Just a delightful spot, is Caswell State Park
. Plunked right down in the majestic (okay, probably more majestic a number of years ago, now prodigiously overdeveloped and agriculturally productive) Central Valley, it's a reserve around the Stanislaus river, and a rare mature riparian oak ecosystem.
We actually didn't explore much of it, because our circuit ran from our campsite to the bathroom to our campsite to the river, repeat over and over.
But there were more memorable moments than you'd expect from a two-night stay.
My sister, shaking her head and whining, "Why are there bugs
flying up my nose
Daily battles over who got to sit next to Thing 4 on the hammock and have the privilege of swinging her from side to side. (Note to self: unpack the hammock from the car.)
Repeating over and over, "Don't swing the flame on that stick near your hair. Or your cousin's hair."
"Marshmallows are for after dinner."
Thing 4 cavorting nakedly like a chubby water sprite in the first rays of the sun along the edge of the water. She didn't seem cold, she was just delighted to prance and splash.
Having to first enter the rather chilly river water at full speed to catch Thing 3 as he drifted past on his floatie much faster than he'd anticipated -- put any of my "can I save my kids" fears right to rest, as I found that even while tugging a frightened child and a floatation device across a fast current, my sidestroke was up to the challenge.
Thing 2 crying out, "A dead fish!!!" and throwing herself in the river, swimming as fast as she could and then emerging triumphant with a dead catfish in her hands. "Can we eat it?" was her first question. After I said that no, we weren't going to eat it, it became a plaything for a few hours. We kept pointing out that dead fish smelled and smelled quickly, especially when left in the sun -- and I kept wondering if it was going to end up in my knitting bag
-- but she was a celebrity among the other families on the river for a while. My sister rolled over and said, "If I'm ever on "Survivor," I want her on my team."
Having our friend identify trees, plants, and wildlife for us. She's a treat to have along, and not just because she brought pre-cooked spaghetti for a fast, fast camp dinner.
Hearing a bullfrog croaking from right across our swimming point.
Actually having a few real conversations with my sister. It's a treat I don't get enough of. I can't imagine not having her to talk to.
Musing on what the life of a camp host must be like.
Thing 4 spending all night kicking her snoring sister in the face while grinding her head against me. Nothing like rotating 90 degrees in your sleep.
The same pathetic bullfrog tadpole being caught, named, and released every day.
Coyotes singing us to sleep from the ridge away from the river, being answered by a forlorn-sounding dog on the other side.
Seeing the full moon rising over the river. The children's wonder and delight at seeing their moon shadows, and Thing 1 didn't roll her eyes (or maybe it was too dark to see) when I warbled Cat Steven's "Moonshadow" all the way back.
My sister and I set out for a long float down the river, and were joined by Thing 1. I was exhausted, since I had stayed up in the middle of the night before, and so I planned to float on my $2.99 raft simply holding on to my sister's toes. They'd take care of me, I figured.
And they did, until even with a warning from Thing 1, "Look, do you want to go on the bank side of that submerged tree or the stump side," my sister dragged me right over a slightly submerged branch. As I was saying, "No, no, I'm fine, really," the two of them looked back and burst into laughter. "There's a piece of your raft stuck on that tree!" Gales of hilarity. Meanwhile, I was slowly, ever so slowly, sinking into the water. Some air stayed in the outer channels of the raft, and the pillow was still inflated. So we put out at the next likely-looking spot.
"Um, there's no trail here."
"What about this way?"
"Ow! OW! What's stinging me?!!"
"It looks like stinging nettle. Got any plantains?"
"Oh, hey, is that a wasp?"
"Look up there! It looks just like the nest in Look Out for Pirates
"Back in the water!"
"Ugh! Mud! Plants! Submerged tree!"
want you on my team on 'Survivor.'"
I figured they owed me, so I lay my pillow next to my sister on her tube and threw myself across her lap. We limped down the river, limp from laughing, and found an actual landing spot which led back to the camp. Thing 1 kept muttering darkly that it was just like the camping trips where we forgot water or underwear or something, while her aunt and I kept pointing out how much fun we were -- "No one
has cooler parents or aunts than you." -- and how benign the adventure really was.
I can't wait to go again.