Saturday, June 30, 2012

Strange Wildlife and Cool Kids

Week two of summer camp is behind me now. For two weeks, the kids in my group were mostly ten years old, and next week I'll continue this trend. Some of my favorite summer campers attended camp this week. One of them has gotten so good at spotting animals on critter hunts that he occasionally spots them before I do. A couple of kids spotted a Mountain Kingsnake in the lower field parking lot on Thursday night too, so despite drier than usual conditions we have been seeing some wildlife. The rattlesnakes continue to be everywhere, but we did find a very unusual one on Thursday, with the usual blotches of darker coloration replaced by bars, making it look a bit like a Ball Python. This is the first time I've seen one like this.

Currently listening to O'death "Daytrotter Session 6/28/2012"

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


This is the first day this week I didn't get stung by wasps. That's something, at least.

Actually, agitated insects aside, it has been a good week. The second week of Summer Camp has been relatively cool so far, much more so than last week, when temperatures ascended into the uncomfortable nineties for a day or two. At one point, around a week ago, the readout on top of a local Bank of the West branch declared that it was 97 degrees.

Last week went very smoothly when one considers that none of us had run a week of Summer Camp since last August. No big snafus occurred, except for Friday morning when the sprinklers came on at 6:00 and watered a bunch of sleeping campers and counselors. I don't think that's an effective way to get kids to grow faster.

I've hiked to the reservoir both weeks so far. The water level is as low as I've seen it, and everything else is dry too. Today, we found a pile of dead bullfrogs with missing hind legs. Somebody has been expanding their culinary horizons at the expense of our local (although invasive) frog population. Some of the kids were a bit creeped out. We also saw a Rattlesnake in about the same place I saw the same snake slightly over 2 years ago. I've seen him a couple of times over the past month or two, but tonight I compared photos, and it looks like the same snake. Rattlesnakes are much more sedentary than the other local species, but I think this is the first time I've seen a snake in the same location after 2 years.

I got some great pictures in 2010 by taking them upside down over the lip of the rock the snake was under, but today's shots were poor. Here, you can see the rattle as the snake disappears into the darkness.

I wonder if he has lived there all his life, a mere 2 or 3 feet from the main path around the reservoir. He looks old, like he would be in a rocker on a porch if he had the anatomy to fit in one properly.

Currently listening to: Forrest Fang "Seeds of Memory" EP

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Breath Before the Summer Plunge

Summer Camp starts on Monday. I think we're ready. I only worked three days of the set-up week, reserving the last couple of days for a quick trip to Sacramento so Jeanine could see her friend Kim, who was in town from Hawaii. Kim and her husband Dave (who both went to the same high school that Jeanine and I did) were clearing out Kim's mom's house. That was deja vu for us, since we cleared out my dad's apartment in nearby Citrus Heights less than a year ago. I remembered Dave from high school, but didn't really remember Kim. It was fun hanging out with them on the front porch. It was a pleasant way to pass a warm afternoon, with cats underfoot and wasps in the air, disturbed from their nest inside one of the gate posts. There were some impressive Black Widows in the backyard shed too. The next morning, we had an hour to kill before converging on a restaurant to meet with some of Jeanine's other Sacramento-based friends for a balloon jam (no, it's not something one puts on toast, but rather an idea sharing session for balloon artists). As for the hour, we drove aimlessly until I spotted a record store, necessitating a sudden u-turn. We entered and purchased stuff. Eva even bought a couple of records - AC/DC and Edgar Winter, the latter because Eva thinks albinos are cool. She showed her "child of the digital age" ignorance of vinyl when I asked her what AC/DC album she had purchased by responding, "I don't remember, but it has two sides". I like that having two sides is a novelty now. For the record (pun intended), it was "Let There Be Rock".

As for set-up week, the most useful thing I did all week was save a snake's life. While returning a shovel to the garden shed after shoveling out the campfire pit, I spotted a large Gopher snake in the corner, sprawled across the floor like a corpse. Its front end was well entangled in a roll of plastic garden netting, so tightly that sections of it bulged outwards. I was so certain that it was dead that I was surprised that it hissed when I touched it. I found some scissors and took about 15 minutes to cut it out of the roll, and when I finally finished, the front of the snake was still hairy with jutting bits of plastic, making it look like some sort of laboratory experiment gone awry. With the help of a coworker and a pair of fingernail clippers, we finally managed to free the snake from the remaining plastic. After smearing some antibiotic on it, we kept it overnight for observation, and after ensuring that all of the garden netting was safely put out of reach (this is an ongoing issue, but when so many people use things, it's sometimes hard to ensure that everything is consistently put away), we released the snake in the garden. It eventually disappeared down a gopher hole. I'm going to enlarge and laminate a copy of the the photo I took and put it on the wall of the shed as a reminder.

Currently listing to: "Victrola Favorites" 2CD

Sunday, June 10, 2012


The 2011/2012 Outdoor School Year ended on Friday with the usual lines of kids disappearing into the yellow mouths of waiting school buses. I worked in the field the final week, and did the usual sorts of things. There are turkeys everywhere these days, something that has gone from being a rarity to a common sighting over the last year or so. In fact, I don't think I saw any turkeys at all during the first 6 or 7 years of employment at camp. This week, I often found myself being interrupted by insistent gobbling from nearby bushes. One turkey brazenly gobbled his way right past us while I was trying to set up an ecosystem comparison lesson.

Summer camp set-up begins in earnest tomorrow, and summer camp begins the week after.

Our bed arrived, and I only got one blister putting it together. The mattress is perched on top of a 14 drawer dresser, which is kind of neat. The house is still in a state of some disarray, although every day sees a new element click into place. Today, the framed pictures that had been leaning against the wall in the living room found places on the walls. I mowed the lawn with the push mower too, feeling like a stereotypical suburbanite as I did so, sweating under the warm June sun. The push mower is picky. It only cuts grass, leaving all of the weeds standing proud and tall in its wake, giving the freshly mowed lawn a mangy look. Oh, well. We'll have to do some weeding.

Last night, one of my favorite co-workers (actually two of them, come to think of it) got married up at camp. We had a van load, with Willow and Eva being joined by Sophie, Nathan, and Alex. It was one of the rare times that still owning a mini-van came in handy. The wedding was beautiful, and it was nice to see a number of people I hadn't seen in awhile. Happy future to Scooby and Moonlight.

Also, taking the advice of a woman at the local pet store, I tried feeding baby food to the turtle, and she actually ate it! It's strange to have a pet that only eats worms and baby food. Next, I'm trying tofu.

Currently listening to: Agalloch "Whitedivisiongrey"