- Expedition: Nov 12-17, 2006
- San Joaquin one.success Program
- Yosemite National Park: North Rim
Expedition III set out on a beautiful and cold November week with eleven participants from the one. success Program of the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton.
With three red tailed hawks circling overhead, we began our adventure at the trailhead for the historic Old Big Oak Flat Road, the first road into Yosemite Valley. Between bright sunshine and low-hanging clouds, we hiked four miles and ascended 1,000 feet that first day. After a significant amount of scouting by group members, we camped that night just above the footbridge across Cascade Creek. That night we learned how to set up our tents, bear-proof our camp, drink our cleaning water, and how to sleep warm through the nearly freezing temperatures.
Our second day began with a quick downhill warm-up along the old pavement of the Old Big Oak Flat Road before our trail split off north in the direction of Ribbon Meadow. This difficult section of trail took us up and up and up another 1,600 feet of elevation. Along the way we saw spectacular views to the West, looking out on the Merced River Canyon, the foothills of the Sierra, and all the way across the Central Valley to the faint Coastal Range Mountains in the distance. Challenged by heavy packs and the unrelenting uphill, our team came together to motivate and even take extra weight for one another. We reached our high point at Ribbon Meadow exhausted, sweaty, and accomplished, and enjoyed celebratory gummy worms before starting the last mile downhill to find camp near Ribbon Creek. After considerable searching, we found a flat camp spot (and our last challenge of the day) on top of a steep hill just west of the creek. We set up camp as the purple alpine glow of the sunset drenched the snowy ridges in the distance. That cloudless night was especially cold but beautiful, with billions of stars illuminating the dark sky. We devoured make-your-own-burritos and celebrated Marcela's and Cynthia's joint birthdays with ‘Happy Birthday' sung in Portuguese!
On our third day we headed out strong and motivated, ready to reap the rewards of all of our hard work the previous days with the spectacular views that awaited us along our trail. We didn't have to wait long—less than twenty minutes into our hike we caught our first view of El Capitan, one of the largest single rock monoliths in the world, and one of the jewels of Yosemite Valley. As we scrambled onto a small boulder for a better view, we could also see across the canyon to the Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Falls on the Southern cliffs of Yosemite Valley. Although we didn't know it at the time, that view was just the beginning of an amazing day! Just a mile later we reached the summit of El Capitan at 7,569 feet. From this breathtaking spot we could look east across the entire expanse of snow covered peaks in Yosemite's high country and west beyond the Sierra foothills to glimpse the Coastal Range Mountains rising above the clouds in the Central Valley.
From there we continued another two miles and had a delicious lunch of tuna and laughter before leaving our packs and taking the last steep section of trail to our ultimate summit. At 7,746 feet, the summit of Eagle Peak is the highest of the three mountains known as the Three Brothers. Getting to that high point was both a physical and a mental challenge for many of us, as it forced us to face and overcome our fears of heights and exposure. We spent nearly an hour sitting on this blocky summit taking in the expansive view and journaling, sketching, reflecting on our wilderness experience and our lives back at home. That time, as well as the sharing and discussion that followed, was one of the highlights of our experience together. We spent our last night in the Wilderness camping on a small granite ridge above Yosemite Creek. We ate dinner and shared stories around a campfire that night, and even celebrated our wilderness experience with s'mores for dessert!
The next morning we descended nearly 3,000 feet along the Yosemite Falls trail (and the longest waterfall in North America) and into Yosemite Valley. Thank you to the strong and determined students of the one success Program for pushing yourselves far beyond your perceived limits and being open to this new experience in the wilderness, and to Ms. A for her faith in our group's abilities. You have shown that there is truly no limit to what a person can accomplish!