Dorrington, California 2019 by William Bryan


A week before graduation in 2018 a group of college friends and I sat on a rooftop in Boston looking out at the skyline in the distance. We were trying—and failing—to avoid talking about how little we’d be seeing each other just ten days from then. As everyone continued their bittersweet banter I realized that if we don’t plan something now, while we were still around one another every day, we likely would never be together as a big group ever again.

That very same day I talked to Katie (our resident planner) about the idea of planning a reunion for the following year. She was 100% on board and suggested the 4th of July; I volunteered my family’s cabin in the Sierra’s.

We went to the group with the idea the next day and everyone was soundly on board, at least at the moment. I’m not sure anyone was really very confident that the event would actually materialize.

Fast forward 14 months and after arduous planning and hounding friends for their flight info (@Orph) the time had actually arrived for us all to jet off to California. I arrived five days before the 4th and grabbed some groceries to bolster Katie’s awesome Fraction Foods menu and loaded up my dad’s truck for the drive into the mountains.

Surprisingly, with 23 people converging on a tiny mountain town 4 hours from San Francisco from all over the United States on a hectic holiday weekend we encountered zero travel issues. No cancelled flights, delays, flat tires, speeding tickets, or upset stomachs. Just happy friends seeing each other for the first time in 14 months (in some cases).

The only map we had…

The only map we had…

For the next 4 days we tried our hardest to relive our college days while simultaneously enjoying the best that the Sierra Nevada mountains have to offer.

On the second full day I had planned a hike to a high alpine lake called Bull Run. I’d hiked to it before—on a two night backpacking trip with my family when I was 12 or 13 years old. My only memory of the hike was that my Mom had said it was 7.5 miles round trip, and the hike in had felt much longer than 3.25 miles. Disregarding this little tidbit I decided it was the perfect hike for a massive group of hungover friends on 4th of July weekend.

When our caravan of four cars pulled into the graded meadow that served as the trailhead there were patches of snow scattered around behind the trail marker and in front of our cars. I clambered over a patch to take a photo of the rudimentary map on the trailhead sign and set off down the trail with 21 naive friends in tow. It took us no more than 10 minutes to get lost. As Goose and I consulted the map on my phone the others tried their best to catch up without falling on the snow.

“Guys just hang out here and don’t go anywhere, we lost the trail,” I said.

“So if this is the Stanislaus Meadow in front of us we need to stay to the right of it and in theory we’ll find the trail, right?” Goose asked.

“Sure,” I replied. Exactly as unsure as I sounded.

After a few minutes following our plan we found the trail again, or as close to a trail as we could find. We trudged over pillows of crunchy snow in Teva’s, Van’s, and hiking boots, broadcasting our unpreparedness to the silent wilderness.

We continued this cycle of losing the trail and finding it again for a couple of hours before half of our number decided that trudging through snow in July wasn’t something they wanted to do any longer than necessary. After deliberating about splitting up our group in the middle of nowhere we decided that half would press on to the lake and half would go home for beer and barbeque.

After losing half our tribe we lumbered along, continuing to find and lose the trail until we were well into the granite fields of the High Sierra’s. Using stray cairn’s as our only guidance we wandered for two more hours.

Then we ran out of water.

And we got dizzy from altitude sickness and dehydration.

We never found the lake.

Dejected and defeated, we gingerly climbed down from the granite fields one tired feet, and forded streams to make our way back to the cars. We relied on our footprints in the snow as our guide back, trying not to follow our lost prints from the very same morning. When we finally made it to the cars we stayed largely silent until we’d made it to the Bear Valley General Store where we stuffed our faces with chips and chugged Gatorade and water.

Thankfully the other half of the group had dinner waiting for us when we got back. After enjoying more Fraction Foods, Sachin checked his phone’s health app.

13.7 miles.

Oahu 2014 by William Bryan

Today was the first day of snow in Boston. I walked around the city browsing through stores looking for good Black Friday deals and got a little too cold on the walk home. Sitting here with a cup of tea looking out the window I caught myself thinking about my trip to Hawaii this summer.

My friend Kevin texted me: “Come visit me.” He lived in Hawaii and said it as a joke. He had told several of his friends from his freshman year in college to come visit him on his island in the middle of the Pacific. Most people responded with various reasons for why they couldn’t, but I said “OK.”

Later that day I asked my Dad if we could go to Hawaii later in the summer. We had been planning a Father-Son trip for August anyway, so after deciding to take the easy route (we were considering destinations like Mexico City, or Antigua, Guatemala), we booked flights to Oahu.

When I told Kevin that my Dad and I had just bought tickets to spend a week in Hawaii, he didn’t believe me. “Wait, really?” he asked. “Yes, really,” I assured him.

After landing in Waikiki at 11 p.m. I turned on my phone to a text from Kevin: Sunrise hike, I’m picking you up at 4:45.

Gulp, I wasn’t prepared for that. Even with the time difference helping me out I wasn’t excited to wake up that early to go for a hike. But hey, he was the local and knew what to do in Hawaii. That was half of the reason for coming to Hawaii anyway, I didn’t want to spend a week being a tourist going to the wrong beaches and eating shrimp at the wrong shrimp shack. I replied and we confirmed our plans.

The alarm rang at 4:00 and I slowly lumbered out of bed, trying to stay quiet so my Dad wouldn’t wake up in the other bed across the room. I mindlessly showered, pulled on some board shorts, and gnawed on a Cliff bar.

He picked me up outside of my hotel and we drove through the empty streets of Waikiki to his friends house. After picking her up we headed to McDonalds (the only place on the island that opens early enough) for some early morning grub. We ate our breakfast sandwiches as we drove to Makapu’u, watching the light in the sky grow brighter and brighter. I’m not sure about the other two, but I started to doubt our timing as the sky got brighter and brighter.

Needless to say, we made it in time:

The hike itself was relatively short, 20 minutes at most, so more of a sunrise walk, but I’m not complaining.

We made our way to the summit and then spotted a lighthouse below us that we wanted to explore as the sun rose.

The lighthouse.

We got to the lighthouse and discovered a fence separating us from our goal.

(We managed to get a little bit closer to the lighthouse).

My hiking companions.

After watching the sunrise, we hiked down a cliff and snorkeled in these tide pools.

This photo, and the next two below are from a hike up Diamond Head (not a sunrise hike, but still an early one) that I went on with my Dad later in the trip after I had recovered from the first Hawaiian hiking experience.

Thousands of houses are packed into the hills beyond the ridge of the inactive volcano.


Two trees compete for space, somewhere on the North Shore.

Obligatory underwater photo.

Ireland 2013 by William Bryan

For the first semester of my freshman year at Northeastern, I was able to study abroad rather than go to the Northeastern campus in Boston. I could study in Australia, Costa Rica, Greece, England, or Ireland. I chose to go to Ireland. I chose Ireland for several reasons. First, there was no language barrier like there would have been with Costa Rica and Greece. Second, Ireland seemed relatively safe (at the time, there had been student riots in Greece because of unemployment). Third, I was going to be 17 at the start of the semester – the England and Costa Rica trips required that I be 18 upon arrival in the country. Finally, I’d never been to Ireland before, I had travelled to England and Australia before, and I wanted to travel somewhere new.

The program was split into two groups, science majors and business majors. Science majors attended the University College Dublin, and business students attended the Dublin Business School. At the time I was studying psychology, so I was enrolled at UCD. I lived in an off campus apartment, cooked my own meals, went grocery shopping, cleaned up after myself, and took a 45 minute bus ride to campus every morning. In short, I was 100% independent (except for money) for my first semester away from home.

I loved it. I met amazing people who were also part of my program, and went on weekend trips that really immersed me in Irish culture. We went to a farm and jumped into a bog, made bread and learned how to play Hurling. We traveled to the Cliffs of Moher, County Cork, Howth, the Aran Islands, Causey Farm, Northern Ireland, and County Sligo where we stayed in an eco lodge and surfed in a freezing rain.

For our first weekend in Ireland we took the Dublin Area Rapid Transit to a small seaside town, Howth. The town was quaint and beautiful, and framed by sweeping landscapes of the ocean. It was a great first place to visit outside of Dublin to give us an idea of how beautiful Ireland can be.

After having some time in the town of Howth, exploring a farmers market and the small harbor, we went on a coastal hike. This is one of the spectacular views that can be seen while on the trail.

Jumping into a bog at Causey Farm, extremely messy, but extremely fun. (I’m in the air).

Stunning, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, jaw-droppingly beautiful, terrifying; these are all apt descriptions of the Cliffs of Moher. I couldn’t have gotten any luckier with the weather when I went. No fog, no rain, some clouds but not too many; perfect for experiencing the terrifying heights of the Cliffs of Moher.

Looking along the coast, rolling green grass gives way to cliffs that are up to 700 feet high.

If you look really closely, you can see tiny specs on top of the cliffs. Those are people. That might give you an idea of how high these cliffs really are.

A view from above. It makes it seem like the water is so close to the grass. That couldn’t be more wrong.

More tiny specs (people) can be seen in the distance.

Members of my program “relaxing” on the edge. It was scary sitting on the edge myself, but even scarier watching my friends do it.

It’s hard to understand how green Ireland really is until you go there yourself.

A cow stands guard over a decaying farm house on the Aran Islands.

These cows are standing at the top of some very tall cliffs on the Aran Islands. They seemed to be more comfortable with heights than I was.

Standing on a cliff’s edge.

This is a view of the University College Dublin, where I took classes for the semester. Being from California, it was my first real experience of fall colors.

Dead leaves on flourishing ivy.

A view down a road on the grounds of Blarney Castle in County Cork.