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Wild Society, a WTA Partner, Teams Up With Communities for Outdoor Adventures

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Dec 20, 2021 02:51 PM |

Wild Society, a wilderness education nonprofit based out of Kitsap County, developed two amazing new partnerships that brought epic adventures and rewarding relationships.

By Kendra Allen and Emily Morgan 

Wild Society, a wilderness education nonprofit based out of Kitsap County, is always looking for new ways to get people outside and connected with their own backyards and the public lands that are available to us all. They lead backcountry trips, year-round naturalist programs and community events on the Olympic Peninsula. This year, Wild Society developed two amazing new partnerships that brought epic adventures and rewarding relationships. 

Wild Society guides worked with the organizations of Mentoring Urban Students and Teens (M.U.S.T.) and African Community Housing & Development (ACHD) to plan adventures in the wild spaces of the Olympic Peninsula. Crossing the Puget Sound was a new adventure for many of the participants from the Seattle area and they were enthusiastic to explore. As they crossed the Tacoma Narrows or ferried across to Bainbridge Island, they shared a collective excitement in connecting to the natural spaces surrounding the Salish Sea.  

WS group about to head out on the water
Mentoring Urban Students and Teens head out for an adventurous paddle in Puget Sound. Photo by Emily Morgan, Wild Society.

When the folks at Wild Society first approached M.U.S.T. about going on an adventure together, the two leadership teams brainstormed adventures that would challenge the participants and give them a chance to bond. M.U.S.T.’s mission is to provide a space for Black males to liberate themselves through mentoring. Going outside created a new platform for the coaches and mentors to learn about each other and build community. The team embarked on an epic canoe trip from Fay Bainbridge Park to Blake Island. Wild Society rallied together its resources to find local guides, boats and paddles — and the group stayed warm and dry in gear from WTA’s gear library!

The trip was tough. The weather was misty and cloudy, and a majority of participants had never been on a canoe before. Many of the men were pushed out of their physical and mental comfort zones as they covered 12 long miles through open water and windy conditions.

“All of us at some point had doubts on what we embarked on, but doubts or not, we all pushed forward as a unit, and this is what M.U.S.T. is about,” a M.U.S.T. participant said.

Though many participants described the trip as “type two fun,” upon reflection they expressed gratitude for the challenge and opportunity to better learn the boundaries of their minds and bodies. 

A youth participant enjoying the close-in wonders on trail. Photo by Emily Morgan, Wild Society.

“With home in sight, I can easily say for everyone that it was one of the most rewarding feelings getting on that ferry (at the end of the trip). Being able to look out and see how far we went was truly amazing,” a M.U.S.T. participant said.

Wild Society’s other partnership led to some younger participants getting outside at the beautiful campus of Camp Indianola on the Kitsap Peninsula. From the moment the 30 members of African Community Housing & Development stepped off the bus, the warm summer air was filled with the excited squeals of third through fifth graders enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of the forest meeting the Puget Sound. ACHD’s mission is to provide opportunities for African Diaspora immigrant and refugee communities, families and individuals in King County to attain health and housing stability, economic development, high-quality education and referrals to legal services.

This weekend created space to build community and learn in the fresh air after a tough year enduring the pandemic. Youth and their parent chaperones went on guided hikes, learned to pitch tents, told stories around the campfire and listened to the sounds of the waves. 

“It has been very meaningful for ACHD families and youth to experience the outdoors with the support of Wild Society,” said Bilan Aden, associate director at ACHD. We look forward to continuing to provide opportunities for Youth and families to develop positive relationships with their environment and themselves.” 

Many of the kids were nervous about entering the forest, and some asked about who and what lived there. Just a few minutes down the trail, several hikers turned to their guides and announced that they were returning to camp. To their dismay, the guides asked them to push on, explaining that stepping out of your comfort zone can promote growth and help you learn how to face the challenges of everyday life. The group continued on, wandering in the woods and discovering banana slugs, stinging nettle, shelf fungus and trees too big to wrap their arms around. They marveled at the ecosystem that exists so close to home, but had remained unfamiliar to them until now. Upon reflection at the end of the hike, students expressed gratitude for the opportunity to explore the forest and many of them accepted the challenge of embarking on a solo hike the second day. 

Thirty members of African Community Housing & Development, including kids and chaperones, spent a weekend exploring Camp Indianola on the Kitsap Peninsula. Photo by Emily Morgan, Wild Society.

“Thank you, Wild Society, for showing us the forest and also giving us s’mores. Thank you for making us laugh and giving us a nice story. Thank you for making us great food,” an ACHD participant wrote in a thank you note. 

Wild Society envisions a future in which communities maintain respect, gratitude and belonging for all life on earth. Wonder can be found everywhere. Whether it’s a long and grueling canoe trip, or a weekend community camping trip in a local park, Wild Society believes it is a basic human right to get outside.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.