by Corby Hines
It had been awhile since I’d last waited with friends for a big yellow bus to arrive, but that’s just what Omar, Ezekiel and I found ourselves doing a few weeks ago on a bright summer morning on the first day of Bay Camp. Parents would soon be arriving at the El Verano School to check in with us and drop off their kids for the day. We checked our list again: 16 kids, ages 6−13. Some didn’t know how to ride a bike; most had never been in a kayak before. This was Sonoma Land Trust’s first foray into running a day camp for kids and we hoped that we had thought everything through. The bus would show up any minute to take us to Sears Point, where for the next five days, these kids would make new friends, explore the tidal marsh, birdwatch, play games, go on scavenger hunts, catch lizards, create art, make forts, ride bikes along the Bay Trail and learn how to kayak on open water.
Hey Omar, here comes the bus!
Once all the campers arrived, we boarded the bus and drove down Sonoma Valley to the Ralph Benson Center at our Sears Point property adjacent to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The kids ogled the shiny new bikes lined up for them to ride. They pointed at the cows grazing the pastures just over the fence and looked around at the natural objects placed around the meeting room.
“When do we get to kayak?” the campers asked.
“Well first, we have to ride down to the water,” Ezekiel replied.
After teaching the young ones to balance and peddle, we rode our bikes down to the Bay Trail where the kids got their first glimpse of the water.
We got out the binoculars to observe the natural habitat. Lucas, one of the campers, displayed an impressive ability to identify shorebirds.
It wasn’t long before the kids demanded to explore the water’s edge. They discovered tule reeds, which were brought in from the bay on the tides. They instinctively started gathering them up and we later made small boats with the tule during arts and crafts time.
They learned that the Coast Miwok made boats from these too, ones that you could actually ride in.
So when do we get to kayak?
they asked again.
We checked our tide stick that we had placed at the water’s edge that morning during low tide. The stick was now mostly submerged, indicating the tide was now high enough to finally go kayaking and not get stuck in the mud.
We paddled out to what became known as “Mud Island,” and the kids howled with laughter as their legs sunk into the clay at the water line. One kid exclaimed, “This is the best camp ever!” Tired, dirty and smiling, we got back on the bus back and rode home to Sonoma Valley. It was time to get some rest because we planned on doing it all over again tomorrow.
If you would like to vicariously spend a day at Bay Camp, check out this video and join in the fun:
Corby Hines is Sonoma Land Trust's outings guide, photographer and videographer.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.