“We slayed backpacking”: hiking expedition unites Team program


Photo courtesy Diana Goldberg

Team students pose for a photo as they enter Ansel Adams wilderness, named after the famous photographer

In the early morning of Wednesday, Sept. 21, the Archie Williams Team program arrived at the Devonshire parking lot, preparing to depart for their first backpacking trip of the 2022-2023 school year. Little did they know that the 10-day Sierra Nevada adventure would connect the small group of 30 in ways they hadn’t anticipated.

The 2022-2023 class marks Team’s premier year at Archie Williams. The upperclassmen academy emphasizes the importance of hands-on learning and community involvement. A major section of the Team curriculum involves wilderness trips, such as hikes and backpacking overnights. 

Team students (left to right) Arden Franklin, John Minutoli, Ethan Horton, Pip Devine, Jaden Wernick, Summer Yore, Sevi Solari, Sarah Conway, and Eliza Austen pose against the backdrop of the Sierras on the second-to-last day of their trip. (Photo courtesy Magdelena Maguire)

“We were out in the sticks,” said Jaden Wernick, Archie Williams junior and Team student. “Working, learning, trudging, all of the above.” 

Not wanting to be interviewed separately, Team students Jaden, Joseph Dohan and Summer Yore, passionately shared stories and funny anecdotes of their trek through the Sierras together. 

“This was my first time backpacking. It was such a crazy experience,” Summer said. “I think only five or seven people [had backpacked before].” 

The first two nights of the trip took place in a campsite just outside of Yosemite National Park. From there, the group of 30 split into two groups of 15, traveling down different sections of the John Muir Trail and Pacific Coast Trail. 

“I think both of our trips were about 50 miles over a span of eight days,” Joseph said. “One [group] was John Muir Wilderness and one was Ansel Adams.”

Team teachers Diana Goldberg and Jasper Thelin led separate groups, each one with two additional chaperones. Two of the chaperones, Maggie Maguire and Cole Slater, were Team alumnis from the academy’s time at Tamiscal. Chuck Ford, who created the very first Team program in 1990, also accompanied the students on the week-long trip. 

During the eight full days of backpacking, students learned to use trail maps and cook a week’s worth of dehydrated food. However, cooking didn’t exactly go to plan. 

“Do not get me started about the cooking,” Jaden said. “My group didn’t bring enough food for backpacking.” 

Team students pose for a photo as they enter Ansel Adams wilderness, named after the famous photographer. (Photo courtesy Diana Goldberg)

Students had to tote all of their belongings in their massive backpacks, which included their clothing, camping gear and food. 

Each day brought a great deal of surprises, from coyote sightings to missing dogs on the trail. In between traveling, students swam in mountain lakes and took part in community circles, getting to know one another on a deeper level. Nearly the entire trek took place at an altitude of over 10,000 feet. 

“One of our days was supposed to be six or seven miles long, but it turned out that we actually walked 10 miles that day,” Summer said. “That was a big shocker.” 

Students (left to right) Pip Devine, John Minutoli, Eliza Austen, Henry Gamble, and Ethan Horton make their final ascent out of the Sierras along with Team Alum and chaperone Magdelena Maguire. (Photo courtesy Diana Goldberg)

A main goal of the trip was community building, with each group of 15 spending time getting to know one another and prioritizing teamwork on the trail. The class came back from the trip closer and more comfortable with one another, and exhausted from days of hiking. 

“It was a crazy experience,” Summer said. 

So what’s next for the Teamies? Students are now getting involved with community service and internships before their next trip in Spring. Summer and Joseph are both beginning their first workplace learning opportunities at Spahn Ranch and as a volunteer Park Ranger in Muir Woods. 

The academy, now a tight-knit community, ended their trip excited for the rest of the year, and their future expeditions to Angel Island in Feb. and Joshua Tree in March.

Team students gather around a campfire on the third night of their trip through Agnes National Forest. (Photo Courtesy Annie Elgerkrau)