Angel Island Campout of the Century, December 31st 1999 to January 2nd.

It has become a regular event for me to camp out with a bunch of people from BASK on Angel Island over the new year. With this being the new Millenium as well, we expected pretty spectacular fireworks. So did a bunch of other people, and the campsites became difficult to get. We were unable to get the "kayak camp" at all, but reserved the three campsites up on the ridge with a view of San Francisco.

The paddle over to the island was uneventful but when we arrived, all hell broke loose with the campsites. Camping there was so popular this year that island was more than full. We had signed up the maximum number of people that the State Parks allows in our three spots. Two of these people were the daughter and son-in-law taking the ferry to join their kayaker father. They met a group of three people on the ferry who did not have reservations, but were begging everyone on the boat who did have a campground to let them tag along. The non-kayaking couple, not knowing that slots were highly contended, invited these three strangers to meet them at our camp. Several BASK kayakers who signed up to come decided at the last moment to bring a friend along. Then another group of eight people showed up and claimed that the park system had given THEM the middle campground of our three.

It turned out that the park rangers had re-numbered some of the campsites. By reserving numbers 3, 4, and 5, we thought we were getting the three adjacent ones on the ridge. But under the new system, campsite three was all the way on the other side of the island from four and five! The campsite we thought was three had no number on it, accept for a "3" scratched in a trail sign, so you can understand our error. Ranger Dan Winkleman (of the Peace and Quiet Party, "Win with Winkleman") arrived and allowed us to compromise. We had to move a few angry kayakers out of campsite four into the un-numbered one we thought was number three. We were allowed to double up with sixteen people in that spot and the eight new people moved into campsite four. The three free-loaders off the ferry were allowed to walk around the island and camp in the new number three.

Then we found out that the kayak camp had actually been available until just recently. Apparently the computer reservation system always has it marked as reserved by the rangers, but if you call Ranger Winkleman directly he can reserve it for kayakers. A small group of two people had called in and reserved it a few days ago, then they never showed up!

As midnight approached, we hiked up to the top of the island and met a large group of people, including an off-duty Dan Winkleman. From there we could see the Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco fireworks. Over the rise of the island behind us we could see other fireworks from Marin County as well. As predicted, the fireworks this year were quite spectacular! Although this was the year that the digits in the date all changed, technically it was not the new millenium yet, which starts in 2001. But we didn't mind, we'll all just come back again to have another big party and celebrate all over again next year!

There was all that crazyness about Y2K, the sillyness that all our computers were going to crash and bring western civilization to an end. I didn't believe it for a minute, but played along by planning an emergency trip home. In case western civilization collapsed, I would still want to get back to my house. What if civil unrest or the official reaction to it prevented me from driving home? From Angel Island I can paddle out the Golden Gate, up the coast around Point Reyes, past Bodega Bay, up the Russian River and Austin Creek to within two kilometers of my house. Unfortunately it is at least 100 kilometers by water, and if I paddled a reasonable 20 kilometers a day it would take 5 days to get home! I didn't want to haul enough supplies out to the island so I gave up on actually being prepared for that trip.

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All text and images Copyright © 1999 by Mike Higgins / contact