AP Environmental students go to Yosemite

All 45 AP Environmental students made it to the top of Yosemite Falls (photo by Paige Campbell)

By Maxine Davey & Stolie Erickson | Head Editor & Writer

March 6, 2020

Half Dome. Chilnualna Falls. Millions and millions of stars.

These were the sights of Mr. and Mrs. Kerr and their AP Environmental students, who ventured on a field trip to Yosemite National Park from February 23 to February 26. Here’s a rundown of their journey:

Day One

SCHS students and chaperones met Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. at San Clemente High School with their bags packed, unaware of the challenges they would face and the adventures they would experience in the upcoming days. 

The drive itself lasted around seven hours, with a quick pit stop at In-n-Out along the way. The group of 45 students arrived in Curry Village around 3:00 p.m., where they set up camp.

Everyone was challenged at meals to have no food waste–a deceivingly hard task, especially when presented with a buffet.

“To waste food is to waste potential,” San Clemente High School junior Griffin Donnelly said.

Day Two

The next morning, the students split into their four field groups, each consisting of 11 to 12 students and two chaperones, along with a Nature Bridge troop leader.

It’s hard to tell reflection from reality in this photo of North Dome (photo by Maxine Davey)

Each group went on their own adventure on the valley floor, skipping rocks at the river, playing bonding games, and crawling through the Spider caves.

In these caves, the groups had to navigate each other without any lights through a tight, pitch-black rock tunnel, relying solely on trust and the voice of the person in front of them.

“We set a record for the slowest time ever at one hour and 10 minutes,” SCHS junior Danika Miller said. “It’s only supposed to take 20 to 45 minutes. I was very excited because my nails were glow-in-the-dark.”

One of the trip’s highlights was an astronomy talk given by Ashley McComb, an astronomist and personal friend of Mr. Kerr. All 45 students laid side by side on a boardwalk stretching across a dewy meadow, gazing up at constellations and the Milky Way.

One memorable shooting star left a long, blazing trail in the sky, followed by the oohs and ahs of everyone who witnessed it. Ms. McComb told stories from different cultures about the origins of the night sky and even sang her own rendition of The Head and the Heart’s “Rivers and Roads” as the students joined in.

“It was a wonderful hour of just looking and listening,” SCHS junior Regis Pak said. 

A rainbow sparkled in the water from the base of Yosemite falls (photo by Stolie Erickson)

Day Three

The next morning, the students woke up bright and early for the trip’s “challenge hike”— a three and a half mile trek to the crest of Yosemite falls. The hike, although only 3.5 miles to the top, increases 3,000 feet in altitude, and consists of steep, rocky slope trails throughout.

Even so, the entire group managed to complete it, including Mrs. Kerr and all the chaperones.

“I really didn’t think I would make it, but once I got to the top it was the most satisfying accomplishment,” SCHS junior Luke Huston said.

Day Four

On the final day, the groups departed from Curry Village after breakfast and got on the road, leaving the valley behind. On the way out, the groups stopped at the Chilnualna Falls trail for one last hike. 

Most students, some chaperones, and even Mr. Kerr braved the icy water in their hiking clothes to take a dip in the river.

“The water was so cold,” SCHS junior Wyatt Lalonde said. “At first I couldn’t breathe and then I went numb…but it felt refreshing.”

So, sophomores and juniors, if you’re looking for three days in nature learning and adventuring with your best friends, take AP Environmental—and go to Yosemite!

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