ESCAPE to Slide Ranch 2019

Goats and chickens, bread and butter, and lots more…

It was so disappointing to us to get “smoked” out of visiting Slide Ranch in 2018. So we were so excited to get back this year. We had a nice sized group, and headed out through thick fog to get to the coast.

The day always starts with goat milking. Kids (and adults) are reluctant at first. But after some encouragement, most everyone tries it, and many even take a taste of the warm, sweet milk. We moved on to see sheep and turkeys (though that felt ominous this time of year). As usual, we checked for eggs and fed the chickens. 

We always bring ingredients to make our own bread and butter. Everyone gets to design their own mini-loaf, and help shake the cream into butter. The activity flows right along with one of the themes of the day: Where does our food come from? The other theme centers on Sustainable Living. The Slide Ranch staff was fantastic as always, and we were grateful for our time there.

After the scheduled activities were finished, we visited the old boneyard (with actual bones) and hiked down to the beach. It was low tide, so we could see tons of crabs and a few sea anemones. We scrambled around for a bit, and then it was time to head home, and look toward our next adventure.

Enjoy the photos and check out the video below!

Click to be taken to the video!

ESCAPE to Mount Diablo 2019

Starting year #20 with a walk in the clouds.

Well, we’re back again for another year. Apparently, the 20th year is our “platinum anniversary.” We’re re-focusing our efforts, tightening up our ship, redefining our roles, and remembering again why we started this program back in 1999.

Mt. Diablo has always been a good place to start the year, and this trip was no different. We always hope that we’re up above the clouds at the summit. And we always hope to see a tarantula. We’re so grateful to have done both this year. It had been quite a few years since we saw either, so it was a real treat. We even found a bonus snakeskin! And we had our usual fence lizard volunteer that couldn’t escape curious middle school hands.

We wended our way up to the summit, but the blustery winds and shivery temps moved us along from there quickly. Back down at Rock City, we hiked, scrambled, jumped, and climbed. We ate, played games, explored, and hung out in the shade. And as has become our tradition, ended the day with a frozen treat. Enjoy the photos and the video below with all the day’s highlights.

As usual, we appreciate all your support, whether it’s by volunteering a Saturday on our trips, helping at Thursday meetings, your prayers and kind words of encouragement, or your financial contributions. All the usual vehicles for donation — check, PayPal, EdFund, DeJean, etc.– are still available. Feel free to shoot us an email with any questions.

Thanks again for reading. We’re looking forward to a great year!

Here’s a throwback to our first time to Mt. Diablo in 2002. That baby in the overalls is applying for college this month, and the kid in the blue hoodie and camera works at DeJean!

Not sure where the play button is, but click the photo above to see the video!

ESCAPE to Yosemite

Wrapping up the year with one last big adventure.

It’s surely been an odd year, but we made it again to our climactic trip of the year to Yosemite. Tons of planning goes into this trip–from clicking at 6:59:59am on three computers in January to get reservations, to getting fee waivers from the park, to shopping at Costco for six meals to feed everyone, to making sure everyone has tents and sleeping bags, and all the gear. So it’s pretty rewarding when we get to see the kids experience it. And of course, it’s no less rewarding to be in Yosemite ourselves.

After three years of us finding alternatives, construction and re-design in Mariposa Grove is finally complete, and we were able to visit first thing on Friday. The trails and boardwalks are nicer, and the shuttle system keeps the cars out. We went on an extended three-mile loop, which was fun…except for the chilly temps, snow on the ground, and the light showers that started to fall. We scurried through, and headed down into Wawona to set up camp.

Eggs, bacon, and coffee welcomed us Saturday morning, and we got ready for our day’s activities in the valley. But with a daunting weather forecast, we felt it prudent to cover up with as many tarps as possible. We were greeted in the valley with more chilly temps, but we found a place to park all the cars together (hooray), and headed up the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. The hike went well enough, and we got to the top of the falls and back down. As usual, some were fast, and some were slow. And some, really slow. But we were proud of our group’s persistence and grit.

And then of course, as if to see if our leaders had the same qualities, the rain began.

It rained for the rest of our trip. All afternoon. All evening. Through the night. Packing up in the morning. Rain and more rain.

As mentioned, we were more “prepared” with tarps and such, and most of our sleeping bags and tents were reasonably dry. It was incredibly inconvenient, but we made do, huddling under makeshift canopies, cooking what we needed, trying to keep the fire out of the rain, but finding a way to move the smoke along. And in the end, we survived. 

We cancelled our usual Sunday activities, and packed up wet tents into wet bags. As we drove out of the park, we increased elevation, and it started to snow. It was beautiful. And slightly terrifying. But we were able to stop and snap a few photos, including one last shot of our little group. A bonus stop at the Bass Pro Shop in Manteca provided a final new outdoor experience for us.

To be honest, year #19 of the ESCAPE Club was certainly one of the most challenging years. We “only” went on seven trips rather than our usual nine. Our enrollment declined significantly through the year to numbers we’ve not seen since the very beginning. We got “smoked” out of one trip, rained/snowed out of two other dates, missed our Alamere Falls trip for the first time, had a death in our ESCAPE Club family, and got fineprinted out of financing for our kayaking trip. With neither Jason nor John at DeJean full time, communication and connection remain difficult.

Nevertheless, we are incredibly grateful for every student whose lives we were able share in, for the gracious community of teachers, staff, and families that chaperone and make these days happen, for the generous support we receive from many, and for the amazing things we were still able to see and do. We remain grateful for the opportunity to serve in this community that we find so precious. A look back through our photos and videos reminds us of the smiles and natural beauty we’ve seen, and we remember it’s all more than worth it.

And despite the challenges, we’ll be back at DeJean in the fall to begin our 20th year. Hard to believe. Thanks to all. To God be the glory. Talk to you soon. 

Trying something new again
for ESCAPE Club swag
with this year’s sweet logo: STICKERS!!!

See how we survived the weather!

ESCAPE in the Spring!

Two spring trips — one to the snow, and one to the beach!

It’s almost July, and it’s been a while since we’ve been in touch, but the club has been rolling along (sort of) as usual. We’ll do a quick spring summary here, and then another final update in a few days…

Spring was a bit odd in the ESCAPE Club. We had to postpone our snow trip in February twice due to weather and road conditions, but we finally got to squeeze the trip in at the end of March. It was a magnificent day, with sunshine and short sleeves. We enjoyed the ride on a charter bus again, courtesy of DeJean. We made our usual stops on the way home–In’N’Out and the state capitol in Sacramento. 

Normally, we would hike to Alamere Falls in Point Reyes in April, but due to our expiring grant for kayaking, and the scheduling complications in February, we decided to skip it this year. We’d done that trip every year for 18 years, so it was tough to cut it.

In April, it was time to return one more time to the coast and see the otters on Elkhorn Slough. There was a bit of a frustrating snafu around our grant for kayaking, but we went ahead with the trip. We began the day on the wharf in Santa Cruz, watching the sea lions nap on the beams, or play around in the surf. Lunch was on the beach in Moss Landing, as we anticipated our afternoon kayaking tour. Our numbers were smaller than expected, but we enjoyed seeing the otters, seals and birds and the two-mile round trip up the slough. And we wrapped up the day at a little taco truck, which was fun too.

A few celebrations of note over the spring–

Please join us in HUGE congratulations and appreciation to Mr. Lau, who’s now been with the club on 100 trips! Jason’s first trip with us was to the snow in 2004, and if you know him, you know how valuable he is to the program, and how much his impact is felt in this community. We celebrated by presenting him an ESCAPE Club-personalized YETI water bottle. Thank you so much, Jason!

Another fun fact is that one of our current chaperones, Felicia, was a student on that same snow trip in 2004. She’s returned to give back to her community and help make this program happen. Felicia is terrific with the kids, and we appreciate her so much.

Finally, we are loving our new shirts and hoodies, designed by our old ESCAPE Club friend, Ted Wu. Ted is a designer for the San Francisco Giants, and we couldn’t be more pleased and grateful for the design he created this year. (We do have a few leftover if you’re interested in repping this year’s club.)

Thanks so much for reading! Both videos are below, with lots more footage and photos and the full story of the day. We’ll be back soon with news of the Yosemite trip, and to wrap up the year.


Here’s the video from the snow…

…and from kayaking.