A Mostly Vomit-Free Week: California Outdoor Adventure

Will Nuelle Staff Writer Although the word most commonly associated words with the California Outdoor Adventure Project Week last year were altitude sickness and vomiting, I’m pleased to share my fabulous Project Week experience with you. It was a tough trip, and it’s something we’ll all remember for a long time. Here’s the inside scoop. Sunday. After weeks of preparation, packing, and sheer excitement, a small group of us boarded an airplane headed for the LA International Airport. Even though most of the group had been camping before, as proved by a survey taken at a previous meeting, this trip was different from anything any of us had ever done in the sense that most of the group was unfamiliar with each other. We were now forced to live with people we had seen but never really stopped to talk to. There were doubts among us about how we would all get along and what the dynamic would be, but all of those uncertainties were quickly nullified once we got into the vans headed to the Los Padres National Forest. Two white vans headed north from LA, filled with sixteen kids, eight per van, sitting in relative silence, waiting for someone to break the ice. It was Clay, our guide, who eased the nervousness. He suggested we play the game Hey Cow. The premise of the game is to say “Hey Cow” when you pass a cow on the road. If it turns to you, you get one point; if it moos, you get two points. It was ultimately a mindless game considering we passed very few cows throughout the hour and a half ride. The game was quickly aborted, but it was not a failure. It officially broke the ice, and we dove into a deep trance of car games including, but not limited to: Relativity, Unlimited Questions, and our group’s favorite, The Picnic Game. The group bonded, forgive the cliche, immediately. We drove into Upper Oso campground in good spirits, ready to conquer whatever was to come, but little did we know, there was a lot of ground to cover. Monday. We woke up the next morning and got our first taste of campground cooking: a cheesy dish cooked with spinach and chicken that we were forced to finish. Every last bite had to be gone. We went over basic wilderness procedures, and we set out front he campground, our backpacks full to the brim with the food for the coming days, but our legs were fresh. There was a lot of flat hiking for the first mile or two, but it steadily became the opposite. The flat, tree covered path quickly became a steep incline with no cover, the sun beating down on our Midwestern faces. We hiked 7 miles that day, and slept near the peak of Lil’ Pine Mountain, which was an area recovering from an uncontrolled wildfire that took place several years before. This was our first night that was really in the wild. The sunset was beautiful, but the cold that came with it was miserable. Today was Tuesday. After the triumphant end to the first day, we thought we were ready to climb another mountain on sight. Yet, the next one that we were set to hike was still over 10 miles away, which meant we had to descend Lil’ Pine and hike through a canyon to reach our destination. The descent was what our guides, Space and Clay, called bushwhacking, because Buckhorn Trail hadn’t been maintained after the wildfires finished and plants started to grow again. We were literally blazing the trail with our bodies. After a long and tedious day of hiking, we set up camp at a quiet, remote campground in the middle of the Los Padres National Forest. Wednesday. The third day was essential to our bonding as a group. We walked most of the day on wide flat ground, so we were able to talk to each other along the way. Eventually, we broke down into The Picnic Game and by then the group was hooked on it, as if the dynamic of the group depended on it. Our once unfamiliar group had quickly become a group of close compadres. Around lunch time on this day we came to a swimming hole in the middle of the desert, and ate lunch after we swam. We continued our calm hike until we reached our destination for the evening. After a trip to the nearest hot springs, we sat near the camp fire for a long time and finally retired to bed. Thursday. This was the day we were to get picked up from the wilderness. First, we had to hike to the top of a mountain where we met the original vans to bring us back into society. The dirt had piled up on our skin over the four days of hiking, but that just brought us together. Some were hesitant to check their phones, but others went right for the vans to retrieve them, as my fellow freshman Eden Pritikin notes that “[she] just wanted to check the Hawks score.” The vans brought us to Lake Cachuma where we got our first showers in days and spent the night in yurts. Friday. After an early wake up call, we headed to the Channel Island Ferry that would take us to our next destination, Anacapa, a small island within the Channel Islands that we were to kayak around that day. Originally, we were supposed to stay Friday night camping on the islands, but due to inclement weather, we were not able to spend the night on the island. We paddled around the island for the duration of the day, checking out the sea caves that lined the coast. We then boarded the ferry with our kayaks, and went back to the Californian mainland. Our unanticipated inability to stay on the island forced us to go to our last resort: El Capitan Canyon, a hotel with rooms in the form of cabins. We then went to everyone’s favorite restaurant, In-N-Out Burger, where most of the boys ordered 2×2 burgers or 4×4 burgers, while the girls either dined at the Whole Foods salad bar or marveled at the boys who devoured their burgers quickly. Saturday. We were able to get in touch with ourselves and our goals for the rest of the spring in the most extravagant of ways. We took a mysterious day hike to the Chumash Wind Caves. It was a place said to chime on the inside when there was enough wind. Relieved of our packs, the hike was fairly easy, but to the groups disappointment, we could not hear the chiming of the caves. As we sat underneath an awning made of rock, one of our guides, Space (his trail name), asked us to think about what we wanted the rest of our spring to look like and requested silence on the descent from the mountain. As we set out, a dark, ominous cloud rolled over and began a hard hail. It was eerie as ever. But when we got down the mountain, the group was happy that we had gotten to experience something so cool. We spent the final night at a trailer park at Carpinteria State Beach. We spent a lot of time playing down on the beach as a group, affirming our growth into a tight-knit group. Sunday. Travel day. This was the day that we had to leave our group, and it was a sad departing, but the whole group realized how much fun we had over the course of the trip. After promising to keep in touch and a round of goodbyes, we left to our respective homes, not forgetting the fantastic week we spent trekking through the California wilderness and the times we had with people we had hardly known.]]>