Saturday, June 15, 2013


On Tuesday, Sarah and I loaded the kids and all of our camping gear into the ol' family truckster and set a course for fun at Wilderness Lakes Campground in Menifee, CA. Of course, being from Idyllwild we are kind of camping snobs, and you might be wondering why we would leave Idyllwild to go camping in a place like Menifee. It's a fair question.  First of all, when you want to get away you have to go somewhere that isn't where you are. Most Californians go up into the mountains to go camping, but living as we do already in the mountains, and being the nonconformists that we are, we decided to buck this trend and descend into the flatlands. Plus, Wilderness Lakes had some amenities that are not offered at the campgrounds around these parts. They had recreational opportunities such as swimming pools, hot tubs, a miniature golf course, pool tables, an arcade, etc...
On the drive there Sarah and I did begin to question the wisdom of this plan as we watched the temperature climb steadily higher and higher. The angry fire-eye in the sky meted out its wrath on the country and waves of heat radiated off the crust round about, but the temperature within the ol' family truckster was maintained at a comfortable 75 degrees thanks to the wonder of air-conditioning. Although it plainly annoyed Sarah, I began to describe our campsite in unrealistic terms as though it was going to be a comfortable oasis. I had just finished describing wilderness lakes as a place "where cool mist rolls across the meadows," when Sarah demanded that I stop. "It's not gonna be like that," she said, "You're pumping it up too much." However, as unlikely as it may have seemed as we were driving there, on the first morning that we were there, and, indeed, every morning thereafter we awoke to a cool mist rolling across the meadows (photo above). In fact two of the three mornings it actually rained a little.
We found it necessary to purchase some camping equipment, which on previous camping excursions we have leaned on our friends to provide. We bought a camp stove, which is an essential if you plan on enjoying such vittles as taco-in-a-bag and spaghetti. We also bought an easy up to protect our family from the aforementioned fire-eye.
Ducks and other water fowl were abundant throughout the campground. In fact, wilderness lakes is something of a bird lovers' paradise. In the trees above our campsite there were nesting pairs of great blue herons, hawks, night herons, and scads of mourning doves which cooed in unison. Sarah says that herons make some of the ugliest noises ever, like pteradactyls, which they kept up all night long. I thought the sound was kind of exotic. There were loads of Canada geese around with goslings in tow.  They traveled everywhere in big troupes. Feeding the various birds was a lot of fun, especially for the kids. In the Wilderness Lakes store bags of duck feed could be purchased for fifty cents each. In addition to the ducks and geese we also fed a night heron with one eye which faithfully reported to our campsite every morning for a hot dog breakfast. Poor fella only had one eye.
As big a hit as the birds were the kids' favorite thing about Wilderness Lakes was their pool complex, which featured a 1 foot pool (perfect for Miles), a big pool and two hot tubs. The adults-only pool was situated directly across from our campsite, but the family pool was not far either.

I'm not sure why this is but Dads simply cannot enter a pool without all of their children, and even some children they don't know, ganging up on them for a merciless game of "kill Daddy." Sarah helped me apply sunscreen every time I went in, but the kids would rub it off of my shoulders as they were attacking me, which then exposed my freckled shoulders to the full wrath of the aforementioned fire-eye. By the end of the week my shoulders had become red, angry epaulettes of doom.

Tooth brushing party.
Look carefully at the photo above. Do you see anything wrong?
We didn't notice until it was too late, but in the excitement of heading out the door we issued a command to all of the kids to "Get your shoes on." The mistake we made was trusting that everything had simply gone to plan as we had directed. To our surprise Jack decided to put on two different kinds of shoes. This still would have been fine, unconventional but still functional, but sadly they were also both left shoes which made Jack's feet hurt. This was unconventional, not functional, not fine, and, yes, kind of frustrating.
On Wednesday afternoon we went into town for a planned excursion to catch a movie and eat out, but Jack's curious choice of footwear also necessitated an unplanned stop at Payless for a new pair of kicks. 

Then we went and watched the movie "Epic," which I thought wasn't half bad. Afterwards we ate at a P.F. Chang's before heading back for one last dip in the pool at Wilderness Lakes.

In the morning the ducks would not be denied. They came right up to the door of our tent.
We also did a fair amount of fishing, and although we could sometimes see the fish we didn't have any luck. The canals which wind throughout the grounds are stocked regularly with catfish. I bought some bait especially for catfish which is made from some kind of dough and infused with garlic and chicken blood. It looked a lot like poo, and when we opened up the bag it was a like being punched in the face. "That's a big bag of dairy farm right there," I remember saying as Sarah made me remove the bag from our campsite. Bowden and I bravely held our breath while we formed our "poo- balls" around our hooks. As we were fishing I caught Bowden laughing to himself. I asked him what was so funny and he pointed out that the bag had said on it "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION." "Like who would actually try and eat that, Dad."
Although it was really hot during the day the evenings and morning were actually kind of chilly.

One-eye the hot dog eater.

Some miniature golf action. We had to skip hole #1, because a weasel was living in it. They had pictures of the weasel in the club house, and a sign warned golfers to avoid that portion of the course. The kids wanted to see the weasel pretty badly, but were sadly disappointed.

When Miles wasn't hitching his pants up he was swinging for the bleachers. No matter if he's inches or miles from the hole he's gonna hit that ball with everything he's got.

Miles and Jack's style of play more closely resembled field hockey. Jack, however, really loved playing and he improved quite a bit as he got more practice.

We were bummed that we missed the annual camping trip that our friends have at Hurkey Creek because camping out is really the only way that adults can have a sleepover, but it was also fun for us to get away as a family, just us. Sarah and I decided that we need to do more of this as a family. It was good to be together.

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