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 Week of Nature: Joshua Trees, the Ocean, and Mud Caves

​A group of 15 fourth- and fifth-graders who will be attending Camp Cuyamaca next year received scholarships March 20 because of their creative and well-written essays about positive experience they've had outdoors.

To celebrate nature, outdoor education and these creative students, we're going to feature three of their essays each day this week. Here are the final three:

Matthew Lim
Solana Pacific Elementary School
Solana Beach School District

The wind went whoosh as my dad and I started our hike.  It was a clear, cool November day at Joshua Tree National Park.  I looked up at the mountain that we were going to hike.  It looked fairly small with lots of jagged rocks sprouting out of the ground.  We started our climb up rocks and around cacti.  Then my dad said, "Wait. I forgot to give you something special."  And out of his pocket came a brand new knife.  A pocket knife, of course.  "This is a sign that you're growing up," he explained.  I was dumbfounded.  My dad is really protective, so it was a big deal for him to think I'm ready for a real pocket knife.  "Thanks so much Dad," was all I could say.

We continued our hike one step after another.  I couldn't wait to reach the top and find a stick to whittle.  After 30 minutes, we finally hit the top.  For the second time in that day I was dumbfounded.  Beauty struck.  I was in awe of what Mother Nature could do.  What the view was is unexplainable but I'll describe it the best I can.  There were snowcapped mountains rising up from the horizon.  I could hear the wind whistle in my ears.  Below us, there must have been thousands of Joshua Trees.  We could spot the campsites beneath us.  There were huge piles of boulders.  I forgot all about my new knife and stood in awe at the beauty of nature.  I breathed in the fresh air of the mountain.  This, I thought, is true nature.

After that hike, I realized what nature was like when there were no humans to destroy it.  Before the hike, if I saw trash on the ground, I would leave it for someone else to pick it up and throw it away.  Now, I always pick up litter even if it's not mine.

I'm excited for 6th grade camp next year because we'll get to go on lots of hikes and spend a little more time with nature.


Sarina Oshiro
Park Village Elementary School
Poway Unified School District

The ocean looks so inviting.  Lots of people laugh, shout, relax, swim, and play on the hot sandy shore.  An eight year old paddles out to the waves.  She is on a flowery boogie board.  She smiles because she feels like she's miles away, though she is only about 10 feet out.  I know that little girl.  That girl is me.

Crash!  Waves break along the shore.  I get ready to catch a wave, but I miss it.

"Darn!"  I think.  A couple shouts something.  It attracts people, but I didn't catch what they said.  I drift closer to where they are swimming, curious to see what is going on.  Just as I start to turn, I hear what they are saying.  A turtle!  Something is brushing against my leg.

"Ugh.  Seaweed!"  I think as I look down.  I freeze.  It is the turtle!  Time seems to stop as the majestic creature glides gracefully around me.  I don't know what to say.  I want to laugh and play with the sea creature, but I know that will scare it away.  I decide to stay calm and quiet and let the turtle do what it wants to do.  It circles me and then, like saying good-bye, it flicks its flipper up and then slips back into the grand Pacific, where it belongs.

That moment went by so fast, but it was so magical.  I realized that if you want nature to love you, let it love you, don't make it.  I realized that because I felt connected to nature. 

At 6th grade camp, I want to connect to it again.  I want to connect to all of its wonders and beauties.  Please consider this essay.  Thank you.


Elise Schaffroth
Creekside Elementary School
Poway Unified School District

I love going camping with my family, and one of my memorable experiences was going hiking through mud caves in Agua Caliente.  I woke up early in the morning in my tent.  I was so excited to go on the hike through the mud caves!  Morgan, Aunt Anna, Cat, Aunt Lisa, Uncle Glenn and I all went into one car.  Jonathan, Conner, Dad, Papa, and Gigi went into the other car, and off we went.

Sometime later, we all arrived at the mud caves.  As I got out of the car, a big smile stretched across my face. It was a huge canyon, with mountains that had little holes in the sides.  My dad gave us some headlamps, and then we headed for the first cave.

We soon came to a small cave called the E-Ticket.  At first, I was excited to go into a hard cave, but first, we had to hike quite a distance.  I should have known the open space wouldn't last.  We went into a skinnier area, and that's when I found out I was claustrophobic.  I was so scared crawling through the small tunnel.  When I finally found a sky-hole, my smile was back.  Aunt Anna and Cat climbed up first.  They helped Morgan and me up.  I was a little wobbly, as I stepped out into the sunlight.  I walked a little bit farther as Aunt Anna and Cat helped everybody else.  I came across a hole in the ground.  It looked deep so I took a rock and threw it in to see how far it went.  I never heard a sound.  Luckily, there was a rail around the pit, so no one could fall in.

We carefully walked around the pit and found another cave to explore.  What I love about going to the mud caves is the feeling of excitement and nervousness I get when exploring.  I don't know what to expect, but I am always thrilled with what I find.  It also reminds me to respect nature, leave things alone and be careful about dangers.

I hope to do more exploring like this in the Outdoor Education Program in 6th grade.