Faculty & Staff

Progress | July 2009

July 2009

By Craig Philpott, Enrollment

Main Article Image

One Sabbath in May I went for a hike looking for California Condors to add to my life list of birds. My search location was Pinnacles National Monument.

The California condor has been one of the most endangered birds in North America and is now the most expensive bird species in history. Hand-raised juveniles have been released in three major zones across the West since 1991 and two of these manufactured flocks are in the hills and mountains between the San Joaquin Valley and Big Sur in Central California. Twenty-two of these large scavengers live in and around the Pinnacles National Monument, and I wanted to take a look at my investment - after all, if they were reared and fed on tax dollars, they belong to each of us, right?

I will not even begin to discuss the question of whether an incubator-hatched, hand-raised, fed-through-a-glove-that-looks-like-its-mother (if mother were made of PVC), radio-tagged, monitored-by-remote-camera bird is really a free-flying creature that can be added to my life list of birds. I say yes, but only barely. Many of these free-flying birds have a small radio attached and all have a number tag attached to one wing. Favored feeding grounds, where nice rangers deliver road kill, are monitored by remote camera and in some cases a perch that looks like a dead branch is actually an electronic scale to weigh the birds when they land and then transmit the data to eager scientist who monitor bird health based on bird weight, not unlike some employer wellness programs.

So I paid my five dollars, parked at the end of the road, and with binoculars and camera I set out on the enticingly named Condor Overlook Trail. Let me just jump ahead and tell you, the trail is misnamed. I looked down in the canyon all the way up and I never did see a condor. I looked up and scanned the hills, no condors. I took pictures of the rock formations in the Pinnacles, no condors. I got excited and scanned every turkey vulture in the sky, no condors. I considered lying down and playing dead at the top of the trail, no condors.

It was a perfect hike for a Sabbath - with the exception of the missing birds, it was beautiful. Temperatures in the low 80's, a slight breeze, clear skies and excellent views of rocky canyons, peaks and stone formations.

If you visit in the summer, plan on hiking early in the morning since the heat of the day can be significant. Carry water when you hike - I know a fellow who took a Sabbath hike here and left his water in the car (let this be a lesson for you). Take your binoculars and leave the heavy camera in the car. If you see a condor, enjoy the experience; a photo would merely show a speck in the sky unless you own a truly long telephoto lens.

Pinnacles National Monument is 35 miles south of Hollister on Highway 25. It is worth the drive, and I was blessed.

Colleagues & Departments

Chaplain's Office
Roy Ice recently returned from speaking for the South England Conference's Camp Meeting, which was held in Prestatyn, Wales, UK. He spoke nightly in the high school tent, and had the pleasure of shaking hands with the Governor General of Jamaica, who was also there at the camp meeting.

In June, Mei Ann Teo, as lead resident artist for Lyrical Minded, created a video time capsule project with Edgewood, a facility that provides live-in and support services for children who are abused and abandoned. Mei Ann is also performing this summer with the Theatre of Yugen in the FuryFactory Theatre Festival in San Francisco and the INFANT Experimental Theatre Festival in Serbia and will attend (with support from a Herber Grant) the LaMama International Director's Symposium in Italy.

English & Enrollment
The last weekend in May, resident artist Mei Ann Teo and enrollment counselor Cambria Wheeler presented a screening of Red Books to the Seattle chapter of Adventist Forum, and hosted the talkback session.

Pitcairn Island Study Center
Herb Ford, director, reports that the Pitcairn Islands Study Center (PISC) in the library recently served as a facilitator between the NASA Space Center and Pitcairn Island in coordinating the Pitcairners' participation in a space experiment from the International Space Station (ISS). On May 15, the ISS released a large amount of ammonia crystals into the atmosphere. NASA scientists felt that photographs of the diffused ammonia cloud could provide significant fundamental knowledge of the processes of freezing and evaporation ("sublimation"). Pitcairn and Easter islands were the only two inhabited lands in the Pacific Ocean from which the cloud and the ISS were visible to the unaided human eye. The PISC, at NASA's request, coordinated motion picture and still photography of the ISS and trailing cloud by the Pitcairn islanders. NASA later reported that at least one of the Pitcairn pictures, when enhanced with special NASA equipment, will provide valuable information from the experiment.