Monday, May 1, 2017

Rain, Redwoods, and Thanksgiving
By Sarah Frantz

It had been months since any of us had felt a raindrop.

While winter rainfall allows for our gem in the Pacific to burst with vibrant flowers and lush vegetation in the early springtime, Catalina typically reverts back to its arid climate as the island tries to conserve its water resources during the warmer seasons. Beginning this year’s bike tour in Humboldt Redwoods State Park was a welcomed change of scenery for our staff and a wonderful reminder of how different ecosystems are in various parts of the world.
The first thing to note about this adventure in the Redwoods was that it rained. A lot. And by “a lot” I mean pretty much constantly.“All of this rain is allowing us to become one with the algae,” Travis joked cheerfully one morning. Most of our clothes, shoes, backpacks, tents, pillows, and sleeping bags drank the rainwater like sponges. Even our waterproof gear threw in the towel after three days of non-stop rain (or at least mine did). Sometimes we even had to relocate our tents in the middle of the night to avoid a new stream that crept through our campsite! The relentless rain sparked our creativity to find new ways to keep ourselves dry. We turned trash bags into ponchos, bagel bags and duct tape into socks, and…
We built a fortress.
Tarps, trees, bus.
(Note – this was the ultimate team-building task).
Here’s a little known secret about the CELP staff. These nature-enthused, bicycle-loving, adventure junkies are also very creative chefs! Fortunately for us, our bike trip coincided with this year’s Thanksgiving holiday. If I had to pick one holiday to spend with my CELP family, Thanksgiving would definitely be the one. 
What was on the menu?
Apple slices, an assortment of cheese and crackers, homemade cranberry sauce, deli sandwiches, cheesy polenta, stuffing, mashed cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, potatoes, and hot beverages to warm the soul.

With happy hearts and tummies, the next few days were spent eagerly exploring the magical Redwoods!
Did you know that California Redwoods…
“Live over 2,000 years old
Weigh up to 1.6 million pounds
Grow up to 367 feet tall
Have a diameter up to 22 feet across
Bark thickness up to 12 inches.” 
Puff Ball Mushrooms
Rainbows in the redwoods

After a few days of relaxed exploration and soggy fun, we prepared ourselves for the beginning of our ride! To do this, we set up our own personal bike tune-up station underneath the rain tarps. We opened up our tool kit and busied ourselves with lubing up bike chains, adjusting seats, and airing up tires.
Claire Bear demonstrated how to change a tire tube like a pro!

On our third and final morning in the Redwoods, thin golden streams of sunshine finally peaked through the tall canopy of trees as the rain began to subside.  We packed up our campsite, loaded the bus, and snapped on our bike helmets. The first 32 miles of our ride were along the strikingly scenic California highway known as the Avenue of the Giants.

Why drive through a tree when you can bike through one?! 
Mother Nature scores a 10/10 with the CELP staff for her awe-inspiring ancient forest.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Not Your Average Bake Sale

Not Your Average Bake Sale
In mid-October, 2016 if you had walked into our kitchen, you would have thought you were in a candle factory. For a week our camp became a production hot spot of bread, cookies, candles, balms, hummus, salsa, and any other creations we could muster up. You might be thinking this sounds like a challenge to pull off in a small kitchen on a remote island. You are correct. Not to mention, we were working full time leading snorkels, hikes, kayaks and environmental awareness programs for multiple school groups in our camp. However, against all odds, we succeeded and were able to sell our plethora of artisan goods at the fifth annual Fall Festival in Avalon.

Close to half of our staff made the two-hour journey to the “busy city” of Avalon to showcase their salesperson talents at our farmers market style booth. We sold out of almost every single product, raising enough money to make our bike tour possible! It was an exciting change of pace from our routine here at Howlands Landing, and it was a fantastic way for our staff to do some outreach to the surrounding communities here on Catalina Island. Every year our booth brings returning customers, who are excited to see what new recipes we have tried out. Our participation is not just about raising money, but also showcasing the accessibility of local, organic, and environmentally-conscious products. One of the core programs of our CELP curriculum is sustainable living and gardening, in which we strive to impart the importance of reducing food miles and promoting local food systems. Fall Fest is the perfect way for us to practice what we preach and make these sustainable concepts a reality.