Sunday, July 5, 2015

4th of July Fizzles- Clear Lake State Park weekends and camping. It's the stuff great memories are made of. 

Fourth of July is one of our family's favorite holidays. We've spent some very fun ones in Twin Lakes, Yellowstone, at home, and at Lake Tahoe. Last year, we decided to camp in the woods and visit a nearby amusement park for the Fourth of July festivities. We were all excited for our upcoming trip. We made reservations months in advance. We asked the grandparents to come with us, but they didn't think they could make it. So we started planning our trip alone. 

To our great surprise (and happiness) the grandparents called a few weeks prior to the Fourth and told us they could indeed make it for the vacation. We were ecstatic! But what about our reservations? Of course, there was no more vacancy where we had planned to camp (Mt. Madonna) so we searched the surrounding area. Nothing! California camping reservations are hard to come by, and last-minute holiday reservations almost unheard of. 

We searched all over the state, looking for reservations that would accommodate our whole group. Finally, we found some at Clearlake State Park! Hooray! We read the State Park Web Site and consulted our trusty Camping Guidebook, "Scenic Rating 9"?! "If you have fallen in love with Clear Lake and its surrounding oak woodlands, it is difficult to find a better spot than at Clear Lake State Park." WOW!! This seems too good to be true. The Fourth of July family trip was back on! We (somewhat reluctantly) cancelled our reservation in the cool redwoods of Mount Madonna, and booked our sites at Clearlake. We love the woods, but nothing is better than spending time with the grandparents!
The "Boys and their Toys" or "Father/Son RV's". Either caption works here. :)
The elevation at Clear Lake is only 1,500 feet, so we knew it would be warm. To offset the heat, we thought it would be fun to rent a Pontoon Boat and tube and pull the kids (and us) around the lake. We made the reservations through Disney's Boat Rentals. They were great! They had very affordable pricing, and the employees were really courteous and helpful. The shop was very crowded, but they were quick and efficient, and the process was really simple. 

When we arrived, it was H-O-T! The air was a bit muggy and still and (did I mention?) hot. We all were looking forward to hitting the lake. There were also a ton of mosquitoes around, so we quickly doused ourselves in our homemade bug spray, and set up our campsites. 
Frosty Drinks to beat the heat!
We quickly put those grandparents to work! Thanks guys!
A little hot, a little buggy, but we will make our own fun anywhere!
Thankfully, with two mini-RV's, camp set-up is easy. So we relaxed for the rest of the evening, ate dinner, and hung out with the family.
One of our favorite veggies- grilled zucchini and yellow sunburst squash grilled and sprinkled with grated romano cheese. These veggies were from a local farm just a few miles from our house. Yum!
Another family favorite- Artichoke. Dinner manners are a little looser when dining al fresco.

We woke up early the next morning to spend the day at Clear Lake. But not before feeding the kids. Have you noticed a trend here? Yes, our kids are constantly eating. I am a feeding machine. 
Breakfast in a hammock in swimsuits. Life is good!

 When we arrived at the docks, the first thing we noticed was the smell. The smell of foul, fishy, green algae. It was not pleasant. We made our way down the dock to the boat, and there were swarms of many more mosquitoes. Slather on the bug spray again! The water near the shore and around the boat was literally green. I mean super GREEN with tons and tons of stringy algae everywere. I was a bit put off, but thought surely it is not this bad in the middle of the lake. At this point, the Disney's worker was explaining how to keep the algae from clogging up the motor and showing us a special technique for de-algaeing the prop. Uh-oh. This does not sound good. 

The lake itself looked pretty. From a distance. But when you looked down, it was completely green with strands of algae everywhere. I wish I would have gotten a better shot of what it actually looked like. This pictures make it look so much prettier than what I'm describing.

I was kind of concerned. So I did a quick Google search. Never do that! 

I found this. Check out the photos and you can see how green it was.

Ugh. I didn't want to swim. But we had the boat. And the awesome tube rental! And there were tons of other people in the water. And the boat people swore the water was harmless. And I fully admit that I am usually overly concerned about possible illnesses (aka germ-phobe) especially where my kids are concerned. 

So I decided to "take one for the team" and try to ride on top of the tube, without actually getting in the water. If I could do it, we'd try the kids. My hubby agreed somewhat reluctantly. He carefully lowered me out. Only my feet and lower shins were getting wet. They started pulling me on the boat. The algae was everywhere. Then a dead fish floated by. Then another dead fish. Then water started splattering towards my face and I yelled for them to stop. That was it! I could not stand the stink, or being in the water any more. My lower legs were green. I was so grossed out. I rinsed off with clean water and we all agreed we'd stay ON the boat. 

We had a lot of fun on the boat. We took turns driving, and found out our middle girl is secretly a speed demon!
She felt the need, the need for SPEED!!
They all enjoyed driving!
We may have used a lot of gas, but the breeze on the speeding boat was worth it!
Our littlest guy liked trying to row the boat. He was thrilled when he could move us all, but amazed at how much effort rowing really takes.
 Despite the foul and green water, we all really did have a great time on the boat!
And an attempt at a group selfie (I am SO bad at these!) 
This guy was beaming the whole time!
 She's either passed out from heat exhaustion, or very relaxed.
Just kidding. She's relaxed. I hope.

We reluctantly returned the boat, and went back to our warm campsite. The kids had a great time on the swing my hubby had made for them, and relaxed in the hammock too.

 And they soaked in the grandparent time!
Only grandparents love you enough to hold you when it's this HOT and sweaty.
 After putting the kids to bed, the grown-ups made a unanimous decision to leave a day early and go back home to our cool home for the Fourth of July. I really think this is a camping first in our family. We've never left an RV Park or campground early before. But we were all sweaty, mosquito-bitten and just ready to head back home.

When we arrived home, the kids got to work making home-made decorations. Then they treated us to a parade.  

 It was fun, and very cute. We loved their creativity and their patriotic decorations!
 Then we all enjoyed a celebratory and impromptu Fourth of July feast at home. It wasn't what we had planned, but it was a fun and fabulous Fourth anyway!

PS- If you haven't gathered from the post, I would NOT recommend Clear Lake State Park for summer camping. I have heard the bass fishing is good, but I can't confirm it personally. I currently have no plans to return there, myself. But we did have a great time anyway!

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