Increase Your Nature Knowledge this June

by Gabi McLean

(reprinted with permission from the Southern Sierran, Vol. 64 No. 9, September, 2008, Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club)

The moon shone through the pines and cedars, throwing soft shadows across our path. We were following the dirt road along the Santa Ana headwaters, crossing it over a low bridge, where we could hear the water gurgle and tree frogs join the crickets in their chorus. The road then led up the hill, dotted with white-shining Desert Evening Primrose and fragrant California Lilac. We wandered up through montane scrub to an opening where we could see the night sky, listen to the haunting call of the Poorwill, and the faint hoot of a Great Horned Owl. The Big Dipper and other constellations were now visible and this group of adventurers milled at this peaceful spot for some time before we slowly returned to camp, carefully choosing our steps without the help of flashlights.

This moonlight nature walk was just one example of the activities offered at the Nature Knowledge Workshop this year. A bird walk early in the morning, making cordage from plant material, identifying plant families with live plants, and creating art with natural materials were other options among many more. The Nature Knowledge Workshop is open to all interested nature friends, age 15 and up (under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult). What better place is there to learn about nature than in nature? Experiencing the environment with all our senses, exploring different habitats, hearing from experts in a variety of disciplines, having the opportunity to choose among walks, workshops, and activities this is what the Nature Knowledge Workshop has been presenting for 30 years now.

Every year, the Natural Science Section organizes this educational weekend in the San Bernardino Mountains, from Friday night to Sunday afternoon, in the beginning of June. At that time, the camp, which lies at about 5,600 feet, offers springtime flora and fauna: buds and flowers, nesting birds and fledglings, lizards, and butterflies. Creek-side habitat right through the camp, surrounded by yellow-pine forest, montane scrub and chaparral plants make this the ideal environment for exploration and study. The naturalists leading the workshops and activities have worked in their field for many years, some have taught at colleges and universities, some have authored books on their subject matters, representing botany, geology, herpetology, study of birds and mammals, and other environmental sciences.

Common Buckeye butterfly
Common Buckeye
Photo by Gabi McLean

Sierra Club leaders in pursuit of an I rating can meet the natural history education requirement by spending just one weekend in the mountains and attending this workshop. But many participants have enjoyed this educational experience so much that they returned to it for several years, to take advantage of the many options of different workshops, appreciate the mountains, the cool and fresh air, the delicious food, and the up-lifting company. Mark your calendar for the next session, June 12 through 14, 2009: I hope to see you there.

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