Kickstarting the Fall term with a Thursday night meeting, the Fall 2019 Eco-Adventure course gathered for the first time to meet each other and set clear expectations for the upcoming weeks. On this night, we were entertained by lectures from Leslie Eldridge and Dr. John Roden of Southern Oregon University. Leslie introduced us to the California Coastal Redwoods and all the unique aspects of the ancient forests, then Dr. Roden shared his research on coastal redwood paleo-botany and paleo-climatology. We concluded the evening by picking our topics for a mini-research project due the following Thursday before the class meets again.
The following week, students were deep into the book “Wild Trees” learning about the stories and history of tree climbing, tree naming, and forest canopy research in the Redwoods National and State Parks and in forest canopies around the world. Thursday’s class supported extremely passionate speakers. Dr. Michael Parker of the SOU faculty taught the class about the coastal stream ecology of the Smith River and Dr. Kevin Soland of Humboldt State shared his interesting life story of becoming a world-class florist to working in oil fields and traveling everywhere in-between until he arrived at Humboldt state studying the Redwood’s hydrologic response to restoration and thinning. We said our goodbyes, knowing full well that we would see each other soon.
The following morning, the Eco-Adventure course took a weekend away from the beauty of Ashland in the fall and escaped to Redwoods National and State Parks. Meeting early Friday morning with sleep in the eye, we headed to the Northern Coast of California with two twelve-passenger vans and a trailer in tow. Arriving in the late morning, we made lunch and spent the afternoon with Brett Silver and a recreation management class from Sacramento State University. Brett Silver, the Deputy District Superintendent of the California State Parks North Coast Redwoods District, spoke to students about issues in the National State parks and how the National and State Parks came together. Mr. Silver then led students on a hike through the social trails in the Grove of Titans.
The next morning we were treated to breakfast in our campground prepared by students who volunteered the night prior to prepare and cook. We then set off for a day of Kayaking down the Smith River. Jumping off rocks and learning about the native history in the area, the afternoon was soon upon us.
Before a river-side lunch, we toured through the infamous Stout Grove where some of our group ended up inside the hollow trunk of a Redwood! Our river guides shared local information on aquatic wildlife and insights into local history.
We concluded our day on the water and quickly changed pace to hiking in the Simpson-Reed Grove with a national park naturalist. He guided us on a walk that focused on the lifecycles of redwoods and their larger forest ecosystems, which provided a fascinating insight into the sociology and ecology inherent to these patches of biodiversity.
With the talk concluded, we continued our walk and enjoyed the majesty of the Redwoods on our final jaunt through the woods. We finished our night with chili, Rice Krispies treats, apple crumble, and lively meaningful conversations.
Before we left the Redwoods (and after some quiet universal agreement), we drove out to the beach and raced in the sand. It was a beautiful way to conclude a perfect weekend in a unique environment that brought me closer to my peers; further expanding my knowledge of and pride for local natural environments.
Story by Caden Gallagher, SOU Environmental Science & Policy Student