Stories from the Field

14 Years After NatureBridge

Combined Shape Copy Created with Sketch.
Kia at NatureBridge in Yosemite in the 5th grade

In the 5th grade, I had just switched elementary schools. Sitting in a new classroom with new faces, I didn’t know who I was or how to fit in. Lucky for me, I landed in the midst of a wonderful community of characters at Deterding Elementary School in Carmichael, CA. My teacher, Harold Harrington, spent our entire first trimester teaching us all about Yosemite. We even learned a handful of songs about Yosemite that we would sing in class! All of this culminated in a week-long field trip to Yosemite with NatureBridge. It was there that I met Dave Dahler, or as he liked to be called “Danger Rave.”

Perhaps it was the excitement of seeing in person the rock formations I’d studied for weeks, Danger Rave’s wild aura or something else altogether but by the end of the week, I couldn’t help but feel an emotional connection to the valley.

It gave me a sense that I was a part of something larger than myself and a better sense of who I was. I walked away from that experience thinking to myself that I wanted to be Danger Rave. I wanted to help more folks share in that connection to the natural world and to cherish it.

In the following years, my fascination with nature would become more and more specialized—believing that by burying myself in lab work and textbooks, I could understand where this appreciation for nature comes from. Almost exactly 10 years from that fateful field trip, I finally went back to Yosemite. Wandering the park, it felt like seeing an old friend again. And I realized as I stood standing before that gaping mouth, that while there is value in staring through microscopes, I would never be able to fully explain in words or graphs why we “climb the mountains to get their good tidings” as John Muir once wrote. The most important thing is to open our eyes and realize that, for whatever reason, we have a deep connection to the land. And that the only way to understand that connection is to be able to spend time learning and engaging in our relationship with nature.

My fear is that the fewer opportunities we have to learn from the land, the less chance there is that we will be stewards of it. The well-being of all living things depends on humans choosing to fight for the only home they have. So after years of studying biology, biological systems and how to manipulate them for human needs, I decided to pursue a career in advocacy and the law. I hope to utilize my understanding of nature to ensure that generations after me have the opportunity to step outside and admire every blade of grass.

Kia in Yosemite National Park

Maybe one day I’ll have the honor of teaching in Yosemite just as Danger Rave once taught me. But until then, I plan to fight for the educational infrastructure and environmental protections necessary to give future generations the world over the same kind of opportunity that I had.

My experience with NatureBridge was truly transformative even after all these years. It has been a consistent reminder of what is important to me in life. I'm thankful to all the factors that brought me to Yosemite in 5th grade and that allow me to determine my own path in life as I write this. My story is not yet complete, but I hope whoever is reading this can at least take some inspiration from it.


NatureBridge is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021! To celebrate, we're telling #50StoriesFor50Years highlighting the generations of students, staff and supporters that helped make our first 50 years possible. What does NatureBridge mean to you? Share your story with us at!

Tell your NatureBridge story!
Check out these other