How strange to call this planet 'Earth' when quite clearly it is ocean. Arthur C. Clarke

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Department Retreat at Big Creek

Reason #10 to be an ecologist: Free camping at biological preserves.

I suppose I should think of nine other reasons at some point.

Last weekend the students, employees, and faculty of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology went camping in the redwoods of Big Sur. There's a preserve owned by the University of California for the exclusive use of students and faculty and their field work. Apparently, it can also be used for ecology department events of any kind, because our department got to use the campsite all weekend to make fires, cook sausages and jaffles, drink, go hiking, get poison oak, and play in hot springs.

The preserve is about 2 hours south of Santa Cruz down the Highway One. It's an awesome drive, especially because there is great and cheap produce along the way. There's also a giant artichoke statue.

Trees at our campsite.

We saw a very interesting biological specimen on our hike.

The view speaks for itself.

It's always easier to hike up than down.

View from the top of the hike. Ignore the poor stitching and it's a really great photo. I know it's way to wide for the blog, but it's cool enough to be nonconforming like that.

There's beach access under that bridge.

Here's what it looks like at the beach.

Joseph checks his jaffle in the jaffle iron.

I know what you're thinking: What is a jaffle? I'll tell you what I know about jaffles. They are food. They are Australian. They usually resemble a sandwich. They remind me of grilled cheese, but tend to have something other than cheese between the bread. The jaffle iron looks like a waffle iron on a long, cast iron rod, but it doesn't have a waffle pattern on the inside, it's just flat, sort of like two frying pans that close up on each other. To make a classic jaffle,

  1. Preheat the jaffle iron in a fire. 
  2. Rub a stick of butter on the inside of the iron. 
  3. Once it's greasy, put a piece of bread on one open face of the jaffle iron. Make sure there are no holes in the bread or your jaffle will leak!
  4. Apply the jaffle filling to this piece of bread--apple pie filling and chocolate chips were the norm at our retreat. 
  5. Place another piece of bread (no holes!) on top of the filling. 
  6. Squish the jaffle-sandwich between the two sides of the iron by closing it. 
  7. Stick the jaffle iron with jaffle inside in the fire, checking every few minutes for browning but not burning. 

There's a story about how jaffles were introduced to America. Abe met an Australian guy and they wet camping. The Aussie brought a lot of jaffle irons and gave one to Abe.

The end! Now UCSC's department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology has a jaffle iron, and it is used to initiate new students. Students are told to close their eyes and put out one hand...

...just kidding...

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