What 27-Days in the Yosemite Backcountry Did For One Summer Camper
by Zoe Ferguson, Lasting Adventures staffer and former summer camp attendee
Enrolling in the 27-day Junior Leadership summer camp program was an easy decision for me. After going on both the 6- and 13-day youth trips during previous summers, the expedition program seemed a logical next step.
I figured many other participants would have similar trajectories, but while meeting everyone over the first few days I realized how wrong I was. Some participants had far more experience than I did. Others had never been backpacking. Many fell somewhere in the middle.
Regardless of our backgrounds, we came together over a love of adventuring and spending time in the outdoors, and an eagerness to learn and take advantage of everything thrown our way.
With participants of different ages coming from Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, and all parts of California, our group of ten varied greatly. But from the very first day we found common ground. Through summits of iconic peaks, backcountry cook-outs with any and all ingredients found in bear cans, and oh-so-many rounds of cards, we formed a working team of individuals from all different walks of life.
One of the most common questions I’m asked when talking about the trip is how I was able to stay happy and engaged for all 27 days in the woods. My answer is this: Backpacking is a simple adjustment.
Whether your trip is 6, 27, or 200 days long, there’s always a period of acclamation and modification. But it doesn’t take long before trail trampling becomes a normal way of life.
After getting over the initial hump of adjustment, our group of young leaders all quickly fell into a new routine of cooking, cleaning, and packing our belongings up for the days ahead. In between the obvious tasks were hours spent playing games, looking at the stars, and learning random backcountry skills. By the end of the expedition, I could tell time based on shadows and sun position, use a compass and shoot a bearing, and properly fix a Whisperlite backcountry stove (that is, banging it on the ground until it stops fireballing). The basics of living in the woods remained constant throughout the whole trip, but everything in between varied greatly from day to day.
I ended the trip with multiple wilderness certifications, nine new friends, three finished books, two short-stories written, and thousands of memories.
If I could, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but I know this unique opportunity should be reserved for new minds to grow in as many ways as mine did. Every few months, I’ll look back over my journals or pictures taken during the trip and just smile at how darn happy I was during this time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s nothing like time in the woods to boost confidence, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
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