- Expedition: Oct 17-22, 2010
- Environmental Studies Academy and Merced Boys and Girls Club
- Yosemite National Park
On a brisk yet sunny morning in October, several students from the Environmental Studies Academy in Martinez and the Boys and Girls Club of Merced met each other for the first time. It was only minutes before the two separate groups became one laughing rambunctious crew, all eager and excited for their week together in Yosemite’s Wilderness.
Day one: Outfitted in warm gear, full packs, and laden with a bear canister full of group food, the students gathered at the trail head to Sunrise Lake to review the map and begin the adventure. The first day proved to be rewarding yet difficult for legs and bodies not used to the thinner air as we hiked from 8,150 feet to 9,500 feet. When we got to camp at the upper Sunrise Lake we dived right into setting up tents and preparing our first backcountry dinner. The night fell quickly and everyone settled down for the night under a beautiful starry sky. With only a few minutes of uproarious laughter everyone was soon sleeping soundly, exhausted from the day.
Day two: A beautiful morning and a quick breakfast of oatmeal and hot chocolate brought us into our summit day of the trip. We packed a light day pack with the necessities of snacks, lunch, warm layers, a rain jacket, and even a headlamp in case of the possible hike home in the dark! The students took turns leading us towards our destination, stopping occasionally for breaks and showing us our location on the map. Our destination was Cloud's Rest, elevation 9,926 feet. The day was full of fun and laughter on the trail as we enjoyed spectacular views and good conversation. Around 2:00 PM the summit rose before us. As if ascending a ramp into the clouds, each step held increasingly dramatic views. Everyone encouraged one another up the final 200 meters into the sky where we all stood awe-struck by views of Half Dome before us and Tenaya and Merced river canyons on either side of us. As we sat reflecting upon the life-changing feat of climbing this mountain, the clouds rose up from below and engulfed us into them. Since the clouds brought with them the threat of rain, we began our hike home. Thankful that we had packed headlamps and raincoats, we charged through the mist and drizzle using the dim lights and words of support from each other to motivate us home to camp. Simultaneously exhausted and elated from the day’s adventure, we slept warm and dry, our bellies full of food and minds full of memories.
Day three: We broke camp early to prepare ourselves for a full day of hiking to our next campsite at Little Yosemite Valley which lies at 6,100 feet elevation. Having already spent two days together, the joking and laughter swung into top gear and it was not atypical to find oneself collapsing into laughter, song, and even group rhyming lyrics. Outside of fun and laughter we found ourselves delving into great conversations about our lives and our values. The trail brought us down from the high country into beautiful forests of White Fir, Jeffrey Pine, Incense Cedar, Sugar Pine and the occasional curious Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel. We made it to Little Yosemite Valley Campground just before dark and we efficiently put up tents, cooked dinner, and collected wood for our final night of conversation and fun. We enjoyed a delicious burrito dinner around the warm, crackling fire. After some dessert s'mores we fell into a final discussion sharing stories from our lives as well as memories and inside jokes from our trip. The night grew late as we all resisted going to bed in an effort to prolong the meaningful time together.
Day four: Our earliest morning yet! We had to rise before the sun in order to ensure a timely arrival at Curry Village, our departure point for the trip. Despite packing up in the cold shadows of the surrounding cliffs, it was well worth it! As soon as we stepped into the sunlight our fingers and toes warmed up and we gradually made towards the top of Nevada Falls. The morning sun, clouds, and roaring falls were an exquisite place to eat our final breakfast. From there, we headed down the John Muir Trail enjoying our last day together. Although exhausted from the physical demands of the trip, we were able to sprint in the last 200 yards towards Curry Village! We were greeted with not only smiles but a delicious apple pie and ice-cream from Cynthia! Thank you to the students of the Environmental Studies Academy and Boys and Girls Club of Merced for an incredibly fun and memorable expedition. Here's to gratitude for a shared experience and life-long memories with amazing students.