The Explorer Program was born out of the tremendous popularity of our shorter overnight trips. The Explorer Program is a one-week stand-alone BACKCOUNTRY summer camp program. Participants meet at camp and return to camp, but they otherwise spend the entire week out exploring the Tahoe National Forest, from majestic mountain peaks to roaring rivers, from serene lakes to emerald meadows, from grand forests to sweeping granite fields. (The Explorer Program does not take place at camp and participants do not participate in the normal camp program.)
Some might confuse the Explorer Program with a backpacking program. But it's so much more. Here's what's different:
1) First and foremost, the participants plan the trip with staff guidance. We'll go over the different options for hiking trails, campsites, and activities such as rock climbing, paddle boarding, canoeing, fishing, swimming, backpacking or day trips from a base camp, and the group collectively decides on the shape of the trip and what activities they want. For example, if they want a traditional backpacking trip where they hike about 5 miles, camp, hike, camp, and so on, that's just fine.
But if they want to establish a base camp and from there do day hikes, paddleboard or canoe on a lake, rock climb, or play in a waterfall, that's great too! Each trip is unique. Being able to plan, control, and conduct their own trip helps reinforce several of the key life skills that Shaffer's High Sierra Camp is all about: building competence in and appreciation of the wilderness, resulting in increased self-confidence and independence, all the while having fun and making deep friendships.
2) The second thing that makes the Explorer Program different from a week in the backcountry is the program support. Who wants to lug around a lot of heavy climbing gear, let alone a paddleboard or canoe? But with our exceptional program support, participants can not only enjoy camping in the wilderness but can have the opportunity to enjoy these other exceptional activities.
The one-week Explorer Program can be combined with a session at camp by simply adding a regular camp session before or after most Explorer trips for a total of three fabulous weeks in the mountains (or before Session 5 for two great weeks)!
Participants can choose to learn any of several outdoor living skills, such as route planning, packing, campsite selection, outdoor cooking, sanitation, orienteering, and the Leave No Trace ethic. They'll also learn about the plants and animals native to the area and about the geologic and human history of the region.
There will be between 6 and 9 campers and 2-3 staff members who are trained and experienced in the outdoors, are certified in advanced first aid and supported with satellite communications and a dedicated four-wheel drive vehicle for their use.
The Explorer Program is designed to empower participants to make decisions for themselves under the watchful eye of our experienced staff. Helping participants gain independence and develop skills fosters self-confidence and self-esteem, all of which are critical skills for adulthood. The Explorer Program fits perfectly into Shaffer's High Sierra Camp's goal of helping children take another step toward a happy, healthy, well-adjusted adulthood.