For Easter weekend, we went camping at Halo and Karl’s ranch in Mendocino County. This was our second year camping at the ranch on Easter. For those unfamiliar with northern California “Lost Coast,” Mendocino is three counties north of San Francisco, past Marin County and Sonoma County. It’s a beautiful mountainous/coastal region known for wineries, craft beer, and (most famously) the cultivation of that green, green, marijuana.
This was our first camping trip with the new 4×4 Tacoma. Since we now have a pickup truck with a huge bed, we assumed we would have endless amounts of storage. It was a real shocker how quickly it filled up with dog crates, tents, coolers, sleeping bags, air mattresses, gear, and scooters. Unreal. The good news is we ordered a camper shell which should be here in time for the next camping trip and give us some additional space. We actually have more room inside this truck than we do inside our Honda Element. The Element only seats four, but the Tacoma seats 5.
The ranch is on the top of a Mendocino County mountain about 45 minutes outside of the sleepy hippie hamlet of Hopland, CA. It was hotter than hail up there with temps in the low 80s on Saturday afternoon (not bad for March 31st in NorCal). Most of us arrived early Saturday afternoon and slowly made our way down to the swimming hole behind the cabin. This was a man-made pond, constructed a few decades ago by damming a spring-fed creek behind the cabin.
The water was a bit crisp, but that didn’t stop the kids from venturing out on the floating dock. They had a great time playing in the small cove near the shore and catching frogs. Karl was even brave enough to dive in and swim out toward the middle of the pond.
Since the cabin is only large enough to accommodate Halo’s parents, everyone else camped on the grassy knoll behind the house. This marked the inaugural voyage of our new 9-person ginormous Ozark Trail Walmart tent. I’ve been a camping gear snob since circa 1990 when I was heavily involved in backpacking with legendary Boy Scout Troop 674 in Montgomery, OH. Since then, I’ve always gravitated toward high-end name brand backpacking gear that was designed to be as simple, lightweight, and versatile as possible. However, since I’ve become a parent I’ve thrown all that snobbery out the window and learned to embrace a lifestyle of Walmart comfort and convenience. No longer am I a purist. I now embrace the brave new world of $8 air mattresses and tents large enough to accomodate a scout patrol. Life has never been better.
Here’s the inside of that aforementioned 9-person Walmart tent. We’re still getting used to this comfortable camping lifestyle. Molly’s gigantic air mattress (bottom left) turned out to be too tall and the cavernous pocket of uninsulated air beneath her made it uncomfortably cold during the night. I think we might stick with our regular insulated sleeping pads for now (Molly can be seen seated on one in the above pic).
Meals at the ranch were simple, light, and cooked family style in the cabin kitchen. There were 4 families and each took turns contributing to a meal. I signed up for Saturday taco dinner with Ashley and made my world famous salsa, guacamole, rice, and beans. Notice Karl on his phone, responding to comments about Sweet Pea on Bring A Trailer. That vehicle deserves a separate blog post.
On Sunday morning we celebrated Easter, April Fools, and most importantly, Wilce’s 4th birthday. The kids were assembled in the cabin for pancake breakfast and belted out a rendition of Happy Birthday to Wilce. I think he really liked it. Afterward, Halo’s mom announced to all the other children that even though Wilce was small, he was actually turning 14 today. This was likely Wilce’s first attempt at deciphering an April Fools joke on his birthday.
I love this dear boy with all my heart and it was great to see him enjoy his special day with his little friends.
After breakfast, the kids dyed eggs unsupervised outside on the balcony. I checked on them after about 15 minutes, and of course, they were covered in dye. Amazingly, it washed out of their clothes and off their skin after we got home. We live in the future of egg dye.
The kids were lined up by age for the Easter egg hunt. We had three groups: Four and under (Wilce and Izzie), four to five (two kids behind), and six and above (back row). Lola doesn’t turn six until May but probably appreciated her inclusion in the “older kids” group.
The kids did alright at the Easter egg hunt.
Here’s a rare photograph of the author with his wonderful children.
I also happened to make one of my signature short films about the weekend. Please take a peek.
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