My fondest memories of picnicking are set in some of the world's most charming spots, with cool grass tickling my bare feet and dense groves of shade trees for relaxing underneath.
Sometimes my dad would turn the car onto a back road in the German or Swiss countryside, or along a coastal highway in a mid-Atlantic state, until we found a spot to our liking.
Egg salad sandwiches, bottles of soda and all the Oreos we could eat were standard fare. And a jar of soapy water with a wash cloth kept our hands and faces clean.
Being that July is National Picnic Month, I thought I'd share a list of our favorite picnic spots with you.
Snelling's Henderson Park sits beside the Merced River, with plenty of grass and trees, a playground area, baseball diamond, restrooms, picnic tables and barbecue grills.
Don Pedro Lake boasts two lovely picnic areas, Moccasin Point and Fleming Meadow, complete with lots of natural green. And Fleming Meadow offers close access to a lagoon just right for swimming.
Only a short drive from Merced and Mariposa, Lakes McClure and McSwain are popular and beautiful spots for water sports, wind surfing and hang gliding, camping, picnicking and more. Barrett Cove, Horseshoe Bend and Bagby lie at various points near these two lakes in Mariposa County, and also offer great spots for a picnic.
On the way to Yosemite, which, of course, has plenty of outdoor dining ambience, off Highway 140 is the Bureau of Land Management's Merced River Recreation Area at Briceburg. It's a great spot for camping, too.
In Oakhurst, in Madera County, the community park sits where two creeks merge, providing duck-feeding delight for the kiddos. And Bass Lake is only a few miles up the highway, surrounded by blue sky and towering pines.
Tuolomne County's Columbia State Park has picnic tables situated among mature oaks and boulders, and Jamestown's own Railtown 1897 Historic State Park is worth the entrance fee for the train ride and enjoying sandwiches from home at one of its shaded outdoor tables.
Check Web sites for these and other recreational spots, as some charge a small fee for day use.
Canned chicken from my pantry and a chopped apple in minutes becomes yummy chicken salad for days that are picnic-perfect. And keeping a basket filled with paper and plastic utensils, plus a small pack of wipes and mosquito repellent, makes impromptu picnics quick and easy.
Being that it's summertime and we're surrounded by so much gorgeous California scenery, pack a lunch and let's go!
Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.