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Summer ComethJune 10, 2013

Lala and I went kayaking last week for her birthday. I'd forgotten how much fun it is, just paddling a boat. (It always makes me think of Ratty in the Wind in the Willows, "there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.") 

 Kayaking! Bday girl in the background.

I've kayaked quite a bit, always in the ride-on-top or recreational sit-in kayaks, never the strap-yourself-in scary kind. And wherever I've ended up has been as much due to luck as it was to paddling skills. It's a natural movement, after all. Give a kid a paddle, and he'll paddle with it. That was me. 

But we took a class, because Lala wanted to. And what do you know? There is SO MUCH to know about kayaking! I learned what my body was supposed to do (if you're doing it "right," you're using your feet and your core as much as your arms). I learned how to turn in place (turning of any sort had always been a mystery to me) and how to paddle backwards.

 Action shot of @smartyboots

The class took us through the estuary at Jack London to Alameda, where we boated around the marinas, and then wound up at the Grand Street marina for lunch, and then we paddled back. 

It made me think about the summer fast approaching. I realized that not only is it almost here, it's almost too late to start planning. Gah. I went through our calendar and we really only have one free weekend available for a camping trip, and when I went online to reserve something, it was all booked. Of course it is. I've been saying for months I should get on it, but didn't. 

So are there places you can go camp that aren't campgrounds? That's a weird question. But you know what I mean. Anyone used AirB&B? (I just looked at their site and couldn't find camping-friendly things, just rooms in houses. Maybe I'm using it wrong.) 

What other ideas do you have for summer close-to-home? I'm thinking a campout in the backyard might actually be fun. Campgrounds have quiet hours, and they make you stop playing music by 10pm. Our backyard? We have cool neighbors on one side and none at all on the other, so we could play all night! 

I'd love to hear what you do in the summer for unconventional fun. (Or any kind of fun, really.) 


You should start an AirB&B for back yards! Look, they are already doing it in the UK:


Start with a group of friends with similar urges, who have yards but want to venture further than their own backyard. Swap. Expand. I think that's an awesome idea.

Usually you can camp in some of the national or state parks. The websites will say if they have any public camping.

That said, growing up we would go cross-country a lot and when doing that our version of camping was sleeping in a car under a street light usually in a parking lot. I don't even know if that is legal anymore.

A friend and I did the Camp the West Coast in a VW bus...we drove at night and slept during the day in all the spots that said no OVERNIGHT camping.(Which are always the prettiest places). It's not uncommon to see campers during the day napping or fixing a meal so we were never bothered.
We reversed it on the way back so we could see the scenery.

Surprise a friend and park in their driveway! Really-camper breakfasts are the best-they won't have to cook! ;)

The backyard would be great - no traffic jams, food inside, facilities inside and if it rains - inside! Would still be a lot of fun. No reservations needed and wouldn't cost much! LOL I have canoed and it was a lot of fun (years ago) but never kayaked - would love to someday. Looks like you both had a lot of fun. Hope all is well. Take care.

One of my coworkers keeps reminding me of Pantoll on Mt Tam - no reservations so take Friday off to get there early, but it's walk-in so not so good with the camper.

Don't camp at Woodward Reservoir. That's where my husband and all his friends go. With all their generators and speakers. He proudly tells me he can hear their music across the lake... The more crowded, the better he likes it. (Can you guess I've never been?) On the plus side - no reservations!

There's always the parking lot at any WalMart. HeeHee. My kids have done a lot of backyard camping. (After a couple of summers that our family spent camping up and back on the Alaska Highway, they felt that an indoor sleep-over with friends was a little too tame!) Invite a few like-minded friends to share the backyard and it'll be like having your own little campground. Singing and s'mores around the firepit, roasting hotdogs (tofu dogs?) or chicken/ veggie kabobs on sticks, drifting off to sleep with deep woods off gently perfuming the tent (and frustrated mosquitoes buzzing outside). What's not to love?

If you go soon or REALLY like the heat the deserts are awesome for camping and not crowded. Love the deserts for visiting but I wouldn't want to live there. It's off season but it's still very beautiful. I don't do it but my two kids go out there all the time and just set up camp. We're in the mountains but the desert's just a short drive away.


Well after the catastrophe of food poisoning in Lerici I am reluctant to advise BUT i have heard tell that one can canoe down the russian river. I think its a day trip. I looked into it a long time ago but was going with my (at the time) 7 year old daughter and didnt have that much confidence in our boating skills. My recollection was that you rented the boat and just paddled down the river for as long as you liked, picnicking and swimming along the way. Sounded sort of dreamy to me.

Pat and I used to go to Grouse Ridge every summer when we lived in CA.


Absolutely beautiful, and lots of hiking in the surrounding area. We tried to get there each year for the Perseid meteor showers. Cheap and not crowded. Bring your own water.

I know what you mean about summer. My own is consumed with teaching, taking my last class at GA state, and a job search. That said, my weekends are unbooked, for the most part.

I don't have your location in my internal mapping system (it HAS been 28 years since I have lived on the West Coast)but are you near a waterpark? I know, I know, they are for kids, but they can be a BLAST for adults! Go, get wet, scream, run around shooting water cannons at each other, then go home and camp in the backyard.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land is where we used to camp on long trips up the west coast. No electricity, so that won't suit urban-style campers. If it's not too far, drive to a place that's full and see if there was a cancellation. Get there early in the morning and sometimes people are leaving before their res is over. The caretakers and rangers (not seasonal employees) can point you to local spots, too. If you can call the place directly, you could ask. Or Maybe you can drive a little further than you've ever been. Think of it as extra knitting time. I so miss the West. Stuck here in Ohio, there is no possibility for spur of the moment camping trip. Have fun, no matter where you end up.

I'm sorry I don't have any good suggestions for camping out your neck of the woods (or backyard). But good on you for taking a paddling class! I'm hoping to find something like that around here.
My husband and his friends are hard core white water canoe-ists (definitely canoes, not kayaks, but with flotation made for white water). They go on multi day camping trips (sometimes up to Canada) with rapids up to III with the occasional IV.
I'd like to be able to join in for the slow float day trips. But there's no way I'm having him try to teach me... I'd like to stay married!

Take a quick spin out to the Russian River and canoe, and swim and squirt gun the river rats along the way! Go camping. Picnic and drive back through 116. Pick up some pie, some Sonoma Pinot Noir, a hitchhiker (kidding) and stop by a yarn shop in Sebastapol. Dunno. But your post was fun, and now I must go make summer day trip plans with my sister. Oh and I loved the travel packing post! Will come in handy for our family summer getaway!

Hahaha, we've started going kayaking as well recently! Jinx! We also went fishing too... Did you??

There's a yarn shop in Sebastapol?

Oh, Sweetie! In southern Utah, you can pull off the road anywhere in a National Monument or National Forest. Should be the same even in Cali and Oregon. There are no fees though there may be fire-building restrictions or rules and in some places you need to bring your own firewood or purchase some.
I realize I'm about 11 hours away from you but you are totally welcome to my yard or as a stopping point on your way to the wilderness here which is approx. a 5 min. drive in any direction from my house. really. I'm in the middle of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the Dixie National Forest at the foot of Boulder Mountain. Which is aspen and pine forest riddled with lakes and streams containing ginormous trout. (waving to fish-fear-me-Lala. just sayin'...Have fun wherever you go.

There's a nice campground in Napa. I think it is a state camp and it is behind the state hospital. We went camping with Girl Scouts there in April. Very nice place and flush toilets. Salt point state park is also a great place to camp. It's about 2 hours from Oakland up the coast and west of Santa Rosa.

Try the national forest on Hwy 108 through Sonora. Up high you can just camp by the road in a lot of places and there are a lot of campgrounds in the Stanislaus Nation Forest. Pinecrest Lake is a nice place, as is Kennedy Meadows. Just past Kennedy Meadows is a 27% grade that is a beautiful area. The best camping is between there and Leavett Meadow and the Marine winter training camp on the other side of the mountain. You have to be careful around there, though, the woods may be full of Marines when you think you are alone.

You could come camp in my backyard! I'll let you snorgle all the lambies, and you can milk the goat and learn to make cheese, and we could build a bonfire...

It's been over a week since your post.
Tell me you wore life jackets and didn't feed the bears.

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