The Journey Begins

by Jennifer Van Gundy '05

Looking back on these first few days spent here up at the High Sierra Semester, I cannot help but feel a little bit overwhelmed, in the best sense possible. In the course of four days, I have water skied for the first time, climbed a twenty five foot pole, affectionately known as the Pamper Pole (which remains unconquered—the pole and I definitely have unfinished business to attend to), successfully maneuvered a host of natural waterslides, met dozens of wonderful people, bruised myself silly, and had the time of my life. Now I face the nearly impossible task of trying to communicate everything that has happened (and is happening) up at the Bass Lake campus. I am at a loss to even begin to describe the essence of this program and all that has happened, so instead I will just explain how it started.

It began as a journey over the “Misty Mountains” (which are misty for all the wrong reasons), across the burning wastelands (where we bore solemn witness to some of the worst traffic ever), and through the not-so-towering forests. Forty-some students, with the odd assortment of parents, friends, program alumni, and well-wishers gathered around a U-haul the size of a prehistoric turtle, to pray and, in a sense, commission all of us for the semester to come. After 15 minutes of goodbyes and miscellaneous last-minute details, my fellow wilderness wanderers and I piled into three oversize Azusa Pacific vans to begin the long, long ride up to the Bass Lake campus. The trip to Bass Lake takes about six hours normally, but the length of our journey was extended, courtesy of a lovely forest fire that had turned the view of the San Gabriel Mountains into something faintly reminiscent of Mt. St. Helens.

I was very excited about leaving for Bass Lake. I had been waiting all summer for this single moment in which I would finally be on my way. Two years ago, when I first received information about the High Sierra Semester, I got so excited that I danced around the house shrieking out of sheer joy and excitement that such a program even existed. But when the moment of departure finally arrived, I must confess to being a little nervous. I did not really know what to expect. I had heard rumors of days spent waterskiing and rock climbing, of star filled nights and impromptu midnight debates. I had dutifully purchased a whole list of books with titles straight out of the Vatican Library and scoured REI for such mysterious items as capielene long underwear (which, for how much I paid for it, must have all of the virtues of Tolkein’s mithral, minus the ability to withstand a savage blow). I had spent all summer running up hills (on purpose) and popping every bike tire in the garage on my early morning training rides. I was as ready as I could hope to be for a whole semester in the High Sierras.