for instance, that its much better to have water-any type of water available then no water. And our experience years ago at Lake Casitas notwithstanding, we opted for the Green Valley site.

Arriving roughly 2 hours later we were greeted by no one. The front office one normally checks in at was closed and there were no trail maps or any other type of printed material that gives any type of information about the park itself. Apart from our friends who came with us in the 2nd vehicle and had no money to pay the 2nd vehicle fee driven for our close longtime family friend Thuc Le-it was relatively smooth sailing.

We found our site and pulled uphill to set up camp and unload the kids. The site had a nice view but the slight slope and curvature of the terrain meant strategical placements of tents and even then once setup the tent was not going to be level and Ive slept with a sloped angle in the past so we rolled with it. Hammering the stakes in the ground and unloading the van it dawned on me that it was probably 85-90 degrees and one of the ultimate laws of camping is with heat, sweat, and work comes hoard of bugs. This camping truism rang true. It always rings true.

The second truism of camping is you always forget something....and in this case it was the citronella candles that help to keep the bugs away. So I am helping set up our tent as well as our friends tent and their kids tents with a bit of sweat and a lot of small annoying bugs. All part of the fun I reckon.

Researching the site a bit more there were Mountain Lion and Rattlesnake Warnings galore. Being we had 5 kids in our party ranging from ages 4 to 10 we sat them on the table and gave them a talk that this wasn't Boomers Miniature Golf Course and that camping here brings some risks. As we spoke a Stellers Jay  landed on rockey outcrop next to us with its bright blue feathers on the body and its black feathered head. The kids looked over and smiled. I tried to take a picture but this bird found it amusing to pose just long enough for me to aim the camera but fly away right as I snapped a picture. I am pretty sure it was taunting me. Within a few minutes we also greeted by lizards and squirrels which I was happy with...gave the kids something to do while we finished setting up camp.

This Bird was unmerciless in its taunting of me


Soon nature called and I led the kids up the hill to the restrooms through a trail that led directly to one of the adjoining campsites. Climbing the same rocky outcrop we saw the lizards and squirrels, we started talking about the possibility of the area was being covered with snakes, so we walked slowly and deliberately. As we got to the top and saw the neighbors site the kids got a lesson in the importance of throwing the trash in bags and disposing it in proper trash bins as the adjoining camp site was littered with trash courtesy of an army of crows that had hit the trash jackpot. The neighbors were nowhere to be found and I could only imagine what they must have thought getting back to their sites after a long hike to see trash scattered about and a thank you card from the crows on the table.

We made it back to camp and took the kids on their first official hike of the camping trip as we left to explore the mountain stream that ran adjacent.

I was leading the way down the path to the stream when there on the rock ahead was some type of snake. I am by no means a snake expert but stopped the kids and let the take a look. Tomoko looked and recognized them as Garter snakes as we have seen them in our own yard in Lake Forest. I later learned that there is another similar snake known as a Racer that is common as well. We recorded the snakes on the DVR with the one on the rock in plain view; I used my hockey stick that I had made into a walking stick to scoot the snake along into the brush. With all of the snake warnings in the area and having been at the site for less then 2 hours at this point I was assuming the area literally must have been crawling with snakes but truth be told we didn't see any the rest of the trip and quite frankly I wasn't at all unhappy with that outcome.

We kept walking down the trail and soon we heard voices along with the sounds of rushing water nearing.
A few steps later we were at a beautiful stream and a 6ft waterfall of clear, cool, water rushing down the hillside. We found a shallow area and waded in....as with all mountain flowing streams the water was icy cold but felt good in the dry heat. The kids were enjoying themselves as well splashing about.

Meandering a bit down the stream there were some nice gentle streams and some rocky falls that made for a wonderful afternoon. The flowing water that crossed the rocks made a moss growth that created a very slippery surface for walking or grip of any type. Things got interesting as well when one of the girls with us slipped and began making her way down the stream towards some waterfalls. Since we were only there for a bit and unfamiliar with the area we didnt know If the drop was 1 foot or 20 and being she was a friend of Thuc's daughter and not related to any of us anyhow- seeing her make her way down the falls and the element of the unknown meant me running out to the stream and jumping into the water to grab her...that's when the slippery moss coated rocks introduced themselves and meant that I was holding her while at the same time slipping down the same set of falls at which point Thuc jumped out and the slippery moss introduced itself to him. A woman sitting on the rock and said nothing while watching the whole even unfold. Later when we got the girl back in the shallows we saw that there were several large rocks that acted as a safety net from the drop and some others kids down the falls a bit playing and splashing in the water not 10 or 15 yards away ....and the local lady on the rock probably found it quite amusing watching the tourists scamper around the rocks in dramatic rescue 911 mode as we sheepishly realized our folly.

Exploring the stream before the big rescue


Once the excitement subsided I went off on a solo quest to explore some more of the rocks and stream and waterfalls. Climbing over boulders, logs, and trying to stick to the trail I heard what sounded like Niagara falls in a secluded portion of the stream, after climbing a large boulder for a better look I realized I had interrupted a couples romantic interlude. I hadn't even seen them below in the shadows and I am sure they saw and heard me first whistling and going about my happy camping way complete ignorant of the situation. Once I was down and realized the interruption-it was basically too late as I was already almost all the way down to the base of the falls. Good times. Later found out they were from Oceanside and it was their first trip to Cuyamaca as well. I was sad I didn't have my camera so I could have taken their picture and posted it here. "Pardon me, would you mind if I take your picture for my blog where I can go into great detail of my interrupting of your romantic interlude?"

One of the wonderful falls


Back to the site we went with the rest of the night featuring....

The box wine the wife brought had absorbed the ice water like a sponge which meant the cooler was filled with a large blob of wine bag and bits of cardboard floating about.

Cooking fajitas over the campfire with my cast iron skillet that I was fortunate enough to bring. The Cast Iron skillet will now be a permanent staple for our camping supplies simply for use as a stove top.
We placed the iron skillet over the fire and pan inside the skillet. If you wonder why-cookware on an open fire results in a black coating of soot that will forever permeate the bottom of the pan as well as sticking to your fingers and clothing. Nothing a wife loves more the using the cookware over the campfire. 

Finding a huge chunk of firewood we through in the fire pit to which Thuc's son Daryn started affectionately referring to as “Big Mama.”

Realizing that Smores was the worst camp food- who came up with the idea that a sticky flaming marshmallow between two crumbling graham crackers and dark staining chocolate bars was the best choice to give kids before bed?

Pt 2 Can be found here....

Cuyamaca Day 2

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