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This 21-day journey creates a supportive and empowering environment for a female cohort of teenagers to engage in a challenging life-changing experience. This course includes a ten day backpacking trip – truly providing the time and space for participants to become fully absorbed in the wilderness, slowing down to the pace of life of the wild rivers and meadow flowers. Following the backpacking trip, students will travel to the South Fork of the American River and learn to navigate rafts and inflatable kayaks through exciting Class II & III whitewater rapids.
While on this adventure, students will learn about the environment, develop leadership skills, and embrace some of California’s stunning natural resources. Participants will learn how watersheds link the mountains to the sea and connect the wilderness to our homes. These young women gain confidence, new skills, and the knowledge that their voice matters. All of this will happen while laughing ceaselessly with a newfound group of best friends.
The trip begins with a welcoming introduction as we meet our teammates in San Francisco. We spend the morning playing getting-to-know you games, discussing our hopes and fears, and overviewing the trip. We then load our gear into vans and head to the Sierra Nevada, where we will be spending the next few nights back packing. That evening we will learn how to set up tents, use camping stoves, and survive in the wilderness. In the evening we hold our first nightly council circle where we enjoy the process of debriefing our day, reflecting on our lives, and getting to know our teammates on a deeper level.
We leave the hustle and bustle of the city and continue up the watershed to the Sierra Nevada mountains for the backpacking expedition. The challenge of backpacking and carrying only our essential needs gives us the opportunity to gain confidence and feel empowered, as well as the solitude to reflect on our experiences. We will take time to connect to the nature around us and reflect on our relationships with each other and the earth, all while sharing of ourselves, laughing, and relishing bonding with new friends. While traveling through the scenic alpine environments, we will get to swim in freshwater lakes and identify countless wildflowers, each night enjoying the canopy of stars above us.
We travel downstream from the Sierra Nevada mountains to the small town of Coloma, where we settle into ETC’s beautiful and accessible river camp. The river land is on the bank of the South Fork American River, just one mile away from where gold was first found, and in the heart of the California Gold Rush. The river portion provides time to explore the thrill and adventure of whitewater rafting while having a consistent camp space to return to each evening. Instructors train the students to navigate rapids, and students eventually take turns guiding the boats down Class I-II sections of the river. The more challenging Class III sections will be safely run by knowledgeable and experienced river guides, with ample time for white water excitement. Each day we will come back to the comfort of our beautiful river camp to cook dinner in the open-air kitchen. Every night will be spent sleeping under the stars and listening to the rustling pine trees as the river sings a bedtime lullaby.
We end with a graduation party as a celebration of our successes. This is a potluck gathering in San Francisco where friends and family are invited to partake in the festivities. We share with loved ones the highlights of our journey, hand out individual awards, give participant speeches, and present a slideshow of captured moments on our trip.