Disclaimer: This post made possible thanks to Toyota. All opinions are my own.
The weather here in the Bay Area is finally starting to cool down. I love the cooler weather, but it has got me thinking about our last adventure of this Summer: our camping trip to Pinecrest in the Sierra Nevadas over the Labor Day long weekend. If you follow Little Hiccups on Instagram you would've already seen a few of my favorite shots from that trip, but I figured it was about time I shared all of it here on the blog.
Our camping trip to Pinecrest Lake Resort was our first proper camping trip with the kids. We've camped out in our tent several times at the Hoes Down Festival, but this was our first time at a proper camp ground, cooking our meals over a fire, and roasting marshmallows for s'mores in the cool mountain air. It was such a fun experience and the girls are keen to do it again soon - although not with weather like we currently have, and definitely not in the mountains over Winter! The early morning temperatures over our camping trip were approaching freezing even at the end of Summer. I can't imagine how cold it must get over Winter!
We packed everything we needed for our weekend in the woods into the Toyota 4Runner that Toyota kindly loaned us for this trip, and headed off late on the Saturday morning. The drive to Pinecrest takes between three and four hours from Berkeley on paper, but by the time we added in a few kid related pit stops (and the long weekend traffic) it was over five hours by the time we arrived at our campsite. The drive was comfortable and the scenery along the way was pretty beautiful once we started to get up into the mountains, so no one minded the long drive.
Our friends had arrived earlier and were all set up in their campsite next to ours. The girls were keen to go play with their friends as soon as we arrived, so we put setting up the tent on hold to go for a walk to the lake. As you can see, it was still pretty warm when we arrived at Pinecrest, but those mountain temperatures drop pretty quickly as the sun gets low in the sky, so we kept our play at the lake short and headed back to our campsite to set everything up.
With the tent set up, the girls moved onto the fire. This was the first time they'd had a campfire before and they were pretty excited about it. It took forever (and half a pack of matches!) for them to finally get it lit, but they were so proud of themselves once it was going. They couldn't wait to cook dinner over the fire. Judging by those little bite marks in the corn below, someone else was keen to get dinner cooked too!
Speaking of that little corn eating culprit, Mathilde was keen to dress herself in her puffer jacket and beanie once it started getting a little cooler. She refused to have any help (she's a big girl, you know) and came out of the tent with her jacket on upside down, with the hood looking like a bustle on her butt! Well, I guess she was warm!
Once the sun set it got pretty chilly. We rugged ourselves up in sweaters, puffer jackets, beanies, long pants and thick socks, and spent the evening sitting around the campfire making s'mores with our friends. With no lights or electronics to keep them awake, the kids grew tired pretty quickly so we had an early night. Our sleeping bags kept us snuggly warm for most of the cold night, but by about 4am the temperature had dropped close to freezing and we could all feel it!
Within a few hours the sun was up and we rugged up again to venture out into the frosty morning air. We ate breakfast by the campfire before the girls headed off to play with their friends again. They spent the morning making fairy houses, potions and little boats out of mud, leaves, flowers, pebbles and other found objects,
By late morning the sun had warmed everything up and we were able to strip off our extra layers of warm clothes. The day became warm and sunny, which was perfect as we had a pontoon boat booked for an afternoon on the lake.
Our afternoon spent on the lake was perfect. It was so nice to just sit back and relax on the boat for a while. The lake is stunningly beautiful with its rocky edges, tiny beaches and surrounding pine trees. Even though it was pretty busy at Pinecrest due to the long weekend, we were still able to find secluded spots to dock the boat for a swim. The water was a little cold to spend much time in it, but it was still lovely.
Our group was too large to all fit on the pontoon boat at once, so after a little while we started to make our way back to the marina to hand it over to our other friends to use. As we were pretty far away from other boat traffic the kids took it in turns driving the boat (with adult help, of course).
We were on track to get the boat back to the marina in time for our friends to take over but then disaster struck. Well, not quite... After leaving a rocky outcrop in the lake the pontoon boat got stuck in reverse. Then the cable connecting the steering wheel to the motor snapped! Uh oh... We were on the other side of the lake with no motor and the waves were slowly pushing us toward large underwater rocks. Luckily one person in our group had cell phone coverage and we were able to call the marina for help. A mechanic in a speed boat was soon there to help us and got the boat working well enough to get us back to the marina - as long as we didn't have to put it in reverse again! We made it back to the marina where the pontoon boat was fixed and our friends took over.
From the lake we took the long way round back to our campsite via the shops and bike rental place. Our friends who had arrived the day before us had organized bike rental for their kids so Ava and Lola were keen to join in on the bike fun. We picked up bikes for the girls and headed back to our campsite where they joined their friends for a bike ride around Pinecrest. Mathilde was keen to join in the bike riding fun but she was just too little this time, so instead I took her for a walk among the trees while the big kids went on what I imagine was a Goonies-esque adventure!
Like the previous day, the temperature dropped dramatically once the sun got low in the sky. We rugged up again, lit the campfire and joined our friends for an evening of food, hot cocoa and Uno by flashlight. We had another early night and this time added a few extra layers before snuggling up in our sleeping bags.
The following morning the big kids went out on another bike adventure after breakfast. Lola didn't join them this time as she had struggled to keep up the day before. So while the big kids rode their bikes, Lola, Mathilde and one of their friends explored the area by our campsite. They hugged giant trees, looked for cool leaves, rocks and sticks, and found a ladybug.
As we were heading back home later in the day the big kids dropped their bikes back to the rental place after their ride. We still needed to take Lola's bike back so we went for a ride/hike back to drop it off while Kim started packing up our campsite. The kids each got to pick a small gift from a basket at the bike rental place and Mathilde chose a Smoky Bear bookmark. She thought that little bear was the best thing ever and carried it around like a prized and cuddly teddy bear.
With everything packed up back up into our Toyota 4Runner we got ready to start the journey home. It's a good thing that car has a huge trunk as we had a lot of stuff with us on this trip! One thing I really liked about the 4Runner is that loading and unloading the trunk is extra easy thanks to a sliding deck. Rather than having to reach all the way in to grab things at the back, I could just pull out the sliding deck and bring everything to me. Especially good when you're as short as me! There are also power outlets in the trunk which made inflating our mattresses easy. These would come in really handy on a longer camping trip with a an electric cooler in the trunk. We're not quite there yet when it comes to camping though. Baby steps!
We stopped by the campsite shops one last time to buy treats for the drive home (and for some photo fun with the wooden bears) and then headed on our way - along with everyone else leaving the mountains for the city! Watch out for that bear Lola!
As we knew that we'd be stuck in slow moving traffic for hours on the way home we decided to take a little detour and take the 4Runner off the paved road and try it out on a dirt road leading to a small lake. Kim switched to 4WD mode and we headed down the dirt road. It wasn't a super bumpy road, but having the option to switch to 4WD mode definitely made the ride smoother than it otherwise would have been.
After our little dirt road detour the 4Runner definitely looked like we'd been camping!
Our drive back to Berkeley took much longer than we had anticipated thanks to all of the holiday traffic, but our ride was comfortable so no one minded too much. Plus, for the first part at least, the views along the way were quite pretty so there was always something to look at outside.
We all had such a great time at Pinecrest that we'll definitely be back again next Summer. The girls are so excited about the idea of more camping trips and they're keen to try out our new unicorn pool float (from Lola's birthday party) in the lake!
Thank you so much to Toyota for helping to make our camping trip in the mountains a success.