Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Back to school

Part of the anticipation of this trip was touring the campus of Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA. Back in the dark ages of the late 70s, early 80s, I attended Humboldt as an undergraduate, eventually earning a degree in Geography from the school. I spent the better part of 3 and a half years communing with the organic and groovy, enjoying the outdoors and pretty much getting rained upon during long stretches of the winter months.

Surprisingly, outside of a brief driving tour on some of the roads in 1987 with my young bride at my side, I hadn't been back to campus since 1981 when I graduated. That changed this past month when the Tadpole came on campus to find a cache and explore the campus.

The first thing we noted was a lot of construction going on. The alumni newsletter has been mentioning expansion of various facilities for several years now, but it's different when you're being remotely told about changes and actually seeing them. It appeared as if new dormitories were being added to the campus. When I attended, there were some apartments in the middle part of campus and then a series of three different style dorms on the north part of campus; Canyon, Cypress and the Hill which was composed of Redwood and Sunset dorms.

The Canyon dorms were built on the opposite side of a small ravine/canyon on the north edge of town. 8 red buildings, four stories high, each housing approximately 50 students per building loomed high on the north side of the canyon. It was there I chose to live during my tenure at the school, living in Chinquapin, Maple, Tan Oak and Alder. Opposite those dorms were the Cypress dorms that were built up the hillside on the south side of the ravine. Then on the flat hill behind Cypress, were Redwood and Sunset.

Now, there appears to be several other building for student housing plus the ones that were being built this summer. Many universities want to establish a "feeling of community" among students and many require that freshman live on campus. My daughter's school requires that freshman and sophomores live on campus. I have a feeling this is where this expansion is coming from.

But apart for the living arrangements expansion, there were also many new buildings to be found on campus. We ended up walking through the admissions building which was new. I couldn't begin to tell you where the old admission building was when I attended school there. But I made a comment to one woman behind the main counter about how much the school had changed and she said that it's mostly been in the last 10 years that most of the changes have occurred. We ended up realizing that we'd both attended the school at relatively the same time period. The big difference was she stayed up there and I came back down to Southern California mostly due to financial reasons.

As we wandered around campus, I started getting my bearings. There was the library and the open plaza in front of the library. The school has added a new sundial to this plaza, which I waymarked. To the south of the plaza was the theater arts building. This was another "must see" on our tour of the campus because of the moon trees planted next to this building. Late last year, I'd discovered that seeds of five different species of trees had been taken on Apollo 14 to the moon, then germinated back here on Earth. These seedlings had eventually been distributed all over the country. Three Coast Redwood seedlings had been donated to Humboldt State University and planted on the west side of the theater arts building.

Interestingly, there is no plaque commemorating that these trees are in fact Moon Trees. There is a website on NASA indicating that they are, plus a newspaper piece from fall 1999 on the school newspaper's website. Here these trees grow, in relative obscurity, with very few of the student body or faculty who know about their interesting history. I didn't know they were there until last year and they were probably freshly planted when I attended the school. I'm at a loss for words as to why the school hasn't placed some kind of commemorative plaque by them.

Eventually, we worked our way up to the east side of campus. And by up, I do mean up as the school is built on a hill, and so we literally were climbing up hill, up to Founders Hall, the oldest building on campus, built around 1913. I can remember sitting in a classroom in Founders Hall once, listening to Professor Bennion talking about some long forgotten aspect of geography when an earthquake rolled through the area. It was a relatively small quake, small enough that only about half the class felt it, the back half where I was sitting. We asked Professor Bennion to please stop while we investigated the Seismograph downstairs and verified that we had indeed had an earthquake.

The quake rolled through the classroom diagonally starting where I happened to be sitting. I can remember lifting my head up from my notes and then with curious amusement, watching the other students pop their heads up as they felt the motion of the quake. The back diagonal of the class felt the quake, so it was really interesting to see the dynamics of how the earthquake wave had been perceived, since Professor Bennion hadn't felt it in the front of the room, nor had other students sitting in front. I can remember thinking about sitting in a 60+ year old building that probably hadn't been retrofitted for earthquakes. Founders Hall is close to 100 years old now and I'm pretty sure it has been retrofitted.

After wandering around in the school bookstore and purchasing two HSU t-shirts to celebrate our own trip to the school, we finally turned our attention to geocaching and went and found the cache hidden on campus. It wasn't anything really special as far as caches go being a lamp post cache, but it brought back many fond memories of my life as an undergraduate there.

Later on, we wandered over to the dorms so I could show the Tadpole where I lived. In the picture, the back two are Maple and Tan Oak. To the right of Tan Oak, when I attended school was redwood forest with a logging road leading up into the hills. If you wanted to get away from it all for a little bit, all you had to was leave the dorm and start walking up that gravel road. It was you and the wilderness within five minutes. Now, the paved road goes farther back and there's another dormitory complex back there. Time marches on.

I also showed the Tadpole where we used to eat most of our food at the Jolly Giant Commons. The thought that was pretty funny. I actually thought it was pretty funny where I was going to school there, but apparently they still haven't changed the name of the place because I noticed some reference to JGC while walking through the building. The mailboxes are still the same and haven't been moved. In fact about the only change to this complex was to make it ADA compliant by adding an elevator for handicapped students. With the complex being in the middle of the canyon, students had to climb four sets of stairs to get up to the Redwood/Sunset hill where the main body of campus was.

The Tadpole indicated that he might want to come back here and visit again, perhaps in his junior or senior year in preparation for deciding where he wanted to go to college. But that could change as he's only a freshman in high school at the moment. Still it would be fun to go back to school on a fairly regular basis, as opposed to once every 28 years or so.

Pictures were taken at or near the following geocaches or waymarks:
Cache in a bottle - by hunter1440
Humboldt State University Sundial - by Webfoot
Humboldt State University Moon Trees - by Webfoot

Profile for Webfoot


chaosmanor said...

I enjoyed this little "update" on happening at HSU. As some of you know, our youngest, Liann, went to Humboldt from 2001 until her graduation in 2006. Well, she took a year off to take a couple of classes at Cal Poly Pomona that HSU didn't offer, but it doesn't "show" ;-)

I remember going on the tour with her during her "college hunt" trip in 2000, and we made visits to the campuses in her first two years, and again at her graduation. She lived in Redwood and Cypress, and while she kind of liked the layout in Cypress (she really disliked Redwood), she had a true ditz for a roommate, and she came with helicopter parents, so the whole experience was generally negative, and she fled to an apartment off-campus in her third year. I remember that, during the tour, she was really impressed with Canyon, but that was restricted to juniors and up, and by the time she qualified, she wanted nothing to do with living anywhere on campus.

Construction was a daily part of life her whole time there. Whenever we dropped her off or picked her up, there were construction crews all over the place, often making it very tough to find parking, which was another reason why she wanted off campus; the buses were a lot easier and cheaper.

One thing you didn't mention is the running joke about the name of the college. HSU, so it is said, really stands for "Hills and Stairs University" ;-) I don't think that there's a piece of flat ground anywhere on campus bigger than about 40 square feet, except the sports fields and the inside of a few buildings.

All in all, Liann was pretty happy with the education she got, and she still lives up there, in Eureka, just down the coast. When she and her fiance get married next year, they are likely to move out of state, but I think a piece of her will always be in Humboldt County. I know that a piece of me has been in the redwoods since the first time I saw them as a kid, and we hope to eventually move up there, and end our days in their splendor :-) There are worse places to grow old.

Webfoot said...

Thanks for the words Jim. I was beginning to wonder whether anyone was reading my drivel anymore. I haven't received a comment in weeks on any post.