By Sonja Williams July, 2017. WYLD partnered up with Delphinus School of Natural History's Marine Biology day camp for a week of science, exploring, adventuring and socializing. We set up camp at Cero Alto Campground in the Los Padres National Forest and commuted each morning to the Morro Bay Marina to meet up with the other campers, aged 6 to 13. This was an amazing trip on so many levels.
We arrived Sunday night after spending a few hours at El Capitan State Beach for lunch, and John Sanders, Delphinus' camp director, met us at camp to get our exploring juices going with a telescope. After setting up tents and inviting him to dinner, he invited us to look closely at the moon. Thanks John for the telescope, we'll be hunting stars all year in the Angeles Forest!
The first two days we kayaked through the estuary and hung out on the sand spit dunes all day meeting from a distance, sea otters, sea lions, turkey vultures, cormorants, and all manner of mud-flat dwelling gastropods, oysters, and hermit crabs. The great thing about the way John runs his camp is that he gives the kids a lot of free time to explore and come up with questions. The kids learned a lot, and they got to socialize with kids from the Morro Bay area and hang out, as kids are want to do, during summer vacation. It was a very special week. WYLD girls rose to the fore as leaders the first day out when John paired them with the younger kids to lead in kayaking and exploring the dunes. As a result, the little kids really glommed on to our girls, especially Dryam, and sat on their laps, held their hands, and constantly asked for them. Kids were given lots of time to swim in the ocean, dig in the sand, explore the sea shore and marvel at the big and little animals we encountered. They got to nap on the beach, chat in the dunes, and even collected drift wood and built an "Open House" for us all to sit in. The Open House, they explained, is a place that is open to EVERYONE! Then, on an overcast beach on Thursday afternoon, the girls circled up inside this Open House with most of the other campers and initiated a "one thing you're grateful for," conversation, complete with talking stone. The little kids sat on the big kids' laps, and WYLD girls directed the show. No adult had a dry eye, and John took lots of great pictures!
After working up an appetite playing, learning, and exploring, WYLD board member and friend Julie Ward led the girls in cooking dinner every night with the help of intern and sous-chef Sandra, with an emphasis on plant-based foods, which is Julie's specialty. The girls learned to experiment with spices, how to chop veggies, and how to season and make sauces and garnishes. We even cooked an entire meal of potatoes, yams, and onions directly in the fire - the very definition of hot mess. We ate like queens and learned a lot about proper diet, nutrition, and how to make healthy food taste super delicious. Every morning we would wake up, make our lunches, prepare the herbal sun tea to brew while we were out, and head out to camp by 8:00 am. I think sun tea will become a WYLD staple on all over night trips from now on, thanks Julie! Good thing we have a garden for growing herbs!
Wednesday night we veered from plant-based treats after dinner to that good ol' camping tradition: S'mores. This was a first for many, and the glee was palpable. And since we like firsts, Thursday night we headed 3 miles up the mountain from our campsite to watch the sun set over the bay and Morro Rock, our home away from home. On the descent, headlamps aglow, we met some of the mountain's night-dwelling organisms: 1 tarantula; way too many scorpions; and 1 beautiful, brown-banded California King snake. The next morning we washed away the creepy crawlies by going whale watching. Humpback whales sure know how to entertain, and we learned smell pretty bad as well. Who knew? Finally, not finally, it was time to go home, and it was a bitter-sweet goodbye to our new friends from Morro Bay, and our fearless leader John. We hugged it out at the beach, went back to camp, and then spent the last night exploring the town of Morro Bay, being goofy, reveling in our new perspectives on the ocean and ourselves, talking, and eating an ice cream cone, of course! We promised we'd be back, and we plan to...