About the Program
Trek along with us on our newest and wildest adventure yet: a 16-day exploration of the “Land of Enchantment.” Custom designed by former trip leaders, this expedition entails a long drive in our van and trailer, but the discovery will be worth the extra miles! New Mexico holds some incredible secrets in both its desert and alpine environments. You’ll get to paddle and camp your way over a section of world-class fishing water on the San Juan River, absorbing views of the wide-open southwestern landscape. Then grab your headlamp and hard hat, because you’re going underground! The lava tube caves of El Malpais National Monument await your explorer’s drive to scramble over boulders, seek out hidden skylights, and discover vast rooms carpeted with moss or delicate minerals. You might even spot a few bats and other cave-dwelling species. Stop off for a night at Chaco Culture National Historical Park to appreciate the region’s native civilization, snatch a sunset hike, and be wowed by the expansive night sky (thanks to the park’s Dark Sky status, which restricts artificial light pollution). Head back east to meet up with the Forest Service for trail maintenance volunteer work, ensuring that others like you can enjoy the amazing landscape. After all this, you’ll still be in for what could become your favorite section of the entire trip: a backpacking foray into the gorgeous, peaceful, breezy pine forests of the Pecos Wilderness. Our 4-day hike starts in the Sante Fe mountains above 8,000 feet* (expect to bundle up at night!) and peaks at surreal Katherine Lake, “The Jewel of the Pecos.” We’re placing bets that in sixteen short days, you’ll fall in love with the enchanting landscape of New Mexico and stock up on memories and friendships to last a lifetime.
*Due to elevation, moderate physical conditioning is recommended prior to the trip. Contact us if you have questions!
|16 Day EPIC New Mexico + Service Itinerary||No Previous Experience or Expensive Gear Required!|
|Day 1||Welcome to Camp / Travel|
|Day 2||EPIC Wilderness Clinic/swimming at Blue Hole|
|Day 3-7||River Clinic and 5 day River Trip|
|Day 7||Prehistoric ruins and petroglyphs, Dark Sky telescope viewing|
|Day 8||El Malpais lava tube caving and exploration|
|Day 9-10||Service Work|
|Day 11-13||Multi-Day Backpacking Trip to alpine lakes.|
|Day 14||Finish backpacking trip, soak in hot springs.|
|Day 15||Clean Gear, Pack, Travel, and celebrate with EPIC Banquet|
|Day 16||Head home to share our stories|
First things first, the staff will teach campers knot tying, shelter building, cooking methods, water purification, Leave No Trace ethics (LNT), how to select a proper campsite, and back country and front country safety. In addition, we also spend time teaching campers how to plan routes, basic orienteering, outdoor leadership, risk management skills, and how to maintain proper hygiene. We believe strongly in hands-on learning and make every effort to put campers into real world situations where staff can mentor students in real time. Understanding these concepts ensures campers are not only prepared for our adventures together, but also leave the program with a greater sense of confidence.
For our multi-day kayaking trip, we will explore the varied beauty of the San Juan River. From its sparkling clear headwaters, which boast some of the best trout fishing in the world, we will paddle to its wilder lower reaches, as it meets the muddy Animas on its journey to Lake Powell. The river cuts through the barren Badlands, providing a freshwater supply to the Navajo people still living there today. Campers may see roadrunners, javelina, and armadillo along the river, which passes through rocky canyons until the takeout point at Four Corners. Campers are given comprehensive instruction on proper kayaking techniques prior to beginning our adventure. Once we head out, we will be self sufficient for the remainder of the trip, cooking and camping along the way on the banks. Traveling by water is one of the oldest forms of adventure and this trip provides plenty of Class I and II paddling fun!
Perhaps the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, component of the trip is backpacking. Teens consistently learn more from backpacking than anything else we do at camp. Days begin by preparing breakfast and filling water bottles before beginning the day’s hike. On a typical day, teens will hike 4-6 miles before making camp. Hikes are challenging but designed to suit everyone’s varying abilities. This is not a boot camp so don’t worry. Campers are given leadership roles each day and the gear is divided around the group equally. Campers usually make camp around 3-4 pm each day so they have plenty of time to build shelters, filter water, cook, and build campfires. Campers will prepare their food over campfires or with backpacking stoves, cooking things like pancakes, quesadillas, pita pizzas, cheesy hash, chicken mac, and many other fun meals. In fact, camp parents often tell us their camper comes home and cooks for them! We build shelters from tarps or if the weather is nice we just sleep under the stars. To celebrate the end of our backpacking trip, we enjoy a soak in a hot spring and a well-deserved dinner at a local restaurant. The sense of accomplishment and bonding that occurs on a backpacking trip can’t be overstated. The stories and experiences that come from our backpacking trips are often the ones that become EPIC!
We have partnered with local organizations to facilitate and lead service projects that are fun, engaging and impactful. Together we will work on clearing downed trees, repairing erosion, watershed restoration, and maintaining trails. Each camper will receive credit for 16 hours of service work.