This August, Ascend Wilderness Experience wrapped up another fantastic summer of outdoor hiking trips, providing a more diverse schedule of free outdoor opportunities for all ages than ever before. Ascend hosted youth, adults, and families on 7 overnight camping experiences and 2 day hikes in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area. On these trips, Ascend not only facilitated opportunities for distraction free immersion in wilderness, participants from ages 6-76 also learned about backcountry skills and ethics and were given opportunities to perform important stewardship tasks on trails affected by wildfire in 2021.
Youth Hiking and Backpacking Trips
Ascend’s flagship youth overnight backpacking trips were among these overnight experiences. Three different trips adventured into different areas of the Trinity Alps Wilderness, giving youth the chance to build connections in their groups and within themselves in the unique setting of backcountry wilderness.
3-day Backpacking trip (Ages 9-11)
Ascend’s 3-day backpacking trip for youth ages 9-11 hiked into Deadfall Lake, camping in the shadow of Mt. Eddy. During the 3 mile hike into the lake, Wilderness Guides reported that the group was eager to help one another share the weight in their packs and stayed together supporting each other on what was many of their first hikes amongst peers, carrying all of their own camping supplies. The next day, a group rallied to summit Mt. Eddy itself, motivating to get an early start and gain the summit in just 3 hours! Afterward, everyone was excited to spend the day catching tadpoles and playing in the gorgeous alpine lake before a well earned evening around the fire playing games and listening to stories.
5-day Backpacking trip (Ages 10-13)
Youth ages 10-13 were taken on a 5-day backpacking trip up to East Boulder Lake. These youth scrambled up peaks, enjoyed lakeside sunsets and covered many miles exploring this unique area on the cusp of the Scott Mountains. These amazing hikers were motivated to cover a lot of ground and managed to see over 20 lakes from amazing vantage points along the trail and swam in as many as they could as well. Two participants reported their favorite lake was crystal clear Washbasin Lake and that it was really special to hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.
5-day Leadership & Mentor Training Trip (ages 12-14)
The second 5-day youth backpacking trip was for ages 12-14 and intended for youth who exhibit aptitude or desire to take on a leadership role in wilderness. This trip hiked up Canyon Creek and made it up to both Boulder Creek Lakes and Canyon Creek Lakes. Participants were tasked with widening the trail at the base of the Boulder Creek Lakes spur by clearing overgrown bushes and were joined by Forest Service Rangers on the final night at camp to discuss wilderness ethics and recreational usage of public lands. On the last night around the campfire, 14-year-old Flora Cruise beamed as she told everyone that the trip had been the highlight of her summer.
Youth Day Hikes (ages 6-8 & 9-11)
In June, Ascend hosted two day hikes where youth as young as 6 spent the day hiking into lakes and swimming holes where they could explore the natural world and enjoy the June alpine runoff, safely playing under the watchful eye of water safety certified Ascend Wilderness Guides. On these day hikes, youth participants learned about water filtration, local ecology, and enjoyed craft projects that used natural materials.
Multigenerational Weekend (Families, Teens, & Adults)
In terms of stewardship experiences, Ascend hosted 3 overnight experiences as well as partnering with the Watershed Center to provide a Wilderness Guide for their Hayfork Youth Crew. Ascend kicked off the summer by hosting their Multigenerational Weekend, which brought families together in the outdoors. The trip facilitated first time wilderness experiences for two 8-year-olds, as well as gave the opportunity for one family’s first camping trip all together with their children. This trip also incorporated significant trailwork in which adults were able to retread the East Weaver Lake trail while their kids widened the trail corridor by removing brush that was encroaching into the path. Our Wilderness Guide reported that seeing family’s work together and having the multigenerational dynamic between participants was really special.
7-day Teen Stewardship and Work Experience Trip (Ages 14-17)
Ascend also hosted its second annual Teen Stewardship Work Experience. This year, our group set up basecamp at Boulder Lake, which had been severely impacted by the River Complex Fire. Accompanied by FS Wilderness Patrol and an Ascend Guide these teens spent 4 of their 7 days working incredibly hard to rehabilitate trail that had been decimated by wildfire as well as open up overgrown areas along the Tracy Trail. Ascend was tasked with performing most of its major stewardship tasks in burn scars where the River Complex Fire burned particularly hot, leaving gaping holes in the trail where deep rooted trees had been incinerated. The devastation to these areas made progress slow and also sparked interesting conversations between the guides and teens who were curious about fire and forest aesthetics. Stewardship was time consuming and dirty in these areas and FS partners were pleased by the magnitude of tasks our teen volunteers and Wilderness Guide were able to accomplish.
Teen participants said they left the trip with resume-building trailwork skills, an appreciation for the work ethic the trip guides modeled, and an appreciation for the outdoors and trails. They learned proper use of hand tools and used equipment to perform rock work, retread trail that had been decimated by fire, and opened up overgrown areas that had not burned but had been neglected. This work will prevent erosion on steep, burned out hillsides and increase access for future hikers that will be camping in the area and giving attention to this heavily impacted area. Participants earned certificates from both Ascend and the Forest Service that will help bolster their resumes as they enter the workforce in coming years. Ascend is incredibly proud to be able to offer work experiences to youth in Trinity County and their participants are appreciative as well. One participant reported that “these experiences are valuable to me because I am really looking forward to working with the forest service as a career”.
5-day Adult Stewardship Trip (ages 18+)
Ascend’s final trip was the 5-day all adult stewardship trip. This trip hosted participants from ages 36 to 76 who hiked up Swift Creek all the way to Landers Lake. The group cleared the trail of fallen logs and debris and retreaded areas where the River Complex Fire had burned incredibly hot, making the trail completely unrecognizable and leaving gaping holes where trees that had been rooted deep into the ground had been completely incinerated. Ascend volunteers and guides filled these holes, stabilizing the trail for future mule teams to access the area and perform more trail rehabilitation.
Wilderness Guides reported that the teamwork that these adult participants exhibited was truly impressive and coordinated. Participants supported each other and some even got to do their first solo day hike while feeling safe and supported by having a radio in case of emergency.
Thank you for another amazing summer season!
Ascend is incredibly grateful to all our partners, funders, participants, and guides who worked so hard to make these trips happen. Thank you so much to everyone who helped ensure we had another AWEsome summer!