Honors students retreat

Learning, bonding at camp

The cars slip over the crest of the hill, and passengers are greeted with a great hall that seems hewn from the forest itself standing against a picturesque mountain view. This is Camp Tuolumne Trails, a camp primarily for groups with special medical needs, but also the site of the 11th annual Honors Retreat, organized by the honors advisers.

The LMC Honors Program offers an enhanced academic experience as well as exclusive courses, a private study center, and higher transfers rates. In addition to these, the Honors Program hosts a weekend-long retreat every fall semester to allow the students a break from their difficult schedule. Jennifer Saito, honors director, knows how much hard work goes in to putting this event together and has already started planning for next year. She was thrilled this year when she was met with the largest body of students attending the retreat, an impressive 34. Despite all the hard work, students form friendships, experience the wonders of nature, and find courage within. To Saito, “seeing this makes all the work worth it.”

Before the fun could begin, however, the students and faculty had to claim their sleeping arrangements. The camp housed two groups of three cabins, each accompanied by a bathhouse. The ones furthest from the Great Hall were sanctioned for campers that intended to sleep, while the closer were left for the night owls.

The first night was met with icebreaker games intended to help everyone get to know each other, including a game called “BANG!” After several rounds of games and dinner, the group met around the fire pit for s’mores. Three students in attendance had never had s’mores before and were deemed “s’mirgins” by Professor Kasey Gardner, who took pains to ensure that their first s’more was as delicious as it could be.

From the campfire, Professor Scott Cabral brought the group out to the field to view the night sky. He traced a bevy of constellations with a high-powered laser pointer. Several students enjoyed stargazing enough to pull the mattress pads from the cabin and sleep beneath the stars in the field.

The second day was met with a breakfast of French toast and bacon before the group moved downstairs into a makeshift lecture hall. The owner of Camp Tuolumne Trails gave a presentation on the rim fire that occurred near there last year, detailing the damage done to the environment and how close it came to the camp. A short hike to a new viewing platform gave attendees the opportunity to see the damage from the fire, and the site where the fire began. The rim fire was the third largest wildfire in California history, outclassed only by the Cedar fire in San Diego (Oct. – Dec. 2003) and the Rush fire in Lassen (Aug. 2013).

The afternoon was filled with lessons in archery from Professor Cindy McGrath and a game of volleyball in the pool.

The day was concluded with the annual Bad Poetry Contest, won by Adam Welch was a poem titled “Ode to Ms. Corpse”, written from the perspective of a maggot.

The final day of the Honors Retreat involved a hike inside Yosemite National Park, up Lembert Dome. During the hike, a wild fire began on the opposite side of a nearby mountain. Hikers near the start of the fire on the other side of the mountain were evacuated by air, a total of more than 100 people. The hike for the honors students was more than far enough away to be safe, even from the smoke

“It was surreal going up,” said Carlos Albino, “the sun turned red from the smoke.”

The smoke covered the sun as the group neared the summit of Lembert Dome, making the woodland hike seem as though it was covered in a movie filter. “It was like sunset at noon,” Albino said.

The view that students were greeted with at the end of the hike was more than surreal. From the edge of the dome, the plumes of smoke from the fire were clearly visible.

The climb down from the top of the dome is a little steep, and most attempted to move down slowly in a seated position. Dakota Spence noted that, from the bottom, “everyone looked like they were scooting away from the edge of the world.”

The honors program will soon start fundraising for the next honors retreat, among other events. If you’re interested in joining the honors program and possibly attending this retreat, you can find out how to apply at http://www.losmedanos.edu/honors/default.asp