Camping, Chaperoning, and Digging for Gold

The numbers were not in my favor. Drive 3 hours with 5 kids in my car for a 3 day and 2 night school camping trip to California Gold Country. Add to that the 76 other kids in Olivia’s 4th grade  and take away any alcohol to dull the pain, and that equals me going insane. At least I had company with the 30 other parents who also signed up to chaperone the trip.

Now that I’m two days removed from the outdoor adventure, I’m remembering much more of the good than the bad.


First off, I’ve got to hand it to the three teachers who spent months planning this trip. This was a major undertaking from making sure there were enough tents, buying all the food, coordinating the chaperones,  and setting up all the reservations for various activities. While it all didn’t go exactly as planned, no kid ever got lost although one of the kids in my group kept trying to disappear. Shockingly, all the kids avoided any serious injuries, but we had a nurse (who’s also a parent) on standby for any potential medical mishaps.

Before we arrived at camp, we stopped at Calaveras Big Trees park. Like the name says, we saw lots of big trees.

Big Sequoia Trees
Big Sequoia Trees

The 1 1/2 mile hike we took included 26 stops describing various facts about the trees along the route. It was cool for about the first 10 stops then the kids and adults started asking how many more until we were done. We split up in groups so at least it wasn’t all 81 kids.

Are we done yet?
Are we done yet?

This side trip allowed the equipment crew to get a head start on setting up the 17 tents without kids distracting them. It was a genius move, but they could have used a couple more hours. I of course had one girl in my group who took it upon herself to grab her bag and sleeping bag and start setting up her stuff in the wrong tent. When another parent found out this girl was in my tent, she said two words to me. “Good Luck.” I’d need it.

I didn’t anticipate getting much sleep in a tent with five girls and one teacher. I didn’t, but the girls overall were pretty good in the tent and my lack of sleep was due to lying on the ground and waking up to chirping birds, not chirping 10-year-olds.

The second day of my trip was by far my favorite. That’s when we went to Moaning Cavern and descended 165 feet into a cave using a spiraling staircase.

Moaning Cavern Spiral Staircase
Moaning Cavern Spiral Staircase

It was way cool, although a bit scary for some of the kids and adults who are not fans of heights or tight spaces.

The kids also got a chance to pan for gems at this stop, giving them the experience of what it was like to pan for gold back in the gold rush.

The only gold she found was on her shirt
The only gold she found was on her shirt

That evening included a camp fire and enough s’mores for all the kids and adults.


She wanted S'more
She wanted S’more

That left the third and final day, which was at Columbia State Park . This gave the kids a chance to see what it was like to live during the gold rush, complete with strict teachers teaching them daily prayers in a one room school-house and doing their laundry with a washboard.

Think this will get her to do laundry at home? Yeah, I doubt it

Once we finished up living like Laura Ingalls Wilder, we made one more round through the Columbia Candy Kitchen . I’d like to say it was all for the kids to grab some giant-sized jawbreakers, but I selfishly wanted some more of their sweets. We then hit the road back to Redwood City. I had high hopes of all five kids passing out on the drive home, but it never happened. Maybe the trip to the candy store wasn’t such a good idea. At least I only had to threaten to stop the car one time. We made it back to the school around 3:15 all in one piece.

While this may not have been my ideal trip, the kids loved it. I’m sure I would have too if I was in 4th grade.  One Columbia trip down, two to go. I may need more than three years to be ready for the next one, but if I don’t go, it will take that long for me to talk the husband to go in my place.

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