Day 8: Fin.

Saturday, March 18th

Did I mention how much I loved staying at the hostel? I didn’t know what a hostel even was before I went on a trip. It was so cool to be sharing a communal kitchen and other facilities with random strangers, especially during breakfast. I spoke with a man who was frying eggs next to me—I think you’ll probably find me choosing hostels over hotels in the near future! I went to my first coffee shop, Seattle Coffee Works, and bought a few bags as souvenirs for my always-caffeinated brother. Truth be told, I am a little obsessed with trying out new coffee shops. I was so excited to hear that we would be staying a day in Seattle (this means coffee galore!).

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Seattle Coffee Works, which was located right under the Green Tortoise Hostel.

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Anyway, we all met up again and went on the Underground Tour of Seattle. Our tour guide was such a great story teller. I didn’t know how the current city of Seattle originated a floor below its actual “ground.” Underneath all the buildings are actually just support to help lift up the city. Their major issue in the city was plumbing, and our guide told it in such a funny way. What an interesting city. I definitely see myself settling here for a year or so before missing the sun too much.

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Entrance to the Underground Seattle Tour.

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We went underground the city for this tour! T’was really interesting.

After a few more excursions in Pikes Place, it was time to head back to the airport. Throughout the entire day I just didn’t want my time with the group to end. Time went by slower without access to our phones, and it felt great. Once we got back to the city where service was available, life immediately accelerated. I felt melancholic at the airport and kept reminiscing even when we haven’t even left yet.

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How is Seattle so pretty?!

All my emotions about this trip is quite difficult to transcribe—you have to experience it yourself. The best part about the trip, besides the satisfying feeling of helping the community at Orcas, were the friendships made. As a junior, I admit that ASB Orcas Island is my best spring break yet.

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Our last time together (or is it?!) 😦

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So many great memories with these amazing group of people. Love y’all 🙂

So, what do you get when you place 18 complete strangers on an excursion out to nature with no access to the internet? Endless Uno games. Mafia. Too many inside jokes. Friendships. Memories.

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Day 7

Friday, March 17th

We left good ol’ Camp Moran bright and early and 7AM and headed for the ferry. I felt quite nostalgic having to leave the campground, especially since it holds such dear memories on the island. Upon our arrival on Seattle, I immediately missed the homey feeling of Orcas Island. Why was I so attached to the island? I felt like going to the city was a betrayal HAHA, but I was feeling a little out of it in the morning.

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Goodbye Camp Moran! You’ve been so good to us.

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Fooling around on the ferry per usual. 

We arrived in Seattle for the Space Needle. It was a cool building and had great views, but it was also pouring when we got to the top. I guess you could say we experienced Seattle for real, eh? We passed by the Chihuly glass museum and it looked beautiful from the outside. Many of my Seattle-based friends told me to go there, but I did enjoy the height and views from the Space Needle.

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Hello, Space Needle! I can’t believe we were up there. Crazy!

Upon our arrival at the Green Tortoise Hostel, we left our bags and ran to the famous Pikes Place Market. Apparently one thing that Seattle is notorious for is closing early—so I was determined to catch the vibe of Pikes Place during the evening. I ate so many sweets, ranging from miniature donuts, snickerdoodles, cookies, and plums. For dinner, I ate chicken on a stick, which tasted decent, although I definitely could have used a larger portion. Also, I tasted my very first clam chowder (I was forced to, okay) but I do have to admit it tasted pretty great. Still not a fan of seafood though.

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THE Pike’s Place. Such a cool, hip spot!

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Catherine made such an artsy photo. Much wow. That, or it was the rain drop on her camera. 

At night we headed to the ferris wheel—even the rain could not stop us from doing dangerous touristy things! Well, dangerous for the fact that our little box kept wobbling. It was kind of scary, but the view was worth it. I was able to see all the lights, and it was pretty awesome. A few of us decided to try the carousel after and basically just goofed around on it; we even played “Pony” by Ginuwine while on the horse, because why not? We all got ice cream and gelato after these shenanigans and called it a day and headed back to the hostel.

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The SQUAD @ the Ferris Wheel line. We looked like such tourists, but das coo’ with me! 

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Ended the night on a peaceful (?) carousel ride. 

Day 6

Thursday, March 16th

This was the day of our 8AM-5PM service! After a day of solely relaxing, our group was ready to help the park rangers with whatever tasks they needed. To be honest, I wanted to do something like the mud buckets again! However, our service consisted of mainly moving logs and branches. Those branches were huge! The rangers told us how they had to cut down trees that suffered from fungi to prevent further contamination—we even passed around the said fungi, which was the size of a large rock. Our group had fun cleaning up these trees, sometimes throwing the twigs at each other (are we even college students? Yes, yes we are). I slipped ~4 times, but thank goodness for my #younghikingboots. Best $50 I’ve ever spent to prevent accidents! Haha. We spent quite a while cleaning up the trails of the cut-down trees, and took a lunch break at the town. Afterwards, we cleaned more trees before Ranger Jeff told us that service is finished early.

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Hard at work!

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Because we had the free time, we ran up to Mount Scenic again in hopes of catching the famous view, and guess what? We were successful (yay!) and finally got to appreciate the wonder of why people say it is the best view on the island. We took many basic pictures and headed to camp since it was freezing up there!

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Our amazing car group! I love them all so much. 

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Group photo! You can’t even tell we were freezing.

Since this was the last night in camp, we performed a deep clean of our messes. To be honest with you, I don’t think we were that messy, but it definitely needed some work. We divided up the chores and were pretty productive. I helped clean in the kitchen and mopped around (that was some fun). Since we were playing music during the clean-up, it went by quickly and we had a lot of fun. At the end of it, a bunch of us decided to go star-gazing near the lake.

The stars were so beautiful! It was definitely a big highlight in the trip, since coming from the city, you don’t really get to see any stars. We all just sat on the bench and appreciated the sky for a good half hour. Not to mention the trip walking there was a hoot—we ran around the road in panic when a car would approach HAHA. Thank goodness for high-quality flashlight from phones, whew. I don’t have any pictures of the star-gazing but it is crystal clear in my memories.

Day 5

Wednesday, March 15th

Our morning began with a visit to the We the Kings Salmon Hatchery. To be quite honest with you, I am afraid of fish—very afraid. When my mother goes to the grocery and heads to the seafood section, I run away. The hatchery, however, was interesting to learn from. The process of raising salmon is such an intricate process, and our guide was so passionate about his fish! He also had a dog named Guinness who was so friendly to our group. We learned how a hatchery must tag each individual salmon—one way they separated a hatchery salmon from a wild salmon was cutting off one of their adipose fin, a bundle of fat anterior to a salmon’s fin!

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The Hatchery!

After our visit to the hatchery, we headed to the lake for our kayaking trip. This was my first time kayaking! Trust me, my primary concern was falling into the water. We were greeted by the owners, who were so nice and peppy—I was so excited. The loft itself was beautiful, and we were fortunate enough that the weather was on our side (no winds and no rain!) so kayaking turned out to be a blast. We were afraid that kayaking would be cancelled because the morning consisted of strong rain; however, luck was on our side. We all kayaked for around an hour and a half in the beautiful weather. Our arms were about to fall off, but it was cool to be in the middle of the lake and just vegetating. I think it took me thirty minutes to figure out that I could steer the navigation of the boat HAHA, so our kayak was the lagger at first. We saw bald eagles and learned how Bill Gates often went kayaking in the same lake. It was quite the amazing experience.

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The lake had such amazing views.

 

That night we tried to go to Mount Scenic for the “best view of Orcas Island”… only to fail and be stuck in a cloud of fog. This didn’t stop us from taking pictures anyway!

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T’was foggy indeed.

After the “hike”, we returned to camp and had dinner. The boys were determined to make grilled chicken (thanks to the help of Tyler W.), and his charcoal. It was some of the most bomb chicken I’ve ever had, and that’s coming from someone who eats chicken for most of my meals!

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Dinner crew and their grilled chicken. IT WAS SO GOOD!

After dinner, however, was the most significant Reflection Night. This was the most emotional part of the trip, as we got to dive into each person’s shared personal story. I shed a tear a few times and it was awesome to see how close we got as a group overall.

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Our famous round table! Not taken during reflection night, but just wanted to show y’all how it looked like.

Day 4

Tuesday, March 14th

On Tuesday, our service consisted of raking the rest of the trail. It turns out the road was longer than I initially though, but that didn’t stop our group from pushing through the tasks while having fun. Although the task itself was not too difficult, our arms were incredibly sore from the mud buckets—but that’s how you know we got a workout! It seemed like everybody was extra tired, myself included, so all I could think about was how excited I was to be back in L.A. with stronger arms (or at least, I hoped). After service, we headed straight to the school visit.

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Indeed we were sore…but that didn’t stop us from playing with the snow anyway!

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The whole crew.

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The school mural. It was so impressive!

Orcas Island Middle School was unbelievably top-notch—it was some state of the art architecture. Their schools looked ten-folds better than my middle school, and I felt that they truly emphasize the value of education on the island. We introduced ourselves to the class of seventh and eighth graders whom at first, intimidated me. I scanned around the room for cliques and found the kids integrated themselves well since the classes were so small. A few led our group discussion on the differences between Los Angeles and Orcas Island, and found that the stereotypes and similarities for both parties. It was interesting to hear how the kids preferred living in quieter places, and one kid strongly expressed his disdain for loud noises in the city. Most of them enjoyed reading and playing with their pets, including farm animals, in their leisure. When we mentioned beaches in L.A., one of them said how Orcas has beaches too, only with a lake and rocks in replacement of sand.

I found our interaction with the middle schoolers to be beneficial in learning how others perceive L.A. and similar cities. These kids formed their perspectives and openly shared it with us, as well as sharing their experiences living on the island. Most of them actually moved from larger towns to Orcas, and only a few were born on the island. One boy named Ethan reminded me so much of my own little brother, David, who is also currently in 7th grade. Their personalities were so similar it was hilarious—he was a chatterbox and it was so fun chatting with him, as well as all of the other kids. However, what warmed my heart the most was how many of the kids remembered a few of our names. During my second town visit, one of the girls shouted my name across the grocery store just to say hi. It made me feel so happy and warm inside.

The kids later toured us around their entire campus, including their garden, band room, and mural. The mural was absolutely beautiful—it was a symbol of the class whom toured us, and was created before they entered middle school as a reflection project. The kids were so fun to talk to because of how positive they were, and how close they were to their classmates.

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View of a quaint little corner in town.

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The cutest little town.

Our last stop of the day was the town! It was my first time visiting the town and of course I had to go to a coffee shop. We all visited the local bookstore and bought souvenirs for our friends and families. A group of us ended up at a thrift store, where we found some amazing $2 jackets that I still wear today! Talking to the townspeople, however, was a joy. News definitely got around fast in town, because a couple of shopkeepers have heard about our group and even thanked us for our help. It was so nice to feel appreciated when we least expected it, and it was great to converse with the kind townspeople.

Day 3

Monday, March 13th

We started off the morning with service and met with a new park ranger, Ranger Al! This was my favorite service work, mud buckets! Considering the amount of strain and workout we had from it, my entire body was sore for the entirety of the next day. This definitely initiated our necessary pre-service stretches for the next few days, and post-dinner stretching sessions.

Our task for mud buckets was to cover up a large hole in one of the Orcas campgrounds. This was to prevent any future injuries, since other people in the past have accidentally fallen into this hole in the campsite (that sounds like something I would do, to be honest with ya). What made mud buckets so fun was how well we all had to work together. Despite running around in a sea of mud, we congregated in an assembly line, transferring one bucket to another. There were groups to fill up, move, and empty the mud buckets – which were actually pretty heavy! A few of us sang songs while passing the buckets, and I felt like this was the event that truly brought the group closer together.

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Post-mud buckets, we treated ourselves and took a scenic hike around the lake. It was so gorgeous! I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings the whole time. We all got to chat during the hike and it was great getting to know everyone. This hike was where my favorite picture from the trip was taken as well!

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Us at the beautiful lake! 

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I can’t think of a good caption for this, but this is currently my laptop desktop background.

Day 2

Sunday, March 12th

It was our first full day at Orcas Island. I woke up at 6:30AM to reel in the views and go for a quick walk. The camp was absolutely stunning and so green. Here in Los Angeles all we see are buildings, so it was refreshing to be surrounded by the beauty of nature.

For our first excursion, we visited an alpaca farm, at the respective Orcas Moon Alpacas! I have never been on a farm so it was quite the experience for me. Our group met with Jeff, who moved from Chicago to Orcas Island to pursue a more peaceful life with his family. He seemed so relaxed and was kind enough to explain farming processes and his life with the animals. His farm consisted not only of alpacas, but hens, cows, donkeys, and sheep. We were able to feed the hungry alpacas, whom eventually swarmed us when Jeff gave us bowls to feed them. These alpacas ate every last inch of the bowl – it was a cleaned plate, all right!

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We got photobombed by an alpaca! Probably one of my favorite group photos taken on this trip, hehe.

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After the alpaca farm, it was our first day of service. We met with Ranger Jeff who gave us the necessary tools – a really tall shovel – as well as our handy dandy yellow work gloves. Our task was to shovel the dirt on the side of the road to make sure the road boundaries could be seen. The dirt was an accumulation of the extraordinary stormy weather from the past few months. This was the primary reason why the hiking trail was closed off to the public for quite a while. Our group worked very well, and even though at times it could get tiring, we all made it fun. I cannot recall a moment where I saw anyone slacking off, and it was great conversing not only with our group, but with Ranger Jeff about his experience in Moran State Park and Orcas in general. He said how there were only around 2 rangers who would usually work on this type of project. Imagine how our group of 19 managed to finish in two hours, but for two park rangers can take over two days! It was great to hear how our help could lessen their burden and open up the trail sooner for the public to enjoy.

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Day 1

Friday, March 10th

I finished packing around 1 AM – to be completely honest, I packed quite late. It was stressful trying to find out what I actually need, but I think that it would have worked out regardless.

Saturday, March 11th 

I remember writing this during the airplane: I was finally able to meet everyone who was going on the trip! There was no single meeting where everybody was present, so I always met somebody new; and to be honest, those meetings meant for us to become acquainted with each other, but quite difficult due to absences. But that’s fine – we all finally met at the airport!

It is so exciting to be away from real life – honestly, I feel like life in the city, especially Los Angeles, is so accelerated. I’m so glad to have chosen ASB Orcas Island since this trip sounded like the most nature-intensive, which was exactly what I hoped for. I think my biggest concern on the trip was peeing too much HAHA. I am still learning each person’s name and mentally reciting it – also, fun fact: it was my first ever domestic flight!

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We rode Alaska Airlines – and I nearly shed a tear because a professional company was using Comic Sans. Kidding, but I was still shaken HAHA.

Immediately after landing, the weather was overcast and looked awesome. Now I see why Seattle is considered to ‘gloomy.’ After our arrival, we all split up into our rental cars and proceeded to Costco. It was quite the happening place – there was such a crowd! We all split up in groups of two to make the shopping faster, and by the end of it we had four (maybe five?) carts full of food. It was such a beautiful sight. Our lunch was cheese pizza in perhaps what was the most wind we had on the entire trip – so it was quite a bonding experience. To stay warm a few of us huddled together like penguins:

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Penguin huddling – just trying to survive eating pizza in the freezing wind!

We headed to the ferry shortly thereafter – BUT first and foremost, we had to figure out how to stuff 5 carts full of Costco items to our already-filled cars. Miraculously we managed to fit everything, but we basically had to utilize every inch in our cars. I sat in the back and had no room to move my body HAHA but definitely worth the sacrifice I had to do for food! I have never been on a ferry before either, so we drove the car onto the ferry and it was so rad. During the 50-minute ferry ride, we were able to get off our cars and walk around the ferry, as well as appreciate the beautiful views.

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Post-ferry, we finally arrived at Orcas Island! It was dark so I was unable to comprehend its beauty (just yet!). I was determined to wake up early and take a quick run before showering in the morning, to fully take in the views. After arriving in our campsite, Camp Moran, we all crashed for the full day ahead of us.

Welcome!

Hey there!

I just wanted to make a quick introductory post – my name is Patricia. I am currently a junior at USC studying Lifespan Health (Gerontology reppin’ woo!) from the suburban town of South Pasadena, CA.

Going to Orcas Island and Seattle were such breathtaking experiences, especially coming from someone who has never visited another state. My goal from this trip was to fully immerse my city-girl self into nature, volunteer and learn hands-on about environmental sustainability, get away from social media and electronics, and meet like-minded individuals.

Here is my experience with USC Alternative Spring Break in Orcas Island, where I wrote about my day in a personal journal every night.

Just a fair warning – I write exactly how I talk, so it may seem weird at first – but my goal is to take you on the same journey as I did over break, so you may say that you “live vicariously through me,” eh?

🙂