Wolf school this year was nothing short of an adventure. It all started last Tuesday when we braved the weather and headed out on the road. As we approached the back half of highway 17, we were turned around. A severe mudslide had blocked our path and we were redirected to an alternate route, Old San Jose Road. As we made our way down the twists and turns of Old San Jose Road we came across a sign saying road closed ahead. A few seconds later we discovered why. A tree had fallen and taken some power lines with it. We turned around again. Our Caravan regrouped at the Summit Store, a small roadside minimart. We stretched our legs, used the restrooms, and made our next plans. We decided to head down to highway 152. A bit further south. On the road to 152 our caravan became separated. Mr. Will’s van made it through the closure of 152, and continued to camp on the rough and rocky Redwood Ridge Road, while Ms. Michelle’s van was turned back because of a road closure and had to travel well past Salinas to merge in with Highway 1. All in all it took us a total of 5 hours and 7 hours respectively to make it to Camp Monte Toyon.
Once we arrived at camp we were off to the races. After a brief hike around camp, we unloaded the vans and settled into our home for the next few nights. The children unpacked and the teachers relaxed and recovered from the drive. Soon it was time for dinner, the first night was a pasta bar. Following dinner our students were treated to a lovely campfire. Because of the weather this year’s campfire was held indoors. Campfire is full of skits and songs, with teacher and student participation. The warm fire and belly laughs set the mood for the following day.
The next day many of us work up early, eager and ready to start out the day. We pleasantly found that the rain had subsided and it was looking like a much drier day. We ate a hearty pancake breakfast, made our trail lunches, and had a morning camp meeting, all before 9 am. We immediately headed out on trail for our first all day hike. Our first stop was the newt pond. Students were allowed to investigate the natural habitat of the newts and were also allowed to go on a newt hunt. The newt hunt led to the discovery of “Morris.” Morris was a newt that our students got to take a closer look at. We were able to discover the type of newt Morris was as well as discuss some of the adaptations that make him so awesome.
As we continued up the trail we kept noticing more and more of these odd slugs on the ground. At the top, near “Eagle’s View” we found what seemed like a village of them. Apparently these trails were literally swarming with banana slugs, and we found the mother load. We took some time to study some facts about banana slugs.Did you know they call the banana slug the “james bond” of the forest because he moves at .007 miles per hour? On the second leg of the trail we learned about miners lettuce, old mans beard, and poison oak (the hard way). We also learned a camp game called “Camoflauge.”
Returning to camp we were exhausted and hungry, we cleaned up and got ready for dinner. Tonight was Burrito Night. We were warned about making our burrito too stuffed and how to avoid what is know as the “burrito blunder.” At every meal the naturalist would weigh any left over food and let us know how we did. Our ultimate goal was zero waste, and after burrito night we were down to just two pounds of garbology. After we ate we hit the trail again, this time for night hike. We learned all about the nocturnal, diurnal, and corpuscular animals, then played back and listened as our naturalists told us a tall tale from Native American lore. Returning to camp we settled in and most of us were asleep before our heads hit our pillows.
We were slower to wake up the next day but still excited. Today was beach day. After breakfast we hit the road and headed to Natural Bridges State Park, where the beach was. We arrived to discover that the high winds, and heavy surf had caused the natural park service to close the beach for the day. Mother nature stood in the way again, but this time we fought back. Our naturalists knew of a special place, a place where no Serendipity School WOLF trip had gone before, The Seymour Center and Long Marine Lab. Here we were able to get a hands on experience, with marine life while staying warm and dry out of the harsh winds, and rains. Students were able to pet sharks, touch sea anemone, and even feel what the fur of an otter feels like. One of the most memorable highlights was getting to witness first hand, how big a whale is, and seeing how many students could fit on a whale’s tale.
After the Seymour Center, we headed back to camp and went back out on trail. Unlike the day before, the rains had returned, and we got soaked. Nearly five inches of rain hit the Santa Cruz mountains that day, and our ponchos were dripping with rain.The trail to “Mother of the Forrest” was a lot slicker that the day before which made it particularly tougher to maneuver on. When we arrived at Mother of the Forrest, we got to hang out inside a hollow redwood tree and learn all about it’s structure while staying dry for a bit. Heading back to camp the trail was very soggy and all the students cheered when they learned why Mr. Will’s nature name is BIG SQUISH. (hint, mud makes a very large squishing sound when Mr. Will steps in it).
After some much needed cabin time in front of a warm fire, we headed in for our last night of dinner. It was Pizza Night, and that meant pizza eating contest. A few of us tried but we couldn’t believe how much pizza Mr. Will could eat, and eventually we gave up. After dinner the teachers all disappeared and we talked with the naturalists about improv and imagination. We didn’t understand why, but when we got to our evening program we discovered why. Our Camp hall had been converted into a Town Hall Meeting. We pretended to be community members from all different special interest groups. Some of us were senior citizens, some of us represented the down town merchants association, and some of us represented the Save the Salamander Society. As a group we listened to Mr. Rich, presented his plan to build a new mall on an old farm. As a community we worked together, discussed all the pros and cons, and then voted on whether or not to build the mall or keep it a farm. But before we could hold a vote, we had another exciting event happen, The power went out. We finished our Town Hall by lantern light and eventually we voted to keep the farm (mostly because we just didn’t trust Mr. Rich’s so called PhD scientist who seemed to be making up facts as she went along). It was now time to sing our final camp song and get ready for bed. Tonight we stayed up late because we didn’t want camp to end, but eventually even the most stubborn of us succumbed to slumber.
Our last morning at camp we hurriedly scurried to pack our bags. The power had not returned and most of us packed by lantern light or flash light. Many of us did very well keeping our belongings neat and tidy; and some of us let our bags explode in our cabins. No matter what the preferred method of unpacking was, we all packed quickly because we didn’t want to miss french toast breakfast. At breakfast we learned that the reason we didn’t have power was because a giant, old oak tree had fallen, taking the power lines with it, as well as blocking the road in and out of camp. Luckily workers had spend the entire night making the road passible for our vans. After breakfast we had one final group meeting with our naturalists where we shared everything we were thankful for during camp. Then we hit the road and headed home, we were sad to say goodbye, but also excited to be home. Unlike the ride to camp, the ride home was short, and uneventful. Some of us slept, some of us sang along to the radio, and some of us reflected silently on the amazing experience we had over the last week.
This year’s WOLF camp could be described as an adventure, full of challenges, and hardships, but I think unforgettable is a better word. We will all take home memories of this trip that will last a lifetime, memories that will be etched into our hearts and minds forever.