A Breath of Fresh Air in Yosemite

View from Oh My Gosh Tunnel

By: Zoe Day | News Editor

March 21, 2018

When the chaos of everyday responsibilities and trivialities gets to be too much, a breath of fresh air can make all the difference. For eighteen years, IB/AP Environmental teachers Mrs. and Mr. Kerr have pulled their students away from their busy lives and AP classes for a few days in the stunning beauty of Yosemite National Park.

Early on Saturday morning, 53 students gathered in the San Clemente High School parking lot and bundled into chaperones’ cars for the eighteenth year of the IB/AP Environmental Science field trip to Yosemite National Park. Students gazed out the window as they made their way north. Six hours later (and after a convenient pit stop at In-N-Out), the caravan pulled into the park. For some students, this field trip marked their first time at the national park; for others, Yosemite had already stolen a piece of their hearts.

Carni Campbell (12), Ashley Echelberger (12), Mr. Kerr, and Peyton Lee (12) at Lower Yosemite Falls

Students noted the shift in ecotones as grasslands turned to forest, and snow blanketed the trees with the rise in elevation. For students like senior Peyton Lee, it was the first time they had ever seen snow fall. Soon after arriving to the campsite in Crane Flat, a snowball fight erupted. San Clemente High School juniors and seniors didn’t seem to mind the cold as they ran, laughed, and pelted their teachers and friends with snowballs.

That night, like a scene out of Narnia, the students marched through the trees and snow out to a snow-covered meadow. Mr. Kerr led the group in a moment of silence as we watched the stars. Students found themselves hypnotized by the beauty of the star-filled sky and the sound of an almost-silent wilderness. Mr. Kerr later divulged, “This trip was one of the top three most beautiful times I’ve been to the park. It’s as good as it gets.”

Breathtaking views of the Yosemite Falls

The trip consisted of rustic living and raw beauty, combining old-school heated stoves in the cabins with the pure beauty of the sparkling snow outside. Senior Sarah Mahl explained, “It didn’t feel real. I liked that I didn’t have any access to my phone or technology.” Students were forced to adjust quickly to the no service bars on their phones; each day of hiking, many students left their phones in the cabins, and the ones who carried their phones only took them out to take photos. For many, it was a relief not to worry about texts, calls, social media, or School Loop.

On Sunday, field groups hiked through the forest of sequoias. After meeting and crawling through the incredible fallen sequoia “Big Fred,” students gained an all new appreciation for trees and nature. Senior Peyton Lee’s favorite part of the trip was “to be in nature for four days, disconnected from technology, and to be aware of where I was and who I was with. I was able to appreciate every aspect.”

On Sunday evening, the caravan once again made its way through the park to resettle in Half Dome Village. On the way, the group stopped to watch streams of running water cut through the first frozen waterfall. Every few minutes, a large cracking noise signified another piece of ice breaking off of the face of the waterfall. In Half Dome Village, students suspiciously eyed the bear lockers outside of their cabins, where any scented toiletries or food were to be kept.

Mr. Kerr’s booming voice rang through the campsite early on Monday morning. By 8:30, the group was assembled at the foot of Yosemite Falls. Despite blizzard warnings and a 100% chance of snow by 11:00 am, the group started up the switchbacks of the Lower Yosemite Falls trail. The group made its way almost two-thirds up the mountain before being forced to stop by ice and snow. Junior Cory Sugano recalled the highlight of the trip being “sliding down the mountain on [his] butt.” The incredible views of green and brown hues on the way up the mountain shifted to white and gray on the way down, like a winter wonderland in February. On the way down, a small detour led the group to the bottom of the falls. Ten miles later, the group exchanged hugs and high fives for a day well-spent.

Four days in Yosemite saw the beginning of new friendships, inside jokes, and great memories. It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life, but returning to nature reminds us what really matters. In the words of John Muir, “the mountains are calling, and I must go.”

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