This article was originally published in the fall 2014 Harker Quarterly.
In mid-June, 19 students and three teachers set off on a five-day backpacking adventure in Yosemite National Park, packing in their own supplies and making their own food.
Science teachers Ben Morgensen and Daniel Sommer, and math teacher Margaret Huntley, accompanied students on the trip, which began at Crane Flat Campground.
“The backpacking trip was incredible!” recalled Huntley. “We hiked to and camped at the truly amazing May Lake, with a pristine lake, snow-capped peaks and view out across Yosemite. We did a day hike to Mt. Hoffmann (10,856 ft.) then hiked to Murphy Creek and camped there for a night before hiking out and driving home. We had beautiful weather and a great mix of first-time and returning hikers, some sleeping in a tent for the first time and others taking on real leadership roles.”
After Crane Flat, the group drove to the May Lake Trailhead. “On the way … we watched the land unfold in front of us, with towering peaks jutting sharply into the deep blue sky and babbling brooks merrily cascading down deep gorges,” reminisced Andy Semenza, grade 9.
Once at the trailhead, it was a short hike up to May Lake through the alpine landscape. Upon their arrival at the lake beneath Mt. Hoffmann, they proceeded to set up camp and cook dinner.
“The need to purify all water instilled a greater appreciation for nature,” Semenza said. “Once we had finished our repast, we scrambled up a rock outcropping near the lake to watch a spectacular sunset and thunderstorm unfold over the great valley of Tuolumne Meadows and lightning strike the highest peaks of the region.”
The next morning, the students climbed Mt. Hoffman then descended to Murphy Creek where many of them fished for trout in the lake. That night, some of the group opted to spend the night in sleeping bags on the granite.
“Throughout that week, we learned many lessons only possible outside the confines of the classroom walls – from the crippling effects of altitude to the feeding practices of ospreys. However, we also had to cope with more psychological issues, like managing a good pace for a group or dealing with tent mates,” said Semenza.