Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Farewell to Prairie Creek

This was the longest camping trip our little family has ever taken. And for the first time, it really felt long enough. Unlike Lassen, there aren't loads of different things to do up in the Redwoods. There's pretty much hiking and...uh...hiking, sleeping, eating. Not that that isn't wonderful. We spent a lot of time driving around Lassen. We spent very little time driving this year. And that was great.

Friday, we drove back to Trillium Falls with the tripod and I took the pictures in the previous post. Then, we made good on our promise to Mam and drove out to the beach. The road along the coast is dirt and full of potholes. I couldn't quite imagine driving all the way to Fern Canyon. We stopped at Gold Bluffs Beach...about 4 miles short of the Fern Canyon parking lot...and I'd had quite enough of the road by then.We were some of the only people on the beach who weren't surf fishing. The fishermen (and women) seemed to be pretty successful. Mam collected bits of dead crabs from the beach, while Daddy and I sat and chatted. Fortunately, the sand is dark out there. It wasn't a super warm day, but we were warm enough sitting out there on our blankets, eating the lunch I'd packed before leaving.Mam was a lot happier to be at the beach than Smunch was. Already starved for information about his San Francisco Giants, Smunch got in a little baseball on the sand instead.As far as hiking went, it was a light morning, so after we left the beach and returned to the campground, we headed back out for one last set of trails before packing up to head home. This time, we chose the Rhododendron Trail. It sounded nice and it didn't disappoint.This hike was on the steep side compared to many of the others we'd taken. We chose to go down the "strenuous" South Fork trail rather than hiking up it. That was a good thing too. By the time we got to the top point on the Rhododendron trail, the kids were pooped.But the steep trail meant we were down and back to the van in no time.

Still no elk in the meadow near camp. So after dinner, I opted to go for a little drive, back to the spot where we'd seen elk a couple of days earlier, to see if I could find some bucks worthy of photographing. Nada. None on the drive there, none in the meadow there either. None on the way back...at least not until I exited the freeway on the way back to the park.

It looked like a couple of cars had crashed into each other at the bottom of the off ramp, but that wasn't the case. They'd just stopped quickly to take in the sights.There were five of these guys, grazing in the grass at the side of the ramp and later blocking the entire thing to traffic.

I took the kids back to see the elk when I got back, but the bucks were gone. Fortunately, there were a few out in Elk Meadow, so they still got to see some.

As soon as we got back to the campsite, Daddy and I set to packing everything we could, with our sights set on an early getaway the next morning. We hoped to stop near Eureka for breakfast at the Samoa Cookhouse, which had come highly recommended.

Everything worked out perfectly. We packed up the food and the tents and headed off.An hour to a yummy breakfast of French toast and eggs and then home.

Oh, how badly this trip was needed. And, as usual, as soon as we got home, I was back to leafing through the camping book, wondering where we might be able to go in August!

Elk and Trillium Falls

Day 2 of our camping trip brought some elk, but not in Elk Meadow. We drove down the highway to see these ladies. And really, we were headed for the trailhead to Trillium Falls. The elk were just a bonus. Humboldt County is not Yosemite by any stretch. There aren't a lot of magnificent waterfalls, but this one is pretty darned lovely.It was just a short hike to the waterfall, but we spent a bit of time there while I took pictures. I didn't bring a tripod, so we returned the next day to take these shots.There was a nice loop to follow, which included some gigantic skunk cabbage.It also included a lot of ferns, moss and redwoods.We opted to go back to the campsite for lunch and the kids played in the creek for a while, wading around in their water shoes and throwing rocks, naturally.I took a short nap while Daddy went to play catch with the kidlets. Then we headed back out for another hike through the "Cathedral Trees" and the "Big Tree".There was still whining going on, but Daddy managed it with the kind of grace I only wish I had. Not only did he manage to distract the kids from whining, but he also engaged their little minds with brain-teaser-type puzzles that they not only enjoyed, but they begged for more. My little overwhelmed brain just doesn't quite have the bandwidth for this kind of child stimulation, apparently!

Another great day of hiking and camping. One day left before making the long trek home....(Mam was insanely proud of herself for carrying the evening's supply of firewood all the way back to the campsite!)

Outta Here

I was impatient about booking a camping trip this year. In the end, that meant our reservations were for the week right after the end of school. We were supposed to leave Monday, right after the weekend baseball tournament. Fortunately, sorta, I got a phone call a couple of weeks earlier, informing me that our campsite at Sequoia National Park was still under SNOW.

The message indicated that they should be able to relocate us to a different campground, but in reality, they'd displaced about 1,000 campers and the chances were slim. So...I whipped out my trusty camping book and found a completely different campground in a completely different direction, which was available for the same number of nights, although not until Tuesday. Fine. Another day to pack and get our butts out the door.

We didn't leave particularly early on Tuesday, so we didn't arrive at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park until about 5:30 that evening. There was a large, rather magnificent herd of elk near the entrance. Awesome, I thought, we'd get to see plenty of them in the next few days. We'd have to, right? We were camping at Elk Meadow campground after all. But, yeah. Not so much!At least the foxgloves were pretty.

Daddy and the kids quickly got the campsite set up while I fixed spaghetti, garlic bread and green beans for dinner. S'mores for dessert (of course) and then a bedtime. Mam awoke the next morning, excited about our first campsite visitor:She kept track of this guy all the way through breakfast. Of course, he was far from the only banana slug we saw.

For our first day at the park, we decided to visit Fern Canyon. You can drive down the highway and up the unpaved road along the coast to get there, but we opted (out of sheer foolishness, probably) to hike there from the campground. It was a lovely hike through the redwoods, but it was also about 12 miles round trip...with two small children.Not surprisingly, there was a lot of whining, particularly from Mam. Daddy insisted she try some beef jerky, since she'd done a poor job of eating breakfast. That didn't go over well.

About five miles into our hike, we finally reached the signpost for Fern Canyon and stairs down toward the creek.Of course, we got to the bottom of the stairs and there was no sign of a trail. Fortunately, there was a ranger. Daddy had asked back at the visitors center if we'd need to walk through water. They said, no, just maybe some mud. They were wrong.

The trail criss-crossed the creek several times, requiring Daddy and me to take off our shoes and wade through the water. It would've been a whole lot easier if we'd brought our water shoes. Daddy carried the kids across the creek more than once too.

We barely saw anyone on our hike, but Fern Canyon was pretty busy. Obviously, most people opt to drive there and take the short walk to the canyon rather than hiking overland.It was certainly worth the trip. Even the kids seemed happy to be there and appreciated the steep walls covered in ferns. At that point, we were out by the coast and we took a short walk to the parking lot, primarily to use the restrooms, before heading back. Mam was adamant that she wanted to walk out to the beach, but it was windy and chilly. We promised to go another day.The hike back still involved quite a bit of whining and Mam eventually ended up on Daddy's shoulders. But we all made it and I think I was the only one with a blister. So much for my nice comfy hiking boots! At least Smunch was pretty happy and cooperative all day.It was another relatively late arrival at our campsite, so it was straight to making a campfire and dinner yet again. The kids were grateful for the break.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Baseball's End

Does that title make you laugh? It makes me smirk just a little because we all know that baseball is NEVER over in the Ryder household. There's a whole summer of San Francisco Giants, after all!

We were "fortunate" this year that Smunch didn't make the traveling all-star team for his league. Sure, that would have been flattering, but he was getting so little playing time on the club team...and he got that same kind of time on the travel team last summer...that I wasn't keen on letting all our summer plans slide just for more baseball.

Instead, Smunch was chosen for the "In-House All Stars" team. The team was a mixture of Phillies and Marlins players, with one player from the Cubs and they played a single weekend tournament with two games on Saturday and two on Sunday.In a lot of ways, it was a fairly dismal affair for the team dubbed The Chillens". The games were long and although they were somewhat close in score, the Chillens lost every single one of them.

On the upside, Smunch played pretty well. He pitched well enough to get the attention of the coach...the head coach of the Marlins who had also coached the Mavericks.Smunch never pitched for the Mavericks, so the coach hadn't seen that much of him. He struck out a bunch and got some good coaching on how to pitch just a little better. He also got a few hits and I believe he even scored once.

It was a mind-numbing weekend, with Daddy largely unavailable due to scorekeeping duties and me roped into providing snack just because no one else volunteered to bring anything when the kids had back-to-back games right at lunchtime. Watermelon, yogurt, cheese sticks...and hot dogs provided by another family. It was pretty successful as snacks go.

And know what? The coach asked Smunch if he was planning to play Fall Ball (he already was) and said he was getting together a team and he'd like to have Smunch on it. Awesome. I have a feeling summer is going to feel mighty short before baseball season begins again!

Another Last

The end of the school year seemed to come up in such a rush, that I barely figured out what I needed to do before it was all over. I was responsible for organizing a portion of each of the end-of-year picnics - 1st grade and 3rd grade. And I got tasked with collecting donations for a gift for Smunch's teacher...not my favorite activity since I went crazy on that stuff when Smunch was in 1st grade.

So, in the end, I just took photos of the kids with their teachers. I'll certainly miss them all. I couldn't have been happier when I learned that we'd have these teachers this year. It seems like just moments ago that I was delivering their school supplies and introducing myself. This year flew by in something even faster than a blur.

Here's Smunch and his teacher, Mrs. Panec. Despite my freaking out over Smunch's oral presentation, I have to say that she is possibly one of the warmest, most wonderful teachers I've ever met. If you'd asked me at the beginning of the year, I would have said that warm and wonderful were not the qualities I really looked for in a teacher for my son. Structured and strict were more like it. I didn't know how this year would go. But you know what? It was his best year yet.

Mam had two teachers this year. They split the week with the class and they've been teaching as a team for years now. They complement each other very well and I hadn't dared hope she'd be chosen for their class. It was just what I wanted.Unfortunately for the teachers, they didn't get the easiest class ever. They were chatty, they were loud, there were several fairly disruptive children. Mam wasn't one of them. She did fine and she had a fine time. She liked everyone. Everyone seemed to like her. She had at least one "boyfriend" at any given time during the year.Her teachers seemed to manage the class with just about as much grace as any teachers could possibly muster. And as much as I know that class drove them crazy, there were still tears on the last day. I'll miss them as well.

I only hope we're so lucky next year!