Younger Lagoon Reserve in Santa Cruz to volunteer. It was day one of WICKED Work Days, an annual tradition after WO. It was a day full of hard work, dirt, mice, and deliciously fresh sandwiches.
We met at 9 AM in Quarry Plaza on campus and had bagels, which brought me right back to Wilderness Orientation, during which I'd consumed many bagels. The dining halls weren't open yet, so I didn't have any coffee. I was concerned I'd get a headache, since I drink that delicious black goodness every morning. I had a drop of coffee left in my reusable mug, so I drank it and prayed that it would be enough.
The vans drove us down toward the water to Younger Lagoon Reserve, which is used by UCSC for research. As UCSC students, we have open access to the reserve. After a brief introduction to the area, our group split into two.
My group headed over to a large patch of ice plant, which is an invasive plant originally planted to help with erosion along the coast. It grows very tightly and holds the soil in place, but it doesn't allow other plants, like natives, to grow there. It's also very heavy, which actually causes erosion. Ice plant = bad. We each grabbed a pair of gloves and started ripping those bad boys out of the soil. It was tough work, and I was covered in dirt and sweat within fifteen minutes. It was quite rewarding when you got a hugely long-rooted one and could just keep uprooting it until it broke. Mice living in the ice plant scurried away from us, though some students tried to catch them. The piles of ice plant behind us grew larger and larger. After a few hours, we'd mostly cleared the patch of ice plant, which was awesome! (And fortunately, I never got a headache!)
It may have been because we were starving from hard work, but the lunch they served us was so refreshing and tasty! Sandwiches with fresh tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, mustards, lettuce, and for those who eat it, cheeses and various meats. The oranges we peeled after stuffing our faces smelled and tasted amazing.
After eating, I saw a lovely yellow flower near the picnic tables and asked a guy who works at the reserve what it was. He said it's called Hiker's primrose, and he told me the scientific name, but I didn't write it down. (Today, I purchased a UCSC natural history guide and cannot wait to start learning more about the plants on and around campus!)
The day ended with a tour of the Seymour Marine Center. We saw the research dolphins that they have in captivity, and I instantly thought of The Cove. At the end of the tour, we all stood inside the Blue whale skeleton's mouth. That whale is enormous, like 60-something feet long!
It was a strenuous but rewarding day. We sure kicked some iceplant "bootay," as Ari put it. Quite, WICKED, indeed.
Now I'm off to do the homework I should have been doing while I wrote this post!