by Roger Herrera, translated by Molly Lou Freeman
After long and careful preparation for our second school camping trip (and first of our two annual 2016-17 trips), it was time to seek adventure. Our gear, food, transportation, schedule and contact list for Cabo Pulmo and, later, the Buena Fortuna Gardens were all ready. Returning to the incredibly beautiful Cabo Pulmo National Park always makes me feel incredible excitement and joy. The reef is magical and, without a doubt, one of the most amazing places in the paradise of Baja California Sur.
We camped in the park at El Arbolito Beach. The infrastructure at the beach--shade palapas, a boardwalk and large palapa, toilets, showers and all sorts of equipment at the disposal of campers--really made our stay more comfortable. Camping was easy and we enjoyed windless sunny weather for the first 1 ½ days, then the typical stiff Sea of Cortez breeze on the last two days of our trip. Setting up camp was an educational moment for our students. We learned to anchor our stakes in the sand, secure our tents in the wind by putting sand in the interior corners; and, following the intelligent suggestion of our student leader, Aliya, we made a food cache by storing all of our provisions out of the way of dogs or other animals: we set up a pantry in a separate food tent.
Our daily activities included math and science, journaling, cooking, a snorkel trip, sports and a meeting with the park keepers. Being in the water is one of my passions. It was really gratifying to share snorkelling, swimming, and paddle boarding with our students. In future, I’d like to promote more safe water activities with our students: group swimming techniques and proper snorkelling. I am already thinking about new water adventures with more safety and abilities to explore. Following our student menu suggestions, our food was fabulous. Students worked in teams. Our camp kitchen made cooking pretty simple. I loved cooking for our team of 17 people. We enjoyed spaghetti and meatballs, chilaquiles, chicken fajitas, pancakes, ceviche, stuffed potatoes (papas rellenas); what more could we ask?
A visit from one of the Cabo Pulmo Park guardians, Alica, was truly inspiring. We learned that 6 people are responsible for safety, education and conservation in the park. Integral to the success of the park is community volunteer efforts; we now know that our students can volunteer in future conservation efforts! It’s evident that getting involved in protecting our natural resources is key to environment conservation and that the responsibility depends upon all of us. We have much to learn in effort to protect the coastal paradise of Todos Santos, our town.
On the third day, we enjoyed a magnificent hike to Chopitos Beach, also known as Mermaid Beach. The trail is well marked with picture postcard views of mountains, cliffs, rock walls, sea-beaten granite into the round shape of “chopitos”. Students and teachers made land art cairns, responding to their environment by carefully balancing the beautiful rocks into towers. Also our hike, we climbed a small mountain and contemplated the vistas from its height. Drawing the landscape in a mapping activity with our science teacher, Tom, was a joy. I love watching our adorable students at work, carefully considering the landscape and seeking to capture its beauty.
We all enjoyed the last formal activity of our camping trip, a tour of Buena Fortuna gardens in Los Barriles. We wanted to learn more about sustainable agriculture and obtain seeds for our own organic garden. It’s amazing that this garden is the fruit of the work of two people, with over 3,000 species of plants growing on 5 hectares. We admired that the goal of the garden is preservation, education and a seed bank. Bravo!
We concluded our trip with a sunset ride down the road back to Todos Santos. The mountains, Sierra del Novillo, were red and purple; the van was quiet as we remembered and dreamed about our adventure. At The Sierra School, we cherish our visits to learn about outdoor leadership and stewardship; it’s even more rewarding to share connection with and respect of nature with our students and amazing teachers. Thank you everyone for your hard work and effort in making our camping trip possible. Until our next adventure, Roy
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