Frog Camp 2009
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The 2009 Frog Camp threatened to become sog camp for a while, but everything turned out OK in the end.

I wrote about this event in 2007 and 2008, and also several earlier trips. My 11-year old grandson Mikie and I have been going to this spot during Easter vacation since 2003. It's actually at Kirch Flat Campground, adjacent to the Kings River, just above the upper end of Pine Flat Reservoir. A tiny section of water has separated from the main river and formed a quiet pond where lots of frogs make their home.

This year we were accompanied by Pablo and Librado McHenry, age 13 and 10, who live next door to my former residence. Mikie has played with them when he visited me there at least since he was six.

We got a good start on Thursday morning, April 9, and arrived at camp around noon. The first year or two we had only a few "neighbors" there, but the place seems to be getting more popular or better known. This year we got the last available space, and as people left, others took their place. Two parties left Friday morning, and those spots were occupied within an hour. When we left on Saturday, someone was waiting to pull into our space.

The weather forecast was not really  ideal for camping - showers were expected Thursday evening, and potentially all day Friday. However, "showers" usually means rain off and on, and these were the only dates when everyone could make it, so we hoped for the best.

After getting set up and having lunch, we decided we should do our exploring Thursday afternoon, just in case it was too wet to get out on Friday.

We drove the truck upstream, following the paved road, then a dirt road that runs on the north side of the river. This road dead ends at a trailhead about after eight miles, but we don't go that far - we stopped at a spot where there is an array of rock walls on a hillside, its original purpose unknown.

We walked up a hill, across the top, and back down, following an old road, and then a cow trail. Unlike last year we did not see any creatures, but the scenery was spectacular as usual, with everything bright green and many wild flowers in bloom. We had a few misty rain drops during this outing, but nothing that could be defined as rain.

Next it was time for the big salamander hunt. Last year Mikie and his friend Griffin each brought home a salamander. Mikie's survived the year, but seemed listless, and he agreed it would be the right thing to bring him along and release him. We did this on our way to camp, at Big Creek, a good size stream that runs into the lake.

For our hunt, we went to a stream we had named Big Salamander Creek, where last year the boys saw a dozen or more, and briefly captured five or six. This year we did not see as many, but the boys caught and quickly released three. They also had fun getting wet (we brought extra clothes along this time), walking through a big culvert pipe that runs under the road, and generally exploring the creek.

Back at camp the kids rode a bike and a scooter, and played catch, joined part of the time by a young boy from a nearby camp site. We went down to the frog pond when it was getting dark, but for the first time did not see any frogs, although we certainly heard them.

In the evening we watched a few TV shows on DVD (Wonder Years and The Simpsons), and got to bed at a reasonable hour. The trailer theoretically has sleeping room for six, but that is not realistic - it was actually a bit crowded with four people. The couch and the table both turn into beds, but they really only have room for one person. The queen size bed is fine for two, but with all possible sleeping space in use, there is no place to put things except on the floor in the narrow walkways. However, we managed with no ill effects.

On Saturday, there was some sunshine and blue skies when we got up, but I always suspect that rain is hiding just over the mountains. We went back to Big Salamander Creek for a while, and also drove up the road a little farther (back toward Fresno), where we could gather some dry manzanita wood. This is a very hard, hot-burning wood, and even though what we gathered had been on the ground for some time, it does not absorb water like softer woods, making it good for campfires.

Not long after we got back it started to sprinkle, then turned to rain, sending us into the trailer. More than half the parties in the campground had tents, and I did not envy them, crowded into a fairly small area to keep out of the rain. It rained for about three hours, but with the generator going and the DVD player working fine, it was no problem. We watched the movie Stand by Me and a few TV shows.

When the rain stopped, everyone was glad to get outside again. While the boys went down to the pond, I got the fire going. The wood was wet on the outside, so it took some time to get the small pieces dry enough to burn. Once I got a small fire going, we were able to dry out the bigger pieces, and eventually we had a pretty good campfire. As it got darker and colder, we let the fire die down, and went inside for a taquito dinner, followed by more TV.

On Saturday morning, our final day, there was bright sunshine with lots of blue sky, but everyone was ready to head home. We had breakfast, then got things picked up and packed up and ready to go. Back in Fresno we went first to my RV repair shop (Central Valley RV Repair) where I emptied the holding tanks, then to my house, where we brought in stuff from the cupboards and refrigerator.

It was then time to deliver Pablo and Librdo back home, with a stop at Fat Jack's for lunch. I recently sold my former property, where I've been keeping the trailer, but I'm paying a small fee to the new owners to keep my trailer there for a while, so this was our final destination. The new owners are my former next door neighbors and the parents of Pablo and Librado.

The boys obviously had a great time, and I got some reading and relaxing done, so despite the lack of frogs, we considered the trip a success.

-Dick Estel, April 2009


(Pictures open in a new window)

Mikie, Pablo & Librado Springtime hiking The boys at the mysterious rock walls
Mikie at the creek Exploring the culvert Boys on the rocks
This pool should have salamanders About to get really wet Exploring Big Salamander Creek
Checking out a salamander Sliding falls on Big Salamander Creek Mossy rock
California poppies Springtime green & yellow Fiesta flower
Lupine A unique contrast among all the green Stirring the campfire

Related Links

Pine Flat Reservoir Kirch Flat Campground Foothill Wild Flowers
Central Valley RV Repair Salamanders Kings River

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