Today's Lesson: Working As One

The 7-day Backpacking Expedition

Though each Big City Mountaineers journey has roughly the same itinerary, the expeditions are unique in their details. The curriculum used by each BCM group is specifically designed to help build relationships and impact the goals and desired outcomes summarized in our mission.

Prior to the expedition- There are a series of meetings and events that will take place before the weeklong backpacking expedition, the focus of which are to allow the teen and adult participants to begin building trust and get to know each other. These events may include day hikes or other outdoor activities, orientations for the teens’ families, and adult team member trainings. Pre-expedition meetings can take place up to several weeks before the weeklong journey. There will also be a daylong training for volunteers.

Day 1 The first day of the expedition brings the team together as teens and adults converge at the youth agency, BCM office, or another staging point to sort and pickup necessary gear and food. After the gear and food are issued, the team drives to a trailhead campground. There you will begin teaching backcountry lessons like, how to set up a tent, LNT, and backcountry cooking. During dinner, the team will discuss the upcoming expedition, set goals, and continue to build on their new relationships. Camp roles and curriculum pieces will often be introduced on this evening.

Day 2 The second day is the first day on the trail. The morning begins with breakfast and a quote of the day and moves into packing up camp, teaching the teens to pack their backpacks, and leaving behind any unnecessary items for the backcountry in the vans. Packs are given one last tightening and the team hits the trail for the backcountry portion of their journey. This day’s hike is short and gives everyone a chance to make adjustments and get used to the feel of their backpack. The first dinner in the backcountry is well earned and there is usually plenty of laughter when darkness falls and the teens realize how quiet it is in the wilderness.

Day 3 The third day is dedicated to hiking. The morning is often a long one as the teens get used to “breaking camp” and packing their packs in the thin mountain air.  Lunch is a welcome break and the afternoon’s hike is usually a bit shorter. The destination for today is either a good campsite to settle in to for the next two nights, or a break before pushing ahead further. After the camp is organized and everyone has eaten, there is time for journaling, reflection, and fun games before everyone falls asleep.

Day 4 Day four is either a time to explore without the weight of full packs, or a shorter version of day 3. Today the team has a better idea of what to expect from each other, and most get into a groove of enjoying the hiking and scenery around them.  Camp is usually set close to a lake that offers fishing and dipping, and/or a peak to summit.  This time also offers the team a chance to share in group activities and practice skills like journal writing, orienteering, or fly-fishing.

Day 5 The fifth day sees the team begin the hike back towards civilization.  Depending on the trail, this means either retracing day 4’s steps or following the trail further to complete a loop back to the vans.

Day 6 The morning of day six, the teens are almost always up and packed before their leaders for the hike back to the van. Once back at their final night’s lodging (varies based on location), the gear is cleaned and everybody is able to take a much-anticipated shower.  In the evening there is an celebrations dinner where the teens are given awards and are commended for their accomplishments on the expedition.  Everyone talks about the incredible feats and the majestic scenery of the past five days.

Day 7 On the last day everyone heads for home. Once back in the city, gear is returned to the BCM office or staging point, good-byes and congratulations are passed around and final pictures are taken.