Friday, July 8, 2011

A day of firsts!

Today Group A went to an Archaeological dig! Although I didn't find anything, some groups found silverware, parts of book, and completely intact bottles! For me, the most exciting part of the day was peeing in the woods for the first time. It's hard to find a good spot to use the bathroom in the middle of a forest because you have to look out for poison ivy, thorn bushes, people, and other creatures. Fortunately I did not encounter any of these things! I also had another first today. Palmer found a tick on my shoulder! It was really creepy knowing that a tick was sucking my blood, but Milena and Maren got most of the tick out of me, then when we got back to Hoffman, Maren got the rest out. Tonight we went to the archaeologists' house to roast marshmellows to make s'mores and have a dance party. Milena had never had a s'more before, so she got to have an interesting experience making one even though she hated it! During the dance party, many new dance moves were invented including the wheelchair, the itch, the flaming torches, and my personal favorite, the shake and bake. Tomorrow, we are canoeing and rock climbing! I can't wait!


Hiking.. again!

We have done a lot of hiking at SEI.

Today was no different. In the morning we hiked to a beautiful place in the nearby South Cumberland State Park. Our wonderful and most amazing counselors said it was an easy hike (which I found out later was so that we would not be psyched out before we began… I’m still unsure as to whether this method is really effective.) They said that is was downhill the entire way there. But I was actually surprised by the way it was really just climbing over a mountain so that you miserably hiked up for the first part but then you spent the second half of your trip going on a mostly gentle downhill among some lovely forest.

The cave was fantastic. As soon as you reached the crevice in the rock, the air felt 10 degrees cooler. It was a huge opening in the rock that went back deep into the rock. Most people sat on the large stones scattered throughout the area, went into the cave to test their adventurous side, or decided to dip their feet into the cool water to soothe their aching feet.

Here there must be a clarification. The water was not cold. It was FREEZING. Coming from a place in Florida where there are several springs that remain in the low 70s throughout the year and having swum in several glacial waters, this water felt the coldest of them all. After several minutes of walking in the water your feet would begin to tingle and become uncomfortable. After getting out, it was painful to walk again, even on the sand. Many people had, quite ingeniously, left their water bottles in the icy water so they could have nice, refreshingly cool water to drink on the way back to the vans.

However, few people noticed the rocks under the water. Much of the rock on the bottom appeared to be several large flat rocks that were the most beautiful shade of green. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to look up the kind of rock it was.

All in all we had a fabulous time and the ride back to beautiful Sewanee was very pleasant. In some places on the sides of the roads there are still some wildflowers left and driving through the mountains is always so beautiful.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Friends... who knew?

I remember watching all twenty-nine of us running and dashing to McClurg dining hall. An array of colors- blue, pink, green, beige, and orange- caught my eyes as the boys pushed and shoved. The girls walked along at a more relaxed pace. Metal forks and plates crashed together. It was a rush for food. A rush to regain energy. A rush to sit among friends. That’s what we have grown to be in a number of days, true lifelong friends. We all sat and chatted our lives away. Not at all paying heed to our sore muscles, and our extreme intense hike to Buggytop Cave. We were a time of relaxation and reconnection. Little did we know that our night was also going to be exciting!

That same night after dinner, we gathered at Spencer for a game night. That alone sounded fun but the night took an interesting turn of events. As we sat waiting to receive further instructions from Mary Beth, Charlotte, and Trevor, we managed to have fun just sitting there. Laughter filled the hall as we all caught up with each other and told embarrassing tales about what happened in the groups. Eventually, we all separated in groups of types of game. The three popular games of that night were: Charades, The Battle of the Sexes and Spit. While playing Spit, there was a frenzy of hand slapping and Jeannie and Scott seemed to be in an intense match against each other. Neither would admit defeat. But for the most part, The Battle of the Sexes was the ultimate team builder game. Guys against girls, naturally the girls won but it was a fun process to see the faces of the boys, when a question about what a corset was. There was the occasional mind teaser for the girls when it came to cars but overall a fun night. And yet, it never crossed our minds that the next day was July 4th because we were too busy simply having a good time or trying bubble tea for the first time or trying to dance to Spanish music.


Mud and Dirt and Fun

During the first hike today we went to a coal mine where we “stole” some coal and painted all over our faces with it. However, the second hike to Solomon’s temple was the most thrilling part of the day. On the way to Solomon’s temple all of us got muddy and dirty, but nobody expected what would happen on our way back. When we went uphill in the end of the hike, there was not a single person who had a clean spot on his/her clothes. All of us were crawling and grabbing roots and rocks in order to climb the steep slope while in the meanwhile sinking deeper and deeper in the mud. It was really fun, because there is no better feeling than not caring about how dirty you are and maybe this is the best way to become “part of the nature.” However, except the adventurous part, both hikes to the caves were very educational and we learned a lot about the history of Sewanee, about why people decided to build the college exactly on this place, and about the composition of the plateau which makes this place unique. The decision this college to be built here is largely because of the coal with which we painted our faces and the composition of the plateau which is made of sandstone and limestone is the reason for the formation of so many caves which serve as homes for a variety of species.


Buggytop and Bats

Day 8 at SEI also happened to be the first day of week two. After a more leisurely morning, the group set out on a hike to Buggytop Cave, a trail little bit south of the Domain. We were joined by Katie Wakefield, a rising junior at Sewanee who is doing research with Professor Zigler this summer on the Plateau. Katie led us on the hike, which happened to be one of our more challenging hikes to date. The rocky, sometimes steep terrain made for an enjoyable trip down to a 150 ft. rock face where the entrance of Buggytop Cave is located. We didn’t enter the cave as it was closed to the public to protect the bats that resided there from White-Nose syndrome, a fungus epidemic that is affecting bats all over the east and Midwest. Once we made it to the cave opening, we enjoyed the cool water the flowed from the cave, and the rocky landscape surrounding it. After we had cooled off and rested a bit, we made our way back to campus to enjoy a quiet afternoon and then “game night.” Everyone is excited for tomorrow and the fireworks at Lake Cheston.

Wizards, Goats and AHHHHHHH

Three words describe this day: Wizards, Goats, and AHHHHHHH.

Not enough for you? Okay okay, I guess I can go into a little detail for y’all (that word is amazing btw. Ariziona really needs to catch)

So for Wizards…Dr Evans took us out today to show us the plants surrounding the “res” as the people call it here. I wish he had been teaching me in AP Bio! That man made the classification of plants soooooooo easy! Anyways, after he showed us all of the plants, we were split into teams of four (mine was LGFM if you were curious) to find various plants. I was part of the winning team, which was pretty awesome. He called us the Botanical Wizards. That’s word number one

As for the Goats… Dr Haskell invited us to his house to see his awesome garden, bunnies, and most importantly, goats. They were super cute, but for some strange reason they didn’t respond to my goat speak. Either I cussed them out or told them to turn away. Regardless, they were super duper cute. That’s word number two.

AHHHHHHHH is what the majority of SEI said today at Fiery Gizzard. Why? We jumped off a waterfall!!!! I was really freaked at first, but then I jumped. My eyes were closed so I didn’t know where I was in the air. I ended up hitting the back of my legs. really. hard. (so now I am sitting in a really awkward position writing this blog post). Honestly, I think the worst part of it was the freezing cold water at the bottom. (but really, everything is cold in comparison to Arizona) Still, it was quite the rush!

Those are the three words. There is only one more week left and I can’t wait to see what is in store for us!

Natural Climber?

Day 5 here at Sewanee and we are still all alive. Injury rates have been relatively low so I'd say it has been a successful first week here on the mountain. Today we started out with Dr. Smith who showed us his forestry class' success in the field and also taught us how to control the forest through several techniques like burning. On our way to lunch we stopped by the Sewanee student garden which Dr. Smith also had played a role in starting. In the afternoon we listened to a presentation on conservation, major environmental issues and what Sewanee is doing to combat these threats. Then, a group us went bouldering. While I discovered I am not a natural climber, watching the other monkeys in our group scale the cliff was very entertaining. We ended our day with a trip to CVS to replenish our snack stock and a quick stop at Sonic.

The calming effects of nature

For the majority of today we counted snails in upper cove, upland, and exurban areas. We split into groups and measured out two meter square areas to search for ten minutes each. We got down on our hands and knees and sifted through the leaf litter. When we found a snail we would measure its diameter and record it. This was interesting not only because we got to look at different types of snails, but also because there were so many other bugs we had the chance to observe. It also became more fun when my group incorporated an acorn “war”. When all of the data was put together we realized that the exurban areas had the most snails. Why this is so is a question biologist are still trying to answer. Snails are such an important part of the ecosystem, yet little is known about them. For example, I learned that birds need more calcium than is in its body to lays eggs, so it eats snail shells to get the amount it needs
Also today I learned the coolest thing, at least in my opinion, about the forest. That is that the plants give off chemicals that get into your blood stream and physically make your body more peaceful and calm. I found this really interesting because every time I am in the woods I feel relaxed, but I always thought it was just because I loved nature so much.
After playing with snails all morning we got to cool off in the reservoir. This was so much fun because there was a rope swing and a low platform in the middle that leaned into the water when to many people stood on one side.
After we washed the muck of the day off and had supper we went to a concert on campus. The band performing was The Culprits. I really enjoyed it a lot, which surprised me because I generally listen to country music.
We are now almost half way through the program and I can easily say that I am having a super awesome time. I absolutely love all of the adventures that Sewanee has to offer.


Musings and Music

Hello Parents or other people interested in the SEI 2011 camp!

Currently speaking is Tadhg Young, with my roommate Graham Turbayne (awesome name, right?).
As I write this I am listening to Journey's Separate Ways, perfect for blogging! Now onto the more important stuff, like things that actually have to do with the camp.

Today was great. We studied the snail populations in certain areas around the campus. This was done by dividing the entire SEI camp members into 5 groups and having them choosing random plots of land in either urban (well as urban as this campus can get), suburban, and exurban (the area between rural and the suburbs). At one point I had about 8 snails on my hand, the level of slime was pretty epic. Our professor was Dr. Haskell. He liked snails, but more importantly he was BRITISH!. The accent was amazing. Oh also, I believe the exurbs had the most snails.

Okay now I'm hearing Hotel California, Graham has great song choice. So what happened next?

We all went to a large reservoir, cleverly referred to by our counselors as "the res". This was awesome. Rope swings. Random adrift docks that sank with too much weight. we all started to push people off the dock until someone got hurt. Then we continued to push people off the dock, just without that person. Truly twas a wondrous time we all had.

Finally we finished with a concert from Dr. Evans son's band The Culprits, and they were really talented, and rocked the house so hard the music camp directors were complaining. Now that's what I call music.

Well that's all for this blog entry,i'm gonna go finish listening to Dream On.

We're tired, hungry, aching, but most of all happy.

Bye parents!


Nine snails

Who would have thought that finding snails in such a HUGE forest would be so hard? Definitely not me. Well I was wrong….very wrong. Searching for these small creatures for three hours only ended with a victory of nine snails. Pathetic right? Luckily the other groups were able to scrounge up enough of them to put together some legit data. After the long hours of snail hunting we ended up cooling off in the reservoir and then headed off to The Culprits concert in the quad. The night ended with a short but laughable game of truth or dare, and then it was off to bed for a good night’s sleep.



Today was a great day! A group of us started off bouldering on the rock wall at 6 AM along with a little racket ball. After a hearty breakfast we began the day's "mollusk experience"; we split into groups with awesome mollusk names (squid, tree snail, octopus, etc.) and ventured into the domain in search of the snails of Sewanee. The data collection of snails involved measuring off 2 square meters of space in various habitats (cove forest, upper forest, exurban) and counting and measuring the diameters of snails and their shells within those squares. It was a long and patience-demanding process but it showed us how accuracy plays an important role in data collection and how randomly snails can be found around the campus. My group (the squids, for which we gave ourselves the nickname "Squidward") had trouble finding snails towards the beginning but found some eventually in the exurban area (Ryan named one "Georgia" and I killed it secretly/accidentally). After counting snails we ventured over to the RES (reservoir). The raft almost toppled over with so many people on it, an extreme raft fight developed, and we did some rope swinging into the water to top it off. The day ended with a pretty awesome concert by a band called the Culprits which was quite entertaining. Before bed we all played some truth or dare that was infiltrated by the counselors and eventually involved Ashley proposing to Trevor, a very memorable moment. As Isaiah remembers, "the day was truly swagnificent."


Cavemen (and women!)

Today, Group B (B stands for Better) attended a lecture by Dr. Willis. He talked about geographic history and the topography of the plateau. And made jokes frequently. He was fun. After our lecture, we went out into the field to look at historic "all-weather springs" and other structures used during history. Then we hiked down Piney Point and explored an abandoned coal mine. I promise it was much more fun than I'm making it sound. We ground up coal, painted our faces, and reverted to our primal cavemen states. There are pictures. After lunch, our group walked to the low ropes course on campus and began a series of trust/obstacle course activities. There were ropes, spider webs, big rope swings, and a platform that we did a trust-fall with. It made us think, and problem solve, and lots of other things of the sort. Now, let me explain. I'm not fantastic at writing, and I'm making this all sound exceedingly boring. We have all had a fantastic time so far, and we're all becoming close friends. But anyway, I miss you, family (Susan, Garland, Zippy, Jax, Chere, etc.), and I hope you have fun for these two weeks without me!

Rain and Sweat

We started today with rain and it ended in sweat. Gross, but true. Group B started with a game of GeoCache - finding objects using clues and GPS. My group was amazing! Maggie was the motivating competitor. Lydia was our strategizer. Scott was our muscle. I took pictures and enjoyed the ride. With ten objects found, we thought we had the competition in the bag but another group beat us with twelve found. I was disappointed but proud of my team.

After lunch, the whole group went on a hike learning about the geology of the land. We visited caves and scaled muddy cliff sides. It was all fun and games until someone stepped on a hornet’s nest. I was stung two times. I was so happy that Caroline, who is deathly allergic to everything, was not stung. It was painful but it wasn't something benadryl couldn't fix. The hike was difficult and we were drenched by the time we reached the van but it was so worth it.

I've only been here for two days and I'm so happy to be here. The people and the scenery are amazing, not to mention the amazing professors who run the sessions. It already feels like forever. Can't wait for tomorrow.


Sewanee Fairytale

Once upon a time, there were thirty teenagers from all over the United States of Good Ol' America (plus Bulgaria!)
We all met one-by-one, trying to remember characteristics about the person to associate with their names. After icebreakers, card games (Egyptian War), a very large game of Apples to Apples we all were able to get to know each other very well. Currently, we are in the common room, all hanging out-- enjoying everyone's company :)

Addy is currently serenading us with her ukulele and her wonderful singing :)

With Professor Smith (he told us to call him Smith), we learned about indicator species and certain objects that can enable us to predict a rough road map of where buildings, houses, churches, schools, etc. used to be. We used our new journals to make the list. There were glass bottles, an old football helmet and so much that could tell us so much about the history of the land. Smith even discussed to us the importance and coincidences of the Fibonacci Series, and how it occurs in nature. (As evident in the crucifix-like leaves of the Post Oak tree).

Then lunch!

Caroline fell today. She sprained her ankle and it was a very sad day...and as I write this, due to the lack of ice in the building, she is icing her poor ankle with a frozen concentrated limeade. But it's okay, she had a fun day! YAY.
It was during our second hike of the day with Dr. Evans. It was really really really really really really hard and intensive for our small unable bodies :( Dr. Evans was a really interesting and fun person to be around. He knew everything about everything in the forest!
We learned a lot in the field-- such as identifying different types of species (white oak, a cave cricket, tulip poplar, basswood, buckeye, and even a scorpion!!) We encountered dusky salamanders, and even the habitat of the rare green salamander.

After dinner, we met a kitty named Muffins/Tim who followed us on our adventure to get frozen yogurt at Sweet CeCe's. Passing by the locals, Southern hospitality was definitely evident in this small, community-based town.

Bellies full of good frozen yogurt, we headed over to our dorm at Hoffman Hall (where we are now!). A handful of ambitious students headed out on the bikes reserved for SEI. A few were determined to find Jane's great uncle's grave right here in Sewanee-- she has a lot of history in this town. :)

Also, apparently we had rocking chairs missing from our dorm, so our counselor Charlotte took us on a little journey, while Caroline brought her cheese balls to share.

SO much happened today, but rest assured, it was a very productive day. I don't quite remember every detail of the day, but it was a very great experience in Sewanee!

Thanks for reading,

Like Monkeys

So today was definitely an experience. I had my first tick check. Like monkeys, a few of the girls and myself checked one another’s hair for ticks, which if you are like me and don’t know, they are these little bugs the bite you and can cause Lyme disease. We learned though that the ticks at Sewanee can’t actually cause Lyme disease because they first feast on lizards rather than mice and then move on to the deer. Although the ticks and chiggers originally freaked me out I still haven’t experienced them thank goodness. We started the morning with a hike that was over three miles up and down and in-between the mountains where we looked at insects, amphibians, plant life and fungi. After which we enjoyed lunch in the cafeteria, followed by a shorter hike through the ruins of what was left of old African- American homes, and their church. We learned how to identify land marks and plants that signify such ruins, and what the purposes of these plants were when the housing was originally built. Next we went to the cemetery - a place that I personally found extremely interesting because of all the history and cultural customs that each old cemetery has. After which we got to SHOWER  to scrub off any poison ivy we might have come into contact with, followed by the fore mentioned tick checks . Overall a great first day especially because we are going to the new frozen yogurt place tonight and NO TICKS !


Monday, July 4, 2011

Astounded by the sheer amount of green everywhere!

Today was the first full day of the SEI Pre-College Camp, and it was quite a rush. We woke up at what seemed like the crack of dawn for a quick breakfast at McClurg (some brave souls ventured out even earlier for a morning run) in full field gear – long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and long socks - to protect us from the ticks and chiggers we might encounter on our hikes. We then were whisked off, in our respective groups, to our activities. My group, group B, went on a three mile hike to Piney Point with Professor Evans through the various biomes of the Cumberland Plateau, and all the while Maggie, today’s other group B blogger, and I annoyed everyone by snapping as many pictures as we could. We learned the differences between a sandstone forest and a limestone forest (sandstone is poor for conventional plant growth, while limestone is perfect for it), constantly passing samples of tree branches and leaves back through the line. I was astounded at the sheer amount of green everywhere we went, a clear marker of the remarkable diversity of life forms found on the plateau.

After examining salamanders, ant-lions, and crawfish, we had lunch at McClurg and went through our second activity of the day, the one which group A had just done. We were still hiking, but this time, we hiked close by campus, we were with Smith (he’s very particular about being called Smith, and nothing more, by everyone he knows), and were examining not animal and plant habitation, but human habitation, and how the land is affected by it. We toured the remains of an old African-American settlement and the graveyard, all the while learning about what Post Oaks have to do with the Fibonacci sequence, how one can mark the boundary of old abandoned cemeteries by identifying certain species of trees, and why there aren’t very many red cedar posts in the area. I was again astounded at the information Smith could derive from the landscape. The Domain is so unique. So are this camp’s total of three ukulele players, myself included. I can’t wait to continue exploring it, while learning so much, and making so many friends. I can already tell that this camp is going to be very memorable.