Thursday, April 30, 2009

Another Spring Season at NAL

And what a great one it was. I should have known when I started off with two amazing weeks at snowy Montecito Sequoia Lodge I was in for a great spring in Southern California. 

In the Sierra during late February we had two groups of fun kids out on program but somehow most of the work has been overshadowed by the blissful weekends in between (isn't that always the case). We did nothing more than play in the snow – adult style. We built snow caves, slacklined in a dug out trench, and then had a paintball war which ended in tromping through deep snow under darkening skies. We made a snow sculpture of the St. Louis Arch and then warmed up with draft Sierras by the fireplace. We used some dead dinosaurs and skied the hell out of Dinosaur Bowl and lapped a trackless powder field under cold, blue skies. I was having so much fun my car getting broken into and towed barely phased me. By the time we drove out of the snow and into the Kern River Valley the only reminder of my misfortune was the many music-less hours of driving.

We took a detour, on the way to Ventura, up the Kern River and found the wildflowers in full bloom. We discovered a new, secret little hot springs called Pyramid that I had driven past many times before. There was a big jump across a cold river to get there. We spent fun days and nights camped along the Kern, singing around the campfire, and enjoying Remington hot spring (one of the finest and most well-built in the region). PC meeting came around in Ventura and we almost forgot to go. Luckily we did though because merry-making and flag football with your best friends is not something to be missed. Turns out.

After the meeting of the season, where you get to see everyone together at least once, it was time to head out into the wilds and enjoy Pinnacles in the spring. Wildflowers, great temps, a few lowly condors, and some bold climbing were on the menu. Days past and there were great small trips that have now become a blur. We made a trip to Yosemite to sneak in some days of granite (beautiful) and then happily took a break from it all while glamping at ElCapitan's luxury campland. I had to cook for 150 people too, but again, I remember mostly the amazing BBQ and beach jam we had at Refugio State Beach post program. The rangers kept reminding us we can only have 8 people in our campsite, little did they know we needed a 15 foot box truck to carry all the beer and burgers for 8 people. After chilling beachside for a week it was back up to Pinnacles for a great small trip where we cooked gourmet food, whipped heavy cream with a slotted spoon, and ate a curry named Vermont (your guess is as good as mine). On the last day of Pinnacles we took the public climbing, for free, as an outreach to the Park Service – there were many characters and it made me happy that I work with children mostly.

The season was nearing the middle by this point and in classic NAL style I had no work but I did have a place to camp and eat for free so I headed there. It was called Natural History training and it was in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. On the way I went to the San Diego Zoo with my friend Michelle; her favorite animal was the Muir cat (named in memory of John Muir I guess?), I liked the gorillas. It was great to see my cousins' two new youngsters, Teddy the dog, and my aunt and uncle in SD. Later that week we met Feder in Pacific Beach for 'act like a frat boy' night. Anyways, in Anza we hiked to a cool oasis of palms and a impressive overlook. We learned some things too, from our peers, and my brain got bigger. Of course it may have shrunken' back from all the toxic air I inhaled by exploring the Salton Sea – but I think there was a net gain.

After the sea, and PB, and NHT we took the cube truck on a tour of the Mexican border. No, we did not cross into Mexico with an unmarked box truck, we only toured the fence line that separates us from them or them from us or the fence the Bush built. It was freezing cold in Jacumba when we stopped for Mexican food and watched Super Bad for the second time in a week. I practiced my backing-up on narrow dirt roads with an overloaded truck skills, and we ended up at Walter's Camp last in the evening. The mosquitos had gone to bed and someone had left an old wahing machine tank under the tamarisk for us to build a fire in. Two weeks on the river went by fast (for more stories from the desert lands read the previous entry: The River). 

I remember a big scorpion, an open mike night better than most I've seen at real venues thanks to a bunch of talented seniors from Hollywood, getting up at 3:45am – twice, a windstorm with gusts to 45 MPH, lots of breakfast burritos from Filiberto's, cooking 245 veggie burgers, and plumes of dust a mile long as I navigated the big white box through miles of desert nothingness listening to Tom Petty and dreaming about another breakfast burrito.

It been a good season and as I round it all off once-again glamping on the Santa Barbara coast I am already dreaming about coasting past bighorn on cold ripples below the Hoover Dam. 24 hours of work left until I start back up in Seattle June 1 and I already can't wait to see Nalifornia again.


Photos: 1) Wildflowers in Kern River Canyon 2)Shooting stars on the Pinnacles High Peaks trail 3) The southern Sierra from Montecito 4)Muir cat at the SD zoo 4) NAL camp at Pinnacles 5)Colorado River sunset