• Expedition: May 15-20, 2011
  • Venture Academy
  • Yosemite National Park: Hetch Hetchy

This May, 11 students from Venture Academy in Stockton, CA hiked through the rain, snow and sun in the wilderness of Hetch Hetchy.


After a mellow first day of driving in to Yosemite, and getting an orientation to the park and accommodations, Laura, Andy, and I met our new “family” for the week—the Mustangs of Venture Academy (aka the “Prancing Ponies,” among other monikers). We spent some time getting to know one another before walking to a beach area on the Merced River, where we did some interactive activities focused on geography and “Leave No Trace” ethics. As they warmed up to one another, their personalities began to emerge, and Andy and I learned quickly that this group was not only capable, but clever and fun. We returned to Curry Village to eat lunch in the apple orchard, then headed in to the dining hall for a few hours of gear preparation. Organizing gear for 14 people can be an ordeal—sorting socks, deciding which jacket to bring, discovering what different specialized gear is used for, and learning how to pack all those things into a backpack—but we finished in near-record time, allowing us to go outside for an absurd game of singing, jumping and laughing (“Birdie on a Perch”), then write a bit in our journals about our goals and expectations for the trip. -Katie


This was one of the harder days I’ve ever backpacked, and I’ve spent a lot of nights in the backcountry. It rained relentlessly all day, sometimes at a drizzle, and sometimes in torrential sheets. All our raincoats leaked through by the end of the day, proving to me once again that there is really nothing that is truly “waterproof.” I worried that this, being many of our students’ first time backpacking, would negatively impact their experience. However, despite the grim conditions, I was amazed at how positive and upbeat the Venture Academy students remained. Despite being cold and wet, they still found reasons to be happy, including wildflowers, beautiful waterfalls, brightly colored newts, and a fervent sense of humor: “I thought May was supposed to be hot. This is like…Maybruary!” Camp was a welcome sight after the long slog, and we quickly set up tents and started dinner. We ate huddled under two low-lying, dripping tarps, and the hot food made us all come alive again. Wilderness Ranger Naomi Chakrin joined us for dinner, sharing her passion for the park, and answering questions for the students about the challenges and joys of her job and potential career opportunities in the National Park Service. I brought a book to read before bed, but I only made it through about three sentences before drifting off to sleep. There is nothing quite like the hard-earned peaceful sleep that comes after a great day of backpacking. -Katie

Standing on the bridge in the rain


“We got to sleep in today but we woke up to a beautiful coating of snow on the ground, although it was freezing. We trooped through breakfast and headed out on to the trail to a much warmer reception by the sun, who finally made his star appearance. The [park] ranger Naomi accompanied us today on the trail as well in order to lend us her assistance in cleaning debris on the trail. Her saw was way more effective than the ones we brought, which made our lives a whole lot easier. After we were done clearing, we headed off trail to the top of a nearby hill. When we got to the top, we journaled, but after some time, it started to rain on us. Fortunately, it was a short storm. We made it back to base camp and had dinner. All in all, we had a good day.” -Mitchell

The group descends to Hetch Hetchy


“Today, Thursday, began with a blinding sun. Warm even in the shady spots. Everyone seemed a little tired, not enough to be lazy. After reaching the peak, we had the best snowball fight of the week. Afterwards, Dave taught us about the formation of California. That night was s’mores night. Whe the sun set, Andy and Katie told us that sleeping outside would be fun. Being the warmest night yet, this would have to be the best day at camp.” -Corey

Reading the map


“Last day of WildLink. It sucks, but it had to end eventually. People seem a little bummed out, but it’s still been fun. The weather has been a WHOLE lot better, probably the best day, actually. Crossing by the waterfalls was fun and refreshing. The mist felt good and this last journal time was the best, in my opinion. Oh, and right now, as I’m writing, Jorge is getting his hair done by Crystal and Jaslyn. Funny people…” -Efrain

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