California Explorers


Jordan High’s California Explorer Club, under the sponsorship of Anne Lamont, the Magnet Coordinator, completed another fascinating year camping, hiking, and learning.


The year began with a four-day trip to Zion and Bryce National Parks in Utah.  Students and teachers hiked along the canyon of the Virgin River and up to spring-fed pools at Zion and down among the red sandstone spires, fins, and pinnacles of the Bryce amphitheatre.  Jesse Ryder was rewarded with a round of applause for his perseverance on this strenuous hike. Camping under the stars allowed Christopher Guzman his first glimpse of the Milky Way, stretched across the sky.


In November, the Explorers took a three-day trip to San Diego County, camping above a lake in a county park to the east of San Diego.  Praise goes to Jessica Medina and Sofia Oliver for finding all our campers after the police closed down our school! The Explorers took a short tour of the harbor aboard an antique yacht, discovered what life was like aboard old sailing ships and explored a ferryboat at the Maritime Museum.  Old Town’s historic buildings and good food, Cabrillo National Monument’s lighthouse, and San Pascual Battlefield State Park, scene of a Mexican American War confrontation, taught students much about life in California in its pioneer days.  At Torry Pines State Park, students explored beach, cliff, and woodland habitats with the aide of a guide.  As students broke camp Sunday morning, a thunderstorm took them by surprise.  Tents and bags had to be aired out and dried at school the next day.


December found the Explorers discovering the upper and lower desert habitats of Joshua Tree National Park, along with remnants of early mines and ranches.  Students enjoyed climbing among the chemically eroded granite boulders of the park on this long, one-day trip.


Death Valley, recovering from floods, attracted the Explorers in January.  Students were able to see kayakers on the shallow lake that filled the lower valley, a rare sight!  Some students climbed the highest sand dune in the valley, and others descended quickly to the bottom of Ubehebe volcanic explosion crater, but struggled to climb back up the steep trail.  Students learned about pioneer immigrants and borax mining, as well. It was such a wet year in the normally arid park that dew covered the tents in the mornings and snow coated all the mountains around the valley.


In April, ten Explorers spent a single day among the giant trees of Sequoia National Park, breaking a path through the snow to see the largest tree in the world, named after General Sherman.  Some students experienced sleet and frozen rain for the very first time on their way to the General Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park—“It hurts! exclaimed Javon Burnett.”


In June, the Explorers packed two and a half days full of adventures along U.S. Highway 395, which runs below the eastern Sierras.  Leaving their campground at Diaz Lake near Lone Pine early Saturday, students and teachers were able to explore Bodie State Park, a perfectly preserved ghost town famous for its silver mines (where they indulged in a snowball fight with Luis Rico and Tony Ingram as rival leaders), and Mono Lake, where Ranger Calvin Williams from South-Central LA described the geology of the tufa formations and the importance of water to the area ecology and the law suits to keep Los Angeles from taking so much water from Mono and the Owens Valley. A few miles south of the lake, students slid down the steep snowy slope of an obsidian dome.  For one student it was the first day in her life she had ever touched snow; “I’m so happy,” Isavel Baynori said.  Miguel De La Torre, club president, warned students that the volcanic glass had sharp edges that could cut them; Indians once used the site to make arrowheads for trade.  Students stopped to see a thermo-electric plant near Mammoth and learn about alternative energy sources before returning to camp. 


The next morning, students toured Manzanar National Historic Park, where Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II—“It was so sad! said Shaviante Harmon.  They also drove through the Alabama Hills below Mt. Whitney where Paiutes hid during the Indian-settler war of the 1860’s and numerous movies were filmed among the picturesque boulders.  A quick lecture on the geology of the Sierras and the Owens Valley explained the forces that built the landscape.  A visit to a fish hatchery near Independence and a drive to see ancient petroglyphs (and lots of jackrabbits) in the tableland above Bishop completed the trip.


None of the California Explorer trips would have been possible without the support of numerous teachers and friends.  Dana Escalante, Terry Colvin, Paul Broughton, Miranda Manners, Julie Neilson, Janice Belson, B. J. Smith, and Natalie Tran all helped drive or lent needed equipment.  JROTC kindly lent sleeping bags, and many, many great teachers volunteered to sub for our drivers when they missed school.