Saturday, June 25, 2016

Week Two of Summer Camp: A Few Photos

This time of year, I find that most of my energy is channeled into my job, so my visits to this page are brief. I do take photos though, and they say those are worth 1000 words each.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer Groove

I've slipped back into the summer groove like I never left it. Summer camp always seems to happen with very little effort, although I know that's not even close to true. Last week, I led a group of second graders along the dusty summer trails. This week, they're sixth graders. Sixth graders are better able to follow directions.

We've seen a few rattlesnakes, and yesterday there was a Great Blue Heron hanging out at the pond. This week, it's about 15 to 20 degrees warmer than last week. I'd rather it be cooler.

Here are a few photos.

A white wisp above the skyline.

A mandala made from forest materials donated by toyon, madrone, bay laurel, and douglas fir trees.

A rattlesnake resting in its summer spot.

One day last week, I inadvertently brought a tick home. It was still trying to figure out where to eat, acting like an indecisive person faced with a plentitude of possibilities, when I discovered it walking along my shirtsleeve. I fed it to the chickens. Or, more correctly, chicken. Mrs. Charles was fastest.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Let the Madness Begin!

Summer camp set-up week has come and gone. I spent the majority of that time working on helping get the new Trailblazers staff up to speed, since I'm the only returning staff member. Trailblazers doesn't actually start for another month or so, but Moonlight, who is acting as director this year, wanted to wrap her head around things early. More power to her.

I ducked being director myself (not that I was specifically asked) because that's not where my skills are strongest. I've come to the conclusion that I'm not very organized, and tend to leave things until the last minute. Perhaps there is just a smidgeon (note: Blogger's spell-checker doesn't recognize the word, "smidgeon" - it must be underutilized these days, so it's well past time to bring it back into common usage) of responsibility avoidance involved as well. Either way, I'll continue to be on the front lines, avoiding paperwork and phone calls as much as possible.

Day camp swings into motion tomorrow, and it has a lot of moving parts. At the height of summer, we have 5 onsite programs running at once, as well as an offsite backpacking program. It's usually a time during which I seldom visit these pages (or non-pages, since wood pulp and bookbinding have no place here) because I'm too busy being hot and tired.

Today, there is a Children's Discovery Museum alumni reunion. I've been out of touch with nearly all of my museum coworkers since I quit back in 2004, so this should be interesting. I asked Willow if she wanted to come (after all, she wouldn't even exist without the museum, since that's where I met her mom), but she declined, saying that she was going to be hanging out with friends. She's such a teenager these days.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Final Week of Science Camp for the 2015/2016 School Year

Despite the ninety plus degree weather this week, wildlife sightings were high. Along with the usual deer and turkey sightings, we quickly noticed that there was a family of Gray Foxes attempting to live in a plastic drainage pipe alongside one of our driveways. I think that by midweek they'd realized their mistake and left in search of more peaceful surroundings. It's hard to avoid an area that is literally a foot from a well-traveled driveway.

There was some interesting evidence of habitation though, including a large pile of scat, some bird bits (which at one point attracted a Turkey vulture), and this poor little dead mole.

On the way back from our first hike of the week, I'm embarrassed to say that I walked right by a Mountain Kingsnake. A girl in my group quietly said, "there's a snake back there," so I turned around and gathered it up so everybody could get a good look at it. It was only about 30 feet down the trail from camp, so I brought it back so people could see it, and then returned it to where we found it.

The next day, I got to work and was informed that there had been a rattlesnake spotted mere feet from a couple of the boys cabins, so I went and looked under the hedge and sure enough, this little fellow was staring back at me. A quick sleight of hand later and it was in a bucket. We released it somewhere a little more distant from the well-traveled walkway it had been resting near.

On the night hike, Mountain Lion's field group found a garter snake between a couple of boys cabins. I think that's the first time a snake has been found on a night hike, although since the night hike happens between 7:00 and 9:00, this time of year means it's not really a night hike. As for me, our group found 26 scorpions, which is 4 shy of the record from a couple of weeks ago.

On the all-day hike, or "epic journey", as it is called, we went to Lake Ranch Reservoir. It was hot, so we took a quick peek at the reservoir and then walked toward the shade. I've never taken a group too far up the new section of the John Nicholas trail because there just isn't time. I figured we'd hike at least a small section of it though, so we hiked until it was time to turn back. It was beautiful, and I can see why cyclists like it so much. It's a smooth ride with banked curves and a relatively gentle slope.

On the way back, we were passed by a cyclist. A moment later, he pedaled back to us and asked us if we had "seen the snake". I turned out that he'd scared a kingsnake off the trail. So, if it hadn't been for him, we probably would have seen it. As it was, he got there first and by the time we looked, it was long gone.

On the way back down the road, we found two alligator lizards, one Northern and one Southern. It's nice being in an area where their ranges overlap. The Northern actually reared up and menaced me as I shooed it off the road. The Southern bit me hard enough to draw blood. Here's the Southern:

When we got back to camp, I discovered that we had walked slightly over seven miles. Some of the kids were pretty wiped out. On the table in the staff room was a bucket containing a California kingsnake, just like the one we'd missed seeing on the hike. It was like I was fated to see one, and since the first one was inadvertently scared off, a quick replacement was found. This one had been discovered in the janitor's closet and caught by Otter, our hub host this week. Not that I believe in fate, but it sometimes makes a good story.

And finally, during the final minute of our last field class, we encountered a Gopher snake resting in the shade near one of the boys cabins. Every snake (barring one rattlesnake living in the chaparral) that we found this week was either in the middle of camp or almost so.

This coming week, we shift gears and summer begins. The heatwave continues, although today it's a bit overcast.