|Camping’s good when kids in school
Late summer and early fall often sport some of the best weather on the coast. After the kids are back in school and the “official” summer vacation is over, the camping gets good on the coast. To take advantage of our nearby treasure, consider planning a weekend trip to your favorite coastal campground.
Although many of the Junior Ranger programs are shuttered after summer vacation, there is still plenty to do, including doing nothing but throwing another log on the fire and settling back in your comfy folding chair.
Since we are looking at after-school departure on Friday, I will limit my suggestions to a two-hour drive, give or take. I hate setting up camp in the dark, so make sure everything is packed before Friday arrives. Set your half-gallon empty juice jugs of water in the freezer on Wednesday so they are ready to jump in your cooler at the last minute. Be sure to pack jackets and other warm clothes. Although it is often very nice at the coast, it can be chilly in the morning and evening.
Drive north to Willits, take Highway 20 to Fort Bragg then north through town to MacKerracher State Beach. The park has an excellent old paved road to safely bike up and down on the coastal bluff. There is a wooden walkway out to the seal rookery. Take a folding chair and really enjoy the antics of the little seals; this year’s pups are about half-sized compared to their mothers. There is trout fishing in well stocked Lake Cleone, which is part of the park. Fort Bragg is just a few minutes away for a quart of milk or a quick stop at the ice cream shop.
Head south of Fort Bragg to Russian Gulch and VanDamme state beaches. Both offer excellent camping with showers and other amenities to make your stay memorable.
VanDamme has one of the finest beaches for day use on the north coast. You can watch the wet-suited migration of the abalone divers, cheer the first timers flailing the water in their rental kayaks or just take in the fresh ocean air. The state beaches have reservations available by phone or online: www.reserveamerica.com and scroll to California Camping. Call 1 (800) 444-7275 for assistance.
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.