Trek West #1: Beautiful Day in Yosemite

Shalom from Lake Tahoe! 
It is birthday week here on Trek West as we are celebrating the special occasions for Skylar (Monday), Menash (Tuesday), and Maxwell (Wednesday). We signed cards for each of them and celebrated with balloons, a birthday pin they wore with pride, singing to each of them in English and Hebrew, and most importantly, cake. We also have special things planned for all three tonight as well as the rest of the group. When we arrived in Yosemite on Sunday evening we stopped at the tunnel view to take pictures of the scenery and a group picture at a truly spectacular outlook of El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, and the Yosemite Valley. From there, we checked in to our fixed tents in the Curry Village, making sure to put our smellables (any food, soaps, toothpastes, etc.) in a bear box so we would not attract any unwanted visitors to our tents. We gathered for a short program before bed to reflect on what we were most excited and nervous about for the Monday hike, the most challenging hike of our trip.
On Monday we embarked on our hike through Yosemite, taking the Mist Trail up towards Half Dome, passing Vernal Falls and ascending to the top of Nevada Falls. Many of the teens who thought they would not want to go all the way up pushed through, and every one of them was so proud of their accomplishments. We returned to our camp site and had some free time before dinner, followed by a special bonding program where the teens reflected on their identities and learned more about each other, mainly facts and feelings that would not come up in everyday conversations. The goal was to bring us closer, and in reflecting on the activity afterwards, the teens liked learning new things about their friends and requested to do the activity again before we leave. 
We began Tuesday by checking out of our accommodations at Yosemite, staying in the park to hike the Tuolumne Grove Trail to see sequoia trees, some of which are several thousand years old. From there we went to Tenaya Lake for a refreshing and somewhat cold swim. Some of the teens got in the water while others played frisbee or hit a volleyball. The views from the lake were impeccable, as we were enveloped by snowcapped mountains on one side, the towering rock faces of Yosemite on the other, with the sparkling water gleaming before us. 
Here is one teen sharing about the challenges we faced on our hike in Yosemite, and the subsequent pride we felt overcoming them, and another teen sharing about our cold dip in the lake and beautiful surrounding scenery.
“We went to sleep early the night before to be well rested for our big Yosemite hike the next day. As we began the hike around 10am a friend and I were already tired. We pushed through and made it to the first waterfall. The views were amazing. As we saw the first waterfall we saw a double rainbow too. It was incredible. Several hours and a bunch of water breaks later, we finally made it to the top. On the top we were able to put our feet in the ice cold water which gave us a great way to cool down. And, we also got to see the spectacular views in Yosemite National Park. Even though this hike was definitely the longest and most rigorous, it was an amazing experience and, of course, a great thing to cross off our bucket lists!” ~Danielle Z. 
“Yesterday was a great day! One fun activity was going to Tenaya Lake which was very beautiful. I was one of the people (about half got in all the way) that actually went in because it was so cold and we had a four hour bus ride after. A funny part was when I argued with my friends about whether or not the whiteness on the mountains was snow or white rocks. It was hard to believe we could swim in a lake while looking at snow, but it turns out it was snow. We also went to a mall to grab dinner and also had the opportunity to shop while hanging out with our friends for two hours. Yesterday was very fun.” ~Michael W. 
We left our last national park yesterday and headed for our hotel in Reno, and today we will be experiencing the beautiful hiking and swimming opportunities of Lake Tahoe while celebrating our third birthday in a row! Spirits are high and the teens have made it clear that they wish not to focus on the idea that the trip is near the end; rather, the teens have expressed their goals for this week are to continue making new memories while living it up together! To that we say: Amen!

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