Beginning-of-the-Year Trip: Big Sur

Students pose in front of a sculpture of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet (3,000 BP) at Hearst Castle.

Students pose in front of a sculpture of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet (3,000 BP) at Hearst Castle.

Beginning-of-the-Year Trip to Big Sur, September 27 – October 1, 2015

Teachers: Bryan Anderson, Emily de Moor, Hugo Macario, Emily Regan, Gordon Sichi, Suzie Sichi, Dillon Yuhasz

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Student Testimonials

“As the years go by, the beginning and end-of-the-year trips continue to help prepare me for adulthood. Whether it’s being away from home for  a week, developing leadership skills, or engaging in group activities, each trip is a different experience and each offers the opportunity to learn new skills.” – Alec, 12th Grade

“This trip helped me be even closer to my friends, but more importantly, it helped me develop leadership skills and learn responsibility.” – Pica, 12th Grade Student

“I personally enjoyed the talent show because we were all being ourselves and everyone was participating. I got to know everyone so well and I was able to see our similarities and differences. Everyone was laughing, clapping, and cheering. I feel like we all got to bond with one another.” – Aylin, 8th Grade

*See more student testimonials at the bottom of this page

Sunday, September 27

We left promptly at 7:00 am for Big Sur with our long-term, veteran Santa Barbara Airbus driver, David Harkness, at the wheel. Our first stop was a tour of Hearst Castle, which very few of our students had ever visited. We took a group tour, so Anacapa was free to enjoy the art and architecture of Hearst Castle just by ourselves. Students were universally impressed with the opportunity to experience Hearst Castle.Sunday

Next stop was to head up U.S. Highway 1 to Big Sur. By student request, we stopped along the way to observe the Elephant Seals, which were lounging on the sandy beach, tossing sand on themselves to cool off. We ran into an expert volunteer on Elephant Seals. Dale Moody ( had pictures, data, and stories to share with the students to inform us of the seals’ incredible migrations to the Bering Sea to feed and then return to the Central California Coast to breed and bear their young.

Next stop was Sand Dollar Beach, which is a broad expanse of sandy beach, where students swam, played Ultimate Frisbee and soccer, and just enjoyed each other’s company on the incredibly scenic beach. Then we took off up the winding, scenic highway into Big Sur Country, one of the least populated and most scenic stretches of coast in the world.

Our campsite at Pfeiffer Big Sur’s group camp awaited us in all its incredible beauty. Anacapa has not been able to stay there since 2003, because it was closed to repair the waterline to the camp. The camp, which is set in a mature Redwood forest across the Big Sur River, is all by itself—away from the general public. Camps were set up, dinner cooked, and then an all-school meeting was held to go over the agenda for the next day.

Monday, September 28

After breakfast, we met for group activities, stretching, and fun games that had everybody laughing up a storm. At 11:00, Lynn Moncher, volunteer ranger for the Ventana Wilderness Association, met us at the amphitheater for an informative “Breakfast Club” presentation on the varied ecology of the Big Sur region. After the presentation, Lynn offered to guide us to the Big Sur River Gorge. We took the long walk to where the river gorge begins, and then we rock-hopped up the river to some beautiful pools, where a bunch of students jumped into the surging water.

MondayAfter walking back to camp, everyone had a quick lunch to be ready for the short bus ride to the trailhead for the walk to the Big Sur River Mouth. Surprise, surprise, the river mouth had been blocked by a sand berm, creating a huge lagoon, which made it difficult to reach the beach. Students scampered along a cliff, some falling into the lagoon, but everyone eventually made it. It was a very low tide, so students were able to explore down the wild coastline. We took an easier, but longer trail back to the bus at Andrew Molera State Park.

Back at camp, dinner was cooked before dark, and after dinner everyone met at the amphitheater for a rousing talent show led by Dillon Yuhasz and Emily Regan. After the show, s’mores were cooked over the hot coals, and then everyone headed back to camp to get ready for bed.

Tuesday, September 29

After making breakfast and lunches for our all-school hike up the Ewoldsen Trail, Emily de Moor led us in streTuesdaytches to get ready for the hike. Then, we took the 20-minute drive down Highway 1 to Julia Burns Pfeiffer State Park, where we organized the students into six hiking groups. The protocols for Anacapa all-school hikes are well established. Each teacher has a walkie-talkie to stay connected to all of the other teachers. Students must stay in their group, unless given permission to either go ahead or fall back. The Ewoldsen Trail is one the highest-rated hikes in Big Sur. The 5.7-mile loop climbs high up through the Redwoods for great views of the coast below. We stopped at the top for lunch along the narrow trail.

After our descent, we grouped together again for the short walk to the world-famous waterfall that drops straight onto the sandy beach. On our way back to camp, we stopped for a short visit at the Nepenthe Restaurant and Gift Store for some free time.

Back at camp, the Lower School enjoyed hamburgers and hot dogs, followed by another round of s’mores. After dinner, Dillon led the school in a fun game of Trivial Pursuit. Instead of coming in last, like last year at Santa Cruz Island, the teachers’ Team 22 finished first! The Q and A standoff between teacher Emily de Moor and eighth grader Anthony Rodriguez was a very heated battle, which was eventually won by Anthony! Dillon’s 24th birthday was celebrated with candles and brownies made by Morgan Lamberti.

Wednesday, September 30

After making breakfast and packing lunches, we took off for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where students were divided by food groups for a tour of the amazing Aquarium. The Lower School had a front-row seat for the feeding in the Open Sea exhibit of the 20,000 sardines, which swarmed in swirling waves going after their food with Hammerhead Sharks, huge tuna, giant turtles, and all kinds of open-water fish swimming by right in front of us.

At 12:00, all of the groups met at the Discovery Lab for our hands-on lab sessions. The 7-9th grade students took the Biodiversity of the Kelp Forest lab, and the 10-12th grade students took the Carbonated Seas lab. It was a fantastic opportunity to make observations of so many different marine organisms and to use critical thinking to figure out in small groups the answers to the questions asked in the labs.

AfteWednesdayr the labs were over, we headed to UC Santa Cruz to meet Anacapa alum Ila Rutten for her enchanting tour in a light rain of the beautiful campus situated in the Redwoods. Ila had many words of wisdom, which were soaked up by our college-bound students.

Back in the bus, we set off for the long drive back to Big Sur, arriving around 6:30. We made dinner in the dark, and later we met for the traditional “Trip Appreciations” celebration. The seniors had a cute stuffed penguin for their “talking stick,” and the many sentiments were all very positive. An evening rain started slowly and during the night became very steady.

Thursday, October 1

Clean-up was pretty messy from the night’s rain, but the rain did stop, which was definitely a break. The group worked very cooperatively to break camp and carry everything over to the bus and the U-Haul. We took Highway 1 back down the coast on an absolutely Thursdaybeautiful morning followed by a rainbow over the ocean behind us. We cut over to Highway 101 for a fast food stop in Atascadero at In-N-Out, where we celebrated yet another birthday. This time it was for Bryan Anderson with a crazy candle and delicious goodies made by Elena Alcerro.

We arrived back at Campus right on time, just before 3:00 pm. The unloading organization went flawlessly, and all of the teachers stayed around and worked hard to clean up and get the campus ready for classes on Monday. GREAT TRIP, ANACAPA! Way to go!

Student Testimonials from Trip Surveys

“This experience was so special to me because it was such a bonding experience and I became closer to everyone.” – Maya, 9th Grade

“I learned that if something is hard, don’t stop. If you started something, you need to finish.” – Anna, 10th Grade Student

“I thought going to the University of California, Santa Cruz was pretty cool. It made me realize that I should start thinking now about college. I also enjoyed the hike; it was amazing and well worth the effort.” – Anthony, 8th Grade Student

“Simply being out in the open with my good friends made for interesting conversation. Even people I had only known for a month or less took to calling me “brother” after the week outside. The sense of us braving the elements together created a special bond between us.” – Chase, 11th Grade Student

“What helped me was learning without technology. I think taking a break from all that and learning in nature helps me be more creative.” – Ashley, 7th Grade

“Whether it was just riding on the bus, jumping in the water, or having an impromptu ukulele jam session there were always opportunities to have fun and bond. My favorite memory is our impromptu hike to the gorge and also our trip to Sand Dollar Beach!” – Elena, 11th Grade

“On this trip, and all of the others I’ve been on, we are responsible for getting to places on time and we have to manage our time and not be late.” – Anne, 9th Grade

“One experience I remember the most is the unexpected “walk.” It was not planned and took more time than it was supposed to, but this kind of decision to go out of our way and try something different just feels awesome.” – Yuwen, 11th Grade Student

“The Ewoldsen Trail was very special for me because it was nothing like I expected. I was amazed by the scenery – the redwoods were towering and majestic, and offered comfort from the sun; they created the perfect chilly temperature as we hiked. This has been my favorite hike so far. The view was an amazing reward.” – Morgan, 11th Grade

“The scenery was breathtaking, well, maybe that was the elevation. All joking aside, every moment passed quickly when I focused on the beautiful surroundings.” – Ashley, 11th Grade

“I learned how to manage my time effectively because we had a lot of stuff on the agenda and I didn’t want to be the person everyone was waiting for. A very special moment was appreciation night. It was special because we were able to thank a person and/or people. I think it’s always a good idea to thank someone that helped you during the trip or to thank the staff for making this trip possible.  I’m actually thinking about going back with my family to show them what I experienced during this wonderful trip.” – Briza, 9th Grade Student