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Castillo Family Camping

Article started by Sergs; finished and refined by Lynlyn
Date: 31-Aug-2005

Lynlyn and I have been in several Sikap-Bundok climbs together, back in the ’90s, several times a year. That was before I moved here to the United States in 1997. A few months after I settled in, I managed to join a camping/trekking trip with friends in San Francisco. Lynlyn, meanwhile, remained active with the club (if you look closely at the Mt. Batulao group picture, she was there and I wasn’t).


Lynlyn joined me here in 1998. In August of that year we went camping/trekking to Yosemite with a bunch of friends, and, surprise, surprise, we met Eugene Guiyab, another Sikap-Bundok member, there.

After our first child, Jethro Sergei, was born in November, 1998, our outdoor activities have been limited to fishing, swimming, playing in the park, and some 30-minute to 1-hour treks to several regional parks. When our second child, Josiah Aidan, was born in June 2001, the more that we were limited to those outdoor activities plus some bike-riding & baseball playing. No overnight camps for us.

When we thought that Josiah was big enough to go camping, that was late 2003, we made plans to go camping with our kids. To familiarize them with “camping,” we bought a tent and set it up in our living room and slept there for the night. But all of our planned camping trips never materialized as our schedules did not permit us. All we’ve done after months of planning was setup a tent inside our house, not even in our backyard. That was until July 16, 2005, when we joined Jethro’s Cub Scout overnight camping trip at Lake del Valle in Livermore, California.

Lake del Valle is about 25 miles from our house, or 60 miles from San Francisco. Centerpiece of the park is a lake five miles long with all kinds of water-oriented recreation, surrounded by 3,997 acres of beautiful land for hiking, horseback riding, and nature study. Del Valle also is the eastern gateway to the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, a 28- mile scenic backcountry trail (Maybe this will be our next target camp).

The Habagat backpack, hip bags, compass, swiss knives, and other hiking stuff we’ve used in Sikap-Bundok climbs finally came out of their hiding places. We bought new sleeping bags and pads, a new set of first aid kit, flashlights and other camping necessities. Two days before the camping trip, we taught the boys how to pack their daypacks – what to bring and where everything should be in the daypack. We even taught them to pack their clothes in “ziplock” bags. Without telling our sons what the “ziplock” bags are for, our four-year old son Josiah remarked, “So our clothes won’t get wet.” Clever, huh. While packing, we tried to pack our bags the Sikap-Bundok style, everything should fit in the backpack & daypack.

Since this was our first time camping-out there, we didn’t know what to expect. When we got there, we saw that the campsite is just a five-minute walk (or less) from the parking area (well, what do you expect, we can’t complain, this is for the cub-scouts, not for experienced hikers). It has flush toilets but no shower. Nothing to worry about though since the park offers two swimming beaches with lifeguards on duty during posted periods.

We had to provide our own lunch and some drinks. The Cub Scouts (the organization) provided dinner and breakfast for the following day. It was really a modern (and easy) day camping with some families bringing portable stoves, kitchen utensils and food to cook.

Considering that it was the middle of summer, the heat was unbearable. We had to cool down by the beach to take the heat off. The boys’ activities included swimming in the beach, boat riding and campfire. During campfire, the boys got the chance to roast marshmallows and make s’mores (a campfire delicacy consisting of a toasted marshmallow and Hershey’s chocolate bar smashed on graham crackers). They took turns in singing songs & telling jokes.

One of the most memorable events of that campfire though, was the American flag-burning ceremony, also called flag retirement ceremony.

Why and how is it done is this: When the Flag is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, it should not be cast aside or used in any way that might be viewed as disrespectful to the national colors, but should be buried or destroyed by fire. All participants gather in solemnity around the campfire, which ideally has burned down to a low and hot bed of glowing coals. In complete silence, the flag is cut apart. One person cuts the blue field of stars from the flag and hands it to another, who carefully folds it. Then the first cuts the stripes apart, passing each as it is released. At no time should any part of the flag touch the ground. The Flag Bearer is then handed the stripes; he carefully places them on the fire, either as a unit or singly. When they are almost consumed, the Flag Bearer is handed the stars. He kisses them to show respect and then places them on the fire. The ceremonial fire should never be used for any other purpose once the flag has been burned.

That was a very educational and solemn flag retirement ceremony. All were quiet until the last speck of blue has turned to ash. Then, It was our turn to retire for the day. We went to our tent and slept with doors and windows half-open as it was hot inside the tent up until two o’clock in the morning when we finally got some cool breeze, and it was already comfortable inside the tent. The boys didn’t mind it at all as they were too exhausted after all the day’s activities.

The following day, we had breakfast and then it was time to break-camp. Some families decided to stay to go fishing and swimming. We decided to go home as the boys already started to complain that it was hot. Alas, it was another excruciating hot day in camp. Did they have a good time? You bet they did! They said they want to go camping again. It was a success, considering that it was our first as a family. Can’t wait to go on a three or four-day camping trip.

One of our goals is to climb the Half Dome in Yosemite (Hopefully, when the kids are old enough and willing, and the parents’ knees and legs are still strapping).