Monday, July 18, 2011

camping the san gabriel river, crystal lake and spotting snakes!

we took dylan camping for the first time--we decided the sierras were out, since six-hour car rides are just exhausting; but the san gabriel mountains is just an hour's drive from the beach so decided to stay local and took the dogs camping too. last weekend, we stayed overnight in big bear and this past 'carmageddon' weekend, we drove to the east fork of the san gabriel river, a totally hidden, freeflowing, refreshing stream that dips into secret swimming holes, waterfalls, and lots of places to camp river-side. inspired by our hiking and foraging friends gregory and emily (check out greg's foraging finds on his latest blog post), we also drove up the west fork up to crystal lake (where we ran into not one but two snakes! yikes!). dylan took to camping easily--we took favorite blankets and read his bedtime stories by flashlight and lantern inside a bare-bones cedar cabin at camp williams, a totally rustic campground directly on the river. 
hiking up to crystal lake (bring a fishing pole), dylan demonstrates how to scare away bears (and people).  

the stairs down to crystal lake
summertime at camp williams, where the livin' is easy (and refreshing) bring your tent! and there's gold in them thar hills! the east fork of the river is notorious for gold-panners and prospectors. 
john herds the boaters onto the river
django and his frisbee wows the crowd yet again.
now, camp williams was neither fashionable nor trendy; it sure wasn't "glamping" nor was our cabin the ace hotel and the people who lived there---well, imagine what a place would look like if people were still panning for gold in the river in 2011. that's the sort of place this was--no joke--a bunch of outlaws, bikers, and homesteaders. (i even managed to find tiny bits of gold in the river myself! big thrill!) but the folks who ran the place were more than helpful, friendly and nice. when we arrived, it looked like we had the entire campground to ourselves, with views of the river and mountains, loads of peace and quiet. we set up camp, made dinner and went to bed listening to the sounds of the river. so nice.  

the next morning was a different story--we woke up to find an entire tent city being erected all around us, our peace and solitude gone. an entire herd of trucks and minivans had carvavaned into the campsite, and a huge group set up camp right in front of us, as loads of kids ran around and adults set up all sorts of equipment. we said bye bye to any privacy and our efforts to 'get away from it all.' phooey on them. 

i thought we had gone into the mountains to escape urban life and here was urban life encroaching on us--in the wilderness, in the middle of nowhere. how could this happen? moan and groan. then, dylan started kicking a soccer ball with some of the kids in the group, congregants of a church on a camp retreat. we met the families, they invited us to join their meals and dylan ended up becoming fast friends with the boys, who played soccer in front of our cabin. everyone took turns throwing frisbee with django and he became the camp dog. the church group welcomed us into their fold, they played with dylan, and we looked after each other. 

so in our desire for escape, we got a lesson in being neighborly and learning to get along--no matter the circumstances, crowded campsite or not. lessons sure do find you when you least expect it. so while our first camping venture wasn't the thoreau-esque adventure we were seeking, we did end up making some good friends with the gang from semilla nueva catholic church (new seed) from santa ana. and while it's good to escape from the city, it's always good to have lots of company, too, we found.  

here's dylan and his friends: 
oh--and mom got a lesson in how not to apply sunscreen to a kids' back---because it just might turn out like the photo above! oops. sorry dylan, mom thinks she's a big joker. 

check out the video of dylan and friends rafting down the san gabriel river at camp williams. i believe a good time was had by all. and this experience all happened in the confines of l.a.! 

stay local! 

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