A program of the American River Conservancy, Epic Sierra Adventures was established to provide an affordable adventure travel and service learning program for young adults. Geared towards high school youth, ages 14-18, Epic Sierra integrates environmental education into adventure travel and volunteer stewardship during a 14-day journey, July 20 through Aug. 2.
Epic Sierra introduces teenagers to a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities and teaches minimum impact practices, ideas which participants can carry over to their daily lives as well as to backcountry travel. Each trip begins in Coloma along the banks of the South Fork American River and culminates in a three-day backpack in Yosemite National Park. Participants paddle the American River, Lake Tahoe and Mono Lake and explore the different biomes of the central Sierra on foot.
Epic Sierra also builds a strong sense of community among participants, not just within the immediate sphere of the group but also with the vast environs they explore and investigate each day of the trip. Deepening their connection with communities, every participant contributes 12 to 15 hours of volunteer service at different sites throughout the 14-day adventure. Projects include building trails and restoring different habitats, specifically the river and alpine habitats of the central Sierra.
Teens appreciate these experiences as much as spending a day rafting on the river.
One former Epic Sierra participant wrote, “I have continued to expand my appreciation for both (water and land conservation), but what I will take away most is the ability we have to actively participate in conservation and make a difference for our futures.”
In the case of restoring habitats, the experience gives a more intimate understanding of the habitat. Each project is facilitated by a partner agency or organization which also provides participants an opportunity to learn about careers in the conservation and education fields.
Epic Sierra trips instill in participants a sense of the intrinsic value of spending time in wild places. Backpacking for three days in Yosemite National Park provides the perfect opportunity to teach participants the value of getting away from civilization and going into the wilderness. Through group-oriented activities, participants are equipped with the skills and confidence to venture into the outdoors in their locales. Participants learn to exercise judgment and show respect for the elements in order to keep themselves safe.
By engaging youth in active adventures and promoting an outdoor lifestyle, Epic Sierra furthers the American River Conservancy’s mission of preserving and protecting rivers and watersheds of the Sierra.
Of their life after Epic Sierra, one participant wrote, “When I got back from an Epic trip, I found myself feeling trapped inside and craving the outdoors. I realized that one must make time to be out in nature to maintain a well-rounded being. Really an entire part of life is missing without exposure to nature.”