Field Report: Our Feather River Camping Trip 2009

We just got back from 8 days of Northern California bliss with some of the most fun and fantastic Bay Area folks who all had the same vacation idea: Feather River Camp!

Each year, I meet up with the self titled “Stumpers”. We converge on the camp’s Folk Dance Week theme, and are notorious for our daily all-inclusive Happy Hour, around a big old stump that doubles as a lounge table. Evan and Willa, our resident bards, came up with a theme song some years back (“Here at Feather River!”) that celebrates the camp, our group, and the City of Oakland — and each year they add a new, clever verse that summarizes the peculiarities of each session.

I have to admit, Folk Dance Week at Feather River took this Oakland girl some getting used to years ago, but once I realized all the dances were some form or another of the “Electric Slide” and when they added the “Cupid Shuffle” to the mix in 2007, I was hooked!

For the novice camper, this is your kind of place. You don’t have to bring a tent because you can choose from a sturdy canvas covered tent like this:

–or a wooden cabin with electricity!

I attempted to pen down some highlights while I was at camp, but whenever I tried to sit down and write, I was either whisked away for the next dance or was too zoned out in a wilderness induced stupor. But there are some moments I’ll never forget:
— Playing Disco B-I-N-G-O with my youngest. In our camp’s version, each time your number is called, you have to get up and do a 70’s jig, like “The Hustle” or “The Bump“!
Look at mama work it!

–Meeting new families; learning and laughing about how much we had in common with one another

— The whole dining hall singling Happy Birthday to my little guy and how proud he looked to be turning 6
— Watching my kids play with friends old and new in the freedom and dirt of the outdoors

— Tubing with my 7 year-old daughter down a gentle river, surrounded by austere forests on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon

— Having a late night heart-to-heart chat with my 12-year old by lamplight — and he was actually listening!
It has taken me a few days to get on track with the Bay Area schedule, but I am still basking in the rewards of our time away that was a gift that keeps promoting peace, connectedness, and love for my family and community through nature.

Photos Courtesy of Jon Borchardt
…who also makes terrific Margaritas!

How did an Oakland girl like me come to love getting her camp on anyway? Pt. 3


After getting married and starting a family of my own, camping took on a new meaning. For just a short drive and little money, I found camping was one of the most economical ways my new family could take a vacation. During these years I collected essential camping gear, like our first family-sized tent and propane stove from local garage sales and eBay — my family still uses these items today.
But as my family grew, so did the effort of camping. Thus the city of Oakland’s Feather River family camp, situated about two- hundred miles north, became a very attractive option for us. For about $75 per day back then, our family could camp at their beautiful developed site where: three delicious meals a day were prepared (and announced with the toll of a bell), a kind nurse dispensed an endless supply of band-aids, platform tents and cots were already set up, and a refreshingly cool swimming hole was observed by attentive lifeguards. Another bonus of family camp, were the many fun, organized activities and special relationships we developed with the other Oakland families we joined each summer.
Now my children (ages 12, 7, and 6) love the outdoors and every February they begin humming camp songs around the house and double check with me to make sure we are registered for the upcoming summer season!
Aside from our annual Family Camp, we also venture out on local hikes or family bike rides at least monthly. My eldest son is a Boy Scout and he is now developing outdoor skills and going on camping trips with his peers just as I did at his age. I recognize that the fun my kids have now in the natural world is the foundation for a love and engagement with nature that lasts a lifetime and is likely to be shared with their own children.
I still do enjoy tent camping sometimes, but I find that as I approach the big Four-O, I more frequently choose to balance comfort with my outdoor fun — nights of sleeping on just a tarp under the stars have passed me by. I now fantasize often about a future of creeping along the highways in a well-equipped RV, enjoying each state of the Americas, one campground at a time.
Catch-up!: Part 1, Part 2

Feather River Camping

Some people feel that the hard work of camping doesn’t translate into a real vacation, especially if you have young children. I want to point families to Oakland’s Feather River Family Camp, which has been around for about 80 years. The camp is situated in the Plumas National Forest located 5 hours away by car, north of the bay, and outside the darling town of Quincy.
Yes, tarp sleeping and outdoor food preparation can be tough, especially for parents. And while I want people to get outdoors, they need not be martyrs for it. Feather River Family Camp does all the hard work for you. There are platform tents with cots (so no pitching!), or cabins with electricity, and a dining room that produces hot, delicious, all-you-can eat food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Each morning, small children can go to the “Tot-Lot” for childcare until lunch while older kids can do hikes or crafts.
There are theme weeks throughout the summer season and this year, they have added an African Dance theme week with dance instruction each day and night. In addition, there are regularly scheduled outings off site, or you can stay and cool off in the swimming hole. What I like most are the relationships my family developeds with other families as we all return year after year. We have already signed up for Folk Dance Week and will overlap with the African Dance week for a couple days. Registration is per day and is less expensive for more then 5 days or Oakland residents. Overall, it’s a terrific value and a lot of fun. Hope to see you this summer!