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Storm catches adventure ed students by surprise

Adventure education took on a new meaning for 19 Langley Middle School students this week. Students and six chaperones spent a wet, cold night in the mountains in northern California when winter weather trapped them overnight.

Expecting warm weather, the group was unprepared for a cold, wet storm which swept through the area Tuesday night.

“It was pretty awful. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” said Patsy Brereton, a chaperone on the trip.

“But the kids were phenomenal. Everybody’s doing great,” she said.

On Sunday, the Langley Middle School Adventure Education program took the group of students and adults on a 12-day hiking and camping trip to the Los Padres National Forest near Monterey, Calif.

Students had planned to spend a week in the wilderness but a winter storm complete with wind, snow and hail caught them off guard and unprepared for night temperatures that dipped into the 30s.

The group was equipped for a weather forecast of warm dry weather.

What they got instead was a snowstorm bringing 1 to 1/12 inches of snow. Their lightweight tents and sleeping bags weren’t enough to stave off the wet and cold.

“We were frozen the next morning. We hiked up in the rain and it started hailing before we got our tents up,” Brereton said. “We were soaked to the bone.”

“Water ran into our tents and they were nearly flat the next morning from the weight of the snow,” Brereton said.

Adults in the group took steps to prevent hypothermia by getting everyone into sleeping bags and huddling together in their tents and under tarps.

Brereton called The Record Friday morning while the group was at a local athletic club taking much needed hot showers.

After the cold and miserable night, some of the group members walked out of the woods and contacted county workers who called 911. Rescue workers were mobilized to assist the group. Rescue vehicles and volunteers met the rest of the group as they were coming out at the trailhead and transported them to the local fire station where they received dry clothing and a hot meal.

Some minor injuries were also treated at the fire station.

Later, the group was transported to St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Monterey, where they had spent the night on their way in.

Nels Bergquist, a teacher at the middle school and the trip organizer, has been in contact with school district officials as well as parents. The group plans to stay at St. Timothy’s Church for the remainder of their trip and organize day activities. They are scheduled to leave by train on Wednesday, April 12 and return on Thursday.

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