Tuesday, July 12, 2005


On the July 4th weekend, I went camping with a couple of friends. It was the first time I had gone camping. As usual we were scrambling to make reservations at the last moment and no park had any space left. Fortunately, after spending a whole day at work doing nothing but looking for a camping ground, I found a park that had a open spot, only because it was flooded earlier and was not taking reservations till 2 weeks ago. The camping ground was in Clear Lake State Park, whic is about 2 and a half hours north of San Francisco.

We had planned to leave around 10 am on Saturday, but didn't leave till 1 pm. We got stuck in traffic and only arrived at the camp around 5 pm. We chose a camp area and quickly started setting up our camps. We had no clue how to set up the camps, no one had ever done it. However it took us (4 engineers) all of 15 mins to figure out and set up the 2 camps. I wanted to check out the lake right away (I love water, my mom calls me a water baby), but the guys wanted to drink beer first. As soon as they finished their beer, I dragged everyone to the lake. It was really pretty and the water was warm. I had to jump in the water and soon everyone followed. We swam in the lake; it is so much more fun that swimming in a pool. It is a bit scary though since you can never tell how deep it is and what is lurking in the water.

We had to head back in an hour because we needed to figure out the food situation before it got dark. We quickly bathed at the paid showers (2 quarters for 4 mins). By the time we got back to camp it was dark and we were all famished. It was hard figuring out how to light the stove, the wind kept blowing it out. Finally we managed to heat up some food and ate. The food tasted really good, something to do with the fact that we were eating in open air. After cleaning up - the one part I hate - we all snuggled in a camp and played cards till midnight. The weather was quite warm so we took off the top part of the camp and fell asleep staring at the stars. I slept very well and didn't wake up till 10 am, which is very late by camping standards, and I was the first one to get up. The camp was surrounded by lizards and mosquitoes. I lay around, observing them for some time then woke every one up. One friend wanted to go hiking, but the rest of us were too lazy. We started cooking eggs for breakfast, while making sandwiches to take with us to the lake. We finally left the camp by 2 pm and drove to another beach. Two other friends joined us at the beach and we all went jet skiing. It was a lot of fun; I almost fell off twice because the antics I was trying. Jet skiing is very bad for the environment and I promised myself I won't do it again. I even saw a dead turtle, which I suspect was killed by a jet ski.

After jet skiing, we went back to the beach near our camp and went swimming with the two other friends who joined us on Sunday. After swimming and showering, we got back to the camp, hoping to cook during daylight since we had ambitious plans for dinner. We had planned to eat soup, bread sticks and pasta. Surprisingly, the pasta turned out really good. We immediately went to bed (sleeping bags) after eating. I didn't sleep well that night, the sleeping bag kept shifting and I missed having a pillow. I was cramping in the morning.

We had to check-out by noon on Monday so we quickly cooked rice for breakfast, cleaned, packed up and headed back. We decided to do some sight-seeing on the way back. I had heard from a friend that Russian River is on the way back. We took the River Road exit on 101. We went a couple of miles on the one-lane road and took a right at a side street. The river was absolutely beautiful; the water was clear and warm and there were mountains on one side. Again I was compelled to jump into the river. This was the first time I had swam in a river. I tried swimming against the current; it was all I could do to prevent myself for going downstream, let alone swim up. Well I'm no salmon. We finally reached San Francisco around 7 pm. We ate dinner and on our way home saw the July 4th fire works (a complete waste of tax dollars in my opinion).

It was an good experience. I enjoyed the camping and spending 3 days in water made it a successful trip for me. All facilities were available - clean restrooms, paid showers etc. A very relaxing and cheap vacation.

Here is the list of things we took with us -

1. Tents with Tarps
2. Sleeping bags and insulation Mat
3. Lamps, candles, matches/lighter.
4. Torch/HeadLamp
5. Propane Stove with 2 burners with fuel
6. Cooking Utensils - 2 flat pans (for eggs, toast, heating parathas), 1 pan for making tea/soup, 1 pan for making food like rice pilav, pasta etc. Something with lids, or something to cover these, as stove isn't very powerful and you need to utilize heat. a cutting board, 2 knifes, 2 serving spoons, 1 spatula.
7. Eating Utensils - 6 Mugs/Glasses for tea/soup. 3-4 plates for food, 3-4 bowls for cereal, any liquid stuff, 6 forks, few spoons.
8. Water cooler - need it to keep ice and some perishable items like milk, veggie, butter, cheese etc.
9. Beer/Wine opener
10. Soap/scrub to wash utensils
11. Garbage bags
12. Paper towels
13. Hand soap, liquid shower gel, shampoo, toilet papers.
14. Sun screen, mosquito repellent.
15. Water bottles
16. Knifes/scissors -It's always recommended to carry a Swiss knife
17. Slippers / Sport shoes / Swimwear / Sunglasses / Shorts
18. Backpack
19. Playing cards, poker chips, taboo, any other games

Saturday Lunch - ate on the way
Saturday Dinner - Tomato Soup, Tasty Bites (2-3 types), parathas.
Sunday Breakfast - Omelette, tea, fruits
Sunday Lunch - Sandwiches (cucumber/tomatoe sandwiches)
Sunday Dinner - Pasta, cheese & crackers, bread sticks
Monday Breakfast - Pilav

1. Fruits
2. Milk
3. Cheese
4. Bread
5. Eggs
6. Tea ( Prefer Tea bags)
7. Sugar, salt, pepper (black and red)
8. Ketchup
9. Pickle (Achaar is must to make food tasty)
10. Cereal
11. Onion/Tomatoes/Cucumber
12. Cooking oil
13. Rice, peas, Cumin seeds, turmeric powder
14. Tasty Bite packets
15. Tomato Soup packet
16. Parathas
17. Pasta
18. Chips/cookies

1. Wine (2-3 bottles of red wine)
2. Beer
3. Coke/Sprite
5. Water
6. Ice (only for journey, rest park store can provide)

One thing we didn't take that we wished we had was folding chairs. Of course this was the kind of camping where we took a lot of stuff with us because we drove to the camp. I'm sure you can't take this much stuff if you're hiking to the camp. We were all camping novices and this kind of family camping fit the bill for us.

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