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Yosemite 1 • June 8-June 28, 2023

Bittersweet Goodbyes

June 28, 2023

What’s up! It’s Caroline and Grady one last time for our final trip update. Before we get into it, we want to say a big thank you for giving us the opportunity to lead such a wonderful group of kids. It has been so amazing watching the group come together and become like family. We are so proud of how they have worked as a team and supported each other throughout such a fun, but challenging 3 weeks.

To complete the trip, we spent the last 3 nights at the same campsite that we stayed at the first night of the trip. To celebrate our return, we had a cookout complete with burgers and watermelon. William was the grill master and cooked each person’s burger to order! We went to bed excited for our final activity of the trip: surfing!

We woke up bright and early for surfing. To fuel us for the day, MC made the group blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes and impressed everyone with her perfect flips. The waves at Pacifica were much bigger than last time and the group was excited to shred some gnarlier stuff. After some quick refresher instruction from our guides, we took to the waves. Just getting out through the surf was a difficult task in itself – the bigger waves required a lot more effort to get up and over (or under!) but soon we were out floating ready to catch some waves. Once again, Ellis was a natural at surfing and Elle took some incredible photos of her in action! Ray caught a big one and rode it all the way to the shore. Chloe practiced her surfing skills and is ready and excited to catch some more waves in Portugal after the trip!

After surfing, we enjoyed some Taco Bell at the scenic Taco Bell Cantina by the beach! We returned to camp for one final chill night of hanging out at Half Moon Bay. To celebrate we hosted an intense game of iron chef! We split into 2 groups: “Mouse-touille” and “Around the World!” Each group got a budget to spend at the grocery store and all access to any leftover food in our U-Haul.

“Around the World” faced some early struggles, most notably their pot of rice almost overflowing and then burning. Ana, the only group member who knew how to cook rice, had assured them that rice does not expand significantly. The group took this literally and filled the pot to the brim. Fairfax was able to save half the pot of rice from burning and impressed the group by cooking fried rice hibachi style! “Around the World” completed their dish with some bruschetta, strawberry soda, and a cookie skillet which Finn made just like the market back home in Connecticut!

Mouse-atouille impressed us with a tasty meal of chicken parm, spiced potato wedges, and Perrin’s specialty sautéed mushrooms with butter and a balsamic glaze.

Both groups presented their meal to the judges (Grady and I). It was tough to choose a winner since both group’s dishes were gourmet considering we were still cooking in the backcountry; however, we crowned Around the World as winners due to their excellent presentation. Their presentation included a vase of handpicked flowers, specialty cups for the judges, and music for each course.

The next day was our final day, but we had lots of tasks to complete and sights to see. After a tasty breakfast of eggs, bacon, fruit, and cinnamon roll pancakes, we piled into the van to go take some showers at the main campground! Once everyone was clean and fresh, we drove into San Francisco and went to see the Golden Gate Bridge. The fog just covered the very top of the bridge which made for some beautiful views into the bay. To top it all off, we got ice cream at a local shop in San Francisco and picked out some fun outfits at Goodwill for the final banquet dinner!

Banquet was at the Mexican restaurant Très Amigos in Half Moon Bay where we all ate copious amounts of burritos and enchiladas and churros. It was incredibly tasty and really hit the spot. Upon our final return to camp, we gathered for our last Moonup where we shared how this trip had helped us grow and some of our favorite memories from the last 3 weeks.

Today we said goodbye to the kids, which is always hard and emotional. We loved getting to know and spend time with them over the course of the session and are so grateful to you all for sharing them with us this summer. We hope they all remember this trip and the friends they made for a long time. Yosemite 1, signing off.

– Grady and Caroline

Rocking Rafting!

June 26, 2023

Welcome back to another trip update from Yosemite 1! We are off the river and excited to fill you in on our both fun and relaxing past 2 days.

Our river adventures began at the Adventure Out guide shop where we met our guides, Courtney and Reece, and got fitted for our river gear. The river water is exceptionally cold this year, so our gear included wetsuits and splash jackets in addition to the essential paddle, life jacket, and helmet. Finn was definitely the most excited to get out on the river! All trip, he has been hyping up the group for this activity by telling tales about his previous adventures rafting with his family.

We split into two boats and got onto the water. Our first, and most important task: name the boats! Ray christened his boat the SS Blood Meridian. The other raft became known as Sarah. Our raft guides taught the basics of rafting and we practiced a couple of strokes. Before we knew it, we were ready to conquer the rapids!

The first few rapids were class II and a great way to practice our new boating skills. After a wonderful fresh sandwich lunch from our guides, it was time for the big ones. Class III rapids with big waves and holes would test our ability to work in a team and navigate through the hazards. Everyone had a great afternoon getting splashed and pushed around by the river that reached its peak when while navigating the final rapid, Hospital Bar, both Elle and Perrin (sitting in the front of their respective boats) got launched to the other side of the raft by a huge wave! Both popped right back up with big smiles on their faces, ready for whatever was next.

That evening, we played a lot of spike ball and dined on a delicious meal of steak, chicken, and pasta that our multi-talented guides (chefs?) had prepared for us. We went to bed with very full bellies ready for another day of rafting the American River. The second day of rafting had fewer big waves, but the kids made up for a bit more time in between rapids by declaring a war between the boats. Ellis decided to take the psychological route and started doing her “war chants” and slapping her paddle on the side of the boat to intimidate the other group. Once we reached some calm, deep water the battle began!

MC immediately jumped onto the other boat and started trying to flip people into the water, including William, who took the opportunity to swim to the other boat very sneakily and quietly pull Ray into the water! At one point, Chloe ended up in the water and Fairfax, being the sweet person she is, offered to help pull her back into the boat, but she was betrayed by Chloe who pulled her in with her! Even Caroline and I were not safe from the madness as the kids surrounded us and tackled us both into the river. The only person to stay dry was Ana who curled up in a ball in the bottom of the raft and was unable to be moved. After a fun filled day of rafting and dunking each other, we said goodbye to our guides and headed back to our first campsite of the trip at Half Moon Bay. We grilled some tasty burgers to celebrate and got ready for surfing tomorrow! We are stoked to finish out the trip catching some waves and exploring the Bay Area, and can’t believe we will be saying goodbye to your awesome kids in just a few short days. Until then, we plan on having a lot more laughs and making some more great memories.

– Caroline and Grady

Back from the Mountain!!!

June 24, 2023

What’s up from Yosemite 1! We have had an exciting past few days having climbing adventures on Mount Shasta.

Our journey began at the SWS guide’s shop in town, where we met our awesome mountain guides and got fitted for all our gear. The highlight of the morning was doing some “arts and crafts” as the guides like to call it. These crafts included putting duct tape on the sides of our sunglasses to block the rays that get reflected off the snow from hitting our eyes and tying extra p-cord to our tents in order to be able to set them up in the snow. We also got some cool mountaineering gear like crampons and ice axes that would help us stay safe while traveling in the snow. By early afternoon, we were ready to begin our ascent of Mount Shasta!

On this first day, we hiked about 2 miles and gained 1000 feet of elevation to reach our base camp for the next 2 nights. While 2 miles might not seem like a lot, hiking in the snow with significant elevation gain is no easy feat. Nevertheless, the group maintained high spirits and we got to camp in no time. Upon arriving to camp, Caroline taught the group how to set up tents in the snow using a knot called the trucker’s hitch. Ana quickly mastered the knot and helped to teach everyone else. We had a delicious meal of mac n cheese for dinner and got into our tents for our first night of snow camping!

The next morning, we woke up to a clear blue sky. The group was out of camp early to meet our mountaineering guides for a day of learning technical skills. In the morning, we learned different types of steps using our crampons and how to use our ice axes safely and effectively. Afterward, we returned to camp and warmed up with a hearty meal of chicken noodle soup. In the afternoon, we continued to learn more mountaineering skills such as self-arresting, which is how you use your ice axe to stop yourself if you are sliding down an incline in the snow. We also learned how to glissade; a fancy French word for sliding downhill on your butt. After practicing traveling on a rope, we returned to camp to prepare for our summit bid early the next morning and carbo-loaded with ramen bombs (ramen with mashed potatoes). MC also ate an entire can of chicken – straight from the can. However, since you cannot leave any waste on Shasta (including the chicken juice), MC “human sumped” it. She poured the juice into a water bottle, added Mio, and drank the chicken juice like a champ. Leave no trace! Later that night, William, one of our LODs, capped the night off with a quote that perfectly captured the mood going into our Shasta summit bid: “I’m on top of the world”- Imagine Dragons. He gave a really nice speech about how no matter the outcome of our climb the next day, as long as we all make it back to camp safely, we will feel as though we have succeeded and “are on top of the world”. We all went to bed excited for the day ahead.

Our summit day began at 2am. We all woke up under a beautiful starry sky, ready to climb! We rolled out of camp in the moonlight and started up the mountain. The snow conditions were excellent and we put our new skills to use as we used our crampons and ice axes to move up the steep snowy slopes. One magical moment was after 2000 feet of climbing we reached the Lake Helen campsite as the sun rose, the sky turned pink, and Ellis sang Lana Del Rey at the top of her lungs to celebrate.

The climbing continued to get more technical as we roped up and continued up Shasta. Ray demonstrated his mastery of mountaineering skills as he led the group in some very steep technical climbing up a chute in the Redbanks, a cool geologic feature at around 12.6k feet. Unfortunately, the snow was too melted out above that point to continue, and we had to turn around. The best part, though, was still ahead as we got to glissade down the entire 4000 feet we had climbed up! Sliding down the mountain was like doing the coolest slip-and-slide ever created, in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Even though we didn’t make it to the summit, everyone had a blast! The group returned to camp excited to tell stories about their adventure. Finn even told the group how determined he was to return to the mountain and attempt to summit again! Even though everyone was exhausted and it started snowing, Elle led the group in packing up camp and hitting the trail.

Our final challenge to cap off our mountaineering section was a short, but icy trek back to the van. Exhausted from the climb, this easy hike was challenging. Chloe kept the energy high by cracking jokes to the whole group. Fairfax was laughing so hard her knees almost buckled. Everyone shared a good laugh as we slid down the rest of the trail. Upon arriving at the van, Perrin was a champ and helped not only pack the U-haul, but saved the day by fixing the piece that attached the U-haul to our van. We declared Perrin to be the U-haul God.

To celebrate the group’s hard work on the mountain, we surprised the group with pizza and got slushies from the gas station after saying goodbye to our amazing guides. Next up is white water rafting – spirits are high and we cannot wait to spend the next couple of days on the American River!


Until next time,

Grady and Caroline


Here are some shoutouts from the group:


Ellis- Hey guys it is Ellis, thanks for telling me I was going to climb a mountain!!❤️❤️ Shasta was crazy!

Elle-hey mom, Brian, dad, family, friends, and jake! I miss y’all so so much and can’t wait to see y’all! We just got back from shasta and it was so so amazing but hard. we are about to white water raft! love y’all so so much! I can’t wait for the fourth of July at the lake with you jake and i can’t wait to see you!!!

Perrin- hey y’all! having a blast and have made so many great friends. Shasta was so fun never seen so much snow in my life. We are about to white water raft and i’m super excited. love you!! 🤪😁🫶💕

MC- hello fam.  just got back from shasta and had a blast!  i’ve met the most amazing people, experienced the most amazing things, and i am having an absolute blast!  Give the bear and the bug lots of cuddles for me:). Love y’all!

Chloe- Hey Mom, Dad, Hadley, Emma, and Coleman!! Today we woke up at 2 am to climb Mt. Shasta and it was so so fun but challenging!!! The sunrise on Mt. Shasta was insanely pretty and was one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced. I’m an official mountaineer😁 I love all the people here and am having the BEST time!! Give Smu, Woody, and Briar hugs and kisses for me!!! I LOVE YALL❤️

ana- hola familia! me estoy divirtiendo muchísimo y me encantan todas las personas en mi grupo! les quiero mucho!

Finn –  Hi Mom and dad, just climbed mount Shasta and got almost halfway to summit. But i’m not done with this mountain until i summit! Hope you guys are enjoying the summer and i can’t wait to tell stories. Also hope Benny and Mackey are well. Miss you guys, Finn

Fairfax- Hey Mom, Dad, and Jack! I’m having such an amazing time here and I have met so many new friends! We have done so many awesome things! I really loved backpacking and we are about to go white water rafting!! Love yall so much and miss yall but i’m having so much fun!!😁💕

William – hello family! i have had a great time out in the wild. I really like hiking. water is keeping me hydrated. the red rocks on the big mountain had a mix of oxidized iron and tungsten and it created a wild deep red that i haven’t seen anywhere else. bye bye

Ray- Having fun. Caroline and Grady are both cool and everywhere we’ve been is really pretty. Destroyed Shasta this morning at 2am and got halfway up the mountain which makes me proud. Mountaineering was different from what I expected but it was super cool. Can’t wait to see you all of you soon

Update From The Backcountry!

June 19, 2023

Hello family and friends!! Since the last time you heard from us, Yosemite 1 has had quite the adventure exploring the backcountry of the park. We began our backpacking section with a challenging hike to our first campsite. Over nearly 5 miles, we gained 2500 feet of elevation, which the group did without any complaints. Our hard work was rewarded with breathtaking views of Chilhuana Falls and a top tier campsite where we had a 360 view around us looking down below. We finished our day with a delicious taco bar, and Ana fearlessly was the first to “human sump,” a Leave-No-Trace practice that involves drinking the water you clean your bowl with. Yummy! After dishes, we had a wonderful Moonup underneath a blanket of stars.

The next morning, our group slept in. Upon talking to several hikers and backpackers passing by our campsite, we realized that the snowpack was much deeper than we had anticipated, and the rivers were flowing too fast and deep to cross. We decided to take a layover day at camp and have a nice relaxing time in the sun. Perrin led the group in a hacky sack game while William took the lead in collecting wood and building a fire that burned all day! For dinner, we made pita pizzas and pizza quesadillas and ate around the fire.

On Day 3 of backpacking, our plan was to hike back down our original trail to the van. The night before, we had a running joke that National Geographic would be coming to photograph the group at sunrise. Upon encountering a photographer on the trail, Ellis made sure to ask him if he was National Geographic. He responded, “I could be,” as he snapped some great pics of the falls. Ellis actually made conversation with every group we passed, making us laugh with her funny voices and conversations. After getting back to the van, we drove back into the stunning Yosemite Valley where we camped under the shadow of Half Dome in the Yosemite Backpackers Camp.

The next morning, Elle took the lead in making some tasty M&M pancakes that would fuel us as we drove to a new trailhead at Alder Creek. Almost immediately after we began our hike, we had our first major animal spotting: a rattlesnake! Grady was hiking in the front of the line and spotted the snake early enough that we would not startle it. From a safe distance, the group was able to watch the snake as it slithered off the trail so we could pass! We hiked about five miles in total to Alder Creek Falls where we would set up camp for the following 2 nights. Once again, we had a breathtaking view of a waterfall and found a campsite tucked away in the trees.

We had another leisurely morning to start off our second layover day of backpacking! We began the day by journaling and reading our books. During this time, Finn studied our group’s map and became an expert on our route and the various features of a topographic map. Afterwards, the girls did some laundry in the river and Chloe and MC, the designated leaders of the day, motivated the group to go on a day hike. They offered the idea of making this hike a solo hike, meaning that people would hike alone to take time to reflect on their experience on the trip so far. We finished out the day with a nice meal of backcountry jambalaya and Ray told us ghost stories before we had Moonup and went to bed.

We woke up early the next morning to pack our bags to hike out of the backcountry. Our LOD, Fairfax, led the group in efficiently packing up camp, getting us on the trail in record time! While the group was sad to leave, we still had one final night in the park at Yosemite Valley Backpacker’s camp before heading over to Shasta. Next time you hear from us, our group will be seasoned mountaineers and have attempted to summit Shasta. We can’t wait to tell you all about it!

– Caroline and Grady

California Dreaming!

June 12, 2023

Greetings from Yosemite National Park! Yosemite 1 is off to an awesome start in the sunny

state of California! After meeting the kids at the airport, we all piled into our van to head to our

first campsite in the picturesque Half Moon Bay. Caroline and I were ready to teach the kids

how to set up camp but were super impressed when they all helped and taught each other how

to get the tents up without our help. That night we enjoyed some delicious local pizza while

soaking in the ocean view by the beach.


The next morning our first LODs, or Leaders of the Day, Ray and Chloe, showed great initiative

on getting the trailer loaded with gear and keeping spirits high through the famously cold and

damp Bay area weather. We drove a few minutes up the road to Pacifica State Beach where we

met our radical surfing outfitters who quickly taught us the basics of surfing and staying safe in

the water. After that, it was time to catch some waves! The group absolutely crushed it and

everyone was able to stand up and ride a wave! Ellis impressed the whole group by catching

pretty much every wave that came through and shredding like a pro. Mary Claire showed off her

body surfing skills and rode a few waves all the way into the sand!


After surfing we all got back in the van for a beautiful drive through the hills and farms of

Northern California down to Bass Lake which would be our home for the next 3 nights as we

rock climbed in Yosemite Valley. The next morning, one of the LODs, Perrin, used her masterful

road trip packing Tetris skills to fit everything into the U-Haul with room to spare, a feat that

Caroline and I hadn’t even been able to do. Stoke levels were high as we drove into the park for

the first time, especially once we went through the tunnel and saw the breathtaking valley for the

first time with El Capitan and Half Dome rising straight up from the forest. Not only were the

views great, but Fairfax provided an excellent soundtrack of hand-picked Taylor Swift songs that

made the drive go by in a flash. After meeting our guides, Chase and James, we headed to our

crag at the base of a huge granite wall. Elle showed everyone how it was done right off the bat

by scampering up the smooth granite like it was a ladder, and somehow managed to also take

some awesome GoPro videos! Everyone in the group climbed and belayed, an awesome

experience to have in the birthplace of climbing as a sport.


After getting back to camp, we decided to go for a swim in Bass Lake and then lay out and soak

up some sun. It was hard to believe that we had been in the foggy Half Moon Bay the day

before! Our second day of climbing included some more challenging routes like a cool chimney

climb and a steep, very tall wall. Ana showed great tolerance for adversity when she was

climbing and it began to hail. She laughed all the way down her rappel even though it was very

wet and cold. After stopping at the store to get some cool Yosemite merch, the group headed

back to camp where William collected wood and started an awesome fire that kept everyone

warm as we made dinner – or should I say breakfast, as we had a delicious meal of eggs,

bacon, and French toast. Finn received many compliments for the perfectly crispy and tasty the

bacon he fried. Tomorrow, we will head into the Yosemite backcountry for our backpacking

section. We are so excited to see more of the park and continue to get closer as a group on the

trail! Next time you hear from us the kids will be seasoned backpackers ready to take on Mount

Shasta! Can’t wait!


– Grady and Caroline