The Olympic National Park Experience


D. Mottier

The Elwha River Dam in Olympic National Park.

Devin Mottier, Entertainment Editor

On Feb. 9, 2014, 52 seniors and seven teachers embarked on the annual OPI trip into Olympic National Park near Port Angeles, WA. Over a course of six days, seniors, teachers and NatureBridge educators hiked mountains, canoed on Lake Crescent, and studied the effects of the Elwha Dam removal on the Olympic Peninsula. Students also got the opportunity to backpack to the coast and camp overnight in 80 mile-an-hour winds. Despite the harsh conditions, the seniors created bonds with one another that will last a lifetime.


Maddie O’Shea:

OPI was a wonderful experience for me. I don’t think anything I’ve done my senior year has made high school as a whole so worthwhile. It turned my immediate focus from my petty school concerns to my efforts to sustain basic needs, especially when camping on the beach in a torrential downpour. The vast landscapes of the drenched, foggy forests and the crashing waves took my mind completely off of Orinda and my normal life and put me in a state of quiet content. I highly recommend it for anyone interested!

Simone Britto:

Visiting the Olympic National Park was an incredible experience. Throughout the trip, I had the chance to get to know a lot of people better, people who I had been to school with for years but had never taken the time to really talk to.

While everyone on the trip was wonderful, what I took away the most from the whole experience was the solitude. Away from my cell phone and the internet, sitting in complete silence on Lake Crescent or hiking a mile and a half through the forest alone, I felt something that I can’t experience in Orinda: completely disconnected.

The first semester of senior year is extremely stressful for everyone: worrying about college applications and test scores and transcripts, and it was fantastic to let that all go for a little while.

Hiking up Mount Stormking, surrounded by moss-covered trees and jagged rocks, your problems are completely eclipsed by the majesty of your surroundings. These trees, this entire park and peninsula, have been around much longer than we have and will continue to be around long after us. It’s difficult to be concerned about your grade on the next Calculus BC test, or even where you end up going to college next year, when in the grand scheme of everything, it’s not that important. It is scary but also a bit relieving to realize that our actions are insignificant. We can let go of all the pressure from everyone else and just make choices for ourselves.

This trip has changed my perspective. This next year is going to be full of huge changes for all of us seniors, but in geological time it’s only a blink. It’s comforting to know that the Olympic National Park will always be there, preserved for all future generations.


Jess DeLange:

OPI was, in a word, awesome. The reason is twofold: first, the people. The group of students (friends, acquaintances, countrymen, you name it) that was up in Washington was fantastic. We got the chance of a lifetime to spend a week in the Olympic Park together. We learned that the teachers at MHS are, in fact, human beings as we spent time outside of class with them, which was a really cool experience. The Educators (NatureBridge staff) were phenomenal- the first word that comes to mind is “chill.” On top of that, they are really fun, driven people.The second reason of why OPI was awesome is the place: Olympic National Park is incredible. We spent a week at a camp in the rainforest. How much cooler can it get? We went backpacking to the beach, and camped 20 feet from high tide. We raced the tide out the next morning. And we spent every evening playing games and hanging out for a solid two or more hours. Getting to know people outside of school is quite the experience, and the bond we forged through rain and wind-and sun and sky- is strong. The value of spending time in nature, especially with others, was indelibly etched me by the time we left.

Evan McAvenia:

​OPI is a giant puzzle. Each piece and person serves a unique purpose and has an individual experience during the creation of the puzzle. The puzzle itself is everything. The beauty, the laughter, the rain, the sunrise, the warm showers, the watery pasta, the riddles, the campfire, the lake, the tide pools, the hats, the canoes, the solitary hikes, the JENGA, the talks in the cabins, the personal reflection, the sense of camaraderie, the tea, the banana slug, the zero ort, all of which my words cannot do justice. Maybe I only thought of this comparison because I tend to make complex topics into analogies, or perhaps I spent a little too much time working on puzzles during the trip… Either way, OPI lends itself to so much introspection, solitude, and “soul searching” while still allowing everyone to create amazing connections. These connections were between individuals, hiking groups, teachers, educators, cabinmates, tentmates, and the group as a whole. Just like the metaphorical puzzle, each piece came together to create the beautiful experience that is OPI. I do not want to describe the phenomenal image that this puzzle created because, in my mind, that defeats its whole purpose. If you want the satisfaction that comes with building a puzzle, you have to work on it yourself. Just looking at a puzzle created by others gives you no sense of clarity or achievement. One of the biggest things I learned on OPI is few things feel as good as connecting puzzle pieces (in the literal and metaphorical sense). You do not have to embark on a thousand-piece puzzle like the one we undertook in order to understand this feeling. Even small puzzles such as hikes, day trips or even just putting your phone away and having a real conversation with your friends or peers can generate the same emotions and connections. That being said, puzzles can be daunting. So many pieces seem like they have nothing in common and will never come together to create a meaningful image. Great puzzles take open minds, hard work and a PMA (positive mental attitude) in order to be completed. Even if you do not consider yourself a puzzle aficionado, I highly suggest you try one. You have no idea how much a simple puzzle can alter your outlook.