Camping the week before school starts anew is a treat especially during the week. At the venerable Cassini Ranch last week there were no close-by neighbors, except the coons who don’t come to work until well after bed time for mere mortals. One night they opened the small cooler and removed the Casaba melon, tracking their movements and the roll marks in the soft ground, they stopped about sixty feet away, almost into the blackberry wall. The poor melon never had a chance, the coons ate the flesh down to the rind. Smaller coons drug off small pieces, their footprints and smaller tail prints gave truth to their junior station. They returned the last night of camping but had to limit their intake to s’mores scraps, the foil in the trash tossed on the ground with all the rest of the debris was hand-picked and licked clean, unlike the two-legged animals who went to bed with sticky fingers. Do racoons get sticky fingers? Not likely since there are no adults to limit the finger sucking behavior inherent in s’mores.
Moving ahead into the early part of the school year, camping can be at its best in late summer and fall. Out near the coast the water can be less turbulent, and the temperatures cool at the surface making late camping on the coast outstanding. Or not, early rain storms can force campers back home or keep them there in the first place. Some late season camping ideas starting from two-and-a-half-hour drive north to Fort Bragg at the famous MacKerricher State Park (SP), then south on the coast highway to Russian Gulch SP and south again past the picturesque town of Mendocino to the gorgeous Vandame SP. You don’t have to be a scuba diver to appreciate the beauty there you can spend days in a beach chair watching the waves lap your feet and still not see them all. South again on the coast highway near the little hamlet of Point Arena there are a couple of private options one near Manchester State Beach, a KOA franchise. South again to the Gualala River is the Sonoma County park of the same name. A half-hour drive south is the beautiful Salt Point SP with camping out on the windy bluff or across the highway at Woodside campground, also part of the park. South again is a private campground on Ocean Cove followed closely by the Stillwater Cove camp run by the county. From there it is a long pull south and across the Russian River, be sure to pull off and say hi to the seal colony right at the mouth of the river. Crossing the bridge over the Russian there is camping at Shell beach SP, one of the few camps right on the beach. A few miles more is the Salmon Creek Dunes SP, lots of sand. Just south of the little town of Bodega is the Doran Beach facility, this one is on the long scrap of land that forms the ocean side of Bodega Bay proper. Driving an hour south on the highway, just past the little burg of Point Reyes Station, there is an excellent private campground, Olema camp. They have a little store and a good playground. Nearby is the Point Reyes National Sea Shore visitor center, this alone is worth a day trip. Coast camping kind of dries up until you are south of San Francisco.