Outdoor Education

Who Are Wilderness Adventures’ Trip Leaders?

By Wilderness Adventures April 10, 2024
Full group photo of 90 Staff Members

Deep in the Teton Wilderness or on the beaches of Oahu, where the air is crisp and the horizon stretches endlessly, you may stumble upon a small community of humans standing in a circle as you hear faint chants of “O Brave Mountain” in the distance. You can only assume that is a Wilderness Adventures crew. You notice a few of those circle-dwellers swaying and singing with a fiery passion for this thirty-second tune. Ah, those must be their Trip Leaders!

You hear a bellowing, “GUIDE MY WAYYYYYY,” right before the group disbands and disappears into a few small tents scattered about. But those Trip Leaders you noticed earlier have not disappeared. They’re sitting around the campfire. And while all other group members are floating off into sleep, dreaming about what’s to come in their big adventure, their Trip Leaders are planning away in their notebooks. They’re fine tuning details, sweeping camp, and ensuring all things are in order before continuing their journey in the morning.

There is a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to our Trip Leaders at Wilderness Adventures. They’re a multifaceted group of people that come together from all over the world. They are teachers, year-round outdoor educators, avid mountaineers, medical school students, and mechanical engineers. They come with technical and wilderness medicine certifications. Their most important qualities though? Their passion for youth development in the outdoors and the ability to foster community in all environments.

Through their leadership, guidance, and dedication, our Trip Leaders empower participants to connect with one another, connect with the natural world, and bring forward confidence that already exists in them. Each summer, as they lead students through multi-week adventures, our Trip Leaders continue to inspire and educate the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards.

Trip Leaders are the heart and soul of our program. They are a critical piece of the foundation of what we do at Wilderness Adventures. Read on to learn more about who they are, how they get here, and what makes Wilderness Adventures Trip Leaders stand out!

The Qualifications of Our Trip Leaders

Our Trip Leaders are not just outdoor enthusiasts; they are qualified professionals with certifications that ensure the safety and well-being of our participants. Each Trip Leader is required to earn Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and CPR certifications before arriving for the summer season. By completing this 70 to 80-hour certification course, we are assured that Trip Leaders possess the skills and knowledge to handle medical situations in remote environments as they arise. We confirm their competencies in this area through additional training at the start of our summer season.

Many of our leaders hold additional certifications, such as EMT, teacher certifications, swift water rescue, open water kayaking, lifeguarding, and more, further enhancing their ability to lead, educate, and keep students safe in the outdoors!

The wide range of certifications alone speaks to the depth of expertise and experience that our Trip Leaders bring to their roles. Whether it’s navigating the busy streets of Barcelona, teaching off-trail travel skills in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, or practicing first aid, our leaders are prepared for any challenge that may arise during our adventures!

Person holding a map explaining details and teaching someone.

The Background of Our Trip Leaders

Our Trip Leaders come from a variety of backgrounds, each bringing their own unique skills, experiences, and perspectives to the table. Some are seasoned outdoor educators, with years of experience leading expeditions in various corners of the globe and teaching outdoor skills to youth. Others are teachers by profession, bringing their classroom expertise and passion for education to the wilderness setting. Some leaders will be joining us from their school break as they finish degrees, and some work to take a few months from their full-time jobs to continue to come back to Wilderness Adventures each summer. A handful of our leaders are former students who have been inspired by their own experiences in our program and have returned as leaders to pay it forward.

For some Trip Leaders, this summer will be their first season leading for Wilderness Adventures, while others are returning for their seventh season or more! Regardless of their number of seasons with our organization specifically, all of our Trip Leaders share a common passion for youth development and a deep love for the natural world. It is this shared passion that drives them to inspire and empower the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards.

Whether they are former teachers, environmental scientists, adventure sports enthusiasts, or seasoned outdoor professionals, our Trip Leaders each bring a different perspective, energy, and wealth of skills that together enrich the fabric of our team!

Summer Staff Training

Our Leadership Team is present at summer staff training to help make sure Trip Leaders learn the wide scope of information they’ll need and fully understand the expectations of their jobs before jumping into the summer. They will learn the ins and outs of their trips from our Regional Coordinators who created the itineraries. They will learn about each of the students they will work with in the summer season from our Program Experts who worked alongside families to get students enrolled in their summer programs! We personally make sure each leader is feeling confident moving forward into the summer, is competent in all of the skills they will need to use, and is committed to our mission of inspiring growth and wonder.

Our Trip Leaders are a dynamic group of individuals who bring a wealth of experience and passion to our adventures. What makes our leaders truly special is their dedication to creating memorable and enriching experiences for our participants. They possess a unique blend of leadership skills, outdoor knowledge, and enthusiasm that make them exceptional.

Wilderness Adventures Trip Leaders are more than just guides – they are mentors, role models, and friends. Our leaders are chosen not only for their expertise in outdoor activities but also for their ability to connect with people and foster a sense of community among our participants. Their passion for the outdoors, combined with their knowledge and expertise, make them invaluable members of our team and key contributors to the success of our programs.

Man in the middle of a circle of people - everyone cheering.

The Community Built by Trip Leaders

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

At the heart of every Wilderness Adventures expedition is a strong sense of community, fostered by our Trip Leaders. From the moment participants arrive, our leaders work tirelessly to create a supportive and inclusive environment where everyone feels welcomed and valued.

Through team-building activities, group discussions, collective challenge, and shared experiences, our Trip Leaders encourage participants to form connections with one another and develop a sense of camaraderie that lasts beyond the summer experience. Whether it’s working together to set up camp, cooking meals over a Whisperlite stove, or encouraging another student catching their first wave, our leaders empower participants to support one another and embrace the spirit of adventure. Because the only thing that is more powerful than standing on top of the Grand Teton is standing on top of the Grand Teton with your 12 new friends from across the globe that helped you get to that spot.

The staff at Wilderness Adventures are not just leaders; they are companions on the path, weaving together a tapestry of shared experiences, laughter, and moments of awe. They are risk mitigators, chefs, chauffeurs, medics, counselors, and temporary caregivers. Through their warmth, empathy, and genuine interest in their students, Trip Leaders create a supportive and inclusive environment where friendships blossom, barriers dissolve, and memories are made that last a lifetime.

Six people mountaineering smiling together.

The FUN Our Trip Leaders Bring

Another thing that sets our Trip Leaders apart is their ability to transform ordinary outings into extraordinary adventures. Whether climbing to the top of Mount Adams, paddling through tranquil waters in Yellowstone, or grocery shopping at Smith’s, Trip Leaders infuse every moment with excitement and possibility, leaving an indelible mark on all who embark on the journey.

They help students understand the significance of, “it’s about the journey, not the destination,” by singing songs on the otherwise grueling uphills and pulling out their endless collection of riddles (but never revealing the answers, of course!). And while our trips are meant to be challenging, our Trip Leaders are always aware of students’ capacity for challenge and won’t let a tough day on the trail end without a game of ‘YeeHaw’ or a camp dance party!

Building Connections with the Natural World

In addition to fostering connections among participants, our Trip Leaders also strive to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the natural world. Through hands-on learning experiences, guided discussions, and environmental education lessons, they encourage participants to develop a greater understanding of the places they explore and the importance of conservation and stewardship.

Whether it’s identifying native plant species, learning the 7 principles of Leave No Trace, or discussing the impacts of climate change on wilderness areas we visit, our Trip Leaders provide opportunities for participants to engage with their surroundings on a meaningful level. By fostering a sense of curiosity and wonder, they inspire a lifelong love and respect for the natural world.

Two people looking out at a lake at sunset.

By: Rachel Salata, Alumni Trip Leader + WA Staffing Coordinator