Returning from the First Backpack

wpdev30 Jun, 2016

A quick update from group 1’s backpack:

Group 1 (Liam, Theo, Channing, Sydney, Izzy, Rebecca, and Audi) drove to our trail head and got packs on to start hiking. We played games and all sorts of stuff. We made camp and slept. The next day we slept in and then successfully summited Windy Joe Mountain. We also had lunch at the top  and played games all while looking at amazing views! The last day we woke up early and headed down to derig at a great park by a lake that we later got to swim in. It was an unforgettable experience.

A quick update from group 2’s backpack:

On Monday, group 2 (Guillaume, Ryan, Brandon, Emily E, Ashley, Andrea, Gianna, and Lauren) left from Lighting Lake and began our first backpack. Our group of 8 hiked to the Frost Mountain camp. The hike was strenuous, but had some amazing views. The following day we took our day packs and started the journey to the top of Mount Frosty. We hiked through lots of snow. The views were incredible. We also made friends with a mountain goat we named Henry at the summit. The next day we hiked back to Lighting Lake and met up with the rest of the groups.

A quick update from group 3’s backpack:

Group 3 (Alex, Mihika, Ian, Hazen, Emily T, Sam, Sarah, and Kau’i) started our first backpack at the Blackwell Peak Trail. We spent the hike in trying to solve numerous riddles which tricked the group into realizing that they were having fun despite the mosquitoes and heavy packs. We set up camp in a beautiful site a meadow filled with different wildflowers. Once students set up their tents, we played a few games within the refuge of one of the tents to escape the  swarm of biting insects. We then finished the day with some very burned macaroni and cheese which never ceased to be humorous for the group. The next day we hiked what we estimated to be six miles (Canada’s metric system has been constant source of confusion for students and instructors alike). During lunch, we all took turns sliding down an epic snow patch in our rain gear. We also were able to summit a peak where we all took a moment to sit in silence and drink in the incredible view. When we returned to camp, we cooked dinner and again burned some of it…  Oops! Luckily, we all became very creative with our condiments as a means to mask the taste, which then lead to a competition on who could drink the most spoonfuls of soy sauce (the record was 5 spoonfuls). The next day, we woke very early to hike out, clean our gear, and take much-needed showers.

And now a few words from Dock…

The reason we choose backpacking as the first activity is because in a small group it’s easier to make friends. Conversations in tents, beautiful views, tasty meals cooked and shared together, and the absence of electronic distractions allow students to get to know each other at a level often lost in the digital age. In this small group, our instructors are able to make a big imprint by modeling behaviors like teamwork, collaboration, and kindness—values already instilled by parents.

After the first backpack, the big group comes back together for a “Mexi Cook-off,” a celebration of all the fun, hard work, and growth achieved on the backpack. Here, teams of students cook a meal for a panel of celebrity judges (i.e., the instructors). This is a great time for the three smaller groups to be welcomed back into the big community again, and to demonstrate how their group has improved their collaboration and communication skills. Because entertainment and presentation are as an important part of the evening as the actual food, there are numerous opportunities for “collaborative creativity.”

Before we go any further, we want to stress that we make Adventure Treks fun for a reason. More than simply competing with digital media, teenagers are most receptive to learning when they are relaxed, having fun, and don’t feel like they are being forced to learn. They have had enough of that during the rest of the year.

Just by living in this environment and having careful, low-key reinforcement by instructors, the learning happens “subversively.” Social skills are being reinforced through day-to-day living with other students, many who started as strangers just a few days ago and are already close friends. Self-confidence grows when one overcomes initial fears and succeeds beyond expectations. Acquiring new outdoor skills, whether rock climbing or rafting, boosts confidence, making students more receptive to tackling future challenges. Independence is developed when they learn they can survive (and thrive) away from family and the comparative comforts of home. The supportive AT environment enables students to “be themselves” instead of trying to live up to the norms of the “in” crowd at school. More than anything, we hear this from our students: “I love being at AT because no one judges me here. I am appreciated for who I am, not whom others want me to be!”

– Dock


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