A Weekend at Mount Madonna

We spent the weekend with other members of Neil’s cub scout troop at Mount Madonna. Mount Madonna is a popular local camping locale on the border of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. One reason for its popularity is that its western slope faces the Monterey Bay so it’s always cool, but never cold, and the park is almost all forested, so there is always a shady spot to camp. Here’s a picture I took near our campground in the beautiful misty morning:


One thing I love about the cub scout family camp outs is that they’re such a no-brainer. First of all, it’s drive-a-car-to-your-site camping, which isn’t really camping compared to what the backpackers I see hauling 35 pound packs on Skyline-to-the-Sea do. The cub scouts’ fathers (who were often boy scouts themselves) come fully prepared with plenty of provisions, and the (luxurious to me) propane stoves to complement the camp fire barbecue, which, also, I don’t have to get going. The boys would be happy just running around in the woods with each other, but for the rest of the family, there’s at least one planned activity. For this trip, we went on a short 1-mile hike around the former summer estate of Henry Miller, an 1870s cattle baron.

With his riches, Henry Miller bought much of the land that is now Mount Madonna and built a palatial summer estate there, including sumptuous gardens and the first privately-owned swimming pool in California. But by the 1920s, after Henry Miller’s death, the house and property were abandoned and fell into disrepair, possibly because of irreparable damage from the 1906 earthquake. Eventually, the county bought the property and turned it into a public park. All that’s left of Henry Miller’s glorious summer home is ruins. Luckily, children love to play in ruins. Here they are having a great time climbing up and around concrete steps, which today, connect to nothing:


That evening we cooked dinners in foil on top of charcoal, which included one of my favorite deserts: a banana slit open and filled with butterscotch chips and marshmallows, and then wrapped in foil on put on coals until the banana is cooked and the candy inside melted to a sweet sauce.

I had to take Kelly to the tent, but Neil stayed behind at the camp fire for ghost stories and s’mores. We slept fairly well that night. Others complained about the chill, but I had a 35-lb. toddler-shaped heater in my sleeping bag with me, which kept me nice and warm. In the morning, the cub scouts were tasked with making breakfast for everyone on the propane stoves. As all-you-can-eat (as long as it lasts) eggs, bacon, potatoes, and tomatoes, it was better than a Grand Slam at Denny’s–and more ambitious than I would have gotten together on my own.

As the cub scouts cleaned up, Kelly enjoyed playing in the trees:kelly-in-trees.jpg

All too soon, it was time to leave the woods and go back home.

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