I used to think Yosemite was overrated.
The first time I went there was in fifth grade with my family. After hearing comments about how “breathtaking” and “absolutely wonderful” Yosemite was, we were looking forward to a great trip. But due to the weather (winter was just turning to spring), we didn’t get to enjoy the outdoors as much as we had hoped.
Last month’s journey to Yosemite more than made up for it.
The five-day trip, part of Egan Junior High School’s annual eighth-grade expedition, not only changed my feelings about the national park, but also taught me new things about myself.
The field trip, running Monday through Friday, was educational and exciting. We learned about the history of Yosemite and how the park is maintained. We also visited giant sequoias.
The entire eighth grade (approximately 300 students) was too large to fit in Half Dome Village, so we were split into five groups, two of which spent time at Crane Flat, nearly 45 minutes away.
I was in one of the groups that lived at both campsites. On Monday, I got situated in a cabin at Half Dome Village with three friends. We were not allowed to bring our phones on the trip (those who did would be sent home, according to school rules), so we resorted to chatting and playing card games in our free time.
Dinner was served at close to 7 p.m. The food was OK, and the menu was creative. One night they served us chicken nuggets that were described as “tempura chicken.”
The trip also taught me to trust people more. My trail group comprised of students I didn’t know very well, and I bonded with them after a few days.
One of my favorite memories from the trip was riding a bus to the end of the Yosemite Valley on Tuesday and hiking until we got a full view of the whole valley. Bridalveil Falls was on my right, El Capitan was farther into the valley on the left and Half Dome was near the end of the valley. From my perspective, Half Dome didn’t look larger than my fingernail.
We hiked five miles that day and walked through a meadow in the valley. The grass was dry and it was almost as tall as me. Rows and rows of trees with bright-yellow leaves surrounded the grass, fluttering slightly from a small breeze. Behind the trees were the mountains, granite giants that loomed over the meadow, which made me feel even smaller.
I stopped every once in a while to take in the beauty of the place. Mother Nature never disappointed me.
Experiencing Yosemite in the fall rather than early spring allowed me to see the leaves in the brightest shades of yellow and orange I had ever witnessed. Fall is the best time to go to Yosemite for the views and the weather.
I can’t wait to get back there – hopefully next fall.
Kaitlyn Huang is a Town Crier intern and an eighth-grader at Egan Junior High School.