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!