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This Summer Was WILD

Posted by Jean Bartholomew at Oct 04, 2021 07:59 PM |

InterImCDA’s WILD program, Wild Society and Wild Grief all took teens backpacking this summer (with gear from WTA's gear library). We ask them to reflect on the value of time spent in the “wild” for the youth they work with and some unexpected logistical challenges they encountered.

WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training program was excited to have our gear library back up and running this summer! Groups worked hard to navigate increased logistics and health considerations to lead safe and memorable teen outings. It was so great to see programs ready to go backpacking again, and we happily sent gear out with our partners at InterImCDA’s WILD program, Wild Society and Wild Grief on their teen backpacking trips.

As we start to settle into fall, we asked them each to reflect on the value of time spent in the “wild” for the youth they work with and some unexpected logistical challenges they dealt with this summer. 

InterImCDA - WILD Program

by June Pen, WILD Program Coordinator

youth with WILD on a tentpad by June PenYouth with WILD constructing a tentpad. by June Pen

At the Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development (WILD) program, we believe that the “wild” can be found anywhere, from your neighborhood park to a crack in the sidewalk to the more remote parts of our national forests and parks. This summer we got to spend time in the wilds of the North Cascades surrounding area camping, hiking, and even doing trail work with the U.S. Forest Service in Skykomish.

Our youth got lots of emotionally-rewarding outdoors experience, a great sense of accomplishment, and even a workout from installing culverts and constructing tent pads, which will stay in place for years to come and provide safety and enjoyment for many people! 

Wild Grief

by Anthony Geyman, Wild Grief backpacking guide

van Wild Grief by Monica AnneyThe crew from Wild Grief climbing into the van. Photo by Monica Anney

Wild Grief at the beach by Jim CubbageWild Grief at the beach by Jim Cubbage

After a year of all virtual programs we finally had our opportunity to get back into the wilderness. We made our plans, we prepped our meals and mess kits, we packed our bags and gear, we loaded up and headed out for a weekend of adventure, healing and fun with enthusiasm and optimism. We were finally doing it. Little did we know that the wilderness had another plan for us that weekend. As we approached our forest road to the trailhead, a van full of teens and a gear vehicle in tow, it became overwhelmingly clear ... the trip was not going to happen.

Despite all clear weather for the entire week leading up to the trip, wildfires in the range near our destination had taken hold and smoke poured from the hills. We lamented our circumstance as we made the choice to turn back and postpone. Safety always comes first. Upon immediately feeling the feelings as a group we have accepted our loss and have firmly moved into making plans and adapting to changes.

The sometimes wild and chaotic nature of the wilderness creates opportunities for change. It continues to help our organization adapt and grow. The wild can truly humble you in the best way possible. 

Wild Society

by Emily Morgan, Program Director 

Teens backpacking with Wild SocietyTeens backpacking. Photo courtesy of Wild Society

Every morning of every trip, Wild Society campers and staff start their day by emerging from a cozy tent and meandering down to the nearest lake or stream. Groups wake up the mind, body, and spirit by splashing water on their faces, sharing gratitudes, and stretching their bodies. By physically connecting to the life-giving waters of the Olympic Mountains, we aim to cultivate wonder and belonging in the natural public spaces accessible to us all.

Our hope is that as we create opportunities for individuals and communities to explore wild spaces, we are healing both our own bodies and reconnecting to the land that we all depend on. Not only that, but as students challenge their bodies to climb mountains with everything they need on their backs, students learn their limits in a way that helps them face the challenges of everyday life back home. 

As my group crested the top of Anderson Pass after a long climb from the Enchanted Valley, I could see the pride and near disbelief on the campers faces at the feat we had just accomplished. Looking down on our previous campsite thousands of feet below, the group reflected on the individual and community growth we had experienced.

Several teens admitted to doubts and uncertainty they had experienced on the climb, some even dreaming of turning around. But as we sat on top of this epic ridge, I could see them own their struggle and recognize the value in making it to the other side of a challenge. I couldn't have felt more proud.

WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training program looks forward to continuing to support more wild adventures through hands-on experiential workshops, gear lending through our two gear libraries and funding assistance.