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My Private Island

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Tony Moceri photo

A family retreat from the Diablo Lake crowds

By Tony Moceri

Venturing out into wilderness on a camping trip is a great way to spend time in nature and escape the crowds. At least it used to be.

Camping has seen a boom over the last year as people look for ways to get out and explore. Campsites are packed. You’re lucky if you can even book a site. And while I like people as much as the next person, I also like a little space when on a family camping trip.

Last summer, my family of three headed to the Colonial Creek Campground on Diablo Lake. Upon arriving we noticed the public beach access just off Highway 20, boat launch and room to hang by the campground made it an ideal spot if it weren’t teeming with people. A tad dejected, we continued to our campsite.

Our site ended up being on the southernmost point of the campground by the Thunder Creek trailhead. After getting set up, we took a little hike scoping out the area. Heading up the Thunder Creek trail, passing other walkers, we took in the scene of the Thunder Arm of Diablo Lake before it turns into Thunder Creek. As we walked, I noticed some little islands right off the trail and I had a light bulb moment. Instead of fighting the crowds at the public access spot, we could hike our inflatable paddleboards up the trail and venture out to one of them.

My wife and daughter looked at me skeptically as I explained my plan but being good sports, and knowing I would push the idea until they agreed, they decided to give it a try.

The next morning, we packed up provisions for the day and headed up the trail with two paddleboards in tow. As we toted gear and boards up the trail, we got a few interesting looks from people, but just kept our heads down looking for the little offshoot on the trail I spotted the day before.

We took it down a little slope and approached the muddy bank. Positioning our boards and strapping on packs filled with food, towels and games, we set off on our adventure feeling like we were pioneers on the frontier. This point of the Thunder Arm has little current so there is no risk of floating down stream. The first island was a short paddle, and while I don’t normally fall, if I were to, it would be while ferrying my daughter and all the provisions. Fortunately, I held steady and didn’t dump us.

Tony Moceri photo

Getting to the island, our feet submerged in mud, my family looked at me like I was crazy. But we pushed on a bit to the east side to find a white sand beach. We felt as though we had been transported to a beach in the South Pacific, but instead of being surrounded by lush rain forest, we had the peaks of the Cascades and in place of the bathwater of the Pacific Ocean, we had chilly mountain waters. We wouldn’t have traded it for anywhere.

The private island served as home to one of our best days ever. The August weather was perfect, and when feeling hot, a quick dip in the crystal-clear water was a quick reprieve. The island served as a perfect launching point for paddling the lake and exploring other islands. With only two boards, we took turns while the other parent enjoyed a book on the sandy beach.

The day was filled with playing games and eating snacks in one of the most breathtaking spots in the world. Other people went by on their preferred watercraft and one couple stopped on the island. We debated defending it like the Swiss Family Robinson did with the pirates, but clearer heads prevailed, understanding why they would want to share the escape from the crowds.

For most of the day, we had the island to ourselves. Then and there we decided this would be a regular trip for us.

Since I don’t want our island overrun, this article is meant to only serve as a way for you to live vicariously through me, not for you to go enjoy yourself. But if you happen to take this trek, be sure to bring sunscreen, food and water because once on your own private island, you will surely be in no hurry to leave.