CALIFORNIA CAMPING

2 years in

May 3, 2009

Last weekend, me and the boy celebrated our 2 yr anniversary by taking a camping trip to Whiskeytown.

At the visitor's center

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Originally, our plans had been to camp north of Mendocino, but after reviewing the weather report: no go. We wanted someplace sunny and reasonably warm.

Whiskeytown came up since it was a place I had intended to camp with a now-coupled off group of friends (meaning, they don’t hang out anymore). We also wanted to find a National Recreation Area or Park so that we could use the park pass we purchased at the beginning of the year.

Whiskeytown reminded me of those 1960s Sunset Camping books that my dad bought at Half Price Books, and that I still have and love.

Oak Bottom Campgrounds

When we arrived on Friday night, Oak Bottom Campgrounds were as quiet as could be. Unfortunately, in the early morning, we were woken by heavy breathing and snorting that we thought at first was a bear. Later, we deduced it was one of the dogs from down the lake, belonging to our lovely WT neighbors.

In California, and perhaps in many other places in the US, camping = redneck haven. Saturday afternoon, a family pulled up in their supersized van, unloaded their dirt bikes, and proceeded to rev them over and over again at their campsite.

Down the ways, at the group camping sites, a family looked so settled in that I was sure they were either forest elves, or living there full-time. When we drove by, their creepy red-headed devil child stopped in the middle of the road, holding a bucket of water, to stare at us. We could not shake her gaze. If we hit her, I’m certain that kid would not have died.

I digress.

Unlike a National Park, which is usually surrounded by 30 minutes of nature, Whiskeytown is easy in, easy out. In other words, its close to civilization. We got kind of lazy and ended up eating at Black Bear Diner (I could barely move after this meal)

Breakfast at Big Bear Diner

After breakfast, we went to Walmart, bought a fishing license, some cheap poles, and some coors light. We licked our lips at the thought of eating fresh trout for dinner.

Whiskeytown Lake

Alas, the fish weren’t even biting. I had a brief moment where I thought I had caught the big one…instead…the current had trapped my line on a stick, tangling the line to the point where I decided I was done fishing for the day. Jack's Grill Dinner at Jack's Grill

Instead, we consulted the guide book and ventured to downtown Redding for a steak dinner at Jack’s Grill. Dinner couldn’t be more straight forward: salad (iceberg lettuce with canned grean beans doused in blue cheese dressing), new york strip, charred and seasoned to crispy perfection on one side, and baked potato w/all the fixin’s. Probably the best steak I’ve ever had at a restaurant.

Our annivesary dinner and drinks came out to a grand total of $52.

For dessert, we headed back to Black Bear Diner where we picked up a peach pie. After getting back to camp, NG started the fire and we wrapped the pie in foil and threw it into the embers to warm it up.

The next morning, we toured Shasta State Historic Park and the nearby museum.

Shasta State Historic Park Shasta State Historic Park

Shasta is another ghost town. Once the county seat, the gold rush population dwindled when the stagecoach and rail lines bypassed the town in favor of Redding, 6 miles away.

Our next to final stop on the trip was the one we had been anticipating every since deciding to come up to these parts: a burger at Bartels Burger.

Bartels Giant Burger

I’m going to go on record and say this is the best burger I’ve ever had at a burger restaurant. It’s the perfect mixture of old-fashioned burger without being too hoity toity. In my opinion, its the way a burger should be.

We finished off our trip with a visit to the outlet stores in Vacaville. Luckily for us, we didn’t have much time there…just enough to do some minor damage.

No anniversary gifts or anything like that. NG bought me a pig necklace with flashing lights (when you turn it on, it looks scarily like cop lights) from a gas station in the middle of nowhere. And I bought NG’s $20 fishing pole.

Last year, we had a similarly low-key anniversary: I was in DC at the time, as was NG. We ordered Sushi from the place downstairs and watched movies.

I’m glad we are both on the same page about things like that. It would feel so cheesy and cliche otherwise.

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