EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Kids | Baghdad By The Bay - Part 2

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How to Practice Your Camping Skills in San Francisco

You have to love the Presidio. When it was used by the military it must have been great for training exercises because of all the dense growth of trees and brush and the sheer size makes it a great place to take a walk around and explore.

One of the few hidden secrets is that it has the only location within San Francisco where you can legally camp. Yep, you read that right, camping in San Francisco. It’s called the Rob Hill Campground and I and a few friends used the place before it was remodeled last year. It now has four campgrounds up from two when we used it and the price has increased a little bit to $100/site. Each site can hold up to 30 campers so if you’ve got a group then the price is more reasonable.

It’s a wonderful place to go and camp and you get to fall asleep to the roar of the Ocean nearby and because of all the trees when the wind picks up in the afternoon it’s not as bad as it could be. When the sun sets is when the fun begins. We were all sitting by the campfire when we started to hear noises. We started to see raccoons, skunks and one coyote sniffing around for scraps. You’ll usually here them rifling through the garbage cans at night so any food you have with you that you haven’t used you might want to pack up in your car or a very secure ice chest. Raccoons and coyotes are notorious for getting into places you wouldn’t expect them to.

A nice addition to the campground is the real bathrooms. When my wife and I went to inspect the place prior to our get together they had the bathrooms locked down and a large badly needed to be cleaned porta-potty. A quick email off to the local city officials and parks department suddenly had not just that bathroom, but every bathroom in the Presidio and Golden Gate Park scrubbed down and refurbished. You can thank me for that.

The only downside, if you can call it a downside is that the Presidio Trust runs the CAP [Camping at the Presidio] program for kids that gets priority over anyone else. That could be a bad thing, but for most kids in San Francisco camping isn’t something you get to do very often without having to drive for about an hour. Here’s what the Presidio Trust has to say about the new campground:

Rob Hill Campground is a hidden Presidio gem and is the only camping facility in San Francisco. The site is a fantastic venue for outdoor learning and fun. To provide children and youth who traditionally have not visited national parks with overnight camping experiences, the Crissy Field Center (operated by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service), the Presidio Trust, and Bay Area Wilderness Training have developed the Camping at the Presidio (CAP) program.

Designed for community organizations and schools, CAP provides a dynamic and affordable way to enrich the lives of young people. CAP trains group leaders with the skills and resources they need to plan and lead a youth camping trip. After program leaders complete an Outdoor Leadership Training program they can begin to prepare for their camping trip to the park. Eligible community and school groups can reserve the campground between March and October.

[mappress mapid=”27″]I have to say that the redo is nice work. The bathrooms are nicer, but don’t have showers still. They’ve developed hiking trails that last time I was there had what looked like some construction work and piles of logs in a muddy area. Now it really looks like a real camping spot. New picnic tables and grills have been installed. We can thank the Haas family for the donations that made this possible. Plus the big bonus is that you have regular park patrols to keep the homeless campers in Golden Gate Park from moving to a new zip code. Check it out some day even if you’re not going to camp. It’s a fun place to hike around. Plus if you do decide to camp you’re not too far away from any needed amenities you forgot to bring with you at the last minute.

The Doelger Center

Since our daughter has two weeks off from pre-school we have to find something to do with her so she doesn’t build up enough energy to explode. So this morning we decided to take her to the California Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately we left a little before noon and the garage was full which means that the Academy would be full as well. Since our little one doesn’t like big crowds too much we made a change in plans.

Now normally I try to focus on San Francisco, but the Doelger Center is almost San Francisco because it’s right over the boarder into Daly City right before you get the Westlake. The Doelger Center is open on Wednesdays from 12pm-2pm and Fridays from 10am-2pm, but this was the last day it would be open before the end of the year.

If you have kids, this is a great place. For only $4 you can stay as long as you like. They have a bouncy house which for the $4 is worth it alone, but they also have lots of other soft play mats and climbing structures for the kids to play with as well as tricycles, slides, hula hoops and a few other things. While the bouncy house is always there some of the slides and climbing structures change depending on whims of the two guys from Daly City Park and Rec who run the place, but they always do a good job.

On my first outing here I was a little horrified to see regulation basketballs for the kids to play with [recommended ages are 5 and under] and then I picked one up and realized it was half flat. All the balls aren’t fully inflated. So I had to do a test. I had the friend I had taken my daughter with hit me in the face with the ball. It hurt, sort of, but I’ve been hit in the head with a fully inflated basketball and that hurt worse.

[mappress mapid=”14″]What I really like about this place is that it encourages the kids to think about how to play. They can use all the “stuff” to create their own play space instead of here’s your playground and this is how you’re supposed to play. One day I had about 6 kids laying down on a giant parachute as I pulled them around the gym. Luckily there was another Dad who helped out and took over for me so we could switch off without having a heart attack. You have your regular groups of Moms there and they all are very friendly and don’t seem to mind if your kids “interact” [that’s the term I like to use for crashing into each other]. They understand that kids are going to be kids. My daughter reached into one woman’s bag of tortilla chips from Chipotle one day to help herself and she laughed it off.

One of the fun things too about the Doelger Center is that around Halloween and Christmas they do a little extra. Halloween has a costumed parade of all the kids and ends with a bag of candy for each of them. Christmas, and this was my first experience of it here, they had a Santa giving out toys to all the kids. I did notice a bit of an Irish brogue as he talked and realized that he was probably a friend of the “Irish Mom’s Club” which is a group of Irish women who tend to sit together and talk while their kids wreak havoc on the place. I tried to keep our daughter away from Santa figuring that he only had enough toys for the kids in that group, but one of the Mom’s told me that they had enough presents for all the kids. Good thinking. You wouldn’t want to have your kid meet Santa only to be told he forgot her present.

Afterwards our daughter decided it was time to visit Chipotle for lunch. We drove down the block to Westlake and split a steak burrito bowl and chips and guacamole between the three of us [after all the burrito bowl gives you more than half your days calories]. Total cost for this outing? under $15. Now that’s a deal to take advantage of.