DANVILLE -- The Grand Canyon. Yosemite. Oak Hill Park?
On Saturday morning, a tent city took shape in Oak Hill Park when 73 intrepid campers pitched their tents on the lawn by the duck pond and beneath the redwoods that line the edge of the Monte Vista High School parking lot.
As the temperature climbed to 98 degrees, kids stayed cool in the high school pool. They ran water balloon relay races in the grass and painted in the arts and crafts tent. Meanwhile, their parents lounged in lawn chairs in the shade reading or chatting while sipping wine and beer.
Around 5 p.m., Henry Siu, who organized a Dublin family camp out earlier this month and who runs a barbecue business, fired up his grill. Families lined up and piled their plates with hot dogs, chicken and salad. After dinner, Hans Hormann, program coordinator for the town of Danville, and his crew handed out ice cream.
Hormann said the town has been running the popular Family Camp Out at Oak Hill Park for the past eight years.
The event cost $14 for each Danville resident, $17 for non-residents and covered dinner, a continental breakfast, swimming, a movie and activities for the kids. Only five families showed up for the first campout, but the event has grown over the years.
"This is introductory camping," Hormann said. "The whole point of this is to get people interested in going out and doing it on their own."
At dusk, campers set up chairs and blankets on the
Flashlight beams occasionally danced across the screen, and every now and then a glow-in-the-dark necklace flipped through the air over the audience -- this was a largely 10 and under crowd.
When the movie ended, the suburban campers headed back to their tents and hit the sack. All was quiet, except for the occasional car on Stone Valley Road, until around 3 a.m. when a pack of coyotes up on the hillside yapped and howled, setting off some nervous quacking and honking from the ducks and geese in the pond.
At sunrise, there was no sleeping in for mom and dad. The kid campers were up with the sun and were out on the grass running and laughing and playing with their friends.
Due to the popularity of the family camp out, last year the town began a second camp out in Mt. Diablo State Park. It will take place this year, but the Aug. 11-12 camp out is already sold out and has a 33-person waiting list, Hormann said.
"It's more of a nature-based camp out," he said, with hiking, campfires, as well as arts and crafts and other activities.
On Sept. 8-9, the town will sponsor its first backpack camp out, which includes a five-mile trek to a campsite in Mt. Diablo State Park -- gear and food provided. That trip also sold out quickly, Hormann said.
After breakfast Sunday, the tents in Oak Hill Park came down, cars were loaded up and campers began heading home.
"We do this every year because our kids are young and because it's easy," said Danville resident Stacey Williams as she packed up her tent with her sons Nicholas, 5, Nathan, 9, and their friend Kyler, 10. "It's really well organized, and it's one of the nicer parks in the county."
"It was an interesting experience," said Pleasanton resident Katie Cheong. This was her first camp out with her sons Mason, 2, Ryan, 6, and several friends. "I'm not really a camper, but my kids loved it. It's not every day you can spend a night in the park."
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.