Adventures in Ethics and Science

This week, while I hunkered down for the start of classes, Dr. Free-Ride’s better half took the Free-Ride offspring camping.

They camped near Big Sur, which provided ample opportunities to hike near the ocean (and to swim in it). Indeed, on one of these hikes the first day out, they spotted some otters:


The Free-Ride offspring describe these as a mother and baby otter. I’m not sure that I’m ready to rule out the possibility that the parental otter here might be the father.

At one point, coming back to the campsite, they noticed some avian company:


The elder Free-Ride offspring thinks it was a red-tailed hawk. “It had wings with black and white stripes on the tips. The tail was reddish-brown underneath and black and white striped on the top. The rest of it was brown except for its belly and chest, which were white. And, it looked like it wanted to catch a squirrel.”

There were, apparently, ground squirrels a-plenty, plus the usual assortment of lizards one sees on a hike in this part of California.

Also, the Free-Ride offspring saw some wild rabbits, including this one:


But I will confess, as much as I share the sprogs’ enthusiasm for encounters with cool critters, I was even happier when the younger Free-Ride offspring described their camp meals and displayed a piece of thermodynamic insight:

“We made s’mores, but they didn’t really work exactly right. They weren’t melty enough. The marshmallows were nice and melted on the inside, but I think the chocolate was too cold for the hot marshmallows to melt it enough.”

It makes a parent proud.


  1. #1 Emily
    August 28, 2009

    Does your family eat veggie marshmallows? If so, where do you find them? If there’s one thing I feel I’m missing out on as a veggie, it’s marshmallows!

    Awesome pictures.

  2. #2 Jean Beasley
    August 29, 2009

    Hi. I have a blog at where I feature people’s posts about camping, and I would like to send my readers your way. Of course I would give you credit for quotes and would link back to your site.

    Thanks for considering this,

    Jean B. in SC

  3. #3 Leah
    August 30, 2009

    Emily: you can get veggie marshmallows at Trader Joe’s. They’re kosher. They don’t quite melt as well as standard marshmallows, but they’re pretty good. Really, I should say that they melt but don’t puff up in the same way as Kraft ones do.

  4. #4 Emily
    August 31, 2009

    Thanks Leah! I don’t think we have Trader Joe’s here in the UK (I didn’t think about that problem when I asked the question, actually — probably a little silly of me), but if they exist perhaps they can be found somewhere over here too. I’ll have to have a search.

  5. #5 GRANDE Aunt Molly
    September 12, 2009

    Suggestion for successful s’mores…… Yes, the chocolate bar is a bit difficult to get melted mostly due to impatience and the other sibling getting to roast more marshmallows while you wait! Try taking along a container of chocolate fudge frosting to smear on the graham cracker. An even bigger treat is frosting on one cracker and p-nut butter on the other graham with the “perfectly” roasted marshmallow smushed in the middle and oozing out the sides. OK – gotta run – time to make a s’more !!! Nothing scientific here – just years of camping with the Girl Scouts.

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