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The Urban School
of San Francisco
1563 Page Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
415 626 2919

Outdoor Trips Blog

Angel Island Kayaking Trip with Environmental Traveling Companions


By Sherpa Lucas D (‘15) and Kim D (‘14)

Our adventure began in the familiar Urban driveway at 8:30am, as the nine members of the group loaded their bags and gear into vans, shivering in their stylish garb of water shoes, athletic shorts, and cheap sunglasses. We reached Sausalito mid-morning, where we were greeted by warmer weather, four ETC guides, and the three Marin-dwelling members of our group: Alex, Jessica, and Marie. After a rather lengthy packing and safety session, we were on the water heading for Angel Island.

We reached the island just in time for a delicious lunch after an uneventful and smooth paddle across the mouth of Richardson Bay. After eating, we explored the island, finding vistas with beautiful views that doubled as outdoor classrooms, as our ETC guides explained some of the geographic history behind the island and the greater bay area. After this spontaneous breech in our supposedly “learning-free” weekend, most members of the group took an afternoon snooze, encouraged by the gentle breeze and the sound of breaking waves on the beach.

As evening fell, we prepared and ate dinner in the kitchen of our shelter for the night, a Civil War Era brick building, used to store ammunition for the Union army in the event of a Confederate attack by sea. We then hiked to the top of Mt. Livermore, the highest point on the island, where we were rewarded with a stunning panoramic view of the Bay Area at night.

We awoke the next morning to the sight of a shining sun and glassy bay. We quickly ate, packed up camp, and headed across the water to sea glass beach, our lunch stop for the day.  After paddling through the Sausalito harbor, we unpacked our dry bags, put the boats “to bed,” and loaded into the vans back to Urban, satisfied with a great weekend of paddling and exploring.



Posted by on Wednesday March 26, 2014 at 01:21PM
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Pie Ranch Farm & Barndance

by: Sherpa Aideen M. ('14)

During Martin Luther King Day Weekend, thirteen Urban students travelled to Pie Ranch farm in Pescadero to provide help and experience farm life. The sustainable farm is called Pie Ranch because the land is shaped like a pie, and their fruit makes for great pies!

We started off our visit with a tour of the farm and weeding project in the rhubarb patch.  By removing the weeds we ensured that the rhubarb and other crops will flourish during the growing season. On the tour we were able to feed the pigs and catch the chickens that had escaped the pen. Catching the chickens ended up being difficult, as chickens are speedier than you would think!

After we cooked and ate dinner the group headed out to the barn dance. Although the barn dance has the potential to be lame, it is actually so awesome and fun. We danced and listened to the live band for the whole night. After completing our farm work, we went to the outdoor kitchen to make pies for dessert. Making the pies was so much fun, and many groups got very creative with their decorations! We ended up having a competition for the best pie. Kier and Matthew were the judges, and took the role very seriously!

Early in the morning some members of the group went to milk the goats. I didn't personally drink the milk, but I hear it was absolutely delicious! We left Pie Ranch before lunch time and headed to Año Nuevo beach, where we saw some massive elephant seals and ate lunch.  

I have gone on this trip twice, and it is one of the highlights of my time at Urban. This trip was especially fun because of the amazing weather - sadly from a drought - and the great group of students! I definitely recommend this trip to all Urban students.


Posted by on Friday February 21, 2014 at 08:45PM
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Who and What is OEI?

by:  Lise Hisakawa 

OEI, a.k.a. Outdoor Educators Institute, is an intensive, fun, ten-week outdoor education training program –really, an adventure- run by Big City Mountaineers in the Bay Area. Participants of OEI are trained in a variety of outdoor and professional skills by local and national outdoor organizations.  The current OEI class is a group of ten (*awesome*) outdoor educators between the ages of 18-26.  

Seniors, it’s a whole lot of fun! If you love the outdoors, you should consider applying for next summer’s session!

We kicked off the OEI program with two weeks of “Leave No Trace” backpacking, led by Outward Bound, in the John Muir Wilderness near Courtright Reservoir in the Sierras.

Upon return from this trip we continued to build our outdoor skills with other local organizations.  For example, we learned how to manage the Pacific Leadership Institute’s rope course, near Ocean beach.  To prepare for our kayaking training we practiced basic water safety and rescue techniques at Hamilton Pool.  We also spent a day discussing inclusion and diversity within the context of outdoor education.  Our focus was on how to engage a more diverse population to be instructors in outdoor education. A typical outdoor educator today is a white man in his 30s, so the aim of the program is to make outdoor educators more socio-culturally diverse.  

My favorite part of the OEI training was with Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC), which I noticed Urban will also be on a Kayaking trip with in March!  With ETC we learned to kayak, self-rescue, and lead peers on the water. We spent a little over a week paddling around Tomales Bay, Sausalito, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and around Angel Island. Everyone on the trip had a chance to try both the single and double kayaks. We learned about tides and used the knowledge to cross the Raccoon Strait (the deep-water channel between Tiburon and Angel Island) with ease. As for lodging, we were really lucky. We camped at beautiful Hearts Desire on Tomales Bay, and the Bake House, a historical from the 1800s, on Angel Island.

The goal of these trainings has been to prepare OEI participants to instruct student groups.  We had a chance to test our new skills over four days at Crissy Fields Center, where we worked with students from Galileo Academy of Science and Technology, to bring awareness and spark dialogue about environmental issues in their neighborhoods.

Most recently, we completed a nine-day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training through Ready SF and the National Outdoor Leadership School Wilderness Medicine Institute. The WFR training is the recognized medical certification for all outdoor educators. During the nine-day, hands on training, we had classroom lectures and mock scenarios that included a sea rescue scenario and a night scenario.

The final section of the OEI curriculum is an internship with an outdoor program.  This week at Urban I’m applying what I learned in the past weeks and programs. I hope to learn more about the administrative side of running an outdoor program. I really enjoyed co-leading the Survival Skills day in Golden Gate Park on Saturday, and meeting the Urban Sherpas and the rest of the students and faculty at Urban! Go Blues!




Posted by on Tuesday November 12, 2013 at 02:04PM
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Fall Climbing Trip

by: Sherpa Dylan E. ('16)

Today we leave for our climbing trip to beautiful Castle Rock State Park.  We were originally going to Pinnacles National Monument, but due to the recent shutdown, we decided to change the location. Climbers of all experience levels are participating. This trip is a great opportunity to try rock climbing for the first time, or to see how indoor climbing skills translate to real rock.  We will camp at Portola Redwoods State Park and climb on Saturday and Sunday at Castle Rock. Outdoor trips are a geat chance to take your mind off of school, meet new people, and enjoy the gorgeous California scenery that we tend to forget having so close to where we live. 


Posted by on Tuesday October 29, 2013 at 02:06PM
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Backpacking Trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park

by: Sherpa Marie B ('16)

A group of 10 -- eight students and two faculty -- set off on September 26 to explore, backpack and camp in the beautiful Lassen Volcanic National Park for a total of four days and three nights.

Day 1: We left The Urban School of San Francisco at approximately 2 p.m. after loading our gear into the vans. After a quick stop for pizza along the 4-hour drive, we arrived at a car camping campsite just within the park after dark, set up camp, and went to bed.

Day 2: The first night was the coldest and a few students woke up with ice on their bag but we learned tricks to keeping warm at night. Breakfast crew sautéed apples in butter and cinnamon to go in our tortillas with a layer of cream cheese—so delicious! Then, after going through our gear and determining what should be left behind because of extra, unneeded weight, we divided up the group gear, drove to the trailhead and set out on our hike. 

Four miles later, we arrived at the Twin Lakes after stopping halfway for lunch, and began our search for a campsite. Eventually, we found a flat location with enough space for multiple tents and a kitchen area all 200 feet away from the lake. After setting up, dinner crew prepared burritos for all and then we had Oreo pudding cake.

 “I really loved all the ridiculous stories we told during dinner,” Corey S ('16).

 Day 3: With a day to spare, we hiked up to the top of the Cinder Cone, four miles both ways. The wind was howling as we neared the top, blowing people all over the place—quite humorous.


“My favorite part was hiking the Cinder Cone,” Lily D ('16).

That night, we prepared pesto pasta with sautéed onions and peppers and shared more laughs over dinner.


“I enjoyed being able to bond with people that maybe I normally wouldn't get the chance to,”  Sam J ('16).

 Day 4: We packed up and hiked out after we enjoyed delicious pancakes. The four-mile return trip was at a faster pace due to the experience we had all gained (we’re sort of all professionals now). And we returned just in time to make it out of the rain!



Posted by on Monday October 21, 2013 at 03:31PM
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What's on Deck for 2013-14?

by Rachel Fristedt
Director of Outdoor Education

The Outdoor Education program invites you to go on a trip this year.  We are offering a variety of day and multi-day trips over weekends throughout the school year.  There are many benefits to joining in on a trip; make new friends, try something new, earn gym credit, and de-stress away from your computers and homework. 

How do you sign up? As we near the date of each trip, Rachel Fristedt will send an email to all students with the trip information and the paperwork to complete. Urban does charge a trip fee to participate and financial aid is offered to help with the fee. We don’t want the trip fee to discourage participation. Urban provides all the group gear and lends out personal gear for students to borrow (sleeping bags, packs, headlamps, warm clothing, etc).

Here are the trips being offered for the remainder of 2013-14:

Climbing Trip: October 25-27
Friday (3pm)-Sunday (6pm)
Location: Pinnacles National Monument (backup location: Castle Rock State Park)  
Pinnacles National Park offers great year round outdoor climbing.  It is home to many California Condors that nest throughout the scenic rock formations. We will spend the weekend climbing outside on top rope.  This is a great chance to see how well our gym skills translate to real rock.  If you have never climbed before then this is your opportunity to try it out.  No experience necessary.

Survival Skills: November 9
Saturday (9am-3pm)
Spend the day learning outdoor skills that will prepare you to survive in any setting.  We will start off the morning learning how to fly fish at the casting pools in Golden Gate National Park.  In the afternoon we will cover topics such as tying knots and how to read a map and use a compass.

Pie Ranch Trip: January 18-19
Saturday (9am)-Sunday (5pm)
This is a really FUN trip!  We will spend the day at the Pie Ranch farm learning how to care for the various crops that are growing this time of year.  At the end of the day we will celebrate our day on the farm with a barn dance. On Sunday we will hopefully see some elephant seals across the road at Año Nuevo state park before we return to Urban. No experience necessary.

Cross Country Ski Trip: January 31- February 2
Friday (8am)-Sunday (6pm)
An Urban tradition, this involves skiing into a cabin, making a fire to stay warm, playing games and watching sunsets across a frozen lake. We will ski tour during the day, and stay in the cabin at night and cook lots of yummy food. No experience necessary. 

Day Trip: March 11
Tuesday (9am-4pm)
Location TBD.  Don’t have anything to do over Interterm vacation? Join us on a day trip to somewhere beautiful!  More information will be provided as we get closer to the date.

Sea Kayaking Trip: March 21-23
Friday (3pm)-Sunday (6pm)
This is an introductory sea kayaking trip to Angel Island.  We will spend two days on the water gaining important skills and touring around to see local flora and fauna.  In the evenings we’ll hang out around the campfire making s’mores and telling stories.

Rafting Trip: June 18-21
Wednesday (12pm)-Saturday (2pm)
Celebrate the end of the school year with a rafting trip on the American river.  There will be an exciting mix of rapids and calmer areas to see wildlife and relax in the sun.  We’ll stay at the Environmental Traveling Companions river campsite and sleep out under the stars and cook in an amazing outdoor kitchen.

Posted by Kristen Bailey on Thursday October 10, 2013 at 04:30PM
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