As a child I often dreamed of wonderful adventures in the wilderness. I craved to experience the mystery and power of mother Nature. To spend a night in the woods all alone, go backpacking or spend a week living in a tent all seemed like unrealizable dreams. My parents used to go on hiking trips in the mountains when they were students, and they told me their stories which I listened to in admiration. They showed me the beauty of the nature, even though they were never able to take me on a multi-day wilderness trip.
As I got older, my unrealizable dreams turned into the most valuable experiences of my life. They helped me realize the power of Nature's forces and the eternal wisdom of the Nature's priceless advice. Every time I was in trouble and running in circles in search for answers, the great outdoors gave me peace of mind from which the best possible solution would effortlessly arise. And now I feel that it is my responsibility to pass this love of Nature on to our son.
I made up my mind that as soon as Mark would be able to enjoy a camping trip, we would take him to Mt. Madonna County Park, a wonderful place with a web of hiking trails, several places of interest for kids and very nice wooded campsites. Early in October Lev was going on a business trip and Mark, Bright and I were staying home. As we were trying to fill our time without dad with various activities, it struck me that perhaps that was a good time to go camping.
It took me a while to find an online reservation system for Mt. Madonna and reserve a campsite. The reservation website offers interactive 360 degree virtual tours of all camping areas, a very handy tool. We packed our stuff in the car and headed for our first wilderness adventure.
Our campsite at Tan Oak campground was very nice, but now that I've seen the place I've made a note as to where exactly I'd like to camp next time . I noticed that other campgrounds (there are 4 of them at Mt.Madonna) were smaller, less even and farther from the places of interest, so I think we're stuck with Tan Oak campgrounds for long now.
We arrived at the park after dusk and had to set up our tent in the darkness. As we slipped into our sleeping bags, I looked into Mark's eyes in the light of a flashlight hanging from the "ceiling" of the tent. He was not scared or anxious, but his eyes were big and surprised, as if he was trying to say "Are we REALLY going to sleep right here?" He quickly fell asleep to the sound of rustling redwoods.
The next morning we took a trail walk. Mark was studying the surroundings in his own slow and elaborate way, he was curious but not impatient about everything he saw - it is very interesting to see a toddler study the Nature on his own.
First we headed to see the herd of white fallow deer living in a paddock nearby. These deer are native to the Mediterranean region of Europe and western Asia and ancestors of these particular animals were presented to the family of California cattle baron Henry Miller by William Randolph Hearst almost a 100 years ago. Nice close-up photographs of these beautiful animals can be found at Morgan Hill Times website. We made several shots as well. So sad that in a dozen years this attraction would be lost forever.
Our second destination was the site of Miller house ruins. The cattle baron seemed to love the place and had built 4 houses there in the course of over 20 years. The grandest structure was an elaborate home with seven bedrooms and baths, a living room with a veranda on three sides and a 3,600 square foot ballroom, finished in 1901. Since then very rapid deterioration of the estate began, completed by the '89 earthquake. Here's what Neil Wiley tells us in his story of the place:
"Not much remains of this mountain palace—a few stone walls, a foundation and stairs that lead nowhere. But these remnants spark the imagination. What was it like to live in this mysterious mansion, far from the valley and other people?Here you can see the panorama of the place as it is now. This is truly an exciting place for kids to explore!
How imposing was the grand entrance to this giant estate? Why did this great project fall into disrepair? Is it simply a sad but telling monument to the passage of time? "
Mark's first camping trip turned out to be an inspiring adventure. On our way back to the Valley I could not stop but plan our next visit to Mt.Madonna. How cool would it be to stay there for a week, explore the woods, play games in sequoia fairy rings and forget for a while about the discouraging comfort and useless conventions of modern civilization!