Sunday provided a brief glimpse of blue sky and a small window of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors minus a thick layer of smoke.
Dozens seized that chance to hit the beaches, picnic areas and water of McHenry Recreation Area in Escalon.
By late morning on Aug. 23, sites were filled up and families were enjoying barbecues, splashing in the cooling waters of the Stanislaus River and just taking a break from the seemingly unending barrage of bad news in terms of California fires and coronavirus cases.
“We love it here,” said Freddy Soto of Modesto, who watched as son Adrian, 9, put the finishing touches on blowing up a flotation device before heading to the river.
Friends Santos Flores and Nate Marlin of Tracy also said it was the perfect place to spend some time on Sunday.
Flores said he has staked out his favorite spot, with the ability to fish and jump off a side hill into the water below. Flores noted that he’s a regular and Marlin said he has visited the spot a few times, both agreeing that the cold river water was “refreshing” as the temperatures on Sunday did reach the mid-90s.
Elsewhere, a Salida family enjoyed a picnic lunch, with a blanket spread out on the ground and plenty of food to share.
Also cooking up some food and fun were Tony Navarro and Victor Gutierrez, overseeing some food on the grill.
“This is our first time here and it is so nice,” said Gutierrez, from the Antioch area, who said they were early arrivals at the recreation area. “We’ve been swimming all day long.”
On one long sandy beach area, families had pop ups spread out, inflatables at the ready and kids of all ages were splashing around. Several pegs of the life jacket loaner station were empty, with only a couple remaining on the board. The life jackets are loaned out to visitors for use while in the water; they are then returned to the donation station, which is hosted by the Corps of Engineers.
Reservations can also be made for the picnic spots by calling Stanislaus River Parks at 209-881-3517.
There were a few remaining parking spots around noon on Sunday; depending on weather and air quality conditions, McHenry Rec will likely remain a popular spot for weekend visitors for the next several weeks.