Saturday, May 17, 2014

Of Ghosts and Coincidences

Willow had a turbulent camp week, starting with one of her friends mentioning seeing a ghost in their cabin at night (Willow is not a fan of ghosts), followed by her teddy bear somehow ending up on top of the ceiling fan (the teachers from the other school sharing the week are known pranksters), and culminating with her getting a fever on Wednesday evening. She skipped Thursday, staying home and recuperating, and was back again for the last morning of camp on Friday. The thermometers were full and red most of the week, with the temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees in the afternoons. When this is coupled with the fact that there are a lot of sunny, uphill hikes, the week wasn't for the faint of heart.

My week went well though. I had a few of Willow's friends in my field class, including Ghost-girl. The night hike was particularly good. I once again did a long one, walking my group uphill for around half a mile so we could take in the view. As if the twilight view of slowly appearing stars and the wavery sparkle of distant city lights wasn't profound enough, we were treated to the spectacular sight of full moon cresting the East Bay hills, turned dirty orange by the intervening layers of particulate matter in the atmosphere. The only snake we saw was a very irritable Rattlesnake that went into full defensive mode when we encountered in alongside the trail. The kids were impressed. I pioneered a new loop for the so-called epic journey too, taking a new stretch of trail down from the dry pond to the almost dry (97% empty, the last I checked) Steven's Creek Reservoir and following the little trickle of Steven's Creek back uphill toward camp.

Coming back from this particular hike, Ghost-girl mentioned that she'd lost her digital camera but was pretty sure she'd left it at the creek near camp. She looked for it, but to no avail.

The missing camera was pushed to the back of my mind until, last night, I got a Facebook message from one of my old friends (one who I hadn't seen in person for around 6 years), saying that her niece had found a camera in the hills. They'd looked at the pictures on the camera and found photos of fifth graders, cabins, and a scorpion. My friend, of course, knows what I do for a living and knows my affinity for arachnids, so I had popped into her mind when she saw the photos. She said they had found it near her favorite tree (you've got to love people who have favorite trees), a huge sycamore that leans over Steven's Creek near the camp. I remembered Ghost-girl entering the water there on Wednesday while trying to catch a crayfish. I also knew that Ghost-girl had taken a picture of a scorpion I'd found. The final confirmation was my friend posting an image from the camera into the Facebook message. It's a good thing that Ghost-girl takes selfies.

To my mind, it is a stunning coincidence that an old friend would stumble across the camera in the hills the same day a kid in my field class lost it, and then have the presence of mind to check in with me to see if I knew anything about it. Add that to the fact that I don't often work at our Cupertino site where the camera was lost. My friend does claim to be psychic though, so I guess anything is possible...

My friend and her niece found it just in time too, because a nearby family had also seen it and wanted to keep it. The camera is currently sitting next to me as I type. I'll send Willow to school with it on Monday. It was nice to catch up with my friend too. We sent her home with some fresh eggs.

Monday, May 12, 2014


We did a general cleanup in the backyard yesterday, and Jeanine startled a fledgling dove doing its best to blend in with the ground over by the compost. I took a break from scraping up chicken shit and brought out my camera. I like the little trifurcated branch in the first photo. It makes it look like the dove just ejected a leg.

Inside, Dexter let his contempt for all things with feathers be known.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Spring Frenzy

Time has passed. Once again, I find that having a daytime schedule interferes with the life of the mind. Two weeks of camp have passed since I last updated this blog. Both weeks were good ones. I led a total of 41 kids up and down various trails, hopefully instilling within them a new respect for natural processes and new determination to become stewards of our planet rather than the parasites so many people appear to be. I also learned a bit more about the reservoir that I often choose as a destination on Thursday, a day when we have around 5 and a half hours to play with. Lake Ranch Reservoir was built by hand in the late 1800s, and at one point was the property of a family named Bernard. The elder Bernard accidentally killed his son (or stepson, depending on whose story I believe - the online source or what one of the park rangers told me) while hunting. Bernard, overcome with grief, later took his life on the property. I don't plan on sharing that part with the kids. Even the cabin leaders, who are usually in their mid teens, see ghosts behind every tree if given the slightest mental nudge in that direction. Elementary school students are even more susceptible to suggestion.

Here are some photos taken this week.

...And a few from last week.

The water level in the reservoir is at about 20% of capacity, not because of the drought but because seismic testing has never been done. The other local reservoirs, built much more recently, have all been seismically tested.

Our trip down south to see Black Sabbath was a success. Read about it here.

As for my trip to Yosemite, which I mentioned in the last post but didn't elaborate on. I'm ecstatic that I finally got to go there, and filled with disbelief that it took me so long to do it. It definitely lives up to its internationally renowned status. See my photo set here. As for the park being lousy with tourists, it sure was, although as is usually the case, the further up the trails one goes, the fewer fellow tourists there are. Most people stick to the valley. There was a wide range of humanity there alongside us. On the good side, our campground neighbors thoughtfully staked our tent down after it blew away during our absence. On the bad side, some sloppy excuse for humanity decided that stuffing a dirty diaper under a rock counted as throwing it away. I briefly thought about finding the person responsible and making him (or her) eat the damn thing. It was nice to hang out and relax with my co-workers too. We'll have to do something like this again.

Willow is going to be at camp this coming week. She's excited, but oddly enough worried about being homesick. Not only will I be there, but she knows the majority of the staff. She's funny sometimes.