Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Bordering Experiences

Before leaving for Mexico many people told us not to go. They said it was too dangerous right now and it would be smart to stay out of it.
Well today, two weeks later, we left Mexico all in one piece and headed to San Diego State University. I for one am glad we did not listen to all of those folks that’s told us not to go. The trip was to great to pass up, leaving today was ruff! Every person we met was so nice, welcoming, and personable in the sense that they became friends. It is always hard to leave friends.
I will always remember Ramon as the super smiley all the time guy that lead are pack mules and singing every step of the way. I will remember Francisco’s, the fearless leader who always positive, blunt and loved to share his words of wisdom that always hit the spot. Elizabeth I will remember as the sweet person who loves Sea Turtles and helping people help the environment (she lead our service project). Then Hermin, O Hermin, that’s about all I am going to say about that. 
Mexico has marked its territory in my memories, something I will never forget. My next trip to Mexico will never live up to this one, though, I will be back. For now I will get my work done and live my life. But I will always know that I will be traveling to Mexico again. I have seen a REALLY great piece of it, now I want the whole picture.

Peace and Love,
Kate Nelson

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


“One Love”

As I wake up to Jessica’s shrieking laughter yet again, I wonder what today will bring? Sal, Chris and Ryan are counting down the days till they get to see their girlfriends. Pat is just trying to make it out alive. Evan is still thinking about outdoor rec. versus computer science. Katy has been struck with utter disappointment of our group. Kate is still good ole’ Kate, “Hey E.C.O.E.E only take three fig newtons.” Ashley is caught in the middle, excited to leave but loves E.C.O.E.E too much. Me and Denver have no idea what were doing after E.C.O.E.E and Jess is cracked out on some 100% pure Columbian fine ground coffee and some low grade uppers such as redbull and monsters. I realize as I sit on a beach watching a family reunion where they all sit in a circle and hold hands, that I am jealous of this family. My family would never do something like this, which makes me get to my point. This family obviously has mutual love for each other and shows it. I am sure they have had their fair share of problems like any family. Yet here they are as one, holding hands in a circle on the beach. I would like to remind us that we only live once and only live one E.C.O.E.E. So as E.C.O.E.E winds down and everyone has their minds on something far off and distant. Lets not forget to show each other the love that we all know is there, but at times is hard to show. Lets respect one another and remember the simple thank you’s, your welcome’s and I’m sorry’s. Lets finish out this E.C.O.E.E with a deeper feeling then, we just conquered the land, because we didn’t. Yeah, were going to have cool stories for those folks at home, but don’t forget about us. Don’t forget about E.C.O.E.E 2010 and that at one point or another we all shared beautiful moments, together as one, like a family.

“Most any old poor fish can drift along and dream, but it takes a regular live one, to swim against the stream.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010


Baja, California (Desert Island): “Pinned”

ECOEE Log, 2:00am, wind has subsided to almost nothing at all. The moon is brighter than my headlamp and it shows me that I am buried in sand and laying *next* to my thermarest (awesome….) Though these are the perfect weather conditions to depart this desert isle (minus not having any sunlight) I content myself by falling back asleep. 4:00am, I am awakened by gusts of wind as I’m buried in the sand, again. There is no shelter from this cruel beast, sand-blasting us with every howl. We must get out. We must get out. By 6:00am my tandem kayak is leaded and ready to go – that’s when I get word we are holding out for better conditions. To occupy myself, I investigate a large intrusion about a hundred feet up a drainage near a beach. I am amazed by its size. I am amazed by its size. “Hey, Pat, is this geology?” I only wish he were here for that moment (it’s an inside joke thing.) Upon climbing down, weathering the wind, I finally find Pat as we stroll down the beach to investigate some shark remains. Gulls by the dozen soar and dart overhead. They were clearly offended at our presence. They’ll have to deal with it. By about 10:00am we’re good to go as the wind backs down. With three of our crew feeling ill, they are placed in he bow of the tandems. One of the sicklies, Ryan, was in my boat. Not long after taking off, he expels the “thing my body Is wanting to get out – one way or the other.” (That’s how he put is all morning…) I literally saw an entire pancake come out. Food for the fishes! Nom nom nom. Thankfully we made it back without anyone perishing. Casa Azul met us warmly as we began storing and cleaning things, the rest of the day being spend low-key. It’s hard to believe that our back country experiences have come to an end for ECOEE 2010. A real bittersweet experience. Whatever the case – it was a hell of a ride (this time around, especially.) Francisco’s wisdom and stories were great motivators along out brief journey. *This guy needs to write a book or get a radio show.* Students are wrapping up lessons – something that for the longest time seemed unattainable. But before we forget – there is still much to do and many miles to go. In many ways, ECOEE is a love/hate relationship – based on life. I will miss it when my time here is through and I look forward to what is ahead. “The wealthiest person is a pauper at times compared to a man with a satisfied mind.”

Denver Murphy

Sunday, November 21, 2010


La Vantana

Laying here in my bivy on a desert island in the Gulf of California, I take in my surroundings; surf crashing outside, wind gusts, and blowing sand. So much sand that I totally zip up the bivy and hide inside. My quarters are cramped and cluttered. In one corner, a copy of the backcountry classroom, hardly nighttime reading material, and in the other I have Francisco’s copy of the Swiss Family Robinson, that’s a little more like it. As I lay in here, I’ve realized that tonight is most likely the last night I’m going to spend in this bivy in the backcountry on ECOEE. I Know I’ve had mixed feelings lately about going home and ECOEE finishing, but tonight the last night out with ECOEE 2010 in the backcountry leaves me feeling bittersweet. We’ve paddled and swam and crawled through rivers, some of us dumped, some of us set things on fire, and some of us didn’t catch any walleye. We watched the most famous geyser in the world erupt, and some of us were too pissed about the critiques we had to write about it, that we couldn’t enjoy the sight. We slept outside and made sawnaws out of tarps, smoked fish and beef with a parachute. We also practiced knife sharpening, tricked Keenan with a bag of oregano, and were relieved when Katy didn’t cut her foot off. We’ve hiked through the deserts, some of us were more successful at getting lost than others, and we’ve seen some of the most famous and oldest cave paintings in the world. In the last few months we’ve seen the sun set and rise in 3 different countries, and with more beauty and color than we have witnesses before.

So I am ready to get back what I left at home, certainly. But am I ready to leave the backcountry? I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to leave, but all good things must come to an end. Peace out poopin’ in the woods.


Saturday, November 20, 2010


Lions! And Tigers! And Bears! O MY!

Actually not really.
Instead, sea lions, sting rays and octopus, O MY!
Today was a good day for the most part. Though is started out “slow,” and by it I mean we, the day was filling to say the least. We started off with a good two hour paddle. There were people laughing, people trying to get others to laugh, and others just enjoying the ride.
A big favorite of mine on this expedition is the ride. Every day is so different from the next in so many ways. Mainly by the jaw dropping sites we see, the wildlife we encounter, the activities we do, and the billions of things we learn each day. When I say billions it is not an exaggeration by the way. We tend to learn a lot of things more than once until it finally clicks…or doesn’t. But I am not going to talk about our hair pulling or hair turning gray learning methods.
Instead I would like to talk about the animals and places we have seen. Today was our second day in the Kayaks in the Golf of California. In two days we have seen so much. Today we paddled into a bay with porpoises following is. We pulled in, got to the other side of the island and saw a beautiful rock beach. There I found lots of little shells, a big piece of leaf coral, and a sunflower starfish! But that is not it. When we got back to camp we heard a few lessons and then went snorkeling.
I have never done this before so it was quite the, well let’s call it and experience. I am as I found out, not very coordinated with flippers, mask and snorkel. BUT! It did not matter. During my attempts I saw lots of sting rays and fish, a few star fish, a sea lion, and others saw and octopus. I could not se the octopus due to my inability to get over the rocks with my flippers on. So I shall enjoy it through the eyes of those that did.
ECOEE to me is a lot like what this day was, a lot of new sites, meeting new creatures, trying and learning new things and missing out on awsomness due to our inabilities. But, all in all having a blast and making memories that will last a lifetime. Such as, the minor earthquake I created due to dinner, and my “marging” through a snorkel or living in a new unexplainably awesome place about every night.
For as bitter sweet as ECOEE is it is way more sweet that bitter and I would not trade it for anything else.

Peace and Love,
Kate Nelson

Thursday, November 18, 2010


As Dexter would say in his “laboratory” SUCCESS!!! Today went by really well and I feel very relaxed as I watch the Baja 1000 racers go by from the comfort of my sleeping bag. Today we sorted food, cleaned and organized group gear, learned some kayaking skills, completed four lessons, washed clothes, celebrated Ryans birthday and got personal gear ready to pack for tomorrow. It’s hard to believe that the end is neigh and that this kayaking trip is one of the main events of the closing of ECOEE. Enjoy it while it lasts, because like those dune buggies, these next few days are going to be but memories in a flash.

Ashley VanSpeybroeck



Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The Canyons
For months now, we have been filling this journal with high hopes and positive thoughts. We have let our minds vent through our pens, and say how we should feel, what we should do, and any other thoughts they have when things are going well. But that isn’t always how ECOEE works. With every low in most of these journal entries comes a high. I know at least I feel sometimes that with the journal being on the blog, it isn’t always easy to elaborate on the lows, and those gaps between the peaks that seem to last forever. We don’t want any of our loved ones reading this thinking our journey is anything but fantastic.
We talk about how slim our grades will look for this semester. I think about how much progress our group has made. I observe (including myself) all of us putting the blame on Jeff and Kim, while they toss it right back at us. We all have things we could have done better. I’m supposed to be your guru on trees, a topic I teach with unfortunate mediocrity. I remember talking to Becky on the hone one night while discouraged, and she was trying to get me back on task. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished a semester disappointed with my performance, and with two weeks left that’s exactly where I’m at. This is exactly what she warned me about. I feel worse about my LOD days, lessons, and overall have been performing more and more poorly since we left this August.
While that’s one side, the places we have seen have been getting better and better. Baja California is a great place to spend Thanksgiving, and Francisco is a truly great person with some amazing insight to give us. He turns a shitty mood around like no one has been able to do so far, and has a refreshing balance of leadership qualities to keep us motivated. With so little time left, there is still so much to learn, which is something I am truly thankful for.
Maybe in the end, the crappy grades will be worth the journey. Maybe when we get some time to relax and put our heads and lives back on, we will truly feel like family. In the meantime, lets soak up some sun, knock the last few lessons out, learn as much as we can from Francisco, and enjoy what we’ve got while we do, cause like I said-one day we’ll wake up and this will all be over. Cheers


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


“Remember the most powerful religions of the world were born of desert metaphysics-extremes of desert visions. Moses, Jesus and Mohammad were men of the desert. It was their home. The sea was all right for special effects – part it or walk on it – but if they had serious business with God or the devil, they went to the desert.”
- Micheal Ventura
Baja-California had been great so far. The overwhelming beauty and presence of the desert is something that I had not expected. The massive Cardon cactuses are some of the coolest plants I have ever seen. The cave paintings bring about feelings of wonder and jealousy. Will we ever be able to re-establish that powerful connection with nature that the native people had so long ago? I feel like these places are overlooked and no matter how many times we see them on Discovery Channel or HD whatever, that connection, that respect and that meaning is not present. Not form a TV special or a documentary, no it takes much more. It takes presence, it takes interpretation, experience, it takes a hot long hike with all you essential on your back just to get a slice of that pie.
But what has been most fulfilling about this place so far is the condition of the group that I have come here with. It has been quite a while since I have heard and seen all of us laughing and smiling this much. Life is more graceful again on ECOEE and I am glad that the people around me are having a good time, because without them I would not be. Today while me and Ryan were trailing behind a bit Ryan had mentioned how this all felt like a dream. I thought how, while I was passing a massive Cardon, seemingly average I felt, like it wasn’t a big deal. Then I though about life back home and that not so big of a deal became huge, because this is a big deal. I thought of telling others our story and how the look on their faces would show shock and amazement. I thought of how I react when others have told me similar stories, how when ECOEE 2008 told me their story how massive my smile was. We have gotten so accustomed to diving into the backcountry every few weeks that sometimes we forget that we will not always be able to do so in the future, the near future at that. We are truly lucky and more than blessed to have this program. I can only hope that when we get back the withdrawals are not similar to the ones on that show with those people, I guess what I am trying to say is you don’t really know what you got till its gone.
Every single day one of you at one point has been my encourager, my harmonizer, compromiser, my gate keeper, my standard setter, my energizer bunny, elaborator, my diagnoser and my friend. Together we will always have our group, ECOEE 2010, and no one can take that away from us.

Pat Croke

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010


“Back in the Backcountry”
Were back in the backcountry and tarantula’s are everywhere. We haven’t seen any yet but I swear I feel their presence. Before we got to our camp we played a game called cadaver. Since this was the rockiest road I’ve ever been on it was perfect for this game. Everyone goes limp, like a cadaver before rigamortis sets in, then you bounce around and wherever you end up, you end up. Heads bumped, people fell to the floor boards, Pat was wedged between the door and the seat. We almost became real cadavers when the van started filling with gas fumes. So we stopped and checked the van. We found nothing so we kept moving. Then we made it to donkey doo campsite where we had delicious vegetarian stew and backcountry banana splits. After a long hot day it was nice to sleep under the stars.

“I keep my head in the sky and my roots in this ground, I’m not a patriotic man but for what its worth, I pledge allegiance to this land of my mother earth.” JBT


Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010


San Diego State

It’s a week until my 22nd birthday and that means that we’ll be home! But first we must venture south, deep DEEP south, across the border to Mexico. Everyone back home seems to be mortified about me coming down here. They said some American was decapitated a few weeks ago, and 108 Americans have been murdered down here since 2009. But that’s not such a deterrent to me. If anything it adds more to my sense of adventure, besides, I’m sure we’ll be fine. We’ll have Francisco, our local celebrity/leader. If it weren’t safe Jeff and Francisco wouldn’t let us come down.

So tomorrow we depart, bright and early for our long drive to Casa Azul in Bahi de Los Angeles. I can’t wait to see what it’s like over there. Remembering back to Canada and seeing how different things were up there, I can only imagine how different the world will be south of the border. Vive la Mexico!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Today was probably one of the best days I have had in a while. Even though, as we all know by now I am not a fan of climbing, learning how to set up a top rope was an experience I would like to continue. The long nomenclature lesson, learning about ecosystems and lost gold filled the day with knowledge and laughs, oh laughs. Poor Pat and his pants! Jeff showed us some playfulness and scared the crap out of Pat and the rest of us, but that was another story.
In short, today was awesome and if I could go back and do it again, I would.

“Without laughter, there is no use in living.” Dave VanSpeybroeck

Ashley VanSpeybroeck

Monday, November 8, 2010


Joshua Tree: “Corkscrew”

Ever been caving? I have (since our late night excursion not but a few hours ago.) For those of you wondering – it’s a heck of an experience. It was a fine way to end a day of lessons. We also got to spend a couple of hours in the small town of Joshua Tree. It was here I made my way to JT’s Saloon for some free wifi, dinner, and SportCenter. Fortunately for me, I was one of the two people who managed to connect to the net – angering the hundreds of commonfolk (seemingly) that rioted around me. While the Dallas Cowboys head couch begins his search for a new job – I am preparing myself for climbing – another something I’ve never done away from a rock wall. The energy is really high and there is work to be done but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, apart from it getting dark at 5:30pm. (Haha.) “Is this the real Caesar’s Palace? Did he really live here? I didn’t think so.”

Denver Murphy

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


“I SCREAM Mountain!”
LACOSS Day 2/1st full day

Trying to put today into words…not going so well. I can say that what ever this entry ends up saying, it will be nothing but positives.

Being at LACOSS (LA County Science School) for just these past 36 hours has been something of a whirl wind adventure. So far it has been a lot of familiar territory when it comes to the kids. There is just a bit of unfamiliarity with the schedule, activities, logistics and such. However, it has all been easy to adapt to. Having done something like this for about eight summers, it is not that hard to grasp. Here and my camp are quite different in that one is a summer camp and this one is a science school. The programs, facility, songs are all a little different too, there are still similarities, just presented differently.
Anyways, back to something you might actually enjoy. Today was fantastic. It started out with lots of screaming, excited girls who were nervous as heck. It was like they did not know why they should be excited, just that…well they should be so are. While getting dressed and ready for the day I found my first task. Teach a 5th grader to tie her shoes. Second task, get some not so experienced girls up a mountain in 85 degrees and sun beating down.
Result, some pretty beat, but proud girls who only whined a little in the beginning.
This is going to be a GREAT week. I can feel it!


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010