• Expedition: Jun 12-18, 2004
  • Environmental Services Academy
  • Yosemite National Park

From June 12-18, WildLink took on an exciting new collaborative project in the Environmental Science Academy. For this special expedition, we joined forces with UC Merced, the Yosemite Institute, and Yosemite National Park. This team led a group of students from the Merced Union High School District on an adventure like no other WildLink expedition before.

We wrapped up our expedition year in style, in a journey which began with a day in the laboratories of the new UC Merced faciltiy with UC research and instructional staff, in which students were prepped for the laboratory water sample analysis to follow the backpacking component of the program. This great kickoff day was followed by a day of National Park Service career talks in Wawona. The group was then joined by WildLink and Yosemite Institute staff for a backcountry adventure that started at Tuolomne Meadows, from which we hiked up seven miles to 10,000 feet above sea level at Volgalsang High Sierra Camp. From there we travelled another seven miles down to Merced Lake, where we spent three days base camping and focusing on a special macroinvertebrate water quality study on Lewis Creek. This project was led by Todd Newburger, Yosemite Institute's Research Coordinator. Students sampled, identified, and classified macroinvertebrates, studying them under microscopes and using field guides. The verdict? Very high water quality in Lewis Creek. In addition to this study, the students spent time throughout the expedition collecting water samples from all over the High Sierra, which they will analyze back in the UC Merced laboratories with UC instructional staff, comparing them to local Merced water samples.

The students also learned a variety of historical aspects of Yosemite from Atwater High School teacher Maynard Medefind, who also conjured the ghost of John Muir one night around the campfire! WildLink Program Coordinator Mandy Vance rounded out the program with lessons about Wilderness Preservation and some special journalling projects, an example of which you'll find below.

One of the highlights of our time at Merced Lake was the arrival of Dave Mosher and Sandy Newsome, two of the Sierra Nevada's Wilderness Riders. They spend a great deal of their free time educating young people and private stock users the Leave No Trace ethics they employ in all of their backcountry adventures. The ESA students had the opportunity to see how to pack a mule and saddle a horse firsthand. They even had the chance to experience a few moments of life on horseback! Dave and Sandy ended their session in a delicious dutch oven cooking demonstration that left us all happy and satisfied, bellies full of chicken pot pie and fresh berry cobbler, a welcome change after a week of macaroni and cheese!

Our final night was spent at Little Yosemite Valley, which we reached after a fast ten mile hike, on which we even found time for some dendrochronology studies. We got an early start on our final day and fairly danced our way the four miles down to Yosemite Valley, full of the strength of the mountains.

Students then spent three days in the laboratories of UC Merced with its University instructional staff analyzing the water samples they collected over the week in the High Sierra, which they will compare with local water samples collected around Merced.

It was a truly fantastic week, one in which we all discovered new strengths, talents and friendships we didn't know we had when we started.

We invite you to join us in celebrating this week of science, adventure and self-discovery by spending some time with the following images and journal thoughts from our journey. Enjoy!

a collaborative journal effort by the group:


crossed a creek and fallen in it because your jacket got stuck on a branch?

hiked up a hill that was full of snow and slipped but ran into a rock that saved you?

been nose to nose with a doe while sitting on the most open porta-potty you've ever used?

agonized over how much more comfortable backpacking would be if only the alien from you sci-fi novel were here?

jumped into a freezing creek, knowing you'd turn blue, because after seven days of filth you just wanted to feel clean?

woke up in the middle of a freezing night just to see the stars?

walked barefooted on snow during June?

eaten mac-n-cheese almost every night?

hiked 14 miles just to get to Merced Lake?

slept in a tent under the stars even though it was freezing cold?

been so close to friends you think they were family?

wanted to leave home so badly but in the end it's where you wanna be?

put seven girls in a small tent and took pictures?

laughed so hard you started to cry?

seen the rivers flow? heard the nice wind blow?

seen the rock so mighty?

gotten into something you did not know what you were getting into?

laughed in a tent so hard with a friend?

hiked four miles to put water in a tube?

worn the same clothes for over a week?

not showered for a week and a half?

eaten so much not good food, that you got hungrier for good food?

felt that by not trying your hardest you are letting someone down?

seen bear crap in the middle of the trail?

aquatic biomonitoring campsite view group challenge laboratory boys girls sampling creek didi samples dutch oven cooking elsie chops wood student with snake oswaldo with pack student with microscope students taking pack lesson above Merced Lake group mules natalie by stream on the trail natalie in optivisor silly group creek survey todd

volgelsang student

student student student student student student student student Mandy Maynard student student student Todd

from Laura's journal:

Wild is where we are not where everything we touch is not where water does not run through pipes smoke never billows through old brick chimneys wind and rain are not inconvenient snow is never shoveled away No, wild is a stream unforged the tree uncut and a vague impression of solitude among the million smaller lives the sound of nothing means everything and the sun brings mixed blessings unpredictable, unimaginable, uncontrollable the feeling of understanding nothing when you realize you have discovered so much more a sense of grandeur in the samllest leaf a grain of sand no human hands

WildLink is a proud partner of the National Park Service, National Forest Service, and Nature Bridge.