Angel Island perfect for father-daughter campout
The Sportsmanís Report
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By Bill Hanson  June 13, 2014 12:00 am

Taylor watches the waters of San Francisco Bay lap against the ferry at the water line. Her dad, James, keeps a protective eye on his girl, a newly minted 8-year-old, seven was waaaay back in May. 

Their backpacks are on the deck beside them as Angel Island grows close too soon. The ferry is already docking, the crew getting lines at the ready, bicyclists lay a protective grip on their stead, while Dad and daughter struggle into their packs. 

Making their way up the dock, they decide to not take the small bus around the island and would instead rather ‘rough it’ on the dusty trail, or rather the paved trail.

The campsite is on the bay side of the island; Dad reserved it nearly a year in advance from the park service web site. They pitched the backpack tent and sat down to eat gummy bears and watch the ship traffic glide in and out the Golden Gate. Alcatraz and the glittering city are the backdrop of this bucolic scene. Giants fans to the core, they listen to the broadcast on the radio and can see the glare from the ballpark reflected off the fog layer.

Weenies and potato chips round out the evening meal along with a few cookies. Jackets are broken out as the fog layer eases in, riding the icy Pacific water. He explains the wonder of tides to her and how the bay nearly empties and refills twice a day. They turn in as the fog horns sing their lonely song, “Sleep…sleep.”

Morning brings bright sun through a cottony layer of fog. The giant tankers pass close by, moving steadily up the bay to refill the refineries with Alaskan crude. They watch the empties riding high on their way back out to sea. Breakfast is cold cereal with a sweet roll and milk.

They have the whole day to explore the island, visit the museum and wonder at the audacity of the America that warehoused Asian emigrants for months, even years in the prison-like institution that was Angel Island. They tour the old military hospital site, a flat, boring reminder of another time. They explore Ayala Cove and watch the ferry come and go.

The second night is clear, for a time. They snuggle under a sleeping bag and watch the city slowly fade to sparkling night lights. The ever present ships and small craft dance with the waves…green, red and white lights keeping the beat. The second morning is a leisurely breakfast of cold cereal, sweet rolls and milk. 

Then there’s the sad business of breaking camp, packing the backpacks and the long hike back to the ferry. Mom and baby sister will be the first to welcome the wayfarers home after the one-hour drive and listen to an 8-year-old tell of their adventure. This experience will last a lifetime for both father and daughter. A very special Father’s Day was 2014.

There are only a few camps on Angel Island and the waiting list is long. Day trips are always available. 

Go to for information, special events and pricing. This is not the only trip a father and child can take. Overnighters are nice, but that second night seems to make the one full day special and unhurried. 

There are numerous campgrounds in the Redwood Empire that can make a special Father’s Day any time.


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.

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