Wilderness Teen Camp
Last summer I had the good fortune to be a guest at Lifesong Wilderness Adventures wilderness teen camp during the month of July. What a great adventure for all involved!
The students were a diverse group. One from Holland, another from Chicago and several from the San Francisco Bay Area. But what they all had in common was they were teenagers ready for adventure.
Wilderness teen camp
located high in the Eddy mountains near Mount Shasta, California. Here, a beautiful snowmelt creek flows through camp with brilliant wildflowers in attendance along with ancient Jeffery Pine trees to greet the campers. No city noises or light pollution here.
A favorite place to camp was across the creek affectionately dubbed, Cool Camp. The campers slept under the night sky and marveled at just how many stars they could see compared to the city. They could hear the soft footfalls of deer grazing nearby and sometimes the howl of a coyote in the distance. It is truly a magical place.
A group of 3 prior graduates of teen wilderness camp served as staff, cooking up to 3 meals a day for the hungry horde. Jolie, head of staff, was in charge overseeing the outdoor kitchen.
Conjuring up meals in Dutch ovens that the group loved as well as home-made bread and dessert.
Staff members Nathan and Alexa, staff, helped her pull it all together, cutting, chopping, mixing and serving organic food that fueled the kids through daily adventures.
The teenagers learned wilderness survival skills under the personal guidance of camp owner, Mark Wienert. They learned how to make and use a bow drill to start a fire without matches and with materials found close by. It was a celebration when they got fire!
The group learned how to make an emergency shelter from materials found in the area and an adventure involving hiking up the mountain with Mark and staff. building shelter, making fire and preparing food. They were able to put the skills they had learned to work. Now that was an adventure!
The teenagers worked hard to use what they had learned and were tired. But all were happy the next morning when they arrived back at camp to see the huge breakfast awaiting them.
Natural history and science
Students learned about the dynamics of the geography surrounding them and helped with the ongoing restoration of a wetland bog that has damage from ATV off-road use. The students also learned how to safely fall a tree with a crosscut saw and ax. And learned that by removing this tree they were helping to improve the wetlands health.
They studied the historical uses of native plants and plants that could sustain them as food if the need ever arose. They enjoyed pine needle tea and made survival stew from edible plants and insects they harvested.
- I enjoyed talking with the students
What students had to say
I enjoyed talking with the students before they left camp for home. I asked them what their biggest take away from camp was. More often than not they expressed that they realized that although they enjoyed their electronics, they could live well without them.
- They enjoyed the challenges of camping in the wilderness
They enjoyed the challenges of camping in the wilderness. Most memorable was the answer I got from one who had spent 28 days up on the mountain and had come halfway around the world to attend camp.
He shared that he had learned that he could live well and happy without all the “stuff” that he had previously thought he couldn't live without. He found that he could live more simply and was ok with that.
Wilderness teen camp benefits
Under Mark’s personal guidance, the teens learned how to be part of a community, filling roles that they previously hadn't. One boy with dreams of being a teacher kept the kids enthralled with stories of Vikings and explorers around the campfire. I could see him as a teacher!
A few of the boys requested recipes made at camp that they could prepare for their parents. As a mother of 3 sons, I loved that! They learned to rely on and trust each other and together, they were all able to make a re-connection with nature.
They learned self-reliance
The group learned self-reliance. And left knowing that in unforeseen circumstances, they could care for themselves and others…and survive.
It was amazing to see the positive changes that the experiences made in each of them, to see them all renew their sense of wonder. They really bonded and goodbyes were hard for them.
I know that some of them made very solid friendships that they took away with them.
It was a wonderful, eye-opening experience for me and by the looks in the student's eyes, as they said their goodbyes to Mark; I knew it had been for them as well.
I would definitely recommend this camp to any parent with a teenager. How I wish I had known about it when my sons were teenagers!
The young son or daughter you send to camp will come back with insights. One's learned by living close to a mountain spring under a sky filled with endless stars. Just do it!
Written by Christine Whaley., a Mother, and Grandmother who works as a Medical Assistant near Portland Oregon.