Into the Wild
WildLink Expeditions give students the opportunity to experience wilderness firsthand. Since August 2000, more than a thousand students have discovered the wonder of the Sierra Nevada. Students are chosen from high schools and community programs located on the flanks of Yosemite in the Central Valley, Eastern Sierra, and San Francisco Bay Area. On six-day backpacking expeditions, students learn about the natural world first-hand, challenge themselves, and gain an understanding and appreciation for wild places.
Students explore their place in the wilderness; how their actions impact our environment; environmental science through hands-on research projects; the cultural history of Yosemite and their surrounding areas; geographical history; natural history; and possibilities for all of our futures. Students learn what they can do as individuals while developing teamwork and leadership. They will meet other students from different social and cultural backgrounds and will learn to work together to meet the social, philosophical and physical challenges of wilderness. Follow the links or visit the archives to read excerpts from student journals and view photographs of recent expeditions.
Words From the Field
"In the beginning of this trip I was regretting agreeing to come on this trip. I felt like physically I couldn’t do it and also because of how people reacted to me coming. It was hard the first day. I was crying a lot on the way up. Day two I made it to the top and was very satisfied with myself and the experience. Being here has made me appreciate everything that has been given to me and my family. It was way harder that I thought but I made it and it makes me feel so accomplished, so free, so strange, and so alive. I no longer regret coming. I also will never forget the view or the way I felt standing up on the top of Cloud’s Rest. I wish to remember the people I shared this experience with and this wonderful mountain. It will be in my heart always as a symbol of my strength and happiness."
Our Latest Program in 2016-17 School Year
June is already upon us and melting snow allows us to enjoy the sights and sounds of a swollen Merced river, booming waterfalls and rushing creeks. The past 7 months have been exciting to say the least but as always, our WildLink students rose to every occasion and soaked up the joys and challenges of Wilderness exploration with grace and enthusiasm. As the English scientist, Michael Faraday put it, "Water is to me, I confess, a phenomenon which continually awakens new feelings of wonder as often as I view it". Like the spring runoff, let this edition of the WildLink roundup awaken feelings of wonder and joy as you read what we've been up to!
•Health Careers Academy (Stockton) - On a crisp October day, students from Health Careers Academy headed out into the rain and fog for a week of adventure they would never forget. If you run into any HCA WildLink student, you might throw out a few catch phrases from their trip like "lumberjack Daisy", "Hey Bear" or "the onion" and immediately you'll see a smile spread across their face. If not, just remind them how much fun they had during their slackjaw danceoff. This group quickly became a family and immediately connected to Wilderness and the importance of protecting wild places. They were so inspired by their experience, they started a Nature Club at their school upon their return. See more about their club below in the Ambassador Project section! One student wrote in his journal, "[Wilderness] is our home. I am so happy and honored to be able to experience this trip with the people I call my friends...A big thanks to nature for being what it is. Beautiful life, Wild, and breathtaking. This trip was amazing and I learned sooooo much. I love the people. I love this place. It's raining so hard right now! I appreciate everything that I've been given. Thank you"
•New Village Girls Academy (Los Angeles) - March 19th, 9 adventurous and sweet young women arrived in Yosemite for what would end up being a spectacular week, in and out of the Wilderness, filled with exhilarating moments, as well as moments of great challenge. Thunderstorms boomed through the valley, drenching their camp on their first day out and the group was asked to hike back down to lower ground for safety. They adjusted to this new plan immediately, with smiles on their faces and cool, calm demeanors -- even singing during their evacuation. They learned how to manage risk in the Wilderness and just how powerful mother nature can be. They returned to their campsite the next day for a glorius evening of s'more making, and basking in the incredible views of Half Dome and El Capitan from across the valley. These gals turned bathroom breaks into dance parties, and reveled in the clean air and opportunity to gaze at the night sky. They return to Los Angeles even stronger than they left, with an understanding of the importance of community, communication, Wilderness and having good honest fun. From one student's journal: "The theme of this week would be bad-assery, bravery, challenges ourselves and supporting others"
•Generation Green Southern California (Los Angeles) - On May 2nd, students from Academia Semillas del Pueblo Xinaxcalmecac and Franklin High Schools started along the south rim of Yosemite Valley on the Pohono Trail. While poor weather cut their trip short, they were able to explore the incredible sites of the south rim and offer their helping hands in a stewardship project to restore inspiration point to a more natural habitat. Highlights included and EPIC snowball fight which would have lasted late into the night were it not for the need to tell scary stories around the campfire. Games and giggles were shared during nearly every lunch and snack break and the group constantly supported one another throughout the week. Henry wrote, "Wilderness is the most beautiful thing in the world. Wilderness is the opposite of a lot of the world's everyday life. It is a place to come in touch with inner peace. It is the cure for all diseases"
•Generation Green Central California (Reedley/Orange Cove) - April 10th was the beginning of a week of adventure and smiles in Little Yosemite Valley. 11 Students from Reedley and Orange Cove High Schools explored the Wilderness in all conditions from flooding to snow, learned about tracking from Wilderness Rangers and cleared dozens of single use fire rings from the Little Yosemite Valley campsite. Melissa Gomez wrote, "Wilderness is many things. It's something beautiful and delicate, but also something fierce and strong. It can't protect itself from humans, which is why we should let it be...Wilderness is love and almost has a mind of its own. Wilderness is where animal and plant become one. Distinctive attributes and glorifying view is what makes Wilderness wild and different. There's a reason why only a place like Yosemite...is considered Wilderness. This place, untouched by man, is molded and created to be something unusual and unique, but only nature itself has the power to do so"
•Vicente Martinez/Groundwork Richmond (Martinez/Richmond)-Starting on May 16th Little Yosemite Valley campground saw more (and much needed) TLC after 6 WildLink students came through, clearing fire rings and learning about Leave No Trace ethics. Many of these students did not know each other well (or at all) before meeting on Sunday afternoon in Yosemite Valley. However, they quickly established connections and began sharing stories about their lives back home. They seamlessly incorporated each other into group activities and almost immediately shared inside jokes and contact information to stay in touch. One student described Wilderness as "...Isolation, beauty, exploration. It is the reason we are here and the reason I love living. It is my dreams. It is my reality and it is my home. Wilderness is in my blood and it's in your blood too"
WILDERNESS AMBASSADOR PROJECTS
•Vicente Martinez & Groundwork Richmond - On January 28th, students from Vicente Martinez and Groundwork Richmond Green Team spent the day paying tribute to John Muir. In the words of Matt Holmes: The Groundwork Richmond Green Team traveled to John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, CA to team up with students from Vicente High School's New Leaf program to assist Park Biologists in restoration efforts at the newly included Strain Ranch/Strenzel Meadow property. Activities included: removal of invasive species and re-vegetation with native grasses; a brisk saunter through the Mt. Wanda Nature Area to the massive Valley Oak known as "Ten Trees" for a fun climb; then descent to lower altitudes (all 600 Feet) to the John Muir NHS Visitor Center where we viewed the historic site's orientation film and a enjoyed a guided tour of the historic home of the father of the National Park Service. They, "had fun, left it better than we found it and learned about the conservation legacy in our own backyard"
•Health Careers Academy - February 4th 2017 - 23 students from HCA, including inaugural WildLink members picked up trash along the Calaveras River bike path. Students walked about 4 miles, ending at Buckley Cove Park, where they played games and enjoyed a picnic in the outdoors. This ambassador project was the kickoff event for the newly formed Nature Club, started in 2017 by HCA's first group of WildLink participants.
•Kingsburg High School - March 2017 - 17 students from Kingsburg High School, most of whom were invited by their WildLink classmates came to Yosemite Valley for a day of hiking and Wilderness education. The students hiked to Mirror Lake while WildLink alumni shared about their experiences on their expedition and introduced their peers to Leave No Trace principles, Yosemite's positive impact on local economies and Yosemite's interesting history. A former WildLink student also led participants on a blindfolded trust walk through split rock, encouraging a strengthening of community both in Yosemite and back home in Kingsburg.
•Venture Academy -Check out the description below offered by the school Lead, Jeremy Sinclair: "On March 10th Venture Academy’s Wildlink Expedition team headed to the St. Mary’s Homeless Shelter in Stockton to prepare and serve a meal to those in need. Originally the students had planned to clean up the San Joaquin River front bordering one of their school sites but, due to recent flood evacuations, they needed to change to a different area of service. The students identified homelessness as a major area of need in their community. Many of these students know of friends and families who are or have been homeless. These Wildlink students entered the facility eager to serve. A community liaison gave them an understanding of the scope and impact of homelessness and the importance of serving these clients with dignity and respect. The students worked hard preparing, serving and cleaning up after the lunchtime meal. Their positive and respectful service brought smiles and laughter to many they were with. After serving they sat and ate with some who had come in with the meal and were able to hear their stories. This day inspired these Wildlink students to care in new and deeper ways for those in their community. It is exciting to see the students maintain the bounds and passions that began months ago in Yosemite’s Wilderness!" When asked to describe what they learned from this Wilderness Ambassador Project, one student replied, "I learned that there are many different ways we can give back to our community, and also gave me a greater understanding of how diverse our community is". Another student responded, "I learned that the smallest act can make a change. As long as we work together, we can make huge change and help those around us"
•Generation Green Southern California April 28-30 - Students from Semillas and Franklin High Schools organized a family/friends campout at Castaic Lake in order to introduce loved ones to outdoor recreation and Leave No Trace principles. Each alumni arranged skits which were recorded and compiled to show their guests how Leave No Trace principles are practiced both in the Wilderness and city environments. One of the most consistent response on the project evaluations was that the students believe more urban communities should be exposed to the outdoors and they were all proud to have invited some of their friends and family members to discover the beauty of wild places. We are so proud of these students and can't wait to see more of their community in Yosemite and other natural environments!