Dick's Adventures of 2018 - Part 1


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Hensley Camp


Hensley Camp

For the first adventure of the new year, I made reservations for January 5 - 7 at Hensley Lake, on the Fresno River, 35 miles from home in the Madera County foothills. As usual I made sure that the weather forecast was favorable, and as often happens, the actual weather was different. More about that later.

My daughter Teri planned to drive out the second day and spend the night, and my older grandson and his family would come for a few hours, with Colton and Jack (age 5 and 3) staying for the night.

Blue oaks turning gold

If you can't watch actual TV, pretend TV is the next best thing

The slide had room for two

Since it's such a short distance from my house to the lake, I went to my usual Friday lunch with former work colleagues. The motor home was loaded and ready to go, and as soon as I got back from lunch, I got started, arriving at my camp site around 2:30. After getting everything set up, I took my first walk, going up the hill behind my campsite, where there is a good view of the lake and much of the campground.

The predominant tree in this country is the blue oak, a deciduous tree that can lose its leaves early, or retain them longer than normal, depending on rainfall. With record precipitation last winter and spring, many of the trees still had all their leaves, but they had changed from the bluish green that gives them their name to a brilliant gold.

There are two official trails at Hensley, but I didn't hike either one, since we planned to do the longer one on Saturday with the boys. After my hike I did a few short walks close to camp, a lot of reading, some TV watching, and of course, eating - leftovers for dinner plus popcorn.

By the time I left home, the weather forecast called for a short rainfall early the next morning, moving out before dawn. Therefore I was not concerned when a gentle rain started around midnight, and lasted until 2 a.m. I was a little less happy about the harder rain that started about 7 a.m. and continued till about 9. I had put up my awning to protect chairs and other outside items, but the second storm was enough to send water running down the slight slope under the awning.

Teri arrived about 10:30, and since no further rain was expected, we decided to walk the shorter trail, known as Shaw'shuck (hawk in the local native language). This is a half-mile route that goes up to the top of a hill, down a saddle, across to another hilltop, and back down to the starting point. After completing the loop we still had plenty of energy, so we walked all the campground loops, giving us a total of just under two miles. Along the way we took a side trip to check out playground equipment on a hill on the opposite side of the campground. We noted that there were water drops clinging to all parts of the equipment, with puddles at the bottom of the two slides. Since we planned to bring the boys here, we knew we should bring a towel.

Back at the motor home we did the usual camping activities of reading, resting and snacking. About 1 p.m. Johnny, Brittany, Colton and Jack arrived. One of the first things the boys have to do is climb up into the bed over the cab of the motor home, at least 87 times up and down. Jack had a little trouble getting down at first, trying to come down face first. I had him turn around, guided his foot to the top of the driver's chair, after which he was able to make his way down. He needed no further help. The boys immediately invented a game in which they climbed up, slept, woke up, watched TV, and went to work, each phase lasting about five seconds. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Next we set out for the playground. It is a good quarter mile walk from camp, so of course I forgot the towel. Fortunately I remembered after we had gone only 100 yards, and went back for it. It was well worth the effort - although the breeze had dried off the vertical surfaces of the equipment, the puddles remained in the slides. Brittany swept most of the water off with her hand and I dried the spot as well as possible. The boys took care of the rest, sliding down a dozen or more times each, as well as climbing up the various ladders.

After returning to camp, the adults sat outside visiting, while the kids busied themselves in the motor home. At one point I realized that it was very quiet inside - "too quiet," as parents have been saying since the discovery of the two-room cave. I went in to check on them. Although they didn't do any serious harm, they had opened the brief case I use to bring reading material, DVDs, etc. They had taken three DVDs out of their cases and put all three into a single sleeve, losing one of the jewel cases in the process. I asked where it was, but of course, they had no idea. I did not find it until I got home and took out a notepad that I always keep in the briefcase, and found the case at the very bottom.

Eventually it was time for Johnny and Brittany to leave. This caused some anxiety on the part of the boys, who decided they didn't want to stay, although both have spent one or two nights camping with Teri and/or me. As mom and dad drove off, Teri distracted Colton by starting up the hill back of camp. He had been part way up several times while playing, and ran up ahead of her, being rewarded with the sight of a rabbit as he neared the top.

Jack started slowly walking down the road, following the truck, which by now was well out of sight. I caught up with him and started leading him back. We discussed sleeping in the motor home that night, and when he realized he would be sleeping in the upper deck bed, his face brightened, and soon we made our way up to the top of the hill to join Teri and Colton.

After the boys climbed around on the small rock formations on the hilltop, we made or way down to the road north of camp and went to Rabbit Rock. This is a large outcropping of granite boulders mixed with small bushes where I often see rabbits, although our loud approach made any sightings this day impossible. This was no disappointment for Colton and Jack, as they discovered other activities, particularly scraping moss off boulders, and pulling clumps of dried grass up by the roots.

Returning to the road, we walked down toward the boat ramp, then off into the rocks and grass to the east, where more moss scraping took place. From here it was a short walk back to camp. Although we had no more rain, it stayed cloudy all day, and was plenty cool for a campfire. While Teri fixed supper, the boys and I got the fire going. The picnic table was right next to the fire ring, and we enjoyed outdoor dining as it grew dark.

As it got colder and the fire died down, we moved inside for the night. Then began a fun evening activity. I have a large box of dominoes in the motor home, and the boys play their own version of the game, matching numbers but not worrying about the official rules. This led to setting up rows of dominoes and watching them fall, which led to looking up "dominoes falling" on You Tube on my iPad. Here we discovered a number of videos, some featuring as many as a half million dominoes, and lasting ten minutes. This one is short but impressive.

When it was time for bed the skies had cleared, so we all went outside for a good but short stargazing session. The boys then climbed into the deck and played for about five minutes before settling down, and soon were asleep, having put in several hours of vigorous activity during the day. Teri and I soon followed them to dreamland, and a delightful day came to an end.

The next morning I fixed hot cocoa, which Jack and Colton have come to expect when they have breakfast with me. Teri and I had bacon and muffins, and the boys had their standard breakfast of Cheerios, with Jack adding raisins to his. Once everything was cleaned up and put away, Teri and the boys headed back to town in her car, and I soon followed. We never got around to hiking the Pohonichi Trail, the one mile loop on the north side of the area, so we will have to return again soon.

Dick Estel, January 2018

Hensley Camp Photos


Photos (Click to enlarge; pictures open in new window)


Hensley Camp


Hensley Camp

Our camp was next to a blue oak with golden leaves Hensley Lake and part of the campground The new grass is ready to take over from the old
A day in the life of Colton and Jack Being very cute Colton was into alternate methods of sliding
Jack was up to the challenge of any ladder... ...and was rewarded with an exciting ride down the spiral slide Uphill or down, Colton has one speed
Jack on top of the hill above our camp Exploring what's in the grass The boys were fascinated with the thick moss
A personalized domino game Breakfast time Watching videos of falling dominoes
Related Links 
Hensley Lake You Tube videos of dominoes falling More Hensley Camping and Hiking

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Updated January 14, 2018