Stories from the Field

Yosemite Alcoa Scholars in the Backcountry

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On Tuesday afternoon, our 33 Yosemite Alcoa Scholars and their six NatureBridge educators returned to Crane Flat campus after six exciting days in the backcountry. Though their routes were all different, each trail group hiked through beautiful areas of the Yosemite Wilderness. Together, the groups hiked around 60 miles, or 97 kilometers.  

Following a week of backcountry science investigations, where they learned the relevance of fire ecology in the park and that has been impacted by climate change, the Scholars emerged from the trail ready to take on the world as environmental stewards and leaders. (As soon as they got a much deserved shower and meal, of course!)

Trail Group Recaps

Trail Group one, led by NatureBridge educators Scott and Eden, ventured from Yosemite Creek to Snow Creek. Highlights included: 

  • The view and enormous Sequoias at Eagle Peak
  • The view of Half Dome from Snow Creek (especially as the sun was setting and just the top of Half Dome turned orange)
  • The riddles, puzzles and games the group played while on trail
  • Finding pounding rocks—used to pound acorns, pounding rocks are archaeological signs of the Miwok people living in that area. They even found Obsidian pounding rocks, and since Obsidian is not naturally found in Yosemite, this indicates that these rocks were brought in via trade!
I never knew I could be starstruck by a landscape.
Alcoa Scholar Caleb, New York

Trail group two, led by NatureBridge educators Lizzie and Jose, hiked from Cathedral Lakes to Little Yosemite Valley. During their adventure, this group saw so many beautiful sights, including the view from Cloud’s rest, the sunset over Cathedral Lake and the thousands of wildflowers they saw as they hiked through a recent burn area at Moraine Dome.

This group also saw a water snake, a rattlesnake and a bear! They got to touch snow—some of them for the first time in their life—and really enjoyed spending time by the Merced River the last day as they waited for the bus to take them back to Crane Flat campus. For fun, this group liked to play the card game Egyptian Rat Screw, and they loved learning a French repeat-after-me song from Camille, who is from Quebec! 

What surprised me was how easy the pack was to carry after a few days, it was like it was part of my body.
Alcoa Scholar Marco, Pennsylvania

And trail group three, led by NatureBridge educators Sarah and Shawn, explored the Yosemite Wilderness from Lyle Canyon to Rafferty Creek. This group loved their route through the alpine areas of the Yosemite Wilderness, especially Ireland Lake, an alpine lake that sits at 10,800 feet and has tons of wildflowers and stark rock formations in the background.

They saw lots of lakes, mountains and wildflowers and loved Kuna Crest, Vogelstein Lake and Island Lake. They also spotted lots of wildlife, including bald eagles, bears, marmots and the unfortunate frequent appearance of “mozzies” (mosquitos). 

It was interesting how quickly the environments changed, at one point it was heaps of bush, and then the next moment it was rocky.
Alcoa Scholar Caitlin, Australia

Science Presentation Shares

Yesterday the Scholars presented their environmental science research projects to Yosemite visitors, National Park Service rangers, NatureBridge staff and their peers, encapsulating what they learned from the program. 

We are proud of their posters, and cannot wait to see what these Scholars will go on to accomplish as future environmental leaders.

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