Nature Reigns Supreme


(Photo above) Crew lunch on a Redwood log!

Time after time I am set loose into the wild with a group of high school students, confident in my ability to face the onslaught of weird possibilities and unending opportunities for catastrophe, ready to lead each crew to triumph and trail mastery. But as they say, the best intentions are fraught with disaster. Or do they say that? Just when I get it in my head that I am prepared for nearly anything, good old mama nature comes back at me with a new twist to torque my plans.

We are under attack, waging a silent battle with a stealthy but formidable opponent. It lies waiting for us in the shadows of every Giant Redwood, it climbs the trees, it lurks beneath logs, it covers the undergrowth. Whenever we let down our guard, it is waiting. It is poison oak, and it strikes terror into my heart. Each day we battle it in any way we can, we douse ourselves in Technu, we strip our bodies of its potent oils, we wash our clothes, our gloves, our sleeping bags, our boots, but there is no way of avoiding it completely. Brandon was the first to fall, with Lake (aka Lagos, aka Lagos San Lucas) following close behind. We have suffered only a few casualties so far, but I fear the worst is yet to come.

Our lovely worksite. Not a bad place to spend a month!

And yet here we are, a new crew in Big Sur, CA, a land of breathtaking vistas around every curve in Highway 1, dramatic cliffs, inset canyons that house some of the world’s largest trees, and sunsets that would knock your socks off. Our worksite is home to the only waterfall on the Pacific Coast that drops straight into the ocean, brilliant turquoise waters and a secluded cove, and one of the only pairs of nesting California Condors left in the world (don’t be fooled, they are horrendously ugly creatures). We are bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to knock any curve ball out of the park.

We haven’t let the constant threat of poison oak bring us down. On the work front, we are building two staircases made of Redwood (ironic that our sponsors are the ‘Save the Redwoods League, no?), we are re-surfacing a wheelchair accessible trail to bring it back into compliance, and we are outsloping an existing trail which, for those of you less familiar with trail work, makes digging 30-inch holes day in and day out for three weeks seem like a thrilling adventure.

Brandon rubs his poison oak in the dirt in a futile attempt to quell the incessant itching.

To effectively pass the time in the afternoon while outsloping we have been playing some word games and riddles which either end in smiles and laughter or the very pinnacle of frustration. One riddle that fell into the latter category ended with one of our students (Nadir) so frustrated in David (my co-leader) and my attempts to reason our way around the actual answer that he went to great lengths to stop us from weaving our way throughout the finer points of said riddle. I will try my best to give an abbreviated account of the morning:

The riddle is apparently common and has something to do with finding out which of three light switches turns on one lightbulb separated by a room and with only one chance to check the light and one chance to give a final answer. After trying to weasel our way around an actual answer for a good half hour, David and I eventually ended up in an empty cave in Mongolia, stripped of our belongings, laced with explosives to which only Nadir had the controls, our fingers all chopped off except our thumbs, and we were to be shaved hourly. Oh, and with no means of time transport or other magical powers to speak of.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you another wildly entertaining SCA crew who possess the innate ability to keep even the most mundane tasks tolerable.

The crew lounging on the beach hiding in a shelter that somebody else kindly built.