French Teacher Sarah Finck
One of French teacher Sarah Finck’s most notable trips through nature occurred four years ago when she hiked the John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. She spent the 16-day trip backpacking around 200 miles –– the longest trip she had ever gone on. More recently, Finck traveled to Patagonia last winter break, backpacking up to 17 miles each day. She explored glaciers, lakes and granite forms in this South American region. Finck was thankful for the experience, as it may have been the last chance she had to view the glaciers due to global warming. Through all her trips, Finck has been drawn to the sights she sees in nature.
“The views that I've had mostly in the Sierra Nevada are panoramas where you feel like you're on the top of the world on some rocks, with views of layers and layers of mountains as far as you can see, often with snow cap on, some of them in any season,” Finck said. “I really enjoy the mix of colors — the granite mixed with the white snow with the green trees, foliage, reflections and lakes, and then if you get a sunset in the mix, you can get some orange in the sky.”
Putting in work to reach a tough destination gives Finck a feeling of what she refers to as second degree fun, a gratifying experience that is “questionably fun in the moment” — even though her feet hurt and she is tired from climbing, she sees the slope and is motivated to keep going. The remote locations and beauty of her hikes add to the inspiration she feels when she is immersed in nature.
Photo by Sarah Finck // Used with permission
For those looking to try out hiking or backpacking, Finck recommends starting out small. She emphasizes the need to know your limits, but also the willingness to push beyond them a bit.
“The first thing is that you're not going to take a shower at night and so you've got to give it a shot and see what it's like to be dirty for a day or two,” Finck said. “The first time wearing a backpack, your shoulders are going to hurt or your hips are going to hurt, and sleeping on the ground, it could not be the most comfortable thing, [but] to try it a second time would be part of the [lesson].”
Finck loves seeing her own students go outdoors and take on hiking or backpacking –– through social media, Finck has gotten a glimpse of many former students who have embarked on similar journeys.
“It makes me happy to see that suburban students who I don't think were doing [these activities] with their family, necessarily, have found a way to enjoy nature,” Finck said. “You guys are still young, so there's time to test lots of things. I think it may not be for everyone, but the world is beautiful and there's a lot to see and a lot right near us in California.”
Photo by Laney Goldman // Used with permission
Junior Laney Goldman
Last summer, junior Laney Goldman traveled to Alaska to engage in three separate backpacking expeditions with a summer camp, each four to five days long. Her first trip was on Crow Pass Trail, the second in the Talkeetna Mountains and the third in Denali National Park.
Her backpacking group encountered some difficulty from the first trip due to a heatwave that flooded the rivers and forced them to turn back part way through. The most notable parts of her second trip were the oddities they saw on the trails as a result of a lack of regulation.
“There [were] no park rangers or anything,” Goldman said. “And we saw [a] bunch of weird stuff, like dead bears hanging in trees and bullet shells on the ground, because some people were hunting maybe.”
On her third trip, her group had experienced overcast weather throughout the trip, missing the opportunity to view Denali. But as the clouds parted for the first time in days, they were finally able to catch a glimpse of the mountain.
Photo by Laney Goldman // Used with permission
Looking ahead, Goldman hopes that she can continue to backpack. Being a part of a Venturing crew, a co-ed program similar to Boy Scouts, she believes she will eventually get the opportunity to do so.
“[The Venturing crew has] gone on a few backpacks, but I haven't been able to make it any of them,” Goldman said. “I think if that crew ends up going on one and I'm free, then I'll probably go with them.”
Despite enjoying backpacking, Goldman dislikes the physical aspect of it, describing herself as “quite unathletic.” But even with this difficulty, Goldman was able to admire the remoteness and beauty of the Alaskan landscape.
“For me, the actual backpacking kind of sucked,” Goldman said. “It was more like, when you get into camp, you see these views that are quite spectacular. It's cool because you can't reach those places with a car. There are places that you can only get to on foot, and they're usually untouched by humans so [the views are] really pretty.”