After our anniversary celebrations last weekend, we had to get back to Pasadena quickly, because we had to go to Astrocamp! Actually it was part of 'New Student Orientation' at Caltech, and we drove into the San Bernadino Mountains, to the 6000 ft elevation of Idyllwild, CA, to the Desert Sun Science Center on Tuesday morning. We were to join over two hundred new students, the cheerful Jean-Paul Revel (Dean of Students), his staff, a number of upperclassmen, and several faculty, who were all there for the orientation program.
It was an adventure, and we started our climb into a totally different environment.
We arrived at Astrocamp, the site Caltech chooses to bring its freshman to introduce them to the ideas that make Caltech what it is. In addition to academic information, they were introduced to the honor system. The basic and only rule at Caltech is: "No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community." This unusual and proven effective system at the Institute allows for an otherwise rule-free environment, take-home exams, and a feeling of integrity and trust. The mountain setting of Astrocamp provides a dramatic vantage point for new ideas.
As soon as we arrived, Rick set to work preparing his talk, as he was the representative mathematician. (Actually, he was doing math, he says...) He was there to give information about courses, and to be available to new students with questions.
As usual, he did this admirably, and the large student population enjoyed his practical and humorous tips.
But there was work to be done. Rick was busy with students, and Kathy was busy documenting it.
Meals took place in the cafeteria, and students found Rick and brought their questions, many of which had to do with advanced placement hopes.
Kathy has always found and
photographed, in the wildness
of nature, forms that appear, with faces and gestures that seem familiar...
and she calls these 'creatures'.
Our big discovery on this trip was that the woods were full of 'Manzanita creatures' including us!
Kathy immediately found several creatures waiting:
Rick, fascinated with the colored barks and textures, found a great creature too.
We found this sign describing the uses the Indians had for Manzanita... we wonder if 'good for finding creatures' might be added to the 'uses' list!
Tuesday night was 'Talent Show' night. Kathy took these pictures of the audience, while Rick put his flute together.
Then we did our performance of The Yew Tree a Scottish song, and then a Klezmer set, Rick did a solo doina and Kathy accompanied the freilach with woodblocks, dance and tambourine.
Caltech organizers were gracious to us. While most campers stayed in cabins at the camp, they had rented us a beautiful private cabin-room in a local hotel. We felt like we were on vacation.
We drove back down the mountain toward Pasadena.
Well two creatures... this beautiful one took her home...