- Expedition: Jan 4-9, 2004
- LeGrande High School
- Yosemite National Park: Merced Grove to Foresta
Expedition III offered us one of our greatest challeges yet for the 2003-2004 WildLink season. What a way to start the new year! Ten students from LeGrande High school joined us for a true winter experience.
After two nights and a day in the winter wonderland that is Yosemite Valley, we left the comforts of Curry Village for the adventure to be had in the High Country! Our bus dropped us at the Merced Grove trailhead where we were confronted by our heavy winter packs, a pile of ungainly-looking snowshoes, and heavy drifts of sun-brightened white snow. After a mellow descent to the Merced Grove cabin, we dusted the snow off ourselves (many of us took a while getting used to the clumsy factor of snowshoes) and found ourselves wrapped in the magic that can only be found in the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias. We greeted the Guardian trees and proceeded to settle in for our first of two nights in the historic Merced Grove cabin, where we cooked using a woodstove, hauled and pumped our own water, and chopped wood to keep ourselves warm. After a day of adventuring to the little-known Cinderella tree, a stimulating Hetch Hetchy debate, lots of journaling and the construction of a quinzee, we went to sleep early to prepare for a big day of snowshoeing.
Rising before first light the next morning, we bade the sequoias farewell and started on an arduous but rewarding trek through snow one to two feet deep, taking turns breaking trail, revelling in the bright sunshine, and gaining energy and inspiration from the winter beauty around us. Twilight brought us tired, but still singing, to Little Nellie Falls, where we wolfed down a huge and wonderful meal of granola, pesto pasta, soup and hot drinks. We were in our tents by 7:30, though songs and laughter rang out against the icy song of the waterfall well into the night.
After a chilling pre-dawn start of our final morning in the wilderness, we spent our last hours hiking out laughing, sharing stories, plunging into unexpected mud puddles as we neared the snowline and just generally relished our last hours together. We made our trailhead in Foresta in good time and wrapped up the trip with a round table closing in one of the historic barns by Big Meadow.
Though a challenge, Expedition III paid us back with a bounty of gorgeous winter moments, laughter, and rewards of friendship. It was definitely a job well done by the team members, despite cold feet and our perpetual answer of "just one more mile".