Hi again. I know. You just heard from us. It was a quick turnaround for us too! The original endeavor years ago was to have one field trip every month. We’re getting out earlier and earlier in June, so our final trip was technically still in May, and just a week after Yosemite.

After school on Wednesday, we took a quick trip down the road to the Oakland Ice Center. The kids got one last new experience for the year. Most of the kids had not been ice skating before, and really didn’t know what to expect. But I can assure you, it was a great time. Kids were so excited as we laced up our skates, and felt the cool ice for the first time. Lots of wall-hugging of course, and shuffling along. Others embraced their propensity to fall, and just went for it, consequences be damned. Interesting to me to see the progress of that kind of kid compared to the wall-huggers.

It was notable to me, the attitude of some kids who were brand new at skating. They watched the 8-year-olds in the center ice with their coaches, leaping and spinning away, and proclaimed “I’m not good at this!” But it was a good opportunity to explain that anything that we’re good at takes time, and practice, and lots of repetition. No need to feel bad struggling the first time.

One of my favorite moments was watching one student, who really wanted to learn to skate backwards. I watched him take lap after lap, barely moving, maybe 7-8 minutes or more to go once around the rink, but set on learning to do it. You can give a kid tips, but I loved watching his determination in figuring it out, and sticking with it, just by doing it over and over.

After a couple hours skating, we headed back through traffic to Cerrito Vista Park in El Cerrito. We ate pizza, ran in the grass, threw the frisbee, and climbed on the play structure. A casual, fun way to end the final trip of the year.

A special shout-out goes to Jason for putting both the Yosemite video and this one out so quickly:

You’ll be getting one last email with the link to our year-end summary video, and a few final thoughts on the year, next week.

Talk to you soon.


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!


ESCAPE to Alamere Falls

Hi All,

April’s ESCAPE was a hike to Alamere Falls in Point Reyes–always one of our favorites. It’s challenging, it’s diverse, it’s remote, the reward is spectacular, and it’s all free! For those of you who don’t know, the trailhead is at the southern end of the Point Reyes National Seashore, near the little town of Bolinas. It’s about a seven mile round trip hike to a spring-fed waterfall that drops right onto the beach.

We lathered up with sunscreen and anti-poison oak cream and set out on our hike with our brand new ESCAPE Club water bottles. The hike goes along the cliffs above the coast for a while, then heads inland by Bass Lake. We pass through several little microclimates–some more damp, some more shady, some more exposed. Lots of wildflowers, a pond here and there, lots of ferns, and tons of poison oak. Our group this year has some pretty fast hikers, and it’s tough sometimes to get them to slow down and look at what they’re rushing past. Sometimes the attractions are tiny, like a ladybug, dragonfly, or salamander.

The little “unmaintained” trail down to the falls is narrow, and it’s good to be able to identify what’s poison oak, and what isn’t! Then it’s a scramble down a cliff to get to the beach. The ocean surf is too dangerous there to play in, but there was plenty of water going over the falls. Nice that it’s still running, even during a drought. It was slightly overcast all day, but there were plenty of takers who didn’t mind the chilly water.

Back at the parking lot, we had warm tamales, with crema, Tapatio, chips and salsa. Only minimal whining on the way back, and virtually no sunburn or poison oak. So it was another successful trip.

Enjoy the attached photos, and if you have a little more time, our slideshow video can be found here:

We still have water bottles, if you’re interested in having one. And we have a few (smaller) T-shirts left if you know someone who needs one.

Next weekend, our year comes to a climax with the camping trip to Yosemite. And it snowed there this week! Should be another great adventure!

Thanks for reading, and we’ll talk to you again soon.


San Francisco Tour

Our March trip has really become one to appreciate. There’s not a whole lot of planning that goes into the day–other than maps and driver communication for staying together. We get to see and do a bunch of things that are close by, and free, that most if not all of our kids have never seen or done. It’s six different stops in the Golden Gate Bridge area, all in about eight hours. So here we go…

We started our day at curvy Lombard Street. We drive down in cars, then park, and walk the street again. We were glad to see the wild parrots, who announce their presence with their decidedly un-urban squawks. From the top of the hill, we saw Angel Island and Alcatraz, and a cable car rode right past us. For a bonus stop, we also hit the Palace of Fine Arts. Fewer kids get to see this beautiful spot than when it was attached to the Exploratorium. So it’s a worthwhile 15 minutes.

Next it was on to Fort Point, at the base of the bridge. The kids brush up against the history of the fort, and check out a few of the exhibits there. But mostly they enjoy the building itself–walking around with friends, hiding and seeking, and enjoying the views. We hung out for about an hour, and moved on up the hill to the bridge visitor center.

If you haven’t heard or been, the construction around the visitor center is pretty much done, and is done very nicely. We ate lunch at the statue of Joseph Strauss, and made our way out to the first tower–just a 10 minute walk each way. Looking over the rail, we got to see a dolphin–how often do you get to see a dolphin in the wild?! What a treat. And a unique experience just to walk on the bridge itself. (I was also enamored by the new “zipper” median on the bridge–hadn’t seen that yet.)

On we went across to Marin. At the Marine Mammal Center, we used our connections and got a brief presentation by an old friend who now works at the center. Courtney gave us a great intro to what goes on at the MMC. She told us about this year’s El NiƱo, and all the starving sea lions that they’ve been treating so far this year. The kids got to see pelts, and skulls, and learn how the staff capture, rehabilitate, and release the seals and sea lions. We watched as young seals, too young to hunt, were force-fed the “fish milkshake”.

Our final stop of the day was at Battery Spencer, overlooking the bridge from the Marin side. As usual the views were spectacular, but this time, the fog was rolling in. I have always wished I could see this in person, and after years and years of stopping here, I finally got my wish. It was mesmerizing. Despite the views, as I’ve learned over the years, the kids most of all love the freedom. They run, and play, and jump, and climb, and sit, and talk, and just enjoy being out in a special place together. And then they complain when we have to leave. All the elements of a great day.

The slideshow video with all the photos and clips can be found here:

April’s trip is back to Alamere Falls in Point Reyes, and then camping in Yosemite in May. Let us know if you’d like to come along for camping–we are beginning the planning now.