ESCAPE Yosemite Trip

Our year of excursions came to a climax a week ago as 24 kids from Richmond got to experience three days in California’s environmental crown jewel that is Yosemite. Despite the weather, we made it through the weekend. We headed east into the Sierras, undaunted by forecasts of 70% chance of rain and 30 degree nights.

Arriving in Mariposa Grove Friday afternoon, home to 2000-year old Giant Sequoias, there was a cool drizzle, and a few small patches of snow on the ground. But it was pleasant enough for us to make our usual two-mile loop around the forest. We got to walk through a tree, count tree growth rings by the hundred, and see the rare red snow plant. From there, we headed to Wawona to set up camp.

The rain became more steady by that time, so we got started on getting tarps and canopies up for shelter first. The kids checked out the area until the rain subsided, and we could get tents and the kitchen set up. We got our usual spot at the end of the campground, right next to the river, and lots of free space to explore. The rain continued into the night, but we stayed in decent shape with a big campfire, rain flys and lots of tarps.

Thankfully, Saturday was dry. The kids woke early with the birds and the light, and we got the eggs and bacon going. So nice to have a hot breakfast out in the woods. We packed lunches, loaded into cars, and headed down into Yosemite Valley. It’s always difficult to describe the feeling driving in the valley, flanked by huge granite walls, and water cascading over. Fun to hear the kids talk about what they see as we drive along the valley floor. Our mission for the day was to get up the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls. And so proud of all the kids–each one made it to the top, and gained an unforgettable lifetime experience. If you’ve done the hike, you know it isn’t long, but incredibly steep and demanding. And of course, worth every moment.

Back at camp, we got dinner going, and another big campfire. Some braved the frigid water, even in overcast cool weather, and took a quick dip in the river. Lots of shrieking. We played games, passed out glow-bracelets, and taught kids (and some adults!) how to roast a marshmallow, and make great s’mores. Everyone was pretty worn out after a long hike, and a long day, and it wasn’t too hard getting kids to bed in their tents on time.

Sunday morning, we packed up camp, and headed back down into the valley for a lighter day. Out of our cars, we were shocked to see a bobcat cross the street into a meadow, and it was a special treat to be able to watch it chase birds and walk through the trees. We took the shuttle to Yosemite Falls, and took a little walk to the base of the falls. Lots more to see and do even on this little stroll, like crossing a river on a log, and watching a family of deer. Again, there was a little drizzle, but not enough to force us inside.

We’re so grateful to so many who contributed to making this another special trip. Teachers, parents, and community members who took the weekend off to chaperone, ladies who made us homemade cookies, sponsors who donated firewood and tarps, and a huge contribution from the Berkeley JACL to cover most of the rest of our costs.

As usual, you can watch the slideshow video from our trip on our YouTube channel here:

Our final trip for the year will be to Oakland Ice Center to go skating, and then a picnic in the park. We’ll be back in touch again soon as the year draws to a close.

Thanks for reading!