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This 21-day sea to source course offers teenagers from diverse backgrounds a thrilling and educational journey along some of the most scenic landscapes California has to offer. This trip includes sea kayaking on the stunning San Francisco Bay, backpacking through the iconic Sierras of Northern California, and whitewater rafting on the South fork of the American River. Students will learn how watersheds link the mountains to the sea and connect the wilderness to our homes. Participants gain outdoor skills, become environmental stewards and discover the leader within them all.
The trip begins with a welcoming introduction as we join our teammates in San Francisco. We will load our gear into large vans and begin our trip with a day getting to know each other, play games, and make our own group flag. The group will then drive up to Heart’s Desire Beach in Inverness to camp for the first night. We will have a camp orientation where we learn the ins and outs of camp cooking, setting up tents, and more outdoor skills. In the evening we hold our first nightly council circle where we enjoy the process of debriefing our day, sharing of ourselves, and learning about others.
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 journey on San Francisco Bay to Angel Island. We will kayak across San Francisco Bay to Angel Island where we will set up camp. Each day we will have the chance to learn about wildlife, laugh with new friends, and progress our kayak skills. Experienced guides will teach you about the history of the area, the wildlife that calls SF Bay home, and help you become strong and competent sea kayakers. We will have the chance to hike around Angel Island and explore the historic area. You will live simply and close to nature, needing only what you pack into a dry bag and sleeping 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. For the Spanish version please click HERE
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: $5,000