Ninth graders travel to Colorado River


Students float down the river on a dock to dock float in the lower river. Credit: Uploaded with the permission of Justin Park ’20

Juliet Suess

By Caitlin Chung ’20 and Astor Wu ’20

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  • Students canoe down the upper river. Credit: Astor Wu ’20 / SPECTRUM

  • The upper river camp grounds. Credit: Keila McCabe ’20 / SPECTRUM

  • Students float down the river on a dock to dock float in the lower river. Credit: Uploaded with the permission of Justin Park ’20

  • A student laughs as she gets together with her retreat group. Credit: Uploaded with the permission of Justin Park ”20

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During the week of Oct. 17, the ninth grade class traveled to two different parts of the Colorado River to start their four day retreat. The trip was split into two groups with 82 students travelling to the Upper River location and 144 students participating in the Lower River trip. This year, a lottery was held to decide which students would go to the Upper River trip since space was more limited and more students were interested in attending.
The participants of the Lower River trip faced less physically demanding environments than their peers who participated in the Upper River trip. The Upper River lacked current, so the students to had to paddle more.
On the Monday morning, students gathered at 6:30 a.m., two hours earlier than the seventh and eighth grade classes due to their considerably longer drive to their first campsite. For both trips, students paddled down the river everyday to a different campsite where they would spend the night.
Participants of each trip had a 6+ hour bus ride to their first campsites. On the first night, their assigned naturalists helped students and faculty learn how to paddle and steer their canoe, as well as how to pitch and take down a tent. The trip consisted of different activities designed to bond the student body together in an unfamiliar environment, some of the which were night games, astronomy and hiking, as well as scorpion hunting and a morning paddle for the Lower River trip.
Upper River participant Sarah Damico ‘20 shared her favorite part of the retreat.
“We went to Owl Canyon and it was really beautiful. We didn’t see any owls, but it was still fun to hike through the canyon,” Damico said.
Many other students said they were in awe of the scenery of the river. On the Lower River, students had a few different choices of activities.
“On the third morning, some students who wanted to go on the morning paddle were woken up an hour early to see the sunrise. We paddled over to the opposite side of the camp and hiked up a steep cliff to reach the top. Once we got there, we sat for a good 30 minutes and waited for the sun to rise. It was so pretty and I really enjoyed starting my day off laughing and talking with my friends,” Skyler Calkins ’20 said.
Although many enjoyed the retreat, some students found the environment a little difficult, especially on the Upper River.
“My least favorite part about the retreat was probably the mud in general. It was difficult to walk in and I also dropped some of my stuff in it,” Damico said.
According to both the students and deans, retreat allowed them to take their minds off of school work and to bond with their newly expanded class.
“The purpose of the retreat is to bring the class together and to establish new friendships by getting Los Angeles students a little bit out of their comfort zone. I think that from what I saw, that goal was accomplished this year. I saw new friendships being made and old friendships being developed,” grade dean Karen Fukushima said.
New ninth graders also shared the same thoughts as Fukushima regarding the trip. Lower River participant Tyler Ganus ’20 expressed his view.
“I didn’t know really what to expect in the beginning but it turned out to be such an amazing experience. I got to strengthen a bunch of friendships and meet a bunch of new people,” Ganus said.