When we talk to people about WYLD's mission, connecting youth and veterans to wilderness experiences, they're sometimes curious as to how exactly immersion in nature enhances youth's personal growth. There are many avenues through which WYLD's program
encourages student development; we see how getting through tough hikes boost kids' self-confidence, how rising through challenges next to others helps them bond with new peers, and how solo hikes inspire a sense of awe in them. This LA Times article by Deborah Netburn explains an added benefit: improved understanding of social cues. Read on from the link below for this spectacular insight on how your children or students might benefit from nature experiences!
These shoes, many not made for walking, carried us 5.5 miles yesterday over some pretty scary terrain at times. The kids held each other's packs, hands, and and spirits. They encouraged each other verbally, physically and often. They tied each other's shoes. They were kind to each other, and they pushed themselves really, really hard. "I learned about myself that I'm really strong." "I learned that I can be scared and still keep going." I learned what Sage looks like." "I heard a stream. It sounds like loud air." "this trail is steep. I'm afraid to fall... but that's ok. (looking down at the lower switchback) then I'll just be closer to where we're going." "I can't even run two miles at school. I just hiked over 5. I should get some PE credit."
I learned that if a tenth grader can hike 5 miles in Doc Martens, she is really, really tough!
Best way to spend a Saturday!
Daria looked back up the 2 mile trail she just descended and was convinced she could not make it. Before she had even taken one step her breaths shortened, her body slung forward, and she was visibly worried and feeling anxious. Daria is a good student who likes to write and move around, but who does not get enough space to do so or exercise. She is smart and funny, but doesn’t have confidence when it comes to physical activities. Each step was a hardship often accompanied by “I can’t go on another step.’ And yet she managed to eak out just one more. When we neared the top of the trail head she looked back over the valley and asked, “Did we just come from there?” Did I just climb a mountain?” “I’ll need better shoes next time.” “...I’ve never been to Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm, and I’ve never been to a mountain.” I like mountains!”
Daria, like eleven year olds everywhere, are the future of this country and world. Integral to her own success is the success we have with mitigating loss and harm to nature. Daria learned a lot about herself that day on the trail, as did her peers, and she also made a connection to the wyld that could do more than just benefit her physically and mentally, but can also benefit all of us for generations to come. In order to understand nature and ourselves, we need a connection with mother earth, and ourselves.
*Names were changed to protect identities
The destination is the journey. "Are we there yet?" YES!
Carver Middle School is at roughly 230 feet above sea level, while Mono Lake apexes at about 6,378 feet.
To "get there yet" we journey across a natural landscape that provides us TWO tectonic plates; the ONLY transform plate boundary visible to the naked eye; over ten ancient lava beds, cinder cone volcanoes, monuments of uplift - and we come within miles of both the lowest and highest points of North America.
We venture through a historical landscape as we pass two aqueducts that bring water to Los Angeles, shadowing one to our final destination of Mono Lake. We stop at the monument at Manzanar and learn about a shared and sordid history preserved by the people who were there.
Carver and Los Angeles are rooted on the tectonic plate known as the Pacific plate, the same plate that houses Hawaii and Japan. So, our first "hurrah" was crossing over the much anticipated, worrisome "crack" known as the San Andreas Fault, along highway 14. Like sailors who silently cross from one hemisphere to another over the Equator, we raised our water bottles to toast the arrival upon the famed, and much more heavily populated North American Plate, home to our cousin San Francisco and the rest of the contiguous United States.
The San Andreas fault is so hard to see at this point, that the kids and instructors decided that it needs a plaque, if not an entire ad campaign because it is so "epic an event," that is missed by so many. Attached is a 'selfie' highway 14 took of itself at the fault crossing, should you ever go searching yourself, which we recommend you do.
After a quick, hot lunch at Red Rocks with it's mesmerizing desert tortoise we headed up to Fossil Falls. Now, the only way to upstage a transform plate boundary to a group of middle school scholars is by introducing them to the bling that is an ancient volcanic waterfall. The basalt rock at Fossil Falls along Hwy 395 is about 40,000 years old, and formed when lava cooled and an ancient Owen's River ran across it, smoothing and rounding the rocks in a shiny, black moon scape that is ripe for clambering all around and down in, even when your loaner hiking boots disintegrate. "I must be the luckiest person, and the unluckiest person. I'm unlucky because my boots fell apart, but I'm lucky, because I got to go to Fossil Falls."
When asked to describe Fossil Falls in one word Roberto coined the term, "AWESOMANGEROUS."
Not so awesome, and even more dangerous, was the WWII campaign to "intern" all Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Which takes us to Manzanar State Historic Monument. Not lost on the kids was our timely visit to a place where fear and zealotry lead the country to incarcerate innocent citizens, based solely on their ancestral heritage. The kids noted this as we ate lunch in the actual mess-hall the prisoners ate in over 60 years ago.
After all that exploring, driving, and learning to not repeat history, we got to chill in the van and just hunt for which peak is actually Mt. Whitney. "Did you guys know that right now, at this very moment, there are through-hikers way back in those mountains who have hiked from Mexico and are headed all the way to Canada?" After some silence, JJ pipes up, "I don't see any hikers." :)
Finally, we were ready and happy to land at the Mono Lake Association cabin near Lee Vining.
This is WYLD’s third annual foray to Mono Lake, and it is definitely a place where young people have the privilege of learning about themselves. Every night we roll our sleeping bags and pads out under the stars, and under the watchful gaze of the Eastern Sierras. By day one group cooks and the other cleans, and we learnt to work together, get along, communicate, stay organized and EXPLORE all over the Mono Basin. We hike near Yosemite, we climb to 10,000 feet at night on solo walks, we play lots of games, we write a few poems, we sit quietly and gaze off at a glacier, we clean up other people's litter, we learn to leave the rocks and bones we find, even though we want to take them with us, and we learn why Mono Lake is so important to so many migratory birds. We learn that the "cloud" that stretches across the sky at night is actually the Milky Way, and we lament that we can't see it when we're at home. We learn to take 3 minute showers, and discover it isn't that hard. We vow to take that information back, and vow to always "leave it better than we found it."
After five days away from home, and doing so many new things, we are ready to go home. We are sorry to leave, but we are so ready to see our moms and dads and uncles and aunties and siblings, and share everything we've learned.
Until Next year,
By Sonja Willliams
Come out on the morning of June 25th and volunteer with WYLD students, staff and friends in our student garden! Be ready to get your hands dirty and have lot of fun volunteering with our Farm to Forest team! This is a volunteer opportunity for all ages! Looking forward to seeing you there.
Please click here to donate, & put "Shawn T. Keagy Memorial Fund" in the remarks section.
Shawn often said that his boyhood spent catching lizards in Paso Robles was one of the most significant factors in the development of his personality - that it fed his sense of adventure, showed him the value and costs of risk-taking through hills conquered and scraped knees, and taught him how to persist when faced with complex problems. That time in nature, Shawn would say, had been his favorite classroom, and the lizards & snakes, his best teachers.Read more
Our Goal TODAY - $1,000 & By Jan 1st, $5,000!!
We are raising the money to create a space for youth and military veteran service-members to cultivate relationships, outside of the trail (yea that pun was intended ;), and to connect with mother nature, food, and inspire healthy eating. #EveryDollarCounts & builds momentum!
Hello beautiful people!!!!
So here is the deal, WYLD's team, Sonja, Chris, Fran & Meghan in Spirit, are gonna be in the San Gabriel mtns and we want to invite all of you to join us in exploring our local outdoors, have great conversation, and help WYLD raise funds for future hikes with our youth and veterans!
On November 7th, WYLD partnered with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT) to take students from Fremont High School's Garden Apprenticeship Program out to the Angeles Mountains for a day hike on the Gabrieleno Trail.
Fremont High's Garden Apprenticeship Program (GAP) is an after school program that trains and engages students around the basic concepts and practices of urban gardening, nutrition, and environmental stewardship. Throughout the hike, students witnessed the larger environmental processes and systems learned in the garden at work!
We divided into two groups; one that wanted a more physically rigorous hiking experience, and another wanting to focus more in-depth on the local flora and fauna of the area. Throughout the day, we paused our explorations for team-building activities, moments of reflection and lessons on topography and the properties of native vegetation.
On this Thanksgiving @ WYLD we are honored and thankful to have spent last Saturday with 5 Service Members and 2 staff from the VA day hiking around the inspiration loop trail, with a jaunt up the backbone trail at Will Rogers State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. Service-members heard about WYLD’s youth mentoring program and expressed interested in helping us out!!