Emeryville Amy

This blog will be a combination of my favorite places in the Bay Area and abroad, memoirs, recipes, restaurant reviews and travel experiences.

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Location: Emeryville, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States

Monday, June 27, 2005

Baby Boar and Buffalo

Hi friends! My friend Brandon is helping figure out how to do neat things like "copy and paste" and other computer tricks. I had him use a story that I wrote awhile ago about a childhood experience. Hope you enjoy...

Catalina Island sits 26 miles west of Los Angeles in the Pacific Ocean. My first time there was with the girl scouts at Camp White’s Landing. Like all of the camps on the island, it sat in a pretty little cove surrounded by dry red clay cliffs carpeted only by sagebrush and cactus. Our tents were made of canvas and were fitted over a permanent cement floor and fixed poles. Each one had 10 iron twin beds and a few cubby holes.

One evening the weather was especially lovely and warm so we talked our counselor “Rainbow” into moving our beds outside under the stars. It was beautiful to look up at the sky and count the stars while snuggled in our beds. I awoke a few hours later to the sound of grunting coming from under my bed. Listening fearfully with every fiber of my body tensed, I figured out that there were several baby boars playing under and around my bed. Then from a distance I heard a much deeper snorting and grunting and I turned to see the momma boar searching out her little ones. She came charging at my bed, snorting, and the baby boars ran out the other direction. She made a quick detour at the side of my bed and continued chasing them away from camp. The whole time I had been too afraid to make a sound and the other campers managed to sleep through it

Later that week, we came back from lunch and saw a buffalo standing in our open tent. We of course started to yell for Rainbow to come quick. She ran over and saw the situation and decided that the only thing we could do was wait for it to leave. So we did. It eventually walked out, leaving us with the thought that wild buffalo might just decide to wander into our tent whenever they felt like it. You might be wondering what buffalo are doing on Catalina Island. They were brought over years ago to film a movie and they just let them stay there and multiply. In the town of Avalon you can buy a buffalo burger at the hamburger stand.

The fun didn’t end there at camp. One day, one very hot day, we went on a long hike up in the hills with a couple of our counselors. We manage to get lost and ran out of water. Finally, the leaders decided we needed to hike to the top of the nearest hill so we could see where we were. So we scrambled up, pushing through the cactus all the way to the top, without a trail or path. At the summit we could see which direction camp lay. Instead of retracing our steps the leaders said we should just slide down the other side of the hill. Tired and hot, we thought this sounded like the easiest way and so we obediently sat and started to slide down the dry brown grass. We quickly gathered momentum and found it difficult to slow or stop even though we desperately wanted to. The dry grass was filled with thorns and prickles which dug into our backsides. At the bottom, crying in pain we managed to limp the rest of the way to camp, straight to the nurse’s station where we pulled down our shorts and underwear so that the camp nurse could remove the thorns.

Despite this I still returned to the camp the following year. I guess I figured that this was normal, all part of the camping experience.

The camp on Catalina that I went to the most was called Camp Fox. It was a YMCA camp and had been around for a long time. My father used to go there as a kid. Going there to camp was a great experience. First we took a bus from Glendale to the harbor at San Pedro where we got on the ferry. Then it took about 2 hours at sea to get to camp. Usually the trip was fun and smooth sailing, though there were times when the swells were huge and everyone threw up over the sides the whole way. But I loved being on the water and it really felt like you were getting far away when we had to take a 2 hour boat ride to get there.

As soon as we arrived we had to help get the entire luggage off the boat, then we got into our swimsuits and had to jump off the end of the pier into the cold water and swim to shore. If you didn’t you had to wear an armband that said you were not allowed in the water without a life vest. This plunge was fine during the summer, but other times of the year it was quite a polar bear swim. There were lots of water activities including water skiing and snorkeling and there were crafts and a big recreation field and campfire amphitheater. So many things to do that one would think that it wouldn’t be necessary to leave camp. But when I went one spring with my 6th grade school class there was a 3 day backpacking trip planned.

We each had a full backpack with sleeping bag, pad, extra clothes and food. We started out of camp early and climbed up the first hill out of camp. (Just a note on the topography of Catalina: there are practically no flat places on the island; it is all hills with some little harbor coves) We hiked and hiked. Not being a fast or natural hiker I stayed with the slowest group. After tiring of them I decided to hike faster and catch up to the group that was taking a break further ahead. I just reached them and was sliding my pack off when the weight of it caused me to fall right into a big cactus bush. The needles stuck in my knee even when I was pulled out of the bush. My friends helped pull out the needles but they left ugly bleeding holes where they had been. My whole knee eventually bruised purple and was punctuated with angry red dots.

By then, the rest of the slow group had caught up and we all left together. After 7 miles of hills we made it down to the cove where we were supposed to spend the night. But the clouds had gathered and turned dark. The leaders were told that we couldn’t spend the night there because the storm would make the tides higher and we would be washed out to sea (or something along those lines). So, we all had to get our packs back on in the rain and hike out of there. They decided that the best place to go was up to the tiny airport 5 miles away. The airport being at the top of a hill,, naturally. The paths turned into rivers of red mud and it was slow going, especially since we were already exhausted, AND we didn’t get any dinner because we had to keep going to get to a safe spot. Around 10pm that night the last of us straggled into the airport where we ate candy from the vending machines and waited for the open-sided buses (perfect on sunny days, but not so great in a thunderstorm) to take us to Avalon and then for some boats to ferry us back to Camp Fox. So, at midnight we were back where we had started early that morning. They built a big fire in the dining hall fireplace and made cocoa and grilled cheese and we changed into warm, dry clothes and thanked God we had made it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Amy, just thought I would say hi!

It sure seems like a lot of crazy stuff happened at that camp of yours. I don't know if I would be up for it.

4:30 PM  

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