My Trip to Yosemite for the First Time
UCLA students hiking at Yosemite Nationa Park.
(Credit: Luyi Yang)

When Los Angeles' brutal heat gradually replaces winter's coolness, nothing is more enjoyable than temporarily escaping from school and going back to the nature -- in particular, Yosemite National Park.

I signed up for a trip to Yosemite on a random weekend with UCLA Outdoor Adventures, a cooperative outdoor recreation program designed to teach life-long outdoor pursuits. Besides Yosemite, the organization also offers trips to Joshua Tree, Black Canyon, Death Valley, Big Bear Lake and other national parks in California.

For each trip you are provided with group camping gear, transportation, camping permits, food and professional guides who are familiar with the area. There is also a pre-trip meeting that helps people prepare for the trip such as making schedules and discussing other important details.

UCLA Outdoor Adventures is open to everyone, especially UCLA students who get a 20 percent discount. I recommend you sign up for a trip as soon as you can, because the spots usually fill up quickly.

This past weekend, 11 of us left UCLA at 3 p.m. to travel to Yosemite, sharing two vans. By the time we got to the national park, it was already dark.

The valley’s nighttime chill refreshed us. After setting up tents, we curled up in our sleeping bags, conserving energy for the next day’s hike.

Woken up by birds chirping the morning, we gathered around an oven and made breakfast by ourselves. Hot tea and coffee warmed up my body; the egg breakfast burrito made my day. After stretching our arms and legs in a circle, we hit the trail with our backpacks, sense of wonder and the whispers of the valley.

The mud warmed the bottoms of my feet; the breeze cooled the sweat on my forehead. We said "hi" to the deer prancing between the trees. We hugged moss-covered rocks and waved our arms in front of waterfalls, where we also had a picnic.

There were so many random surprises in the valley. Making a left turn, we cheered upon looking at the extensive views. Lifting up our eyes, we applauded for the fantastic cliffs.

With the sun slipping into the horizon, we arrived at our campsite and chowed down on BBQ sausages, hamburgers, s’mores and hot chocolate. Dragging our sleeping bags out of the tents, we lay underneath a sparkly curtain of bright, silvery stars. I couldn’t remember how many stars I counted before I fell asleep, but I knew that night was the most peaceful moment I have ever had.

However, the most memorable part of the trip was not only the nature, but also the amazing group of people. We didn’t know each other at the beginning of the trip, but hiking together, camping together, helping each other out, and relying on one another allowed us to get well acquainted. It was hard to say goodbye to them, and it was even harder to get back to the real world after this amazing trip.