The Woods Project {Donner's Pass, California}

About the Trip The trip consisted of 2 weeks of camping and hiking in Truckee, California (right outside of Lake Tahoe). For some kids, this was their first time ever leaving Houston, let alone leaving the state, or getting on an airplane. I loved watching the kids' excitement (and sometimes healthy fear) throughout the entire process. The kids and leaders all kept a journal so that they could reflect each day about what they had learned and gained from the experience.

The Gear

First of all, I debated on whether or not I should even take my camera on this trip. I mean, I knew I would get great photos of the outdoors out there, but I didn't want to possibly ruin my equipment in the process. It wasn't until after I read this blog that I knew what I needed to do. I wanted the quality of my big camera and the lightweightness of a point and shoot. What I did was I compromised - I took my old DSLR with the 18-55 lens. This allowed me to have a lighter weight option than my big camera, but still have better quality and versatility than a point and shoot would have. I kept my gear safe by keeping it in the top portion of my pack in a sealed plastic baggy. This allowed me to have easy access to it, and at the same time it was safe from water and dust.

Week 1: Backpacking

The first week, my group of 7 kids (10th and 11th graders) and 3 adult leaders, set out on the trail. We hiked 8-12 miles a day in 6,000-9,500 foot elevation. It was quite a culture shock for the kids. For the majority of each day, we hiked with everything we would need for a week on our backs. Tents, sleeping bags, food, you name it! Water was gotten out of streams and lakes and treated so that it was safe to drink.

Big Meadows Trailhead

Big MeadowsIt was a pretty exhausting trip. We hiked a lot. Every day. For 6 days straight.

Backpacking in CaliforniaMountains are deceiving; just when you think you've reached the top, there's another 300 yards up to go.

Showers Lake

Shower's Lake Backcountry Trees

Starry Night

Pacific Crest Rim TrailThe Pacific Crest Trail extends from Mexico to Canada is over 2,650 miles in length. We met several people during our trip who were taking several months out of their lives to backpack the entire thing. One man was hiking it for the 3rd time. That's commitment. And crazy.

Echo Lake

This is Echo Lake. I love how the houses are almost lost in the enormity of the mountains. These people can only live in these homes for half of the year because of the large amount of snow. They also have no electricity or running water. Desolation Wilderness

The name says it all. Rocky TrailThe trail was not at all easy and sometimes not well-marked...

High Elevation

Cliff Jumping

Some well deserved fun after making the long hike (UP) from Echo Lake to Aloha Lake. Man, that water was coldNavigating

Lake AlohaLake Aloha

Backcountry Wildflowers

Snowball Fight

Snowball fight on the top of Dick's Pass! Team Phoenix

Our crew - Team PhoenixBug spray

Our life saver. I never thought the mosquitoes would be so bad out there! Upper VelmaUpper Velma  Lake Tahoe

Beautiful Lake Tahoe -  aka The Finish Line!


One of the kids carved this into his walking stick. We made it!!

Week 2: In Camp

After we got back from our back country excursion, we were able to enjoy the finer things in life, like indoor plumbing! We went on day hikes, rock climbed, had wildlife adventures, cliff jumped, and slowed down with a little yoga.


Catchin Catfish

Catfish Pond - there were tons of babies! Tunnel 6

Tunnel 6. 1200 feet long with some awesome graffiti lining the walls. Plant Deer Bear

Playing plant, deer, bear (another version of rock paper scissors) Californian Western Toad

Meet "Chunks" the California Western Toad. We caught almost 200 frogs of all sizes that day, but only the special ones got named ;)Pucker Up

Emerald Pools

Emerald Pools Water

Rock Climbing

My first time ever rock climbing!  (not a great photo, but I forgot to set the camera before I handed it over to my girls who took photos for me)Donner Summit California Wildlife

Donner Peak

This trip was absolutely amazing! The views were awesome and I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to live in California and have such awesome backdrops like these.