AWAY Trips 2023
Check back for blog posts from the road!
Check back for blog posts from the road!
Our final morning in California began with a team breakfast on the outskirts of Yosemite. We brought a piece of Sis and Jasmine with us in the form of delicious huckleberry jam, which they gave us as a parting gift.
From breakfast, we boarded our charter bus for our day trip to San Francisco! Our first stop: Palace of Fine Arts!
We were in awe of the gorgeous architecture.
We even made a few new friends along the way!
The beautiful surroundings were the perfect place to have a final reflection before ending our program. Together, we shared our learnings from the week, our hopes for the future, and overwhelming love and appreciation for one another. Many of us entered this week as strangers, but we are leaving as a family. Having one another back at Emma means we will always have a piece of California.
After officially wrapping our program, we set out for one final adventure to play in the Pacific Ocean and admire the Golden Gate Bridge. It was incredible thinking about all of the different environments we had experienced over the last week.
What an incredible trip! Thank you to our phenomenal guides Ben, Juli, and Gabby, for making our experience as fantastic as it was. We will miss them, but are excited to continue using the lessons they have taught us to challenge ourselves and grow. Next and final stop: Emma Willard School.
Thank you for following along!
– Team California!
Waking up in Yosemite Valley was a nice change of pace to our trip. Warm showers and cozy beds helped us regain some of our energy from the week, giving us a solid foundation for a busy day ahead.
We set out on a morning hike up to Vernal Falls, which brought an entirely different vibe from our previous hikes. Huge rock faces, giant green trees, and rushing waters greeted us at every turn.
There were an abundance of photo ops along the trail!
Nearly every bend had something worth stopping to awe over!
As we continued to climb, more and more of the falls became visible. Weaving around the mountain, we quickly understood how Mist Trail got its name.
The views from the top were well worth the climb.
But they were even better with friends.
We rewarded ourselves with a brief shopping moment at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center before meeting Cory, a park naturalist with the conservation team. Cory led us to meet Sis and Jasmine, two women from the Southern Sierra Miuk Nation.
Our time with Sis and Jasmine was incredibly special. They invited us to tour the sacred Wahhoga land. We learned about the renovations the land is undergoing to support the needs of their tribe, gave offerings to their ancestors, and felt the love and power of their people all around us. To respect this space, we refrained from taking photos, but will carry the memories with us for a lifetime.
Back with Cory, we learned more about Yosemite as a whole, explored literature about the area and native people, and discussed the ecological developments within the park.
After a wonderful lesson, we said our goodbyes to Yosemite Valley. On the drive to our next lodging location, we stopped to reflect on the week we had spent together, journaling together as the sunset. Slowly, it began to sink in that our adventure was coming to a close. With one final day in California, we settled into our rooms and prepared for San Francisco.
Death Valley continued to show off as we traded the snooze button for a final sunrise walk.
Some locals even kept us company while we broke down our campsite.
A quick grab and go breakfast was on the menu before our big road trip North with our wonderful charter driver, Paul.
With hours of riding ahead, we found plenty of ways to stay busy.
We even stopped for a California favorite! Many of us were first timers, but gave rave reviews.
Although the drive was quite long, the sights along the way made the ride more than worth it. At times, it was hard to think we were still in California. Trading the hot desert for cool lush green lands was a bit mind bending. How could all of these different environments exist in just one place?!
After hours of winding through the mountains, we finally reached the breathtaking lookout at Yosemite. Talk about a gorgeous place to stretch your legs!
Camp Curry would be our home for the night— a thriving village inside of Yosemite nestled between the giant rock faces. Here, we would take a step back into society with electricity, occasional blips of service, and most importantly: SHOWERS! Did I mention our tents were heated and had beds?!
The long travel day called for food at the local dining hall and good nights rest! With only one night in Yosemite Valley, we decided on an early call time to squeeze in every bit of adventure possible! The surrounding area reminded us of New York, which provided the perfect comfort to close out the evening.
Our first sleep in Death Valley felt vastly different than our nights in Joshua Tree. The warmth of the nights air and the twinkling sky called for open tents, if you even made it there. Some opted for sleeping pads and bags right outside! Not a bad choice for a gorgeous evening.
The morning was no different. A gentle breeze danced throughout our campground as streaks of pink and orange lined the sky. Juli, one of our Envoys guides, led a small group yoga session as the breakfast crew got to work on some delicious bites before our busy day in Death Valley.
Our first excursion of the day took us below sea level to Furnace Creek, an area inside of Death Valley National Park. Upon arrival, we were greeted by two park rangers who had some awesome activities planned for our group!
We identified characteristics of sediment deposited in the area.
Hit the Salt Creek Trail and learned about the resident pupfish!
Examined areas where erosion may have occurred.
And simulated flash floods!
Although the sun was quite strong, we were all smiles!
After a quick relocation to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, we had an opportunity to chat with the rangers about the surrounding land how they found themselves working for the National Park service.
To say it was a hot day would be a bit of an understatement.
But there’s no better way to cool off than with some yummy ice cream under palm trees!
The day concluded with a quick campsite change and another delightful team dinner!
Closing out our last night of true camping, we reflected on our experiences underneath the night sky. Knowing we were moving to a location with a great deal of light pollution, we soaked in the views before our long trip to our next stop, Yosemite Valley.
Our final morning in Joshua Tree was filled with packing, pictures, and packed lunches before landing at our next stop— the Mojave Desert! As hard as it was to say goodbye, the idea of a barefoot hike through the Kelso Sand Dunes made boarding our charter bus a bit easier.
In Mojave, trees are nonexistent, meaning shade is too. Our Enovys team made sure to remind us of the importance of quality sun care and hydration before we hit the trail. While the Kelso Sand Dunes hike is only 3 miles, fighting against sinking sand without a breezy place to rest was going to be challenging. Thankfully, our group was ready for the test!
We all know the feeling of sand in your shoes at the beach is pretty unpleasant. At the Kelso Sand Dunes, we opted for bare feet and better grips as we climbed.
With plenty of rest stops and water breaks, we wove our way up the windy dunes towards the summit.
Since the heat was working against us in every way possible, the final push to the summit was more difficult than we imagined. Encouraging words were shared throughout our group, helping each of us power through the tough spots. We quickly figured out there’s not much that could stop us when we worked together.
The view from the top was worth the battle! It was even better to share it together.
The second best part of making it to the top? Running back down! A rumble beneath our feet paired with the hum of the singing sand dunes took the experience to the next level.
After loading our much needed air conditioned charter bus, we marveled over the rest of the Mojave on our way to Death Valley. Upon arriving to our new campsite, the sun snuck behind the mountain tops as we set up tents and prepared dinner around the crackling campfire.
A sun soaked day swiped our energy, so after a few s’mores, we ducked off into our tents. Unlike Joshua Tree, Death Valley was much warmer at night. The beautiful conditions allowed many of us to remove our rain covers to sleep under the stars before our full day in Death Valley. Next up: Furnace Creek with the National Park Rangers!
Who needs an alarm clock when you have the sounds of nature to wake you? Our day started with the sun peaking over the mountains and into our tents while the moon hung around to say hello!
Our awesome breakfast crew got right to work, helping us fuel up before our first hike of the week!
After a quick clean up, we packed up to hit the trails and made sure to get in a team warmup. With an 8 mile hike ahead, getting loose was a must!
We hiked the incredible Lost Palms Oasis trail! How do we begin to describe the magnificent landscape? From start to finish, it felt like we were on another planet!
As we ventured down into the oasis, we stopped for a quick bite to eat and some much needed shade beneath the palms!
The views were simply stunning!
Big smiles all around for making it through the hike!
Since our hike ate up most of the daylight, we settled in for another fabulous dinner to bring our day to a close. Mexican street corn under flashlight is unbeatable!
As we brought the night to an end, some of us decided to hit the hay early after our high intensity day. Others pushed past our sleepiness to partake in a stargazing activity with a local professional who kindly offered to show up the sky! Views from the telescope showed galaxies, baby stars, and a double cluster!
While the stars lit up the sky, we said one final goodnight to Joshua Tree. Our next stop will lead us to a day at the Kelso Sand Dunes in Mojave and our next campsite, Death Valley.
Since we’re back to another remote location, we’ll fill you in on our travels once we hit the road again! Adventure awaits!
Team California kicked off day two of our West Coast adventure with a stellar breakfast before departing our hotel in Los Angeles. (We highly recommend grabbing a bite at Egg Tuck anytime in you’re in Koreatown!)
Roughly two hours separated us from Joshua Tree, but a breathtakingly gorgeous bus ride made the time fly by.
At the entrance of Joshua Tree, we picked up lunch and explored the visitor center. Inside we found exhibits about the land and the trails throughout the park.
Since our campsite was further into the park, we made plenty of stops along the way to take in the surroundings and climb! We even stopped for a picnic amongst the Joshua Trees!
Ben, one of our fabulous Envoys guides, reminded us about the footprint we leave behind. We make a great impact on the land by how we treat it, therefore, we are very mindful of waste and trash we create!
After our picnic, it was on to Skull Rock. Any guess how this rock received its name?
After a few miles, we traded in the Joshua Trees for cacti! As beautiful as they are, we kept our hands to ourselves and stayed on the trails!
Before we knew it, we arrived at our campground! (Camp #3 to be exact!) Juli and Gabby, the rest of our awesome Envoys team, gave us a brief tutorial on how to assemble our tents and helped us break off into our dinner team. Each meal during our stay is assembled by a breakfast, lunch, and dinner crew, so everyone gets to be a chef this week!
As we wrapped up dinner, we were in complete awe of our surroundings. A picture perfect sunset was our que to wind down and take our spots beneath the stars before calling it a night. With a big hike on the schedule for the following morning, we said goodnight to Joshua Tree as the coyotes sang us to sleep.
After a long travel day, we finally made it to the beautiful West Coast!
The Santa Monica Pier greeted us with blue skies, warm sunshine, and the smell of the Pacific Ocean. Leaning into the boardwalk experience, we refueled with some local eats and began to explore!
Beneath the Pier, we spent some time learning about the local sea life at Heal the Bay Aquarium.
Heal the Bay Aquarium also featured touch tanks and a shark feeding!
As our long day began to catch up with us, we said goodbye to Santa Monica and set our sights on dinner! Koreatown was filled with delicious options just a short breezy walk from our hotel.
With full happy bellies, we settled back into our hotel for the evening to rest up for our next adventure: Joshua Tree. Our wonderful Envoys guides prepped us for the 48 hours ahead by providing weather updates, packing lists, and advice for the upcoming terrain.
Our campsite will be one of the most remote within the National Park which will help our group completely disconnect from the outside world and immerse ourselves in the beautiful lands that await us.
With an early Monday morning call time, we said goodbyes to those back home through FaceTimes, texts, and phone calls. It wasn’t long until it was lights out for everyone, replenishing our bodies with some much needed sleep and showers.
Here’s to two incredibly unique days ahead for our California team! Check back in to read all about our Joshua Tree discoveries on Wednesday!
As all good things come to an end, so must our trip! We took the T into town and spent some time copying and assembling our ‘zines. (They looked great!) Then it was off to find an authentic audience: inviting strangers to read them if we felt brave/comfortable, or secretly leaving them in inviting places to be discovered by an interested party.
It’s hard to believe how quickly our time was finished. One more tasty brunch, this time at Tatte, a feast for the eyes and the rest of the body.
Soon we were packing suitcases (that seemed to have grown magically larger?!?) into the vans and getting ready for the long drive back to Troy.
Special thanks to our Envoys guides, Susanne and Laura, for a wonderful time exploring Boston. This trip was a great balance between deep thinking/ethical considerations and enjoying an unfamiliar city (or seeing it through different eyes, for some). The time passed quickly, but the memories will last!
For our last full day, we got out of the city, driving about 30 minutes to an organic farm in Natick. We were able to learn about the beginning of maple sugar processing by indigenous people in the area.
This farm still produces syrup today (some of us bought some to bring home) and while the equipment is modern, the approach is largely the same: save a LOT of sap and boil off the water. 40+ gallons of sap makes one gallon of syrup. Our guide noted that the weather for this “sugar season” was not favorable. Generally speaking, sap is starting to run earlier in the year but a run of warm days without cold nights will put an early stop to the season. This farm can produce 200 gallons per season but this year made less than 100. Climate instability may eventually make maple sugar production impossible in areas we take it for granted.
Later in the day, we enjoyed a picnic lunch and a guided stroll around Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and writer, lived.
Finally it was time to start working on our ‘zines. We had a takeout pizza/pasta/salad dinner at the hotel and began crafting. A local alumna and member of the Alumnae Association Council, Maggie Bownes Johnson ’83 joined us for ice cream and conversation about her work in STEM. An alumna of both Emma Willard and Smith College, Maggie noted that Smith didn’t offer engineering classes when she attended. She studied math and computer science, and later got her MBA. Maggies has worked for large and small companies focusing on automation in factories. (Full disclosure: she is also Ms. McGivern’s VERY FAVORITE sister-in-law!) Thanks for coming to speak with us, Maggie!
Some worked late to add finishing touches to their ‘zines, others took the opportunity to pack and get to bed early. It was hard to believe our trip was almost over!
The Lonely Pepsi Bottle
Someone forgot to take their big bottle of Pepsi with them. Now it is rocking back and forth on the metro, traveling the city and waiting to be picked up.
More details on the day, by Ms. McGivern
We started the day by dividing into two groups to explore different areas of Somerville, Davis Square and Central Square. My group started in Central Square and prepared an Amazing Race style challenge for the other half of our AWAY team. In doing so, we found a lot of interesting local sights, like the Graffiti Alley, where the street art is constantly changing …
A really cool bookstore …
Some snacks at H Mart, a Korean grocery store …
We set off to meet the other half of our squad at Davis Square, enjoyed a tasty Poke bowl lunch, and had a ceremonial handoff of our Amazing Race challenge!
Once the other team arrived at the Center Square T Stop, Susanne and Laura gave us the signal to begin and we were off!
How did the Amazing Race go? You will have to check the blog tomorrow for an update! 🙂
For the later part of the afternoon, we enjoyed time in the Harvard Museum of Natural History, which contains taxidermied animal specimens from all over the world, fossils, and these really beautiful glass models of sea creatures …
These models, made by father and son Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, inspired Harvard Professor George Lincoln Goodale, founder of the Botanical Museum. (From Glass Flowers: The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants):
“[Goodale] commissioned life-like representatives of the plant kingdom for teaching botany. At the time only crude papier-mâché or wax models were available.
The life-size models include 847 species, with remarkably accurate anatomical sections and enlarged flower parts. Since the Glass Flowers are always in bloom, tropical and temperate species may be studied year-round.”
The glass flowers are truly amazing–one of our group commented that they haven’t been as tempted to touch something in a museum since they were 5 years old! They truly look like growing plants and flowers, right down to the roots, bark and occasional perfectly-imperfect leaf.
Another delicious meal at a Vietnamese restaurant (with very gracious hosts) and we were ready for rest. Tomorrow, a farm visit and Walden Pond!