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Campers Build Thanksgiving Traditions on the Beach

November 23, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

One of the campsites at Doran Regional Park, Sonoma County, Calif.

Price disagreements between California fishermen and commercial buyers have stalled this year’s crab harvest, meaning no crab-cracking at many Thanksgiving celebrations tomorrow, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

But that’s a problem Fred Stewart doesn’t have. On Tuesday (Nov. 22), the Central Valley grandfather was at his waterfront campsite at Doran Regional Park, standing over his and his grandsons’ catch — 30 crabs stacked three-high for the length of a picnic table.

“You can’t complain,” Stewart said, looking out at his fellow sportsmen on the bay. “Everybody I look at they’re all pulling out crabs.”

It’s as good an illustration as any to explain why the Bodega Bay campground has become such a magnet for holiday travelers like Stewart, who has been coming to Doran Beach for 33 Thanksgivings in a row.

Back when he started the streak, Stewart said he could roll up the Wednesday before the holiday and get a campsite, but those days have long since passed.

As of Tuesday morning, all but one of Doran’s 138 campsites were taken, many of them snatched up months in advance, just as next year’s spots are already starting to disappear.

“I just called in the other day for next year,” said Stewart, who has seen the kids of some neighboring campers grow up and have their own children.

A variety of factors draw visitors to Doran and other Bodega campgrounds at a time of year when many folks prefer to hunker inside, said Ranger James MacMillan, who started working at Doran Regional Park in the early ‘90s.

It’s close to Sacramento and the Bay Area. The fall weather is actually often sublime. And, of course, the beginning of crab season in early November brings in plenty of campers eager to share in the catch.

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