Wilderness Trip Leader Training

It’s a beautiful spring day here at BT, and camp has begun to fill up enough to set up three tables in the lodge. Our Wilderness Trip Leaders have been in training for over a week now and I couldn’t be more excited about our amazing crew of trip leaders this year. We have been fortunate to work with some exceptional Trip Leaders in the past, all of whom carry a deeply seeded appreciation and love for nature, but this year’s trip staff has already proven to be extremely dedicated to teaching the many life lessons that camping can teach.

This year we have a staff of 15 talented and skilled trip leaders, four of whom have master’s degrees. We take our wilderness trips program very seriously, and work hard to make sure that our trip leaders—whose sole job in camp is to guide campers on trips—have all the training, knowledge, and good judgment they need to lead fun, safe, and memorable trips throughout the summer. “Trippers,” as we like to call them, are among the most mature and responsible staff.

We’re the only camp that requires our trippers to be over the age of 21 and to have current certifications as both Wilderness First Responders and Lifeguards. The Wilderness First Responder course is a 90-hour wilderness emergency medicine class that provides trip leaders with everything they need to know in order to respond to emergency situations in remote settings. We believe that Lifeguard certifications are also necessary because many of our trips take campers on water either in sailboats, canoes, or kayaks. We require our trip staff to all be over the age of 21 so that they come to camp equipped with enough life experience to facilitate good judgment; this year, the average age of our trippers is 25.

In addition to the skills with which they come to camp, our trippers learn a wealth of information and skills during the month-long training program in which they participate once they arrive in Minong. Tomorrow, they will leave for a 7-day canoe trip where they’ll practice and learn all the skills necessary for successful trips, including everything from emergency procedures to silly camp songs. They’ll familiarize themselves with all the camp sites they will spend time at throughout the summer and practice favorite trip food recipes. Trip food is a highlight for the campers, so much so that we’ve even made a BT Trip Food Cookbook full of our famous recipes. So if your daughter comes home at the end of the summer requesting Dutch Oven Pizzas, Colossal Flambeau Falafel, and Feldtman Ridge Fried Rice, we’d be more than happy to email you the recipes!

At the conclusion of this trip, the trip staff will join the rest of the staff so that they can participate in our comprehensive staff orientation program (more to come on that in next week’s blog post). It is this incredible breadth of experience that gives Birch Trail the highest-quality trip staff around.

We offer a wide variety of trips here at BT, varying in length and destination according to age, ability, and interest with everything from day trips to backpacking trips lasting two weeks. Our trip program is split up into two categories: cabin trips and optional trips. Cabin trips operate on a progression system that starts with our youngest campers going on van trips to some of the beautiful lakes and parks in Minnesota and Wisconsin. As they get older, campers will go on three-day canoe trips and then move on to four-day backpacking trips. This way, by the time a camper leaves camp she will have experienced many different kinds of camping.

Optional trips allow campers to try different things and specialize in the activities that interest them most. These optional trips include rock climbing, sailing, mountain biking, sea kayaking, horseback riding, backpacking, fishing, white water kayaking, as well as
white water, lake, and river canoeing.

Though the wilderness trips program is just one aspect of your daughter’s time here at camp, it is an especially important component of the Birch Trail philosophy. Camp provides great opportunity for kids to do things they can’t do at home, and spending time hiking in the Apostle Islands, paddling the St. Croix river, or camping in the Sylvania National Forest gives our campers just that kind of opportunity. In addition to bonding over s’mores and campfires, campers gain a sense of accomplishment, self-worth, and achievement after carrying their own gear and food, pitching their own tents (with a little help from their tripper, of course), and camping in places where they may not see any other people for days at a time.

As they get older, campers will take turns acting as the leader for a day, implementing skills such as orienteering, interactive group skills, river navigation, and leave-no-trace practices. This experience, like much of what campers learn during their time at BT, will help them succeed as they meet greater challenges as adults. In fact, we still receive emails and letters from former campers who identify the experience and knowledge they gained through camp trips as what gave them the strength to get through challenges in their adult life.

As I get to know each of these amazing trippers more and more each day, I can already sense what a profound impact these people will have on your daughters’ life at camp, and I am thrilled to imagine all the memories that will be formed in a heartbeat, but that will last a lifetime.

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