ESCAPE to Yosemite 2017

A visit to the jewel of our national parks…


We expect it to be crowded in Yosemite Valley. This is our 17th year doing this! And we’ve come to expect it to be more crowded each year. What we did not anticipate was the gridlock we encountered, or the utter absence of parking spots. But for the first time in a few years, the weather was warm and dry. And as usual, the kids were resilient, the adults were flexible, and it turned out to be a nice weekend.

We had a huge number this year. We brought 35 students, and our group totaled over 50. With cooperation from our principal, the DeJean staff, and some outside resources, we were all able to leave before school and head to the valley on Friday morning. Since Mariposa Grove is still under construction this year, we thought to spend an extra day in the valley, and knock out some extra activities there. Due to all the construction, and the difficulty with parking, and the park service’s lack of infrastructure and resources, that turned out to be a really poor idea. We were only able to check out the climbers on El Capitan, and take our group photo at Tunnel View. We did get to camp at a decent hour, and enjoyed setting up our tents, having dinner, and hanging out around camp.

On Saturday, we ventured back into the valley. But there was no parking. Anywhere. We thought we’d be creative, and park at the far end of the valley, near El Capitan, five miles from our trailhead. But then we waited 45 minutes for a shuttle, which took 30 minutes to go five miles. Again, ugh.

We did finally get to do the hike up the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls. Every single kid and chaperone made it to the top, about which we are very proud. It’s an accomplishment that they will always be able to keep with them. And to be clear, despite all of our struggles, Yosemite was spectacular. Thundering waterfalls, under blue skies. All the things we hope for from the park were in their prime. So there’s no minimizing the experience.

But all the delays put us well behind our normally scheduled routine, and we decided to get pizza in Half Dome (formerly “Curry”) Village. This was a great call, as it took just as long for us to get back to our cars, and we headed back to camp in the dark. It would have been rough starting our usual pasta dinner at 8:30pm!

For certain, one of the highlights was singing around the campfire. You can get a taste of it in the video below, or if you’re following us on Instagram! (Even if you’re not on Instagram, you can see our posts here: )

For Sunday, we decided it would be best not to return to the valley. We spent a leisurely morning around camp, playing games, ultimate frisbee, and singing a little more. We packed up, and headed out the south park entrance. We drove through 100-degree temperatures in the central valley, and arrived home Sunday evening to some chilly, 60-degree weather in Richmond.

We are so grateful to a fantastic group of chaperones who gave their time to this program. We also are grateful for each of you who made financial contributions to make this trip free for our kids. Also to those who donated other things, like tents, sleeping bags, firewood, and even homemade cookies!

Our final trip of the year is this week, so we’ll talk again soon! Lots of text this time–thanks for reading this far!

You know you should watch… It’s sure to brighten your day!