Tuolumne County – Highway 4 Camping Trip
My parents were not outdoorsy and we never went camping or even close to it. My Dad, born in Berkeley and living in the San Francisco Bay Area his entire life never even went to Yosemite! Well, I guess that’s how it goes.
My first camping trip ever was when I was 16. I went with two other guys from High school. We were into dirt bikes then (enduro type motorcycles) and one of the guys friends parents had a place in Boards Crossing, Ca. and he knew that there was a small campground there.
Well the trip started off fine enough, three young men excited about the adventure they were embarking on. We had loaded up all three motorcycles in the back of an old Ford pickup, I probably borrowed a sleeping bag and I have no idea how we came upon three cases of beer 😉
but we left from our small Bay Area town of San Lorenzo and headed East thinking it would take us about three hours. Well, wouldn’t you know it, (Houston, we have a problem)we get a flat heading into Livermore, Ca. just twenty minutes into our trip. No spare, way before cell phones, so two of us head out to find a phone. Now Livermore was still a “cow-town” in 1970 and we got the flat where there was only ranches. Two of us hopped over the freeway fence and walked to the closest ranch to ask if we could use their phone. “NO” was the answer we got, “there’s a filling station just around the corner”.
Sure was around the corner,…a MILE and a HALF around the corner. We got to the “Filling Station” and lucky for us,…Billy-Joe-Bob was on duty, (I mean no offense to those who have three hyphened first names 😉 but BJB was in no hurry to help these three “long hairs” from the city. It took about six hours to get the pickup towed in and the flat fixed. No exaggeration (I always hated Livermore for that until I moved there in the late 80’s)
We get back on the road no worse for wear, our conversation completely filled with B-J-B and Livermore friendliness. The stop put us behind but we soon regained our excitement, the only problem was it was now pitch black out, luckily the driver Ken knew his way.
We take the dirt road off of highway 4 and start to head down to the campgrounds. Late at night with the high-beams on we see the first and only porcupine I have ever seen (at least that is what us three city boy types decided it was)
We get to the camp, we set up our tents and we salute our arrival. We start a camp fire, have something to eat and with the sounds of the Stanislaus river in the background we feel alive and like we are the only ones there.
Waking up the next day we realize that we’re not just the only ones there but there are houses all around, (probably more like cabins). None the less, we unload the bikes and head out on the forest roads. We’re not motocross maniacs we’re more just putting with a burst of power here and there. The three of us go on a ride following Ken who knows the way,…I was in heaven.
The Stanislaus river was so beautiful and the trees, it was awesome. Later that day after lunch I set out on my own pretty much going the way we had gone earlier. I turned left at a cross roads just to see what I could see. After a ways I decided to check how much gas I had (good time to check right, not before I left camp)and I was low so I turned around and headed back.
When I reached the cross roads I forgot that I had turned left and I blasted straight through. After a couple of miles I think, “None of this looks familiar” and I turn around again. Making it back to the cross roads I figure out my mistake. I make it back to the campground but I will never forget that lesson I just learned, it’s super easy to get lost in the forest.
Nothing else really happened. Ken bet us that he could swim across the Stanislaus and back which we off course took him up on. This was early in the Summer and the river was pretty high and COLD. Ken sounded like a walrus in trouble as he swam against the current but damn if he didn’t make it! (stupid things young men do).
It was a great adventure. No one was hurt and no one got arrested, can’t beat that!
I will always remember Boards Crossing and that trip. I went back there a couple more times but it wasn’t the same.
All photos taken from Google Images as GoPros were not invented yet 😉