Trek West #1: Saying Goodbye

Shalom from San Francisco International Airport! We can’t believe three weeks have passed this fast, and the group is sad to leave and say goodbye. Over three weeks we hiked four U.S. national parks (Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Yosemite), toured three major U.S. cities (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), volunteered twice, and grew as individuals in so many ways. It feels like yesterday that we sat around in Phoenix and played ice breakers, most of us having never met, and just a couple nights ago we stood in a circle and sang songs, exchanged hugs, danced, and shed a few tears. It is amazing to think how much we have done in such a short time. We have enjoyed sharing the trip with you along the way, and hope you have enjoyed reading about our experiences. Please enjoy insights from our final days together through the eyes of the teens:

Waking up Friday morning, we were all ecstatic for our first full day in the charming city of San Francisco. Our day was packed with multiple unique tourist stops that I have never heard of before. After Lombard street and the Twin Peaks we drove to see the Pink Ladies, the same houses featured in the Full House intro. It was pretty cool to see the different architectural style there. A few friends of mine tried to recreate the picnic photo from the intro. It didn’t end up looking good, but it was a lot of fun. Afterwards, we drove to the Japanese Tea Garden. The Garden was filled with gorgeous plants and tranquil waterfalls. There was an odd shaped bridge which we all took photos and climbed on top of. We all met up after and left for our last stop, the Sutro Baths. These were public bathrooms created in 1894, that have now been left in ruins. We walked along narrow beams with gross liquid on both sides of us and climbed on top of rocks to watch the enormous waves in the ocean. We headed back to Berkeley after to get ready for a great Shabbat. ~Erica P.

This morning we stopped off at Twin Peaks to get a good look at the entire city of San Francisco. We all took many group pictures with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Next we took a bus ride down to Lombard Street which is one of the windiest roads in the world. We walked up many steps seeing the really cool scenery with houses and gardens on both sides of us. It was very tiring and lots of stairs, but worth it. Next, we went to the art museum where we walked around a beautiful lake, saw really cool things, and just hung out altogether. Later in the day we had the choice to go to either the Japanese Tea Garden or the San Francisco Botanical Gardens which was very cool. I went to the botanical gardens and most surprising to me, not being a really big plant guy, was finding the gardens to be truly amazing. I saw really big trees and different interesting plants from around the country. Also, they had nice jazz music that was peaceful as we walked around. Overall San Francisco is awesome. ~Jeremy G.

This last Shabbat was truly a blast! On Friday night, we all dressed up in our nicer clothing and went to the Berkeley Chabad for services and dinner. The family welcomed us in and all the girls lit candles to signify the start of Shabbat. We were then led through the Shabbat prayers which allowed us to reflect on the eventful week we had. Then, we were treated to a traditional Kosher dinner where we sat down with friends and brought in the spirit of Shabbat together. On Saturday morning, there was an optional morning service that some of us attended and it was really nice to be there and expand my knowledge of Judaism while meeting Berkeley students. The boys even had honors from the Torah and our chaperone read the Haftorah. After the services it was lunch time, where we had another round of great kosher food and sung songs such as the iconic “Ain’t Gonna Work on Saturday”, which became a staple of our trip. Once we finished up lunch, we took a quick tour of the Berkeley campus and had the chance to pick up some school merch and walk around town. At sundown we enjoyed our last Havdalah together, singing songs with our arms around each other, realizing just how close we all had become after just three weeks. Then we went to a local ice cream shop for dessert which ended everything on a high note. This Shabbat was surely one to remember! ~Skylar B.

As you can tell, these three weeks were special. In our reflection time on Saturday evening, we (the staff) looked around the circle and the teens felt older, more mature, and their growth over three weeks was evident. We acknowledged how distant we felt as a group just three weeks ago when doing ice breakers in Phoenix, and how we feel like inseparable family members now in San Francisco. What an incredible trip we had making lifelong memories, building strong friendships, and trekking Western USA!  

All the best and Shalom!

Ari, Deb, Melissa, and Ilan 

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