Vancouver Cougs in Yosemite

As part of the longest trip of the summer hosted by the Recreation Office, WSU students and staff headed to Yosemite for eight days of adventure. This trip marked the start of summer for some and a break between summer sessions for others. It proved to be a great break for students to see one of the most well-known vacation destinations in America.

The most popular destination in Yosemite National Park, which is in central California, is Yosemite Valley on the Merced River. This valley, which makes up only a very small portion of Yosemite National Park, is full of paved trails, cabins and restaurants all catering to the tourists that flock there from all over the world. Sites to see in the valley include Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and many other beautiful sites. Overall, Yosemite National Park averages four million visitors per year, 11 of which were the WSU students and staff on this trip.

Before the trip began, students attended two pre-trip meetings. In these meetings, students came up with goals, which included getting in better shape, trying something new and seeing bears.

On the first day, students departed from WSU bright and early in the morning. Throughout the drive, frequent stops were made during which students hit a volleyball, juggled a soccer ball, tossed around a hacky sack or just frolicked in the sunny freedom of summer. For dinner, people stopped at an “authentic Texas BBQ” restaurant, where Trip Leader Anthony “the Coyote” Deringer tried brisket after student Casey Karlsen explained what it was. Later that night, the caravan arrived after dark in a KOA, where students pitched tents or slept under the stars.

The next morning, students woke up bright and early and set out for Yosemite National Park a few hours away. After the drive, which included stopping for one last bit of comfort at Starbucks, students got their first glimpses of Yosemite Valley. After emerging from a dark tunnel in the mountain cliffs, students were awestruck by the panorama before them. Cliffs on either side dropped down almost a mile to a forested valley floor dotted with boulders the size of houses. Students’ eyes travelled up and up the cliffs to the rim, in many places 4,000 feet of nearly vertical cliff. Here and there the river could be seen glinting a deep blue between the trees, reflecting a sky that yielded no rain for the duration of the trip.

After descending into the valley, the group then parked and walked to iconic Yosemite Falls. Then students headed up to a little-known destination called the Devil’s Bathtub. This was a slight ledge on the cliffs down which water poured and formed a small pool. The group headed down to a hotel in the valley for tea and crumpets, and then back to a camp ground for the night.

The next morning, the group headed to Yosemite Valley for the last time. There, they headed for a day hike up the Mist Trail, a path that follows the Merced River to Vernal Falls. The trail meanders lazily along the river at first, and then transitions to a steeper climb after a bridge over a cascade of white water. As the trail approaches the waterfall, mist from the falls pours over the trail, giving the trail its name. After enjoying the view from the top, students headed back down the trail. That evening, students went for a swim, and then prepared for backpacking the next day.

The next day, students departed for the first day of backpacking. The trail initially started out covered by trees. After a long climb, students broke out of the trees and over a ridge, yielding a spectacular view. The landscape was very similar to the scene in Lord of the Rings where the beacon fires are lit along the mountain ridges. After descending down near the Ten Lakes area, students set up camp for the night. In hopes of seeing a bear, students Brian Robles, Kirsten Reynolds, and Casey Karlsen slept out under the stars, a habit they repeated for the duration of the trip.

The next day, the group decided to take a rest day. Students went for a day hike to a glacier-fed lake, where they jumped from rock to rock along the stream leading out. Students also attempted to cirumnavigate the lake, but were foiled by the last clutches of winter in the form of the glaciers on the far side. Some students jumped in the lake, and others chose to warm themselves on the rocks on the shore. There were also large rocks to be climbed, and fish which students attempted to catch. Later, students headed back to camp for naps, rock climbing, conversation and swimming in a warmer lake near camp. That night, students ate a snake that Matt Wadzita and Brian Robles caught and cooked.

The next morning, students woke up and packed to resumed the hike. The trail brought them up past the lakes and around a ridge. Along the trail were several Bristle Cone Pines, which are one of the longest living organisms, able to live up to 5,000 years old. Students then descended into a valley. On this descent, the age-old tradition of putting rocks in other people’s backpacks began in earnest. Anyone who left an unattended backpack or wasn’t vigilant against a crafty hiker behind them could expect to be carrying a few extra pounds of souvenirs.

Students then traveled up a valley and up the ridge on the other side. In one place, the trail had been completely elimated by a rockslide. That day, students hiked to over 10,000 feet in elevation. That night, students were treated to a spectacular sunset by mother nature. This was seen from a rocky perch on a mountain top with a valley unfolding below and sweeping up in all directions to craggy peaks patched with snow remaining from winter. The last rays of the sun reached up like a bright red rose just bursting through concrete. The horizon was lit up to the west in an orange-scarlet, fading to a rosy pink seeming to resonate from the mountains all around. Jet trails lit up in a hot pink as they trailed lazily across the sky. Then, a pure white moon at perihelion (the point in its orbit closest to the earth) rose and ushered a silent, beautiful cry beckoning to its twinkling star companions. That night, students set alarms to wake up at 3:30 am to star gaze after the moon set.

The next day, the group woke up and hiked out of the valley, with promises of hot springs to come. At the end of the trail, students jumped in a lake while waiting for the university vehicles to pick them up. Then students headed to Bureau of Land Management property that contained hot springs open to the public. These natural hot springs were streams and pools of hot water dotting a field of rolling hills of sage brush. Students soaked for an afternoon, then went back into town for pizza. That night, students returned to the hot springs, then back to camp for a late-night game of poker. After poker, students returned to the hot springs for a late-late-night soaking session. This tub, maintained, drained, and scrubbed daily by local campers, was made by rocks cemented together with hot water piping from the hot springs. Under the full moon, with mist rising over the plain giving the distant mountains an ethereal, dreamlike quality, students smoked cigars and reminisced over the good times.

The next morning, some students woke early for one last sunrise soak in the hot springs. Then, the group headed to Schats Bakery in Mammoth, and then began the trip home. That night, the group stopped and camped in the woods in California for one last time. After enjoying one last camp fire punctuated with marshmallows and camaraderie, all the students slept under the stars, with wildly varying hopes about seeing bears. For better or worse, no bears were spotted.

The next day, the group arrived back at WSU Vancouver. With the unfortunate exception of not seeing a bear, the students goals including getting in better shape and meeting new people were all met. Staff and students all had a great time, and are looking forward to the next recreation trip!

For more information about recreation trips, contact the recreation office at osirec@vancouver.wsu.edu or (360) 546 9532 or stop by in person at the North West corner of the Firstenburg Building.

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