Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's Great to Be Back

I had a superb time at Black Rock Forest, which is only 50 miles away from the city; however I must say that it is great to be back to Columbia! Here are parts of my reflective essay which gives a very good summary of my experiences:

Black Rock Forest: Reflective Essay

I thought that I had experienced camping before, but this trip to Black Rock Forest has definitely given me a sense of "extreme" camping. I could not believe that there were no showers or toilets (there were porta potties); however it was not that bad in the end. I have gotten closer to my fellow classmates, the RAs, the TA, and the Professor, and I have learned so much in these three days. I had an amazing time from start to finish.

Even though there was a lot of mud involved with the painted turtles I was able to learn about their nature and structure type as well as how to catch them. I can now identify the gender and age of a turtle too, just by looking at the claws, tail, and shell. (I shall go back home and identify my turtle too!) I thought that it was really fun to be able to set the traps and then see very good results, (the net caught 5 turtles and 2 fish). I also hope that our results will be very useful to the research project that we helped.

In terms of working with the brook trout, they were slimy, but still I felt that I was helping to create biodiversity and actually impacting the environment in a better way. I loved being able to release the trout back into their natural habitat and now I hope that they will thrive! I also do not think that I can look at another pond again without considering whether or not it would be suitable for some species to live in it!

One of the prettiest sights that I witnessed on this trip was during the hike to Eagle Rock. I must admit that I was really afraid of venturing out into a dark forest in the middle of the night, but with my peers around I think that it eased my fears. I do not have the greatest sense of direction, nevertheless I found myself actually helping others get through the trail. I was one of the last people to arrive at the top of the rock, and the sight that I saw seemed like a photograph. Millions of stars were scattered throughout the black sky, the mountains formed dark silhouettes, and a glimpse of the city lights could be seen 50 miles away. I had to tell myself over and over again that I was still in New York! It is surprising that there could be such a serene forest right next to one of the largest cities. Another great surprise that I was thrilled to have been able to witness was the lunar eclipse. I actually learned a few facts of how the eclipse happens and the orange glow was simply amazing to see. It really made a great end to the day.

Another site that I cannot forget was at the top of the lightning rod tower. It is so tall, and I really thought that it would break if we all stood on it. Luckily it was sturdy and the sun was bright in the sky, allowing everyone to walk all the way to the top. I was stunned beyond words at the sight; it just looked so peaceful and empowering. I could not imagine that we were walking among all the trees and by the waters. At the distance one could see the city, but I could barely tell. I loved it so much that I even went twice! I normally feel dizzy at high heights, but this time I felt totally relaxed gazing at the forest.
Around the campsite, I enjoyed doing multiple things. I was able to start examining new species that I never saw before, such as birds, bats, plants, and especially bugs. It was also relaxing to be able to take a swim and I am still surprised at how clear and clean the water is. The breakfasts, lunches and dinners were fun to make and the water pump for the well made things more interesting. Of course the classic campfire and s'mores were a highlight of the nights. It was a great success to make the tents and sad to break it down, but it was funny during the stay inside. There was a lot of bonding time, and I feel that everyone has gotten so much closer in these 3 days compared to the 2 weeks before.
Overall I think that this camping trip was very useful in helping me understand everything we have been learning in class. The first hand experiences gives a bigger impact to me and I know that if I can help out at Black Rock Forest, then I should also be able to do similar activities and research back in California. I am so glad that I took this course and I will surely spread my new knowledge back home. I entered this class thinking that I would only learn about the cons of our world, but instead I walked out with many possibilities of how to fix it. I know that I am only one individual, but Black Rock Forest has opened my eyes to chances and change.

During lunch there was a college fair and I attended it expecting small bunches of people. I was really wrong! I had to wait in line for about 10 minutes before they would let me into the hall. Once I was actually in, there were a lot of colleges and their representatives, but it was so hard to actually go and talk to them. Too many people were just pushing and shoving here and there. I must say that this summer group shows a lot of enthusiasm for college!

I was slightly disappointed when I found out a lot of the colleges did not have a program or major for architecture. That however made me realize that if I were to apply to a college, I would like them to have at least most of my key interests listed. I have heard from so many people that they changed their majors at least 3 times in college! I just want to be sure that if a certain field is not right for me, then I will be able to have the option of another of my own interests. I got a lot of information packets, and I hope that after some time looking over them I will be able to narrow down my possibilities.

1 comment:

Don Gosney said...


I should have known I could count on you to supply me with my daily does of photos. Bless you for that. And such fine photos they are, too.

Whenever I read some of the posts from you urbanized youngsters it brings a grin to my face. Here you are writing about ‘extreme’ camping because you had to use porta potties instead of toilets. You mentioned no showers but you didn’t say if you had an alternative. When you talk to people of my generation about camping they think of grabbing a trowel, digging a small hole in the ground and taking care of business. For a shower, you either jump in the cold lake or, if you’re well equipped, you have a large plastic bag with a nozzle that you hang from a tree limb.

Being civilized as I am these days, my idea of camping is the Ramada Inn and roughing it is sleeping at a Motel 6.

These brook trout—were they slimy or were they slippery? Slippery is natural for a fish but slimy suggests either an illness or something in the water—neither of which is a good thing.

Then you write about venturing out into the dark forest—with your friends. You’re a teenager, Jessica, and required to watch every slasher movie that comes out. Haven’t you learned anything from those movies? Whenever teenagers venture out into a dark forest at least some of them are destined to die!

That lunar eclipse had to amazing to see. Stuck in the urban settings as we are we lose out on the natural beauty of a star filled sky. I recall the first time I ventured away from the city driving up to Eureka one night along Highway 1. Something caught my eye and I had to pull over, get out of the car and get a good look. There were literally billions of stars up in the sky. I had read about them but this was the first time I had ever actually seen a sky full of stars. Without the lights of the city obscuring my view it was just amazing what I could see. I stayed out there for what seemed like forever getting my fill of the sights.

What you saw at the college fair was similar to what our Brownies wrote about their fair. I think what made these fairs so popular is that there was a captive group of motivated students within walking distance. It was a perfect setting for such an event.

Just this evening we arranged for a Stanford college fair to be held at El Cerrito High on October 1st. This should be exciting for all of us to have a West Coast Ivy right on campus.

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