#NoFilter, Just Nature

“This is beyond me!” Mani* shouts as she realizes how tough carrying a 65L backpack is while hiking up a mountain. Corpsmembers ahead of her would hear her and shout back, “but you’re doing it!” The support and encouragement to move forward was the highlight of this year’s week-long backpacking trip in the Tahoe National Forest.

Backpacking is not an easy feat, it requires physical and mental strength that for some, proved to be challenging. But as a group, Corpsmembers persisted. On our first day, Corpsmembers hiked 1.1 miles to Island Lake. We encountered a friendly camper, Johnny, who showed Radio* how to start a campfire. Radio really enjoyed this so much that he proclaimed himself the “pyro starter” and started all our campfires for the rest of the week.

By next morning, we set foot on the trail to Glacier Lake. This was the toughest trail in the whole trip, this 5.1 hike was moderately difficult, ending with a very stiff climb on a rocky mountain top. But at the top of the mountain was Glacier Lake, which nestles at the base of the Black Buttes in the Grouse Ridge. A site for the heavens. Corpsmembers swam in its deep clear water, freezing to the touch, but refreshing to the soul.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, everything is a new experience and you don’t know what you like until you experience it.” – Bucko*

Bringing our Corpsmembers to the wilderness allows them to escape and unplug themselves from society.  We find solace in nature, its beauty and sound permits each and every one of us to connect with ourselves. We learn to silence the noises in our heads and meditate to the wind blowing in the distance, the croaking frogs on the other side of the lake, the Black-capped Chickadees singing their pure chickadee-dee-dee call. At night, the cold wind breezes over the warm waters of Rock Lake, causing mist to rise under the bright half-moon. Nature is therapy.

“It was soothing it made you think about life, it cleared your head and gave you free space to think about things in your own life.”   – T*

Around the campfire we made s’mores, played rounds of the game Mafia, and shared scary stories. While we laughed over jokes, we also cried. In this moment of escape, we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. We held each other’s hands to fight through our own personal challenges in the real world, knowing we had one another for support.

As we approached the end of our backpacking adventure, we felt accomplished. We hiked over 18 miles, visited and swam in 6 lakes, encountered various species of flora and fauna native to this region. The site of Golden-mantled ground squirrels, Brown Bullhead catfishes in the lake, and an abundance of butterflies and bees only reminded us of how powerful nature is to our bodies.

At times of anxiety, we were able to be happy. On a challenging hike, we worked together and encouraged each other to fight through the pain in our legs.  Together we persevered, only to prove how resilient we all can be in different environments. We learned to live in the moment, “#nofilter, just nature.”

*Before we set on our adventure, we gave each other trail names. Mani, Bucko, T, Mo, Radio, Dolfo, and Rosie were the chosen names of our Corpsmembers, Jesus, C-9, and Ya-You were staff and volunteer’s trail names. 

Enjoy more photos below!

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10-Day Backpacking Trip!

On August 21, two Civicorps staff took a group of seven students up to the Emigrant Wilderness for a ten-day backpacking trip. This was a once in a lifetime experience for these youth — most of whom had never left Oakland.

Throughout the trip, students and staff grew in strength and spirit. One participant, Anton, experienced a profound moment nearly every hour. During appreciations on the last night, Anton said he had always been depressed and never knew what it meant to be happy, but being on this trip in the wilderness, he felt happy for the first time. That night, we climbed the granite slab 500 feet under the full moon and watched as Anton saw his first shooting star. Another student, Ratcha, learned to swim on the trip, with the help on many of his fellow participants. Avante, while standing on top of a mountain, looking out over the valley and lakes below, said being out in the wilderness made him realize, “You really don’t need much, no cars, no TV, not too much.”

10-Day Backpacking Trip / Civicorps

Students were interested in the local flora and fauna as well. One student, Emily, was keen on identifying edible plants, including wild onion, which we found plenty of. Another student was regularly identifying the birds of prey above us. We were even able to watch an osprey swoop down to Jewelry Lake and grab a fish, flying back to the top of a lodge pole pine to feast. Angie would curl up in her tent with the Audubon Guide to California Flora and Fauna as the sun set, brushing up on the local wildlife.

10-Day Backpacking Trip / Civicorps

Through all the challenges of hiking multiple miles a day, gaining and loosing up to a thousand feet of elevation, and carrying 50 pound packs, the team remained strong in mind, body, and spirit. As Avante said, “Today was great because we walked for many miles now we are at the last lake. I’m kinda sad to leave the wilderness because it made me think a lot and it has changed me in many ways.”

The team each grew in its own ways, whether in self-awareness, as Anton and Ratcha did, realizing happiness and admitting to needing help from others, or in physical stamina, as Angie and Emily did, pushing themselves up and over hills despite burning calf muscles and aching backs. Over ten days in Emigrant Wilderness, each member of the team learned a lot about the enormous natural world as well as about their inner selves.

10-Day Backpacking Trip / Civicorps

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