CA: Mendocino County: Angelo Coast Range Reserve: Elder Creek
Our spirits are high, our heads full of knowledge, and our hearts are full of love for this place. I asked around and it seems a consensus. If we already loved this place, check, if any of us were on the fence, Elder creek won us over.
Elder creek. Oh my! So much to say! The water was either crystal clear or majestic blue. We had some fantastic presentations on river ecology, and the EPT index. We found calypso orchids, keyed mushrooms, and caught a juvenile Pacific Giant Salamander. There were so many things crawling around in the water, as well. We found a megalopteran that earned its name very much, and found not a single diptera.
Upon our return, Phil the fish biologist offered to lead a night hike. The mission: find an adult Pacific Salamander, eyes were spotted on the hillside. Two students guided him to the target. Phil pounced, and Bam! Salamander. They brought the specimen back to base camp to share with the class, so everybody got a chance to see.
CA: Mendocino Co: Angelo Coast Range Reserve: Conger Trail
Funky Friday! Friday the 13th! Funky 13th! In the past two trips, funky friday has been full of plot twists and I guess today was also like that but slightly different. The day started out with Daniel and Carrie giving their presentations on mycorrhizae and the marbled murrelet, respectively. Afterwards, Ryan gave us a brief lecture and ended with an assignment for us to do on our hike up the Conger Trail, featuring forest dynamics. We could ask questions to get us to spin the wheel, questions like: Why are there dead trees? What could’ve happened to make a certain species of trees disappear/succeed? Are there any indications of fires? Where do we see this forest leading to?
We all got into the vans and cars, drove down to the start of the Conger Trail, and thus began the journey to spin our senses, our opinions, thoughts, and minds. All of us got into small groups of about 4-5 people and went on our way up the hill. My group and I noticed the decrease in trees when it got closer to the turning point and stumbled upon other groups, who were sharing what they had seen and noticed. Different groups started sharing their own observation and theories.
One of the most beautiful sights was when Karen and I saw the Corallorhiza maculata in the understory, in a wide canopy space, with the sunlight directly shining on it, next to this small Douglas fir! We both sat still and listened to the sound of the wind going through the trees leaves. Afterwards, most of the group kept walking up the Conger Trail while Danielle, Lily, Pachamama and I left to check out the Eel River, right next to Elder Creek. The water was really cold but the dip was needed. Our warm bodies touching the cold water, nothing but story telling and laughter wrapping our bodies… Pachamama described this time as goddess time and I couldn’t agree more. As soon as we headed back, Pod and I recreated (semi-recreated) Wrestlemania! About an hour before dinner, I went down to the water hole and went in. The water caused this numbing effect, so numbing to the point where the only thoughts are whether to relax and go along with the river or get out. I laid still, on my back. Letting the river’s current flow through me, letting it know I don’t wish to disturb it. This moment was so profound, a profound moment of self realization: I am a water child.
The evening ended with an excellent dinner from the cook crew that was filled with warmth and warm veggies. We all gathered around the campfire, went through a couple of presentations, and topped it off with Nature Notes. Needless to say, it was a Funky 13th on a different level.
CA: Mendocino Co: Angelo Coast Range Reserve: Walker Meadow Loop
Today, we hiked the Walker Meadow Loop. But first, we began the day with a presentation by Emily about the management of old growth forests. It encompassed the ecology of old-growth forests, and the management issues surrounding prescribed burning and the lack of fires in forests today. Then, we began our hike, and began learning the trees of the reserve because we are going to have a quiz on them. We focused on the Douglas firs and oaks. We visited four meadows on our hike: Sprague Meadow, Lower Walker Meadow, Walker Meadow, and South Meadow. We also had two presentations by the river. Mayra talked to us about the Foothill Yellow-Legged frog and then we saw eggs, tadpoles, and the frog itself. Santana talked to us about lampreys, and later we saw half a dead lamprey, and a few live ones.
In the first meadow, we split into groups and spun the wheel about how the meadow got there, why it was a meadow, and what the meadow would look like in the future.
In the second meadow, we found a new calochortus, and most of the class did a group key of it Calochortus tolmiei. We continued the hike, visiting another meadow, and then eventually returning to South Meadow. Before dinner, a few of us took a dip in the river, keyed plants, and went birding for a few minutes.
Within the first minute of birding we saw a Western Tanager. It is such an exotic bird with its bright red and and a bright yellow body. People were stoked. We then had dinner, and after dinner had three presentations. Lupita talked about salmon, Morgan talked about salmon management, and Max talked about illegal marijuana grow operations. We ended the night with a campfire and s’mores!
CA: Santa Cruz- Mendocino Co: Angelo Coast Range Reserve: Fox Creek Lodge
Our day began in Santa Cruz, we started out strong as we only had one catastrophe to start out! Danielle’s seatbelt didn’t have a bottom strap, so rather than going for the rest of the trip without a belt, she opted to change cars. From then on, the day went rather smoothly! Mayra saw humpback whales spouting off Highway 1 & Santana-Pod purchased a secret Funky Friday item at the Dollar Store. But we finally arrived at the Angelo Coast Range Reserve and posted up in the field station. After a group meeting and a cargo van unloading, we all ran to the river. There, we found many river species including lampreys, caddisfly larvae and even a couple of snakes wrigglin’ around up in there. After we got our fill of the water nymph lifestyle, we returned to the cabin where the cook crew had prepared a lovely meal of spaghetti aglio e olio, which consisted of a garlic sauce pasta with apple-sausage and a dijon salad.
After filling our bellies, we assemble by a campfire to go over logistics and have the presentations from the Natural History Team (Hell’s Kitchen! Horns up high, ’til we die!). From there, Abby and Jack sang their fantastic Field Quarter Song and several songs and stories followed. Many of the stories involved poop, strangely enough. People trickled to bed from there, until Gabriel and I were left tending the fire. Finally, we put out the fire and retired to our tents (or cars), eager to officially begin our trip to the Angelo Reserve.
CA: Santa Barbara Co: NChI: Santa Cruz Island: Around the field station
Today was a more relaxed day at the base camp cabin, where we focused on observing island ecology and evolution on a small scale. It was called “Adopt an Endemic Day”! We spent the morning reviewing and discussing natural selection and evolution patterns, and were set free to find an endemic and “follow” it the rest of the day. Some people walked up the ridge and some explored the wash, but we all got the opportunity to REALLY observe an organism, think about how it got to the island, and how it’s different/diverged from the mainland. In the evening, Lyndal came to camp and shared some old photos of the islands to show how they have changed over the years. We all sit together and marvel in the beauty of this place, even though it has had many years of human influence and interference. It’s the perfect ending to a day spent contemplating the variation and transformation of life.
CA: Santa Barbara Co: N ChI: Santa Cruz Island: Back to the field station
After breakfast, we packed up our things to leave the perpetually windy Christy’s Ranch and said our farewells to our ectoplasmic neighbor Cynthia. Max excitedly announced a black widow sighting in the bathroom and we set out to return to the UC Reserve Cabin in the trucks.
Just as we were leaving, one of the truck’s tires blew, and Steve and the fam promptly stepped out, got down and replaced it. We continued on our way to a place called Diablo’s Peak, up untended cliff-hanging roads, ascending to what we were told is the highest peak on the island.
Once we were relatively close, we stopped the trucks ~¾ of a mile down from the peak and walked across the road and down a slope to Lagunitas Secos (“small dry lakes”). The hillside here was densely blanketed with bracken ferns and wild grasses. Steve stopped us here and warmly recalled the narrative of his early adult life, the formation of his identity as an agroecologist, and the significance of Lagunitas Secos in shaping the trajectory of his life. Then, after wading through the dry lake of bracken fern, we explored a Chumash midden in an open field of red brome and a representative-of-the-island stand of old growth oaks.
CA: Santa Barbara Co: N Chi: Santa Cruz Island: Fraser Point
Waking up to our first morning at Christy Ranch was filled with tired faces and stories of a sleepless night. The wind has not let up since we’ve arrived. Our tents thrashed like sails in storm all through the night. Today we headed north up the west coast about 5 miles to spend the day at Fraser Point. Liz and Edeli started us off with presentations about the Argentine ant and the SCI grasslands.
Then we bundled up in jackets, layers, beanies and sleeping bags to board our caravan of safari trucks. The road to Fraser Point is long and windy. We made a few stops along the way. The first stop we got out of the trucks to study a slope of perennial bunch grass and calochortus. The wind raged on and the allergies made their attack.
We continued on to our next stop at a forest of magically strange truffula trees! The once Coreopsis is now Leptosyne gigantea. We marveled and carried on. We arrived on the flat, open plains of Fraser Point around noon. The wind gusted so hard you could lean into it and be held. We found refuge on a beach to eat lunch. The beach faced south, looking back at Christy Ranch across the white-capped waters. After lunch and Sam’s presentation on rocky intertidal zone ecology, the group was given the next several hours to discover various areas of Fraser Point. The points of exploration included: the rocky shoreline, sea birding, walking out to the end of the point to greet nearly 50mph winds, burying one’s face in endemic dudleya and visiting the remains of a Chumash village. The powerful winds today demonstrated to us Mother Nature’s force and the determination of life that seeks to strive among the elements.
CA: Santa Barbara Co: N Chi: Santa Cruz Island: Headed West- Christy’s Ranch
We have just arrived to Christy’s Ranch and it is windy and eerie – but beautiful. There are countless of treasures on the windowsill of the patio outside overlooking the ocean. The house we are staying in is 2 stories and it is painted white with a yellow trim. The house was built in the late 1880s. Upstairs is empty with 4 rooms, I wonder why not upkeep the upstairs if the downstairs is clean and functional. Once we got here we set up our homes for the next 3 days and then we were given the option of going to the beach, following the creek, staying in to journal, or to just do whatever you choose. I chose to stay and journal because our days have been so exciting and tiring that by the end of the day I can’t wait to fall asleep.
CA: Santa Barbara Co: N Chi: Santa Cruz Island: Fennel Patch- Cascada
Today was calmer and more relaxed than yesterday. After breakfast we hiked about 100 yards east and stopped in front of the Natural History Field Quarter fennel plot to listen to presentations. We then began a 1 ½ mile naturalizing hike to a “secret spot”. We walked west and stopped to look at Eriogonum arborecene, the endemic buckwheat After a short hike we came across the oak hybrid Quercus xmcdonaldii. It was a cross between the Valley Oak and the Coastal Scrub Oak.
We walked along the wash for a while and finally come to the swimming hole : a dammed up waterfall called Cascada. The pool was about 45 feet by 15 feet and probably 10 feet deep with a variety of water plants and a soft green color. Amongst the rocks was a barn swallow nest and in the crevice was a pair of Pacific Chorus frogs mating! We stayed at the watering hole for a couple hours, then headed back just in time for dinner…
CA: Santa BARBara Co: NChi: Santa Cruz Island: Hike to Coches Prietas
Funky friday was a success…as usual! Steve took us over the north facing slope and down its south facing slope for a swim at Coches Prietas Beach. Along the way we stopped on the road to enjoy the view of the island. There are so many grooves and tiny hills (mountains). We saw many new flowers, but most of us were on the hunt for the Calochortus, sadly nobody found it by the end of the day.
When we got to the top of the ridge, we all noticed we were standing on a beehive, UNDERGROUND! Quickly stumbling off the darker soil, we dropped to our knees to exam the black bees pushing their large bodies out of the dirt to fly away. After observing long enough to understand that the bees live solitary, but in close proximity to one another, like neighbors. Continuing on our way to the beach, we were told to off trail down the steep south facing slope by Steve to hit the main road to the beach.
Amanda and I booked it to the beach by running down the slope like mountain goats in order to jump into the perfect ocean water. When everyone made it to the beach, everyone was either sun bathing naked, swimming naked or observing the beach clothed. The three hours we spent out at the beach was greatly enjoyed and appreciated by all. Three amazing presentations by Corey, Christian, and Amanda/Ryan. An Elephant Seal beached itself in front of Tessa and Lupita, they named her Barb. We saw many invertebrates and birds, including a very lost Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. This bird is typically only found in Texas, but seen by a handful of students on the island! It was a life bird for some of us which is very cool! After tracking back to the reserve, we all got some down time. It was a great, tiring, and eventful day. This island is proving to be one of a kind.