• Expedition: Jun 30 - Jul 5, 2019
  • Lee Vining and Coleville Expedition 07/19
  • Yosemite National Park: Rancheria Falls

A snowy winter in the Sierras brought a lot of outcomes - massive spring waterfalls, amazing wildflower blooms, an influx of migrating butterflies, and a late opening to the mountain pass road that connects Yosemite Valley to Lee Vining.

When the pass finally opened this July, students from Lee Vining and Coleville high schools were excited to get across for their WildLink trip! In the summer, this is our most local WildLink group. After traveling just over an hour, the students arrived at Crane Flat to get settled in on Sunday evening. Monday was full of packing and preparing to head out on the trail to Rancheria Falls on Tuesday. The next morning, the group headed to Hetch Hetchy to start their six-mile hike to their campsite. The hike passed fields of vibrantly colored blooming flowers, huge waterfalls framed by rainbows, and many beautiful butterflies, most notably the pale swallowtails. Upon arriving at camp, the group was so exhausted that they decided to spend the next morning sleeping in and moving slow. When the group finally awoke to the brilliant summer sunlight, they enjoyed a delicious oatmeal breakfast before they began their stewardship project. Ranger Jess educated the students about the tasks of a wilderness ranger, and taught them to help manage the campfire rings around their campsite area. When ranger Jess left, the students were feeling accomplished and proud that they were able to help the park in some way. The rest of the day was spent exploring the river, relaxing, and dunking in the perfect sized swimming holes. The third day of the expedition is the much anticipated challenge hike to Le Conte point. The hike follows a steep trail, then transitions to an incredible off-trail adventure to the summit. The group was worn out and tired at times on the hike, but they were luckily visited by butterflies along the way that told them to keep going. At the top, the students had gone through a metamorphosis - they were stronger, more supportive, and some of them even became butterflies themselves (see photos below). Channeling the strength of those tiny delicate butterflies that migrate for hundreds of miles every year was the perfect motivation to reach the summit. Finally, the group took their packs and memories and hiked them back out to the trailhead, and they headed back home after an unforgettable journey through the wilderness.


The group with their big backpacks on trail

hand butterfly
hand butterfly 2

Students share moments with a swallowtail butterfly


The amazing metamorphosis that happens when youth spend time in the wilderness

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