Our friends Brett and Kim talked us into a double date the other day. Brett set it all up and decided that we would go to one of their favorite places, the Tomalas Bay Oyster Company. This is a combination oyster farm and picnic grounds and it was way cooler that I expected. I can't believe that I have never been there before. This place was right up my alley. 

They have this large picnic grounds overlooking the bay and you can use the facilities for free! These guys are just trying to sell some oysters. You bring the drinks, hot sauce and if you are going to que, the coals to do so. They will sell you all kinds of oysters and clams.

We bought 50 of the smalls for eating raw, some BBQ size and some special tiny ones that were flown in from Seattle, I think. Brett had made a chopped salsa of sorts that consisted of onions, cilantro lime & salt. We spooned this over the little guys and had at it. They were so unbelievably good, words can not describe. It's like eating a bit of the sea, only fresh and bright tasting. 

Problem was, after a couple of Ranger IPAs, we could not open them up fast enough. They are small so eating them was no problem. The bottle neck was the shucking and prep. After a while, it was just Brett popping them open. I'd sneak a few when he wasn't looking and the girls chatted away over a glass of Champagne. The little guys were just too good.

The larger ones came off the grill after a couple of minutes and I had brought a special bottle of hot sauce called Yucatan Gold. It's a fiery Habanero sauce made with onion and carrot, bright orange and hotter than snot. It is by far, my all time favorite hot sauce. Made over in Sonoma and I've only ever found it at one place - Hop Kiln Winery on West Side road about 7 miles from the camp.


If you are a hot sauce aficionado, you owe it to yourself to check it out when you stay with us at the camp. It as good as hot sauce gets. Pair this with a bit of sweet BBQ sauce over a grilled oyster and it's darn near Nirvana.

Tomales Bay Oyster co. is an easy day trip from Schoolhouse Canyon Campground and well worth the effort. get there early, especially on a weekend and grab a table overlooking the bay. here is the link:



Over the winter, I spent some time mushroom hunting up on the old Beaty Ridge trail behind the camp. I was lucky enough to find a few good patches of Chanterelles.

You need to hit them just right or it won't pay off. One of the patches was a week or so too old and all water logged from the rain. I'll make a mental note on the location of those mushrooms and try and hit them a bit earlier in the season next year. The mushrooms will come up in the same place year after year. so you just have to get the timing right. The Chanterelles above were just right though. I let them air dry for a 

couple of days after cleaning and did them up very simply with olive oil, garlic and parmesan over pasta. Really good and well worn the effort.

I went back to those patches on the hill trail several times after that but I never seemed to hit it just right like i did that first day. Either way, it's a good excuse to be out and getting some exercise during the winter.


When it rains, the tough go camping.

The weather this year has been difficult to say the least. We made it open by Memorial day, but just barely. It’s not that I haven’t been on the job. we have cleaned every stick, twig and leaf out of the camp six times this year. It just won’t stop storming though and each time we have to start all over again.

I made it open by the deadline and the campers streamed in. We were totally full, which is not unusual, but was was out of the norm was the quality of camper we had for the holiday weekend. These people were true campers. We had mostly small groups of 4 to 8 people and every site was full. It was the most mellow and calm holiday weekend I have ever experienced at Schoolhouse (or any other campground for that matter).

It sprinkled two out of the three days, but it did not bother the campers too much. These people were happy and just seemed to take it all in stride, sitting around the campfire maybe a little closer than they would have otherwise. If you were here and one of my campers on Memorial day, thank you. You were great.


We had a soft opening this year and opened the camp a week early for a great group of campers in VW bus’. Most of the bus’ were vintage like the one above and they could not have been a cooler group. This is an eclectic sub culture of VW enthusiasts and I love them. I have to say that they have just about inspired me to buy a bus.

They all revolve around a blog here:



By coincidence, my mom Shelley ( and occasional ranger assistant at the camp) has a Westfalia camper and she came out to join the group for a couple of nights. These wonderful people made her feel so welcome and encouraged her to join their Westie group. Very cool of them.

This is the third year of the “Bus City Camp Out” and the first year at Schoolhouse Canyon.The first two years were at Casini’s, but that was not exactly the right spot for these small campers. We were just right.

There was about twenty of these bus’ all over the camp. Some were from the 80’s and some were from the 60’s. The bus seem to appeal to a mature crowd (35 or 40 YO +) and because of that or maybe in spite of that, they were a mellow, calm group of campers. The loudest they got was singing songs around the campfire with a guitar one night. 

This is exactly what I’m looking for at Schoolhouse and I wish they would come back every week. They had such a good time, they are looking to come back next year. If you’d like to join them, you can find out more here:




Guerneville, California

Playland, better known as “Pee Wee Golf” in Guerneville is one of the truly great things to do in town on a summer night. It is a true, authentic, old school pee wee golf course right out of the early fifties. It’s not to be missed if you have kids and way more fun than you would expect if you are an adult. Grab a pizza or some Mexican food in town before coming back to the camp and make a night of it. Below is a better write up of Playland than I could muster and is available in full here: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/10052

From roadsideamerica.com -

Much of the surreal landscape of post-World War II miniature golf courses burst from the minds of members of the Koplin family.

Welder Bill Koplin Sr. built the Pee Wee Golf in Guerneville, California, which opened in 1948. His brother, Lee Koplin, managed the business for three years (1953-55), and apparently caught the miniature golf sculpture bug. Lee (said by his son Randy to also be a welder, who worked on the Hoover Dam) headed east, fashioning his own golf challenges -- culminating in his greatest (and much copied) work during his Goofy Golf period (1957-59), in Florida and Mississippi. Meanwhile, Bill and his son Bill Jr. continued creating their own distinct style of courses, chiefly in California -- in Alameda, Bakersfield, South Lake Tahoe, Lake Berryessa...

But Guerneville's 36-hole Pee Wee Golf is where it all started. 

A bridge constructed across the Russian River into Guerneville in the last decade had a detrimental effect on a cluster of south bank amusements, siphoning tourist traffic into town. Most quickly went out of business. Play Land Amusement Park, across the street, kicked sometime after the Millennium; what remains today is Pee Wee Golf.

Pee Wee seemed destined for obliteration as well, after the old owners retired out of the area. In stepped current owner Tom Glover, who's been diligently running the historic (and fun) site with his wife, Vanessa.

There is a comic depiction of two cannibals cooking a man in a large pot, right next to a Yogi Bear head. While we stroll, Tom points out that as the river swells from Spring floods nearly every year, all 36 holes and statues go underwater. "That's the high water mark," he says, pointing to a spot halfway up the second floor of the main building. A major cresting of the Russian River on Feb. 18, 1986, put Pee Wee Golf under about 16 feet of water.

One bright spot is the media attention the deluge garners -- TV weather reporters always use Pee Wee Golf's garish purple dinosaur, Lily, as the region's visual measurement stick for high water. After the Spring waters recede, Pee Wee Golf is thoroughly scraped of mud, hosed down and cleaned. Hole No. #1 features the largest dinosaur, built in 1962, well after the original sculptures by Lee Koplin. A classic, dagger-toothed flesh-eater, Tom referred to it as a T-Rex for a long time before a visiting 5-year old child corrected him, based on the statue's number of fingers. Laughing, Tom said now he properly refers to it as an Allosaurus Rex.

Pee Wee Golf has solid family appeal, but even on the off-season we see hints of a broader clientele. Grateful Dead bears and a G.D. skull logo are painted around one hole. Tom mentions quite a bit of "evening activity," and has to chase out after-hours teenagers cavorting in the castle, or under the monkey.

Tom is working on adding a new statue to the park -- the first in years. He has the silver cylinder and nosecone of a moon rocket started, composed of raw materials donated by locals. Sounds like a good Spring project -- after the flood, of course.

Thanks to Tim Hollis, Debra Jane Selzer, and Karen Franceschi (Koplin) for some of the details on the Koplin connection.

Pee Wee Golf

Address: 16155 Drake Road, Guerneville, CA

Directions: Drake Road and Hwy. 116, River Lumber Yard, just south of bridge.

Admission: $7

Hours: Opens after Easter. (Call to verify)

Phone: 707-869-9321

Schoolhouse Canyon Campground 12600 River Rd. Guerneville, CA 707.869.2311

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