Yosemite Backpacking Discoveries with Hananiah and Dekota
For Summit Adventure’s most recent course, we teamed up with eight Bridgemont high school students, led by their principal, Evan Anderson. Bridgemont, a private Christian school in San Francisco, features a Field Studies program as a part of their curriculum in order to implement a well-rounded education that extends beyond the classroom. Students choose one of four outdoor adventure options to participate in for a grade.
After waiting out the first day’s slushy precipitation at base, we traveled out to the east ridge of the Yosemite wilderness to spend four days winter camping and backpacking.
None of the students had ever seen Yosemite, backpacked, or slept outside on the ground before–and many of them had never been hiking. In the face of uphill trails and below-freezing conditions with no urban amenities in sight, the students initially struggled to adjust to their foreign surroundings. But with each passing day, they began to find their capability to survive and even thrive in the wilderness they soon saw as beautiful.
At the end of the trip, I got the chance to briefly interview two of the students, Dekota and Hananiah, about their personal thoughts and reflections on “roughin’ it” for the first time.
What were you most nervous about for the trip?
Dekota: I wasn’t looking forward to mountain lions, bears, and sleeping on the floor in the cold.
Hananiah: Definitely sleeping in a tent in the cold–well, not so much sleeping in a tent as sleeping in a tent in the cold. That was something that I was not super excited about… I’d never done anything like that before.
What were you looking forward to the most?
Dekota: I was looking forward to coming… until we had to sleep in the cold. *laughs*
Hananiah: I was looking forward to completing it… getting through the entire thing, knowing how hard it was gonna be–I was definitely looking forward to that.
What was the low point of the trip for you?
Dekota: When we first started hiking from the vans–like the actual hiking up the hill–I didn’t wanna go no more, I didn’t wanna be there, like, it was so tiring. I wanted to go back to the car and I didn’t even want to see the spot we were gonna go to, to be honest. But we made it.
Hananiah: A low for me was definitely the first night in Yosemite. I went down to get water–it was freezing cold, ice-cold water–couldn’t feel my hands coming back up the entire way. We made dinner, so I was feeling a little better about it, but then I went to wash dishes. No running water, so I used all the water we collected from the stream earlier that night, and I was using just a little headlamp because it was pitch black outside. So I was just sitting there, washing the dishes, and I accidentally knock over one of the bottles of water–so that’s like half the water I was supposed to use, gone. At that point I was just praying, ‘Please, I need to get through this, I know it’s possible, but it’s gonna be hard.’ So then I kind of finish doing the dishes the best I can, and I come back up to the tent I was supposed to sleep in, and Mr. Anderson’s standing over it, and the whole tent is knocked over… So that night I slept outside up against a tree in a sleeping bag. Sleeping wasn’t actually so bad, but everything leading up to me sleeping outside was. *groans*
What was the high point of the trip for you?
Dekota: Climbing rocks [over the Talus fields on the trail down to El Capitan Meadow]. But I was kind of scared that I was gonna fall.
Hananiah: The highest point for me was definitely the first campfire [we started after dinner on the second night out]. That was pretty awesome. It was the exact opposite of the night before. I mean, everything was going wrong and then we got to a much nicer campsite, had water feet away… it was just a million times better.
What was something you learned that you’ll be able to take back home?
Dekota: Never take stuff for granted. Nope. Never ever again. Never complain about cold air at school. Nope nope nope. *giggles*
Hananiah: For me… never give up on people. I know ‘never quit.’ I’m gonna do that of course, but not quitting on people is so much more important, and there’s so many good things that can come out of believing or just having faith in your peers, or just other people… [The moment I realized that] was kind of when we got that [first] campfire going and everyone turned off their headlamps; it was just a really cool moment. Everyone was having a good time at that point.
Was there anything you saw out in the backcountry that was completely new to you, maybe something that amazed you?
Dekota: A newt. I had never seen that before.
Hananiah: There wasn’t exactly any specific thing that was ‘new.’ I’ve seen a lot of this stuff on TV, but I think the new thing for me was just experiencing everything… I’ve never been up close and personal with a park or forest as big or magnificent as Yosemite. I mean, you could live there if you had to. It’s amazing to see God’s original creation firsthand, [how it looked] before all the buildings.
If you were describing this trip in five words to another person, how would you describe it?
Dekota: ‘Awesome-Experience’… ‘Cold’… ‘Fun’… ‘Challenging’
Hananiah: I’d definitely have to say ‘Awesome’… ‘Testing’… ‘Difficult’… You have to put ‘Fun.’ And… ‘Bonding.’
Images provided by Thomas L. Gibson Photography