The black-and-white landscape photography of Ansel Adams gave America some of its first visual connection to our national park system. As an environmental advocate, as well as a photographer, Adams used much of his photography to support the conservation goals of the Sierra Club. As an artist, he focused on showing the aesthetic beauty of the national parks, developing the Zone System as a way to segment a photograph and visualize the result before taking the picture – essentially a form of controlled aesthetic.
For the past four decades, Wilderness Ventures has been connecting young people with our national parks systems. We deliver carefully-crafted experiences that connect teenagers to the outdoors by giving them the time of their lives in an environment that is at once beautiful and imaginative – inspiring conservation ethics through environmental education and by creating intrinsic connections with wild lands.
Wilderness Ventures founders Mike and Helen Cottingham believe that showing young people a good time in a truly beautiful environment will help develop a love for the outdoors while planting the seeds of conservation ethics in their hearts and minds. This philosophy requires our outdoor adventure programs to travel to the most beautiful destinations on the planet, which serve as our “outdoor classroom.” We like to call these locations of inspired beauty our “Last Best Places.” Hand selected by Mike and Helen, these renowned locations of extreme aesthetic beauty have helped inspire a love for the outdoors amongst our over 20,000 alumni over multiple generations.
It’s certainly no coincidence that both Wilderness Ventures and Ansel Adams use many of the same backdrops for inspiring conservation ethics and a love for the outdoors. Some of these shared locations include Canyon De Chelly in Arizona, Grand Teton National Park, the Kings River Canyon in California, Rocky Mountain National Park, New Mexico’s Taos Pueblo, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and Zion National Park.
With our home in the Tetons and Yellowstone region of northwestern Wyoming, Adam’s photos of Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park are sources of aesthetic inspiration for our teen adventure programs. We share a special kinship with Adam’s work in these destinations. (In fact, our office is just a few miles south of the area pictured in Adam’s famous photo “Tetons and the Snake River”.)
Wilderness Ventures offers over 12 separate teen adventure programs that visit both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Students can choose between age-appropriate adventures that backpack, sea kayak, rock climb, bicycle and whitewater raft these national treasures. In Adam’s home state of California, students can choose the High Sierra Adventure, California Adventure or California Explorer Adventure, which each visit renowned Yosemite National Park, as well as the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Students on our Colorado Adventure make a once-in-a-lifetime trek through Rocky Mountain National Park. Finally, giving back to the land and its inhabitants, students participating in our Southwest Service Adventure visit some of Adam’s favorite environments in that region – including the Taos Pueblo, Canyon De Chelly and Zion National Park.
As the premier outdoor adventure program for teens, our goals are to develop leadership skills, connect people to wild lands and inspire a love for the outdoors. We are proud to have served as an advocate for Adam’s conservation vision throughout the past 40 years.