While Mills’ campus was empty and serene with sounds of rain over spring break, a dozen Mills students journeyed to Yosemite National Park for an APER-sponsored weekend camping excursion.
This trip was to be my first time camping in the great outdoors and a national park. I reveled in the opportunity of leaving behind my technology-consumed, frequent-shower lifestyle, if only for a weekend. Most of our gear was rented from Bay Area Youth Wilderness Training, which is a marvelous resource for youth in the city to be involved in the outdoors by getting free access to gear.
The campsite was 45 minutes south of the Yosemite Valley, in Wawona, but the area was still invigorating, as the sound of the Merced River provided a constant soundtrack. We lived on a schedule for making food for breakfast and dinner, and for when we would drive up to the actual park. All of our toiletry and food belongings had to be stored in bear lockers, which frequently reminded me of the fact that my tiny and thin shelter of a tent would not be adequate protection against a bear.
Nevertheless, on Sunday and Monday we made it to upper and lower Yosemite falls, Vernal and Nevada Falls, and the Yosemite ski and snow area, just to see some snow. We contemplated sledding down the smallest sledding hill ever seen by human eyes, $17 for an hour, but decided to pass on this capitalist exploitation of the land.
We took mental notes of the trees that were burned due to the forest infestation of pine beetles that eat them. There were numbers spray painted onto the trees according to their degree of damage, and some areas were actively being cleared to get rid of this epidemic to the trees of the park.
Beyond all the tranquil sights and interesting environmental science of the park, the major weight off my chest was the absence of sexism. I grew up with my father being the leader of my brother’s Boy Scout troop, so they would often camp a few times a month and the women of my family would visit their longer camping trip sites. When I visited their aggressively masculine campsite, I felt unwelcome, although I would’ve secretly loved to camp with them. On this trip however, all tasks were delegated equally (to folk’s individual ability) and didn’t rely on arbitrary gender roles to guide the trip.
Overall, the opportunity to become friends with Mills students I otherwise wouldn’t have met, in a place where the stars were so clear actual constellations could be identified, was incredibly valuable.