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Calaveras Big Trees State Park

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Saturday, June 8th
South Grove Trail

I'd originally wanted to go to Woods Lake campground in Mokelumne Wilderness, but I called Friday and it wasn't even open yet -- too much snow. My next idea was Big Sur, but I couldn't find any vacant campgrounds. So I somehow settled on Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a place I'd never heard of before.

Calaveras Big Trees sits in the western Sierra, around 4800 feet elevation, right off Highway 4, about 21 miles east of Angel Camp. I'd called Friday. It was too late to reserve a camp site, but we figured we'd take our chances. If we couldn't find anything, we could always stay in Angel Camp.

Calaveras Big Trees is only about 2 hours, 45 minutes from the Bay Area. We stopped at Angel Camp, which has several antique stores; it's similar to Sonora in that regard. One strange thing I didn't get was the abundance of frog images -- including dozens of frogs sculpted into the sidewalk. I'll have to find out about that sometime.

We arrived at the park around 1pm. There were several other people hoping for a camp site as we stood in line at the entrance. The North Grove campground was pretty much full, but there were still a half dozen or so sites available at Oak Hollow. We drove to our camp site and set up camp. Each site has a bear box. However, rangers advise visitors to leave food in the lockers or in your vehicle, so perhaps they haven't had problems with bears tearing up cars.

After we set up camp, we saw others come in next to us. Someone with an RV stopped next to us, pulled down a ramp from the back of the RV, and out came a motorcycle. Then a group of a dozen kids and a handful of adults set up at least a half dozen tents in the two sites across the road from us. We must have had the smallest car in the area as we saw lots of RVs and big SUVs.

We soon decided to drive down the road and start our hike in the South Grove.

After the hike we returned to camp, had dinner, and settled down to try to sleep. It was only 9pm, so our fellow campers were still up, making noise. Quiet hours weren't until 10pm; they'd make appreciable noise until around 11pm. Meanwhile, we had visions of bears walking near our tent. I found some tracks the next morning, but they were probably deer prints.

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