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