Memorial Day Weekend

Family Car Camp Out

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Lilac Oaks is a private campground located in Valley Center, a rural community in northern San Diego County.  When you come over a rise on its driveway, you realize the rise was an earthen dam when you are greeted by the largest of three ponds on the property.  The driveway and pond are at the west end of the campground that stretches back into the hills to the east.

From the east end of the campground, looking west down the canyon that keeps Lilac Oaks.  This is the third of the three ponds; our camp site (the group camp site at Lilac Oaks) started at the base of the dam and ran a hundred yards west.  You can just make out some bodies or chairs around the fire ring in that shady spot over the left end of the dam.

This was another campground where being large enough to grab the Group camp site was much better than everyone getting individual sites in the main area.  The group site was at the far end of Lilac Oaks, and made for much more spacious camping than had each family been in a numbered site.

The Sherwoods were one of the last families to arrive, pulling in Saturday morning when many others had arrived Friday and had already spent one night. Still, remarkably, there was an excellent tent site left: flat, separate, surrounded on three sides by a moat (really the stream bed cut). What made it suitable for us probably made it unsuitable for everyone else, since we had the oldest children, both able to leap deep stream canyons in a single bound.

This picture through the screen mesh roof of the tent doesn't do justice at all to the feeling I was trying to capture of camping under the canopy of oaks.  Instead it provides a segue into another one of Keith's camping philosophies (oh no! not again!): camp with the rain fly off and enjoy the sights with no roof over your head.
Betting on no precipitation in San Diego is almost always a sure bet, but not on this night, as I awoke in the pre-pre-dawn hours to discover big, slow rain drops splattering through our naked tent top. Night time hijinks ensued as I ran around the tent wearing only my boxers and headlamp, swearing quietly and attempting to temporarily snag the rain fly over the top of the tent until morning.

As I point out every Bigelow camp page, Brad  is the oldest of the 20+ kids that show up ever year.  So he is the straw that stirs the drink  He generally organizes all the boys in to games or whatever strikes his fancy.  However, even Brad cannot compete with the call of fishing to some of the boys.  As we arrived late, many of the boys were already fishing by the time we pulled in.  Here Brad bides his time, waiting for boredom to set in with the fishermen so that he can propose something else to do, something else that he can control the rules to.

Field of Dreams, or Field of Last Resort?  After watching all the fishing he could stand, Brad rallied what kids he could to the traditional whiffle ball game. A  large grassy field was not to be had, so he settled for a cleared off dirt patch above camp that some child had stumbled upon while exploring.

After one too many innings (or perhaps one too many directives from older brothers) Doug and Riley abandoned the whiffle ball game for the joys of boulder scrambling.

After weighing the benefits vs risks of leaving the boys on their own testing their mettle against the rocks, Keith opted for safety over confidence building, and made the boys an offer they couldn't refuse: come down off the rocks and join him in the camp arcade.  Keith then opted for a confidence building exercise of a different sort and taught Doug and Riley how to play pool.

After too many consecutive captions starting with "after," this caption should begin differently.

As evening approached, the fire circle formed.  This is a good image for car camping in California.

This campground was really a class operation. That night there was a 50's sock hop with a live 3 piece band, free root beer floats, and those tiny 7 oz. Coke bottles.  An equally fun environment for kids, youth, and adults, even if only the adults recognized the songs and the poodle skirts.

Kristi and the big bad WUF, or World's Ugliest Fleece.  Keith gets a lot of his clothing from work.  He's not all that particular, and Intuit has provided some pretty cool hats and jackets and shirts through the years.  This fleece jacket, however, missed the mark in every category: color, style, texture, and logo.  So much so that it was relegated straight to the "camping attire" box without going through the usual three year cycle of closet-daily wear in public, drawer-daily wear around the house, drawer-work around the house grubbies, then finally camping box.  The WUF is now in the only clothing circle of Hell lower than the camping box: the trunk of my car, to be worn in case of a flat tire on a muddy shoulder.

Had we known such a good picture was to be taken of us, we would have attempted to wear outfits that didn't clash so badly.

Compliments and condemnations may be forwarded to, preceded by 'Keith@'.

Text and pictures copyright 2005 by Keith Sherwood.  All rights, writes, and rites reserved.