With only a week left before most kids start heading back to school, North Coast families are scrambling to make the most of what's left of the summer that never was.

At Santa Rosa's Howarth Park and across the county at Lake Sonoma, families, teens and young couples spent Saturday with the usual picnics, birthday parties, hikes and boat rides - a sort of last hurrah before the days of homework begin.

"It's been our only hurrah so far this year," joked Shannon Moore of Santa Rosa, who celebrated her son Gavin's third birthday with friends and family in the park's picnic area near the boat ramp.

"Seems like we should have barbecued more," said Gavin's Dad, Shon Moore, expressing a widely shared feeling that summer has come and already is almost gone.

Nine-year-old Jacob Monday, who was at Gavin's party, said he often went off to camp in previous summers, though he did go to basketball camp at Santa Rosa Junior College this summer.

Lori Austin, Jacob's mother, said the week ahead will be spent getting ready for school. The family's usual Morro Bay camping trip never happened this summer, she said.

"We're going to be shopping and trying to change the routine from late nights to early nights," she said.

Lake Sonoma's bright blue waters greeted scores of people who came to tube and fish as the season waned.

Darrell Huck, a volunteer host at Liberty Glen campground, said families with children appeared to be getting their fill before it all comes to an end.

It used to be school started after Labor Day but now it kicks off a full two weeks before so high school students can complete exams before the Christmas holiday break. The shift happened in 2006.

"I can't believe summer is almost over," said Huck, who came from San Antonio, Texas with his wife Cassie. "It all goes by so fast."

Some blamed the weather for summer's seeming rapid decline.

As Howarth Park's simulated C.P. Huntington engine pulled out, train conductor Michelle Hamilton, 17, greeted passengers with a routine of tall "train stories" she had honed this summer.

Hamilton, who will begin her senior year at Santa Rosa High School on Aug. 17<NO1><NO>, said she went to the beach at Half Moon Bay only once this summer, a dramatic change from the three or four summer trips to the coast she usually takes.

"I went once but it was so cold, I didn't want to go back," she said.

In July, the average high temperature was 75.1 degrees, more than 7 degrees below the 50-year average for the month.

Sarah Schaefer, recreation coordinator for Santa Rosa's Recreation and Parks Department, said the cool weather has actually boosted park attendance by a noticeable amount. Revenues for Howarth Park attractions are up by about 2 percent, she said.

"When it gets into the 80s, it gets really slow here, she said. "We lose people to the pools."

Michelle said she'll try to make the most of the week ahead and next weekend.

"I'll try to hang out with my friends as much as possible and enjoy a last week of no homework," she said.