• Expedition: Mar 16-21, 2008
  • Crenshaw and Southeast LA HS and students from Albany, NY
  • Sierra National Forest. Hite Cove

Our third expedition of the year brought students from Los Angeles and as far away as New York to Yosemite's springtime wonderland. Students from Crenshaw High School and Southeast Los Angeles High School joined four students from New York on a beautiful trip along a section of the South fork of the Merced River known as Hite Cove.

Despite being from geographically different areas and having a wide range of backpacking experience, this group developed into an excellent team, built friendships, overcame some challenging hiking conditions, and became backcountry leaders.

The challenges first arrived with the bus arriving slightly after our scheduled departure time. Soon enough, the group was taking off layers and tightening their backpack straps as they prepared for the expedition to begin. Each member of the group assumed a different role of leadership. Damel and Jack Jack were our leaders of the day. At the trailhead, the group learned the basics of putting on and adjusting their packs. At 11:30am we began hiking. The flora during the start of the expedition was beautiful beyond description. California poppies carpeted the slopes dropping into the South Fork. We also examined Popcorn flowers, Blue dicks, Shooting stars, Baby blue eyes, Fiddlenecks and many others. A couple members of the group exhibited considerable uncertainty as parts of the trail offered nothing more than the trail itself to walk on as we passed over steep cliffs. Jack Jack showed his considerations for the group, stopping frequently to check on everyone. After a late lunch, Damel took the lead. We continued up the trail, stopping frequently to check on the maps and to investigate the industrial refuse of Hite's mining operation. With much relief we arrived at our camp spot for the night around 4pm. We set up camp and then Sarah led a discussion on challenge and comfort zones while dinner was being prepared. We all had plenty to eat and went to sleep after Sarah led a brief astronomy walk.

Our team became unified and strong on our second day at Hite Cove! It was a wild day in more than just one way. We saw no other human beings that day, which made for a peaceful and solitary day in the wilderness. We also got off of a maintained trail and into a jungle of brush, so the afternoon became unexpectedly wild. At camp we had breakfast, exchanged leadership roles (Gilbert and Evelyn took over as leaders of the day), and conducted a stretching circle. The first mile and a half was very difficult for some because several of us had never hiked uphill before. We stopped to explore an abandoned mine shaft which seemed to go on forever, but many of us got excited just to be inside. We made it to the top of the ridge before noon, and the view was spectacular. We could look down to the Merced River to our north and down to the south fork of the Merced River to the south. Besides being able to see all the tall peaks of the Yosemite foothills, we could also see the Devil's Dance Floor and Reeds Pinnacle in Yosemite Valley. It was then that the real fun began! We decided to see how much farther we could go before 2:30, but at top of the ridge the trail became completely unmaintained. Our hiking quickly turned to bushwacking, crawling, and scrambling as we experienced a full-on wilderness adventure. Our team thrived under that challenge! Several additional leaders stepped up to help everyone through the difficult sections and despite hundreds of scratches from the brush on everyone's arms and legs, we had a ton of fun! We also got great views as we continued up and back down Pinoche Ridge, including being able to see our tents almost 2,000 feet below us.

The walk back down from the saddle felt so easy since we had chosen to challenge ourselves so much on the way up! After we made it back to camp, several students got into the river to cool off and wash their scratches. Dinner that night was much-deserved and very rewarding. After dinner, Graham led a discussion and journal reflections, we exchanged leadership roles and relaxed until bed.

Our last day in the backcountry the students were totally in charge-Graham and Sarah took a far back seat and the students thrived. Everyone was out of bed before 7am and packed up before breakfast. Shaqeal and Marquisha were great leaders, motivating the team to be ready and LNT. Damel found a California newt (salamander), which was very cold and stiff from the cold morning. The group was ready to go with their packs on by 8:45am, an impressive departure time considering that camp had to be completely packed up and it was the students' first day leading on their own initiative. Graham then left slightly earlier than the rest of us to prepare the trail with inspirational quotes for the "Walk with Solitude". With the first rays of sunshine entering the canyon along with our students, it was a glorious time to be hiking. The solitude walk concluded with journaling and a snack on top of twisted and marbled metamorphic rock. The last two miles felt easy after the challenges of the past two days, and we made it to the trailhead by lunchtime. The greatest accomplishment of this group was that we became one unified and strong team—we all set aside and even embraced our differences and we developed strong friendships. We were pushed outside of our comfort zones and experienced some tough surprises, but we stuck together and created new friendships in the process.

on the trail group group
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