On the fifteenth of June, 2015, an eager group of six Juniors and Seniors from Palm Desert High School awoke on a toasty desert morning to embark upon a journey that would prove to be many things beyond navigation and destination. Commencing the first weekend of summer, six schoolmates were exhilarated to experience the most diverse and unique views the West Coast has to offer. Little did we know, this camping trip would teach us teamwork, communication skills, and responsibility for ourselves as well as each other, culminating into a coming-of-age adventure.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Each of us, on our first journey sans parents, realized that the windmills in the desert pass, the same windmills we had seen countless times before, now symbolized increased responsibility for ourselves and each other. The nervous tension of this realization dissipated as we listened to music in the car; it was clear that we all shared the same taste in music. In this way, music was a source of cohesion, creating common ground. By the time we felt the moist and salty San Simeon ocean air in our lungs we were collectively calm, connected, and energized.
None of us slept well in the frigid and uncomfortable conditions of our first effort at overnight camping. With the dawn of the new day, we loaded the car and forged on toward San Francisco. The music inside the car, peppered with idle chit chat, and the scenery outside, seemed to teleport us to the majestic dragon-carved gates of China Town, where we smelled the magnificent aromas of peach, and fish; ice cream, and spices. Our eyes clamored at the intricate multicolored toy-sized fireworks, Asian jewelry, and long silk scarves. Our intoxication with this mysterious sub-sect could only be severed by the remembrance of our final destination. After returning to the car seven hours later, the Golden Gate Bridge provided foggy, surreal views of clouds resting over ripe mountains, which framed deep blue ocean in every direction.
Alas, we were heading toward our grand crescendo: Yosemite National Park. The visitors’ center, a credible resource for information on plant-life, wildlife and historic pioneers such as John Muir, duly educated us on our hiking options. Some of us felt impassioned to take on the most strenuous, endurance-demanding, brag-worthy conquest known as Half Dome, while others preferred a more leisurely and less rigorous excursion. In this conflict was our greatest opportunity to find compromise and foster good team work in solidarity. Vernal Falls was our answer. Vernal Falls enshrouded us in frosty mist, spilling over colossal boulders. The tangible energy of meandering water polishing its rock bed, accompanied by the variegated dialects of fellow tourists commentating over the scenery, formulated an international melding of nature and humanity. When we reached the half-way bridge, Jack, now exacerbated from exhaust, insisted that this be our stopping point. The initial reaction of those who wanted the glory of completion of this trail was tempered by the desire for the common good of the group as a whole. This was our biggest chance thus far to learn the life- skills of communication, cooperation, negotiation, and responsibility for ourselves and each other. As we sat on the bridge with Jack, the sun reflecting off the glossy rocks, we were filled with rich appreciation of shared experience, of the careful choices made each step along the way, and of pride for accomplishing something of far greater importance than a mile marker on a trail.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.