You can only ignore the boarding announcement so many times, but we tried. Four Pacific Northwest Adventure students (Ryan, Dario, Caleb, and Robbie) three instructors, and regional director Jack and I, all getting our last moments of Adventure Treks conversations, none of us wanting the summer to end. Soon, the line disappeared into the jetway, and boarding agents were motioning our students aboard the Delta plane bound for JFK. And just like that, our summer was over.
This summer ended as strongly as any summer in recent memory. Our students formed close, inclusive communities (our main goal); went home glowing and chatting nonstop about everything they experienced; and will enter the school year with a newfound sense of confidence, grit, and independence.
After our last airport day, our staff teams converged at our summer basecamp in southern Washington, all pulling in from adventures in Alaska (long drive!), California, Colorado, Idaho, and British Columbia. We admit it—we are very tired! But it’s the good kind of tired; we’re exhausted from giving it our all since senior trip leader retreat began in early June. We think the hard work has paid off; we’re ecstatic about what’s been accomplished (hopefully you as parents are, too), and what a successful and fun summer it’s been for all of us. We hope our students now consider Adventure Treks their second home, a joyful and nonjudgmental place where they could be themselves and escape from some of the pressures of being a teenager. Witnessing students find joy in becoming their best selves is an incredibly fulfilling feeling, and reminds us at our most tired points why we do what we do.
We would like to both compliment and thank you as parents. It takes a lot of courage to watch your children board an airplane by themselves, fly across the country, and enter a community of people they (and you!) have never met. (It’s very different from traditional summer camps, where you get to tour the facility and shake all the directors’ and counselors’ hands on opening day.) We very much appreciate your trust in us and our instructors, and we hope that you consider Adventure Treks as a powerful and beneficial tool in your parenting belt. We hope to continue to be your partner as you raise great kids in this increasingly complicated era.
From your kids’ perspectives, we hope that living outdoors—free from technology and surrounded by beautiful landscapes and caring role models and like-minded peers—has been at least slightly life-altering. A community is the sum total of all of our choices, and we are impressed with the choices are students have made: to be kind and compassionate, to do more than their share, to be eager volunteers, to put others first, to challenge themselves, to “suck it up” when the going got tough, to be a good friend, and, of course, to put safety first. Adventure Treks students found out that they can accomplish more than they thought possible, especially with help and encouragement from their friends. We hope your kids have come home happy, more independent, confident in their abilities and their voice, and full of great stories (some of them won’t ever make sense unless you were there). They’ve definitely laughed a lot and stood in front of awe-inspiring scenery. They’ve thrived without electronics, and very likely didn’t even miss their phones. We hope it takes a long time for the smiles to wear off their faces.
This summer, three of my four children joined an Adventure Treks trip (while my oldest, heading into her sophomore year at UNC-Chapel Hill, was a Camp Pinnacle counselor). I understand the anticipation of the first phone call home, and I love hearing the sheer joy in their voices (and I feel relief knowing that everything is going to be OK). It’s always insightful to hear about AT from my kids’ perspectives, and it’s gratifying knowing their summer has been impactful as I’d hoped. The most obvious sign of a successful AT summer is when they get home and ask to be signed up for next summer!
On the field front, I’m extremely proud of our instructors’ commitment to providing the most incredible experience possible for your teenagers. Our director, Dmac, and regional directors, Abby and Jack, also deserve a shout-out, as they worked tirelessly to resolve every logistical issue before it ever turned into a problem. They greeted hundreds of students with a huge smile on airport days, drove delayed bags hundreds of miles to campsites, set up ropes for climbing days at 4 a.m., hiked up Mt. St. Helens alongside students, delivered extra food and special treats—they’ve done whatever it takes to support our instructors and set up our students for their best summer ever. I’m also proud of our office staff: They’ve checked and rechecked hundreds of flights, helped parents through weather delays and cancellations, kept everyone apprised of itinerary changes, posted Treks Checks blog after Treks Checks blog, and reassured a parent or three. As both a parent and the executive director of Adventure Treks, I’m grateful for all our staff have contributed to this summer, and I’m indebted for our team’s commitment.
It’s been nothing but a privilege getting to know your children this summer. While there are still things we can improve (and we will work hard do that for 2020), I’m very pleased with the summer—we gave it our best.
Though we are eager for a rest, there is a lot more still to do! We begin instructor orientation on August 20 for our fall season, consisting of outdoor education and science programs for schools. Over the next 10 weeks, 20 of our summer staff will work with a dozen schools from six different states, giving almost 800 students a miniature dose of Adventure Treks.
We already miss our great students. Thank you for being part of Adventure Treks 2019.
John Dockendorf, executive director