Stories from the Field

WildLink April 2024: Porterville High School

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Editor’s note: WildLink is a partnership between the National Park Service and NatureBridge with the goal of expanding access and opportunity in our public lands. We invite students from communities who have had historic and systemic barriers to accessing the outdoors to explore the Yosemite Wilderness and the career opportunities offered here. Through wilderness expeditions, volunteer stewardship projects, leadership trainings, family weekends, and career development opportunities, WildLink empowers young people to strengthen themselves and their communities. Learn more about WildLink here.

On a clear Sunday morning in April in Porterville, CA, Mrs. Hardin and Mr. Price, the teachers accompanying this spring’s WildLink group on their trip to Yosemite National Park, arrived at Porterville High School to find eleven students packed and ready for a week-long adventure. Hardin and Price were surprised, since never had an entire group of students arrived before them. The group eagerly loaded up the vans and they were on their way. 


The 2024 Porterville WildLink group ready to go on an adventure!

That afternoon, they entered Yosemite Valley through the historic Tunnel View, which for most of the students was their first look into the valley. Several students remarked on how they had never seen such huge rock walls before and how they felt awestruck by the immensity of the view. As they looked out at the landscape from Tunnel View, Isidro, one of the participants, described the view as “confusing to my eyes,” as the huge walls played with his depth perception. 

The 2024 Porterville group looking over Yosemite Valley.
“This trip has given me a better understanding of how beautiful nature is. I will tell others that I recommend this wonderful experience. Yes, I would do this again.”
Andrew, WildLink participant, Porterville High School

The group made their way down to the valley floor to meet their NatureBridge educators, played a name game, and spent the evening sitting around a fire, sharing stories. Monday morning arrived, and the warm sunny day had the group sweating while they packed up all the gear they would need for the next four days. Tuesday was the most challenging day of the trip; many participants remarked on the mental, physical, and social challenges of hiking up the Mist Trail, but they still had enough energy left for an epic snowball encounter later that day. 

We said goodnight over a crackling campfire and welcomed Wednesday morning with a game of “Shark Island” as we waited for Ranger Sam and Ranger Adam to meet us for a restoration project. Later, the group got to hear Sam and Adam’s stories of how they became National Park Service rangers, asked them questions about their jobs, and joked around as they got to know them better. Thursday was spent exploring deeper into Little Yosemite Valley, following the river upstream through the Lost Valley up to Moraine Dome. Throughout the hike, the group recalled their geology lessons as they looked around at the glacially-carved valley. Later that evening, memorable games of hide and seek—as well as intense hacky sack tournaments—were had. The densely wooded campground was empty except for us, and as the group ran around seeking and hiding, everyone would erupt into bouts of laughter and good-natured arguments and then sink into deep silence as everyone hid once more. 

Friday started early with some light rain that receded as the group emerged from their tents. We packed everything up and hiked down, reaching the trailhead right on time to have lunch and say our goodbyes. A few students said they would do a backpacking trip like this again in a heartbeat, others that they would probably think very hard before doing something like it again, but every single one said they were happy they had come. Hugs were shared, and the group was back on the road, heading home with life-affirming stories to tell their friends and family.  

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