Coastal field course inspires SNU students


Photo By: Kyra Kliman

SNU students Malia Kellerman and Kayla Heidenreich watch the sunset on the California coast.

Kyra Kliman, Editor

While most students were on winter break this fall, Sierra Nevada University’s environmental interpretation class, taught by Professor Andy Rost, loaded camping and personal gear into the two SNU vans and headed to the California coast.

In Auburn, we stopped at Raley’s, where Rost assigned cooking groups, each of which was in charge of gathering ingredients for the two meals they would prepare. This resulted in two rows of carts taking up an entire aisle. After Andy paid and the crew got organized, we continued onward, driving through San Francisco. After the sun set over the horizon, we merge onto Highway 1, where there is a small glimpse of an ocean vista and the smell of salty mist.

As the car turned off the highway onto a bumpy dirt road, the group wakes up to foggy windows and confusing thoughts. There are giant sequoias on both sides the road indicating we have arrived at Rost’s friend’s farm near Half Moon Bay, where we will spend the next three days. We unloaded our gear, set up our tents and went to sleep.

While a loud “cock-a-doodle-doo” noise wakes me up, I notice Emily Mcuster’s sleeping bag to the right of me is damp from all the moisture. As, I unzip the tent, the air is lighter and more humid than the climate in Tahoe. Looking straight out from my campsite, there are two farmhouses on each side, and two plots of land for growing crops. To the left, there’s a small open wooden shelter that is the kitchen, and there are three tables where we will eat all of our meals.

Over the next three days the class will visit and learn about the local geology, tidal zones, beach and bluffs, coastal rivers, salt marsh, coastal plains, chaparral, the redwoods, and how they are all interconnected. At each location, students will present about the area and lead a group activity.

On the first day, the group headed over to Año Nuovo State Park. As we walk down the vista, there are giant elephant seals on the beach. While Andy teaches the class about coastal bluff, he’s interrupted by a loud grunting sound. Two elephant seals are talking to each other. It’s hard to focus in such a lively environment, where there is a perfect set of five-foot waves rolling in. Andy redirects the class to sketch the landscape in their journals.

Next, the students jump in the vans and drive 20 minutes south. We pull off on the side of the road, near a cliff house along the edges of a coastal bluff. There lay bright yellow flowers and green flora. Malia Kellerman, sophomore at SNU, directs the class to go off on their own and make observations about the tide pools. Kelly Sharpe, senior at SNU, looks like a little kid learning about a whole new world.

There is a small river running through the sporadically placed redwood trees towering at 200-300 feet, where the slopes are full of green foliage, ferns, mushrooms, and banana slugs. Walking through an old forest with rich history there is a sense of humbleness and appreciation. Emily McCuster, a Junior at SNC, instructs students to find a quiet place in order to sketch their surroundings. In the stillness of the forest the sound of the river emerges and large tree growing across the river look as if the trunk will snap at any moment.

After a long day of learning and exploring, there’s an ultimate Frisbee game. In the deep mud and uneven tall grass, players’ main concern was to avoid any injuries. The most valuable player award goes to Kara Campbell, a junior, as she leaped in the air and catches the Frisbee while she fully lays out on the grass. After dinner, we made a bonfire, and listened to Moose rip on his guitar playing every song imaginable.

After two days, in a short amount of time this group of individuals became closenit and their authentic/quirky selves showed. The next day we hiked through a Douglas Fir forest where we were met at the top with a scenic view of the ocean and miles of endless vistas. While there was a perfectly shaped tree, students sat on and watched the sun go down.