Day 3, Saturday, April 6, 2013:
Bright and early, my husband was already up with the boy breakfast crew. Apparently the girls pranked the boys by stealing their shoes overnight so the boys decided to retaliated while the girls slept in. They also made breakfast at the same time. The girls shoes were missing when they arose from their beauty sleep and let's just say teenage girls are not as forgiving as teenage boys.
What is it with boys/men cooking while camping?
After everyone had been fed, we packed up our lunches we started our enormous task of packing everything up. Some of our youth had never been camping or don't have any experience in properly packing and cleaning up a campsite. It seemed like an eternity but we eventually got all the camping equipment back in the three vehicles. There wasn't an obvious competition but the Boy Scouts group (our camp neighbors) were so efficient and fast, they made us look really slow. I explained to our group these Boys Scouts had been doing for years so they wouldn't be discouraged. We also shadowed them during a good portion of our hike but they were doing their "30 miles in a day" hike and had done few miles in the morning before we even left camp.
Our First View of the High Peaks
Saturday was definitely more crowded that the previous day at Pinnacles! The park had shuttles running between the Visitor Center to the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. Our drivers dropped off our group and took the vehicles back to the Visitor Center and took the shuttle back to the Day Use Area. I remained with the remainder of the group and had lunch while we waited for the drivers to return.
We finally started hiking and I was in front of the group with our youth student-leader Dixie. My husband graciously took our son and daughter and hiked in the back of our hiking group. The condors were out and we could see them taking off from their nests. They look like little black specks in the picture above but those were condors. I absolutely loved seeing so many condors because on our previous trip to Pinnacles we did not see a single condor.
There are a few switch backs on Condor Gulch but not anything difficult. I was really amazed at the teenagers energy and enthusiasm, especially since most of these teenagers never go hiking. It was one of our student's first time hiking ever and she was at the front of the line being very enthusiastic, motivating everyone to keep hiking. At one point she said, "Come on guys! If we run that last two miles we will be done in 15 minutes!". I thought to myself, maybe we got a future trail runner on our hands....
Overlook view of Condor Gulch Trail
Overlook view towards High Peaks
We took a longer break at the overlook and had a little hiking/backpacking survey. The views were amazing as you can see from the pictures above. If you look closely on the left side of the High Peaks the white marks (poop) on the rocks, was where the condors nests were located. We saw many condors take flight from there homes and soar right above our heads down in the the valley, it was truly amazing!
We continued up Condor Gulch Trail which was a total of 1.7 miles until we reached High Peaks Trail. During the remainder of the hike my daughter hiked with or at least near me being carried by one of the teenagers. Of course having my daughter with me slowed me down, so my husband went to the front of the group with our son. I spent the remainder of the hike at the back of the group but it gave me a chance to get to know that group of teenagers better. Our normal youth group size at our church events are between 15-20 students so it's hard to get to know everyone. Hiking and camping as a group gives us, the youth leaders, a chance to build a better relationship with our students.
Esperanza Viva Youth Group and Leaders
Some of the youth were very tired at the halfway point and I'm not going to lie, I was too. There is a big difference when I am camping and hiking with my own family versus taking a group of other people's teenagers in addition to my family. There is more planning, stress, constant teaching and motivation and I feel like I'm complaining but I'm not! It is so great to see our students grow, view the world in different ways and seeing them be open to the idea that the world does not revolve around them! During a difficult part of the hike, one of our students asked if we brought them there to punish them! A little later he asked if we had brought him there to show him how insignificant he was! He asked the latter question after seeing the Balconies and the giant rock formations at the top of High Peaks.
Balconies View from High Peaks Trail
Dixie kicking butt on the trail!
Vanessa getting ready to climb up to the Peaks!
This is my California....
We had to teach a lot of our teenagers correct and safe hiking etiquette like not throwing trash on the ground, letting faster hikers pass by and in particular (my little brother) to not hike on the edge of a cliff trail. Sadly my camera died soon after the picture above so I hardly have any pictures from the actual High Peaks.
Photo Courtesy of Noe Garay
High Peaks was an adventure! Many of our teenagers said the felt like they were Indian Jones after we climbed up on the peaks and crawled on the very edge of a giant volcanic rock. I am very glad that I was not with my husband when we went through the "treacherous" portion of the trail because my son told my husband that he was going to jump into the canyon so daddy could go rescue him with a Pogo stick like "Diego" and then tried to run towards the ledge. I think I would have gone completely gray if I would have seen that.....
The one amazing thing I will remember for the rest of my life happened right after we finished getting through the difficult part of the peaks. I was standing there with Dixie, Alexis and Manuel and a condor flew right by our heads, literally 10 feet from us. None of us had our cameras but I'm pretty sure it's better in our memories then any picture that we would have taken. Now I that have seen California Condors up close and personal, I have to see the Peruvian Condors as well.
We took another break with two miles left and everyone was exhausted. Some of the youth didn't understand the concept that food and water is energy for their bodies, and that's when we realized some of had not been drinking or snacking like we had been telling them too. That's when my mothering skills kicked and I knew it was time for "scare tactics" to make them understand the dangers of dehydration and made them understand that food is energy. As well as letting them know if we didn't finish before 6 p.m. we would have to hike an extra mile back to the Visitor Center. Then everyone quickly hiked down to the Bear Gulch parking and we made it to the parking lot before 6 p.m.
Apparently hiking with a group of teenagers is as slow as hiking with toddlers, approx. 1 mph.
Elevation Change was approx. 1300 feet, highest elevation 2,500 feet but it felt much higher since we were right on the edge of a rock.
Condor Gulch - High Peaks - Bear Gulch Trail
Overall, it was a great first youth camping trip and will definitely be doing more in the future. With each trip we learn more and more about our youth and how to lead a camping group better as well introducing our church youth to the great creation that God made to enjoy.