Wilderness Adventures

My Wilderness Adventure

By Wilderness Adventures March 5, 2024
Girl with both arms in the air at a beautiful Yosemite overlook.

Hi! My name is Caroline DiSunno (she/her/hers) and I am from East Hampton, New York. I am a freshman in college at the University of Maryland and I went on the High Sierra trip with Wilderness Adventures when I was in high school!

I can honestly say one of the best decisions I have ever made was to go on a Wilderness Adventures trip. My experience has changed my view of the world, made me realize my love for the outdoors, and allowed my independence and self-confidence to blossom.

It began in the fall of my junior year when I was searching the internet for “teen’s wilderness trips” when I came across Wilderness Adventures. After lots of research and my interest building, I began the convincing process. My parents weren’t on board immediately, which I understood; I had never gone anywhere by myself, and the trip I was looking at was all the way across the country. But I knew this was something I really wanted to do. After much convincing, I was officially going on my first wilderness trip. And wow, what a trip it was.

I went on the High Sierra trip in June 2022, the summer before my senior year of high school. I went in with a significant amount of nervousness, as I had never done anything like this before. As soon as I met my trip leaders and fellow students, I knew I had made the right decision. All the trip members were from different places all over the country, which made getting to know each other even more fun. There were never-ending stories about our homes and friends back home.

Group of people with surfboards on the beach.

We started off our trip with surfing in Half Moon Bay. While that’s something I’d done before and didn’t have much success, the instructor we had was so motivating and made it a super fun experience. Camping right on the ocean was the perfect spot for us to all get to know each other and start learning about tools we would use throughout the trip; backcountry cooking, setting up tents, and even painting my nails with the rest of the group made me feel confident and prepared for what was to come.

My favorite part of the trip, although very hard to pick only one part, was backpacking in Yosemite National Park. I embarked on this trip, having never camped for more than a few days, let alone backpacking in the California wilderness. My Trip Leaders did such a great job of introducing tips and tricks in non-intimidating ways while still making sure we knew what risks were present in the areas we were in. We prepped grocery lists and meals we were going to make and then embarked on the 5-day backpacking portion in Yosemite.

The views along the trails were breathtaking, and the Yosemite wilderness is by far the coolest place I’ve ever been. Hiking for 4+ hours per day sounded out of my comfort zone at first, but water appreciation moments (WAMs) and long lunch breaks made me realize that although cheesy, the quote “it’s not about the destination, but rather the journey” was quite true. And then we hit the rocks. One weakness of mine is rocks; walking on rocks, rock climbing, and pretty much any activities involving rocks, are so not my thing. One part of hiking in Yosemite that day was scrambling, which is basically hiking over rock faces. I was terrified. They were steep, and the heavy pack on my back made it seem even more scary, but the atmosphere and the mentality of my group made me motivated to take on this challenge. When we got to the top of the rock face, I was so proud of myself. That night, when I was journaling, I reflected on how much my confidence had increased, thanks to all the new things I had tried.

Girl smiling holding a water bottle and wearing a backpacking pack.

After 21 days spent laughing, sharing stories, taking countless pictures, making g.o.r.p, swimming in lakes, whipping up delicious backcountry meals, and making so many unforgettable memories, it was time to go back home. What sounds crazy (but was honestly so true) was that I was going home feeling like a whole new person. I hadn’t gone on my phone in 3 weeks, and I hadn’t missed it at all. I hadn’t slept in a bed in 3 weeks, and instead, I loved my sleeping bag and sleeping pad combo. I hadn’t talked to my family in 3 weeks, and although I really missed them, I was able to feel supported by the people around me. I had blossomed into a person that I had only dreamed of becoming in the future. I was so much more carefree and go- with-the-flow than before. I knew how to properly jam out to music in the van, I knew the best snacks to get from a gas station, and most importantly, I knew the value of testing the limits and taking risks.

If I could relive my Wilderness Adventures trip again, I would in an instant. The memories I made and the sights I saw are unforgettable. I share stories from my trip with everyone I meet, and I find myself looking at photos from my trip all the time. I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and got to experience a Wilderness Adventures trip. I can confidently say that it changed my life and how I view the world around me.