- Expedition: Apr 17-22, 2011
- Dorsey & Leuzinger High Schools
- Yosemite National Park: Hetch Hetchy
Twelve brave students from Los Angeles venture into the rainy Yosemite backcountry for a week of adventure.
Thank you to the Yosemite Conservancy for their generous support of this expedition.
WildLink Expedition April 18-22
It was a beautiful morning when Ned and Lornor met their Wildlink group in Curry Village. The students were from Dorsey and Luzinger High Schools, and they had just met each other the evening before. They were a little bit shy around each other, but all of them were very enthusiastic about being in Yosemite. After breaking the ice with a name game we were off to Superintendent's bridge to meet with Shelton Johnson, a ranger who was featured in the Ken Burns documentary on National Parks. Shelton is an amazingly gifted story teller, and he held us all spell bound as he told us stories about how he, as a black man from inner city Detroit, ended up in the park service and how he got to shake hands with President Obama. His message of dreaming big has extremely inspirational. The next part of our day was not quite so inspirational as it was time for us to do our gear prep and packing. We did manage to find places for all of the gear we needed to take along, then headed back to the cabins to enjoy one last night in a bed before our backpacking trip.
Our first day of backpacking! We arrive at Hetch Hetchy by mid morning and after learning a little about maps and how to fit backpacks, we are off across the dam and on our way to Rancheria Flat. David volunteered to take the lead on our first day, and he did a great job of setting the pace and figuring out where we were on our map. We stopped for lunch on a beautiful rocky outcropping and stared at the waterfalls and the granite domes around us. We were all mesmerized. The students from Dorsey were working on a photography project for their school so they had a lot of fancy camera equipment that would come out every time we were in a beautiful location. Kevin, Kendra and Yuisi were especially diligent about getting footage along the way. When we got to Wapama Fall, it almost felt like we were in the waterfall as it splashed onto the bridge. Slowly but surely we made our way to our campsite. When we were within sight, the front half of the group took off running with their packs on because they were so happy to be at camp. We got camp set up, and dinner eaten and it was time to relax around a fire.
On this morning we woke up to ominous clouds. When we met for breakfast the instructors gave the students two choices. The first choice took us towards a lake surrounded by some small peaks that we could choose to climb if the weather permitted. The second choice included a larger peak with no lake, and a big gamble because if the weather got worse there would be no view, and the steep peak might not even be safe to climb. The group unanimously chose to take the gamble and try for LeConte point. The leaders of the day were Christian (not z) and Yuici. They led us off on a drizzly, cold start to a day. There was more than one student (and maybe even an instructor...) that wondered why we were not in our cozy tents, but we all soon realized how beautiful the mountains could be in the rain. The rain also brought out the newts, and we had to be careful not to step on them.
Another discovery along the way were the Manzanita flowers. Lornor ate some and encouraged students to try. The only brave student to try the wild food was Hugo. When people saw Hugo enjoying the flowers they too were inspired to try some, and soon everyone was eating flowers.
All day long the weather went from rainy, to cloudy to a little sun and then back to rain. For lunch we missed our window of no rain and had rainy tuna. We ate pretty quickly...
After lunch Lornor went ahead to scout out the route to the top of LeConte Point while Ned stayed with the group. The group was really excited when we finally made it to the top. The weather cooperated with us by parting the clouds for us while we were up there so that we could see the peaks around us and the reservoir below us. Everyone agreed that it was worth the hike. It was so nice that we decided to spend some time journaling about our experiences up there. When we were finishing up, Janaira offered to read us her journal entry about how the wilderness taught her to be a stronger and more helpful person. It was so moving that the instructor team decided that they should ask everyone to share later in the evening.
That evening, thanks to David's collection of dry wood in the entrance to his tent, we were able to make another fire. We heard wonderful journal entries from all of the students, but the one that stood out was the entry made by Jose Q. He had been pretty shy on the trip, so we were blown away by his eloquent writing which made Alonso, our chaperone, cry. After the readings we asked, Alonso, a Broadway actor, to sing us some songs. We joined in on some of them, and just listened to others. Kendra followed by singing us some gospel songs, and Ned and Lornor each led the group in some silly repeat-after-me songs. It was an amazing group bonding experience.
Our last day together started early in the morning in the drizzling rain. The instructors had given directions on what to do in the morning, but they were not prepared for how quickly the group moved to pack things up in the morning. Jose Q, Jose (not Q) and Carlos' tent was the first to come down, just a few minutes after the instructors’ tent, and they were then extremely helpful, running around helping the other students. We were out of camp in no time at all and under the leadership of the three girls on our trip, Kendra, Marisela and Janira, we were on our way back to the Reservoir where teachers from their schools would be waiting for them. On the way back, Ned and David went crazy with the backpacking saws, and cleared several trees that were blocking the trail. They were two peas in a pod.
Because of all the rain, the streams were larger and the stream crossings more challenging, but everyone took it in stride, and by the end of the hike, many were just slogging through the streams without bothering to try and keep shoes dry. We were all dreaming of our dry things in the cars. We finally made it and see the smiling faces of our teachers. The rain had stopped, and we ate a last lunch together while sharing memories of our trip. What a wonderful week!