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This 20-day journey creates a supportive and empowering environment for a young women* identifying cohort of teenagers to engage in a challenging life-changing experience. This course includes a Sea Kayak expedition in Tomales Bay, backpacking in Desolation Wilderness, and Whitewater Rafting ion the South Fork of the American River.
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 identifying individuals will 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.
* “Young women” refers to gender expansive youth (cis girls, trans girls, non-binary youth, gender non-conforming youth, gender queer youth and any young women-identified youth)
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 Tomales Bay in Marin County. That evening we will learn how to set up tents, use camping stoves, and other camping skills. 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 spend our first few days bonding with our new teammates, and learning the technical skills of sea kayaking. We will become experts in what to wear on the water, how to paddle correctly, and even practice capsizing and rescuing other boaters. Once we are comfortable in our kayaks, we will pack them with all the gear, food, and water that we need for 4 days and we will embark on our Tomales Bay journey. We will spend each day kayaking to exciting new beaches, learning about wildlife, and laughing with new friends. Experienced guides will teach you about the history of the area, the wildlife that calls Tomales Bay home, and help you become strong and competent sea kayakers. You will live simply and close to nature, needing only what you pack into a dry bag and sleeping on beaches with the sound of crashing water singing you to sleep each night.
We leave the San Francisco Bay and drive to the High Sierras for a week of expedition backpacking. We will be in Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe. 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.
Road Trip Home & Graduation
We end with a graduation party as a celebration of our successes. This is a 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.
ETC strives to make outdoor experiences accessible to all regardless of ability or financial status. We offer a range of scholarships for students and encourage everyone to apply.
If you would like to apply for a scholarship, please click HERE to access the Youth LEAD Scholarship Application.
Once you have been accepted on a YLP course, to secure your reservation, your course deposit is due within two weeks of receiving your acceptance. This is 50% of your cost of the course and is necessary to hold your spot on the trip.
Program Cost: $4,000