Why Adventure Camps for Teens are So Much FUN!

Jordan Carr23 Mar, 2023

Adventure Treks’ top goals for students include the building a supportive and inclusive community, experiencing personal growth, and—of course—having a TON of FUN!

For a moment, close your eyes and pretend you’re on an Adventure Treks trip in California. It’s a typical summer day… meaning it’s hot. After an adventurous day of rock climbing with your friends, you feel tired yet empowered and proud. It’s time to head back to camp, which means loading into the vans. To your pleasant surprise, the van is already cool, with the A/C running on full blast. Everyone’s energy surges with cold air drying sweaty heads. A Spotify playlist begins, and everyone starts singing along.

This is “wow” #1. 

You pull into the grocery store, and an instructor runs inside. The group hops out to play hacky sack while you wait. A few minutes later, the instructor returns with fresh food, and gloriously frozen treats—a perfect afternoon treat after a hot day of climbing.

This is “wow” #2. 

We all get back to camp, where the climbers will begin making student dinners for the entire group (the bikers are still out pedaling around Mt. Shasta). Your group brainstormed the menu, bought the ingredients, divvied out responsibilities, and are responsible for executing the entire meal from start to finish. Everyone gets dressed up and dances and sings while dinner is cooking.

This is “wow” #3. 

Most AT students know about the “WOW” factor that accompanies each trip. What we call “wow” are moments of fun and excitement and humor (planned or spontaneous) that accompany everything we do. The “wow” sometimes defines each trip, its community, and the memories students take home. This is largely a reflection of the unique individuals on each trip, and our instructors put a lot of thought into planning special events in between our outdoor pursuits.

Sometimes, “wow” moments are small gestures, like surprise popsicles on a hot day, a van that’s already been cooled off, an unplanned game in moments of downtime, a splash in a creek, a trail treat left for another group. At other times, they’re painstakingly extravagant events, like AT Olympics on the beach of a beautiful lake with Mt. Shasta in the background during sunset.

“Wow” is also what makes group chores and difficult challenges more fun. Because Adventure Treks is an expedition, we have quite a few logistics to manage, like packing and unpacking the U-Haul, setting up and taking down camp, and cooking three meals a day on backcountry stoves. Although these may seem like simple tasks on a checklist, they’re always accompanied by something to get people more excited and bought in, like our favorite Spotify playlist blasting on a Bluetooth speaker, dance parties as we “duffel shuffle,” riddles and trail games as we hike uphill, and fashioning “prom outfits” out of trash bags in the rain during a backcountry sea kayaking trip.

We have countless examples of how to make being outdoors and in an intentional community FUN, every single day. And instructors aren’t the only ones incorporating the “wow” into their trips—students often get involved as well! One of my all-time favorite events involves a student who led a Zumba class at camp. Not only did we have an absolute blast as a group, but leading a silly dance class outside helped that more reserved student come out of their shell. From then on, they displayed much more confidence in the group and fully embraced being their true self.

Many more “WOW!” moments come from our group journal. Every night during evening meeting, a student offers an account of the day from their perspective. There are infinite bounds to the creativity displayed here—students have written songs with original lyrics, performed skits with friends, played charades to act out the day, told the story from the perspective of a fictional (or non-human) being… It’s often a big source of hilarity and endless, uncontrollable giggles .

It’s safe to say that an unspoken goal of Adventure Treks is to have every student arrive home with fond memories of “WOW!” whether that’s nailing an Owen Wilson impersonation, winning the shaving cream Cheeto toss, experiencing a luxurious mud mask in Alaska, celebrating Canada Day or the 4th of July with sparklers, or making a Taylor Swift music video on a mountaintop!


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