"There is no way that I could ever put this experience into words to describe it to my parents. It would take weeks and months. The only way to get them to understand, would be to take them out here too." -Inspired Forward TrekYouth Participant
This past week, 11 Sonoma County teens trekked 20 miles over four days, from LandPaths’ Bohemia Ecological Preserve to Shell Beach, as part of LandPaths Inspired Forward program. During the trek, they foraged for Black Trumpet mushrooms that they later ate for breakfast, made tea out of fir tips and nettles, participated in a stewardship project and cooked their fresh veggies over an open fire while sharing stories, songs and a whole lot of laughter.
The group included youth who had migrated from Colombia only six months before and two siblings from The State of Eritrea. At least five were the children of farmworkers and had been enrolled in Migrant Education at some point in their lives. None of the teens were avid hikers. Only a couple of them had ever been camping before, let alone backpacking. At the onset, the thought of walking 20 miles over rugged terrain, carrying their gear on their backs, sleeping in tents at night, was both strange and unsettling. But along the way they found a sense of peace and deep satisfaction, that only such an experience can bring.
Jess Holloway, LandPaths Staffer and Trek Leader, (who claims she’s still grinning about this trip, a week later) shared this glimpse into camp life: "We told myths and legends around the campfire, along with personal stories of their experience on this journey. I haven’t laughed so hard for so long in quite some time. It felt like one of those nights you never want to end. Everyone was so comfortable with themselves and with each other, laughing around a fire, sharing fears and accomplishments. There was a lot of talk about how stressful life is on a daily basis and how good it feels to be away from all that."
Through this multi-day trek teens gained access, many for the first time, to the ultimate show stopper -- which is nature. They learned about the ecology of their place, and surprised themselves with their own stamina in walking many miles over rough trails. Over the course of four days, they transformed from a band of strangers into a tribe, each one sinking into a sense of their own belonging in the process. All the teens agreed it was a life changer.
Ultimately, Inspired Forward, and all of LandPaths programs, are about developing and supporting this sense of belonging- in direct contrast to the sense of disconnection that can feel like the norm for many people these days. LandPaths aims to bring experiences like this within reach for all. See below for three brand new opportunities to spend the night outside - trekking and or camping with LandPaths - a Family Trek, a Teen River Trek and a Free Bohemia Campout!
While nature does most of the work, people are important to the process. Tremendous thanks to Freddie Sanchez, a local chef who met the group and cooked them a meal, to Socorro Shiels – Director of Education for the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence– who came out and talked with the group on Monday night. Thanks to Westminster Woods for allowing the group to take shelter on Monday Night with only two hours notice, as it was pouring rain and too wet to camp. Thanks to Bay Area Wilderness Training for loaning the gear for this trip. Thanks to Community Action Partnership and the North Bay Organizing Project. And finally many thanks to the Sonoma County Health Services Department for the three-year grant that has helped to bring hundreds of local teens on Inspired Forward field trips, and to all LandPaths’ supporters whose donations help to complete the funding needed for this program.