GAP Year Expedition 4

by Andrea Wackerle

By Gapper: Lily Fenton

The Wyoming Warriors headed out on their 4th expedition to see Zion National Park, Santa Monica, Channel Islands, Big Sur, and San Francisco. This expedition was our first with our new gappers, Tyler and Zach. They fit in really well into the group dynamic this expedition and made it run smoothly. I think our biggest struggle was most of the group being sick during the entirety of the expedition. Most of us caught a cold once we got to Zion but we all pushed through how we were feeling and tried to have the best possible time that we could. Despite getting sick, I had the best time on expedition with all the places that we went to.  At Zion National Park, we hiked to Upper Emerald Pool which had an absolutely gorgeous view during the hike and then once we got up to Upper Emerald. We also hiked Canyon Overlook Trail which had an amazing view of Zion that you could see for miles. After Zion National Park, we headed to Santa Monica to do some rock climbing at Point Dume. We were rock climbing on the beach so we got to have a view of the ocean all day, which the students loved. 

When we were done climbing, we drove on Pacific Coast Highway to see the sunset which was one of the best I have ever seen. Before we went to the Channel Islands, we bought food at Trader Joe’s to get the food we needed for the next couple of days.  The next day, we headed out to the Channel Islands for our first day of backpacking. We got on a boat to Prisoners Harbor which is where we would be staying for the night. On the way to the island, we saw dolphins jumping out of the water and following our boat! Once we got to the island, we started a 3.5-mile hike to Del Norte Campground, where we were staying. There were foxes all over the island. They were so cool. The team became closer during the Channel Islands because the hiking was quite difficult. We banded together to get things done and still had our group dynamic going strong. 

We had a beautiful view of the ocean from our campsite. In the morning, we hiked out of our campground and went to the pier to catch our boat to head back to Santa Monica. Once we got back, we went to In and Out burger for dinner which was delicious! After the Channel Islands, we went on a tour of UC Santa Barbara to see the beautiful campus and also to visit with disability services. The next day we headed to Big Sur to get ready for our 3-day backpacking trip and packed up all of our ex-bags. 

Before we went backpacking, we stayed at Limekiln Campground which was on the beach so we could hear the waves all night and see the ocean in the morning. We headed out on a 6-mile hike to Lion’s Den Campground and had a view of the ocean for most of the hike, which was beautiful. The craziest thing I saw was on our second to last day of backpacking. During our hike, we stopped on this flat area and it just showed an endless view of the ocean. It was so crazy. The next day we packed up our gear and headed to Buckeye Campground for our last night of backpacking. On the last day of backpacking, we packed up all of our things and headed down to the van. Once we got out of Big Sur, we drove to San Francisco, which is one of my favorite places in the entire United States. I’ve been there 3 times. Our main success as a group was being able to spend the whole afternoon in San Francisco and being able to explore Pier 39. We also visited the aquarium and got to learn more about the aquatic animals in the local area.

The main places we went to were the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, and Aquarium of the Bay. In the morning, before we headed to our Alcatraz tour we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge which was so cool. We could also see Alcatraz from the Golden Gate Bridge which made me even more excited. Once we got to Pier 35, we took the boat to head to Alcatraz. When we got there, we got off the boat and headed up to the cell house for the audio tour. It was really interesting to see where Al Capone and Robert Stroud (A.K.A. Birdman) were held. After Alcatraz, we headed back to Pier 35 to head to Pier 39. On Pier 39, there were so many cool shops and restaurants that we could go to. One of my favorite places on Pier 39 is the left-handed store where everything there is for people who are left-handed. There is also a sock store where you could find socks with anything on it, which was so cool. The socks ranged from superheroes, dogs, and football teams. Another funny moment we had was in San Francisco. We were staying at China Camp Campground where there were these crazy raccoons who tried to steal our food and get into one of the mentor’s tents. The raccoons tried to get into my tent as well, they were determined!  We also went to the aquarium that had otters and animals that you could touch. After San Francisco, we headed back to base. We spent the last days of our expedition driving back to base. I believe that this was the smoothest expedition we have had and everybody enjoyed all the places that we went to!

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Landscape photos were taken by Lily Fenton.