Hipcampout Summer Series: Ecology with Charles Post

(I wrote this event recap for Hipcamp, and it was was originally published here as part of their Hipcamp Journal.)

As the Friday sun dipped below the shoreline and painted the Bodega Bay sky a fiery pink-orange, a group of outdoorsmen-and-women set up camp at Chanslor Ranch for a weekend of ecological insight.

Once the Eddie Bauer tents had been pitched and any remaining daylight disappeared for good, we retreated to the fire, where we shared introductions over Fort Point brews, Underwood canned wine, and what would be the start of many top notch snacks. Sooner or later, we all burned out, much like the fire, and crawled into our sleeping bags to the serenading symphony of waves crashing in the distance.

The following morning began as many great mornings throughout history have: with Stumptown Coffee and a very serious breakfast taco setup. After properly fueling up with caffeine and chorizo, the group gathered at a Salmon Creek riverbed—our home base of sorts for the weekend—where we were joined by our three guests of honor. We met Charles Post—a renowned Bay Area ecologist and storyteller—as well as a pair of his colleagues and personal heroes: April Bencze and Tavish Campbell, two dedicated marine conservationists who made the 20-hour drive from their home in British Columbia to share their knowledge and passion.

We first lent our ears to Charles, who has spent a good chunk of his life educating himself and others on the abundance of wildlife present not only in and around the Bay Area, but across the globe. He shared his wealth of information, putting a spotlight on several different fish, animals, and insects native to the land we were congregated on. As he spoke, he couldn’t help but stop himself mid-sentence on several occasions and point to the sky, identifying a variety of different birds flying above while rattling off an interesting fact or two per species. He opened a discussion on how truly connected every aspect of nature is, citing salmon and their incredibly important and interesting role in many ecosystems as an example—a point April and Tavish would soon elaborate on.

After a quick-yet-delicious pizza lunch break, we reconvened for a trail walk, led by April and Tavish. Our group settled into a dried up patch of riverbank, where our Canadian friends dove deep into an extensive session on all things salmon.

We learned of the long and arduous life journey of Pacific Salmon—after they hatch, they often travel hundreds or even thousands of miles up and down the coast before eventually returning to their birthplace to spawn and, shortly thereafter, die. In an effort to show how connected everything in the natural world is, April and Tavish highlighted the annual fall voyage of salmon: as the fish make the lengthy trek back to their birthplace, bears and wolves gather at the water’s edge to hunt; when the predators secure their prey, they carry it into the forest to eat, and the nitrogen-rich carcasses they leave behind fertilize the surrounding trees, which ultimately create the oxygen we breathe.

Once our waterside workshop wrapped up, we had time to explore the surrounding land independently before regrouping at one of the ranch’s many vistas for an out-of-this-world dinner. The view was just as stellar as the meal, and as we cleaned our plates, darkness fell and we began to make our way back down the rocky trail to the river bed.

As we sparked a fresh fire and roasted marshmallows, the acoustic trio Salt Suns manned their instruments and treated us to what can only be described as the ideal fireside tunes.

Leaning back and craning our necks upward, we admired the vast canvas of stars and reflected upon a weekend spent learning more about wildlife and the how to better share our earth. When the sun rose in the morning, we packed up our gear, our newfound vat of salmon knowledge, and our polished sense of connection to the natural world, leaving Chanslor Ranch with full hearts, minds, and souls.