Ron Kauk leads 5 camping trips and about 25-30 day-trips each year in Yosemite National Park. In May, June, and October camping trips are in Yosemite Valley or El Portal (2,000 – 4,000 feet elevation). July through September we camp in Tuolumne Meadows (8,600 feet elevation), which has perfect weather in late summer. Day trips are typically in Yosemite Valley.
Each camp is 1 to 4 nights. Ideally, four youth attend each camping trip, to allow smaller groups on the trails and more of an opportunity to build relationships. Activities include hiking, nature walks, and spending time at the river. The Sacred Rok experience is transformative for both the campers and the adults.
Since June 2009, Ron has led camping trips with foster youth from Merced County and northern California, Probation youth incarcerated at the Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Facility in Merced, youth from Planada, American Indian youth, and Mariposa Middle School youth.
Prior to the camping, Ron likes to lead one or more day trips with the campers, giving these young people the opportunity to slow down, breathe, and experience Yosemite Valley at their own pace.
Every day campers take a hike or walk. In the Valley, campers visit Fern Spring, walk to Mirror Lake, hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls or Inspiration Point, and explore the Visitor Center. In Tuolumne Meadows, campers visit Soda Springs, hike up the back of Lembert Dome, walk by Pothole Dome to the river, and hike to Cathedral Lakes. Every day they have a chance to swim in the river.
These young people are aware of the power of their experience in nature. As he looked up at the massive granite face of El Capitan, one Probation youth commented, “No matter who you are, rich or poor, good or bad, you still got this.” On another trip, at the campfire on the last night, one of the foster youth said, “This trip has been the highlight of my life.”
Food is also a key element in our camps, with emphasis on good organic food. Campers are encouraged to help with meal preparation and through this they leave our camp with a better understanding of how important nutrition is. They love the food – Katie’s egg and bacon sandwiches for breakfast on a cold morning, or banana pancakes, all made with care and love.
A typical day trip schedule is:
- Meet at 10:00 a.m.
- Explore Fern Spring
- Walk to Lower Yosemite Falls
- Picnic lunch at El Cap Meadow
- Hike to base of El Cap
- Head home at 5:00 a.m.
A typical campday schedule is:
- Breakfast and cleanup – 8:00
- Drive to hike starting point – 9:30
- Hike to Old Inspiration Point 10:00 – noon
- Picnic lunch and swimming at Cathedral Beach in Yosemite Valley- 1:00 to 3:00
- Explore Yosemite Visitor Center – 3:00 – 4:00
- Back to camp for evening activities
- Dinner and cleanup: 6:00 – 8:00
- Campfire with a guest speaker – 8:00 – 9:00