As a junior in college I had the opportunity to travel to what became an inspirational and transformative place for me, Baja California, specifically Coloradito. Approximately 50km south of San Felipe, Coloradito is a fishing ejido which had a small covered cement slab and shed which served as the university laboratory but really the entire ecosystem was our laboratory, a full immersion ecology class for 2 weeks. The main focus was the intertidal life, our class schedule revolved around the flow of the tides. When the tide was low we were on the reef exploring and collecting organisms for later identification and when the tide was high it was time to escape the heat by going swimming, class lectures found a place between the two. At night there were scorpion/gecko/snake hunts around camp or if wood was running short there would be a wood-run out to the fossil beds which would turn into a spotlighting trip to catch a glimpse of any of the night life. A night or two would be become an astronomy lesson under the darkest of night skies, something a girl from LA had never seen before.
During that first week I could be heard commenting that “if I come back”, by the second week I was saying “when I come back”. I did go back. The following year I was hired to be the teaching assistant (TA) and for the next dozen or so years I returned as a pseudo-TA or unpaid assistant of which there were many of us. In fact some of us became regular fixture for the class and have become a family over the years and still return occasionally. Many ex-students have even purchased houses at the camp.
The class was removed from the University curriculum after the professor, Dr. Roy Houston retired to spend most of his time at his Baja home. He hasn’t stopped teaching though and provides classes through the local community center for anyone interested in learning about the life that abounds around them as well as working with Sea Shepard Conservation Society and others to protect the critically endangered Vaquita marina, a small porpoise which only lives in the Gulf whose numbers have dropped to ~30 individuals. You can get a glimpse of what Baja is like from the embedded Sea Shepard video featuring Roy. This video along with my recent return trip is what got me reminiscing about all my time in this magical place.