The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 92: Bay Area Wilderness Training, part 2

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

ROGER MILLER: It's kind of like a teach-a-man-to-fish model of developing outdoor youth environmental education programs.

STEVE: This week on The WildeBeat; part two of Bay Area Wilderness Training.

[Intro Music & SFX; 0:07.6 and under]

News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number ninety two, produced with your support and membership donations.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

[Intro Music: 0:04.5 ends]

[Part2 Intro SFX: SFX: Food packing; PMD66001.WAV]

STEVE: Last time, I joined the Wilderness Leadership Training course presented by the non-profit organization, Bay Area Wilderness Training, also know as BAWT. These students are just outside of Yosemite National Park preparing for a week-long backpacking trip. The twist is, these students are actually school teachers and youth counselors. Roger Miller is BAWT's executive director.

ROGER MILLER: Youth development professionals who come on our training classes gain all the skills that they need to take their youth out on life-affirming wilderness adventures.

STEVE: Hector Nuno is one of the students. At the trailhead, he was made one of two leaders to get the group's gear and supplies organized and packed.

HECTOR NUNO: I didn't want miss essential equipment like stoves, like fuel, because that was going to affect the whole trip, and so I was very careful on that -- on the equipment.

[Crossfade to Packs-On]

STEVE: Just before they head up the trail, Hector and his partner hand over their leadership role to another pair of leaders in training, Katie and Kellie.

KATIE: So everyone; when we're hiking, ...we want to make sure our packs are nice and comfortable. I'm going to show you how it's done. Kellie is going to be the model. What you first want to do on your pack is you want to loosen all of your straps.

[Fade Packs-On under]

STEVE: It took them a long time to get underway. Every bit of serious work gets interspersed with games and songs and other efforts to keep the kids engaged.

ROGER MILLER: We're able to provide some extra tweaks, some extra challenges, put in some extra role-plays, add in someone who has some problematic behaviors, maybe is extra needy, maybe put an extra scenario in where someone gets lost. We can push each of the youth workers that we work with to their leadership limits. ...and hopefully have some fun while doing it.

[Fade to Hiking]

STEVE: With these adults acting like unruly teenagers; nothing goes smoothly. In fact, it was absolutely the longest two miles I'd ever hiked. Along the way, we had one student run ahead and get lost, one appear to be suffering heat exhaustion, several who ran low on water, and someone seemed to have to take a toilet break about every ten minutes. I couldn't always tell the difference between simulations and real problems.

[SFX: Stream]

STEVE: Late in the day, we come to a stream. It could only be crossed by getting our feet wet. The group formed a chain to cross it.

STEVE: Hector, would you like to tell me how that crossing was for you?

HECTOR NUNO: Yeah, it was challenging because the water was very cold, and I didn't have my right size of the shoes, because I didn't bring my right sandals for crossing the river. But a friend was kind, and let me borrow his sandals, so fortunately it was not that high.

[SFX: Crossfade to Cooking]

STEVE: The campsite is a short hill past the stream. We're running out of daylight, so they begin cooking right away.

ROGER MILLER: The instructors ...are always watching out for various different dangers that those particular leaders may be leading the group into, any any one point in time, and we will say, "Stop! You, you know, don't do that. That'll be a dangerous river crossing if you just have folks walk forward. Woops! You know, this is a dangerous scenario walking along this cliff, let's not do that." So we're always watching out for all those different kinds of potentially risky scenarios to make sure that, one, that nobody gets hurt, two, that everybody realizes and learns, "Oh, this might have been potentially dangerous. I would not want to do this with my youth."

STEVE: ...If I'm a parent of a child, how do I know that the leaders through your program are actually qualified to take my child out?

ROGER MILLER: One of the things that we certainly require that they have some wilderness first aid experience. ...So we make sure that anyone who is taking youth out on extended backcountry trips has some of those levels of certification -- that wilderness first responder, wilderness first aid, before they can take our gear to go out on extended backcountry trips.

STEVE: You mentioned the gear libraries... Where does all this stuff come from?

ROGER MILLER: ...We get donations from North Face, Mountain Hardware, Kelty, Big Agnes sleeping bags, Leki for poles for our snowshoeing program, Atlas donated all of the snowshoes for our snowshoe library, Sorrel all of the boots. Patagonia gives us clothing. So we've got great relationships with the outdoor retail industry, and certainly they don't necessarily provide us with all of the gear that we need, ...and so then we get some private foundation grants or other grants for particular gear or other capital equipment.

[SFX: Breakfast]

STEVE: The next morning, they get off to a slow, and not so early start.

STEVE: Hector, how was your first night backpack camping?

HECTOR NUNO: Ahh, it was great. I mean I had a lot more hours of sleeping. That was great, I feel more energetic.

STEVE: So what would you say to your kids now about what's cool about sleeping outdoors, away from civilization?

HECTOR NUNO: One of the things would be, I guess, listening to nature. ...and another thing is just appreciate the sky because back at the city you won't see any stars.

STEVE: Hey Judy.


STEVE: You haven't had your chance to be a leader on this trip yet. Are you looking forward to that?

JUDY KUANG: I have mixed feelings. I want to get over it and enjoy the whole trip, but yeah, excited and anxious about it. Worried.

ROGER MILLER: We're about to throw some really interesting scenarios at people. How to deal with a youngster who brings drugs out in the backcountry, and... We're also going to deal with a backcountry first-aid situation. So, those are all going to be opportunities for folks to hopefully learn how to deal with their own leadership, in probably some ways that will challenge them...

[SFX: Background "froggie song"]

STEVE: They got to spend three more days in the wilderness, full of fun and games and unexpected challenges.

STEVE: I had to head back to the trailhead.

[Fade out background]

STEVE: Back in town, I talked with Judy and Hector about what they got out of the program.

JUDY KUANG: I would confident enough to buy food and how to pack, and how to adjust your backpack, how to talk, and maybe read a little about the map, but then, I wouldn't be totally confident bringing a big group kids out. ...Ideally, a short hike to build up their appreciation of nature... It's going to make a difference for them, and that's something I ideally want to bring for them, to have this group bonding that let them make lifelong friends.

HECTOR NUNO: We don't have equipment, so I want to be able to get equipment, ...And just, well the ideas I had was just take the kids out... give them roles as leaders and also learn about the nature, about the geology, about the parks....

ROGER MILLER: Bay Area Wilderness Training is really high-leverage model... The more youth workers that we train, the more youth that we ultimately serve... It's an extraordinarily effective, exponential growth-oriented model... And when they get a youth worker to take them out on a trip that is part of their community, then the wilderness can be truly a powerful experience in a deeper and much more effective way than if someone who is from outside of that community were to take those youth out on a backpacking or camping trip.

STEVE: I should say that Bay Area Wilderness Training is an independent sister project to the WildeBeat, also under the Earth Island Institute.

STEVE: We'd like to hear your comments about this show, your experiences with BAWT, or similar programs. You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. You'll find details on how to join a Bay Area Wilderness Training class, how to support their efforts, and download a combined high quality version of both parts of this edition, on our web site.

[Closing Music: 0:10 and under]

Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. You can help assure future editions of this free service; please click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number ninety two. Thank you for listening.

[Closing Music: ends.]

Next time -- sock tests.

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