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Pinecrest - Childhood Memories Revisited

Posted Jul 23 2012 6:00am
(Fair warning...this is a long one.)

On my first full day in California, my childhood friend Matt (who I reconnected with here ) and I went to Pinecrest Lake, which is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Our families, along with a lot of the San Jose Sailing Club families, used to go camping up there for two weeks every summer.  I remember Pinecrest as a place of freedom, mainly because we were allowed to just wander around all day long...we didn't have to check in with our parents during the day, and we were free to do whatever we wanted.  What could be better?

As kids, our days at Pinecrest were spent roaming around the lake and campgrounds, climbing the huge rocks, going swimming and fishing, and hitting up the general store for candy, comic books and the occasional frosty ice cream cone.  On any given day you could be as lazy or as active as you wanted - it was a great place to spend your vacation.  Ever since we reconnected, Matt has asked me to go visit Pinecrest with him when I'd come out to California, and I always declined, because Barbara and I were too busy for me to take an entire day out of our plans.  But during this trip, she had to work several days that I was there, so Pinecrest made the agenda!

I remembered the drive to Pinecrest taking all day, but it actually only took us three hours - and no, it's not because Matt was speeding - the main difference was that we were in a Prius as opposed to a camper that was towing a boat trailer.  And those windy mountain roads that always made me carsick?  No problem!  Again, riding in the front seat of a car vs. the back of a camper probably had a lot to do with that.  Perks of being an adult!  The upside was that I not only enjoyed the drive up, but also didn't spend the first hour trying to recover from being green with motion sickness.

We arrived at the campground and I was amazed - the place looked and smelled the same..there is a distinct pine/flowery smell that IS Pinecrest.  We made the first of several trips to the general store, to buy candy and bottles of water, and I also bought a postcard, which I immediately sent to my parents since there was a little post office right next to the store.  Then we put on our walking shoes and sunscreen and took off for a walk around the lake, just like old times.  The path is narrow and you have to scramble up over rocks and tree roots - it was a bit of a challenge for me, but nothing I couldn't handle.  The old, overweight me?  No way I would or could have done this.  Matt was in front with me following, and I swear, we were 10 years old again.  We went quite a ways before we found the perfect rock (I keep calling them rocks, but they're more like boulders) and we climbed up it to sit for a while, enjoying the view, the gorgeous weather, and the memories.

Matt was the official photographer for the day since I had a major fail and brought my camera with a dead battery (I still can't believe I did that) - these are all taken with his iPhone:
 End of the lake behind me
Another view of the lake and mountains Looking toward the swimming area (or beach, as we called it) - if you click on the picture, you can see the white buoys in the water - that's where we used to swim (and where we swam a little later on!) On top of a rock, at the prettiest lake in the world!
Eventually we headed back to the beach, and went for a swim. The water was so cold! We got in, and talked about swimming out to the buoys that marked off the swimming area. They looked pretty far off, and as kids, I remember it being a deal to swim all the way out there, but we surprised ourselves by zipping out to them pretty quickly.  There used to be a really thick rope connecting the buoys but now it's a cable, which wasn't as easy to sit on, but we did manage to tightrope walk it from one buoy to the next.
Picture circa 1973.  (I wondered where the big rock was, but the lake was higher than when we used to go, since we were there in early July and we didn't camp until sometime in August).  Buoys in the background...
And in the "some things don't change" category, I still wore a shirt over my swimsuit to protect my shoulders from sunburning, only this time it was a rash guard instead of a cotton t-shirt.  We had a blast and wished we'd brought some floaties like all the kids were time.  We finally got out of the water and laid under the shade to dry off - no current picture, but I can guarantee it was pretty much like this  L to R:  Me, Kathy, Mitch, Matt Pinecrest kids then...  ...and now.  Still the same, right?!
Then it was time for our frosty - just as good as I remembered Nothing like a twisty ice cream after a nice hike and swim!
And in the "it's a small world" category, a few minutes after these pictures were taken, a family came along to climb up as well...and it turned out that the father had coached Matt's oldest daughter in soccer a few years ago!
After that, we had one more destination - Split Rock.  As we discovered that while we may have felt like 10-year-olds in our heads, our bodies were a little tired after a full, active day, so we drove to the upper campgrounds to find it.  Some kids (hey! you kids! get offa my rock!!) had built a covering out of branches over the split part, and we discussed taking it apart, but we decided to let them have their own fun (the hooligans!) and left it.
  Matt had to see if walking through the split would magically transform him back to a real 10-year-old, but it didn't happen.  Real life, what's the deal?!?
It was a wonderful day - I loved revisiting a place that held so many good memories, and doing it with my childhood best friend.  This was our home away from home for many years, and I discovered that you actually CAN go home again.  Only at the end of the day, we were both walking a little on the creaky kids, we would have crawled into our respective sleeping bags, slept hard, and woken up to do it all over again.  As an adult, I was thankful for a soft bed and a rest day afterward!
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