Surviving Nature (and Vegas) on the Sophomore Journey
The trip started out as I expected. Sleepy teenagers in the early morning at the airport, the time consumption of going through security, the long line our class made at Starbucks, and so on. When we got on our bus in Las Vegas, the city teased me, making me wish I could stay, instead of heading to the national parks of Utah. Instead, after a long bus drive, I found I was slightly infatuated with the little town of Springdale, UT, a tiny place with a population of less than 800. It had art galleries, grocery stores, and shops with colorful rocks for tourists like me. My room at the Quality Inn was comfortable, despite the smell of burned cookies wafting down the hallway. The striking thing about Springdale was that if you went outside, you looked up, and there was a vast mountain range balanced above the desert terrain, made of beautiful red and orange rock.
During the first afternoon, as part of the hiking in Zion National Park, we took a solo walk through a lower part of the park, and while walking along the clear water of the Virgin River I had a couple up-close interactions with the nature there. I walked, and I paused, and turning my head to the right, saw about six deer calmly munching the plants on a small hillside next to me. My friend declared she had a favorite deer, the closet one to the path. Another classmate tried to befriend a squirrel on a rock, and because the squirrel had no inclination to move, we managed to take a video of it.
It was after this day spent in Zion that I realized I was homesick in an unusual way. No, not for my family or house in San Francisco; I discovered I was missing the natural “home” I had grown up with, almost every summer. Yosemite has always held a special place in my heart, for it’s astounding beauty, smells, and location, just outside Camp Mather, where I used to go every summer with my family. By visiting Zion, with a type of landscape I had never before experienced, I realized that when I think of hiking or a national park, I envision Yosemite. In Bryce Canyon the next day, I kept this in mind and tried to open myself to a new kind of natural beauty, one made up of dramatic jagged red rocks, plunging far down below me, which looked like coral castles. Walking through mud and snow, with strong wind in my face, it felt like I was on top of a whole kingdom.
Before departing for Las Vegas on Thursday, the bus stopped in Zion once more, and we piled out for three minutes of silence on a bridge over the river. I tried to get to the trail beyond the bridge, but it was snowing and the mud on the ground was so thick that I was literally skating in it- the mud stuck to my hiking boots made me slide left and right. After petting the horses in the nearby stables, I climbed back on the bus, off to Vegas.
Las Vegas is a beautiful place in its own right, but after the sights just witnessed, I think some of the intrigue fell a little flat. We stayed the night at the Orleans hotel, and I ate fantastic falafel at Sababa, a Kosher Israeli-run restaurant. That evening, some of my classmates went off to the Paris Hotel, or bowling in the Orleans, but I opted for a movie (Limitless - I don’t particularly recommend it) in the multi-screen theater.
On Friday morning we trudged to the airport, sad to head home. Once there we learned that our flight have been cancelled, but rather than be upset I was excited because this meant that I had more time to bond with this group I had already become so close with. A group of us ended up staying an extra night, unable to get a flight out, and I think I can speak for many of those people by saying that this would be one of the highlights of the trip (who knew buffet dinner at Caesar’s would make everyone so happy?). In the end, postcard perfect views, city lights, and full bellies made for a rewarding journey that I will never forget.
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The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.