Ascend’s flagship program is the youth backpack program, which guides groups into the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area for five days at a time. Ascend has also facilitated family backpack trips and offers a number of day activities including group day hikes to younger children ages 6-8, river rafting adventures and ropes course challenges. Ascend is also working towards offering backpack trips to various adult groups such as novice adult backpackers, and seniors.
In all Ascend’s excursions, a strong educational component enhances understanding. Participants learn about the formation of the natural landscape, local plants (i.e. names, qualities) and wildlife, backcountry ethics such as Leave No Trace and the inter-connectedness of the land, the weather, plants, animals and people. Ascend programs also teach backcountry cooking and nutrition, as well as many other practical skills such as hanging food, setting up a tent, purifying water, making a fire, and reading a topographical map. More recent Ascend backpack trips have also included focused stewardship activities, such as trail maintenance with the California Conservation Corps.
Ascend adventures have shown lasting effects on participants. Placing a group in the wilderness creates a uniquely charged circumstance in which a series of perspective-changing moments are compressed into a short period and growth occurs at an accelerated rate. Ascend staff enhances the already powerful wilderness experience with challenges that promote self-reflection, awareness, frustration tolerance and effective communication. Ascend staff also assist participants in generalizing the lessons learned to their everyday lives so that they may draw on realizations made in the wilderness, to push past preconceived limitations and come to a greater sense of their capabilities at home, at work, in school and in the local community.