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21 Reasons to do a 21-Day Expedition

With the oak trees already sprouting their leaves out here in central California, summertime will be here faster than you can say, “Where are my shorts?” Ready to get summer adventures on your mind, too? Out of all of Summit Adventure’s open-enrollment summer courses, the 21-Day Leadership Expedition (for ages 16+) is the longest course in our roster. If you’re thinking, “Nah, that’s too long for me,” or “too challenging,” or “too” anything, keep reading, because we’ve got 21 reasons to change your mind.

Reason #1: It’s 21 days. How many of your friends have spent 21 days straight in the backcountry? If your answer is “none,” make that friend you. If your answer is “some,” well, come join the ranks!

Reason #2: The glorious Yosemite wilderness. Millions of people make cross-country and international pilgrimages to just walk around in the sights of the Valley. You, on the other hand, get to be part of the minute fraction of that population to live in its backyard–for three weeks (that’s another name for 21 days, by the way).

Reason #3: Sleeping under the stars. How would you like to be tucked in by the Milky Way every night? And, no, I’m not talking about the candy bar. 

Reason #4: The chance to learn the secrets of backcountry cooking. Finally! You’ll have what it takes to go Gordon Ramsay on that canned chicken and brownie mix you so lovingly carried around in a bear canister. 

Reason #5: Wildlife sighting. Typically, the animals prefer to stick with their own kind, but every once in a while a stroke of bravery or curiosity will bring them to sight. And that’s what bear canisters are for.

Reason #6: Honing leadership skills. The challenges, facilitated discussions, and development in backcountry skills are all about learning to take charge of your leadership abilities–potential you’re less likely to refine at (let’s be honest) a fun-and-games summer camp, yet something you’ll be happy you earned to write down on a resume or college application. 

Reason #7: What comes hand-in-hand with leadership expertise? Communication and conflict resolution skills! Get pumped to level-up on cooperation and engaging with your peers.

Reason #8: “And I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more…” or maybe just 3-6 per day. But feel free to sing the song–it might help you cope with what feels like 500 miles, anyway.

Reason #9: Learning (read: smelling) how your body “responds” to abstaining from showering for more than a week. One of the many self-discovery moments you get to look forward to.

Reason #10: Pristine alpine lakes. Not only do their contents provide hydration and their beauty a vibe of spiritual peace, but also the opportunity to take a nice plunge to help freshen up that dirtbag stank that’s been growing on you.

Reason #11: Rocks. So…many…rocks. Climbing up rocks…climbing down rocks…climbing over rocks…(Read: top-rope climbing, maneuvering over third and fourth class terrain, and potential to summit a peak)…

Reason #12: …Lowering yourself down rocks…(Read: rappelling off a cliff. Don’t worry–our instructors can get you harnessed, knotted, and lowered down to safety in their sleep)… 

Reason #13: …And fording rivers! Or creeks…Or a creek…The drought’s been hard on California’s snowmelt store this year, but we’re ready to teach you how to Tyrolean traverse across a river if we happen to stumble upon one. 

Reason #14: Smelling the aroma of the Jeffrey Fir vanilla-scented bark. Real talk: Basically you’re living in an entire world of fragrances that candle-makers are continually striving to recreate as a household scent.

Reason #15: Silence. The experience of silence spent between you and the Lord, perhaps in tandem with a Moleskine journal. Whether that silence feels more like hanging out, a therapy session, or a full-blown spiritual wrestling match (Gen 32:22-32)–you’ll get three days of solo time to find out.  

Reason #16: Alpenglow sightings every evening. O, the mysterious and transient beauty of that cherry-orange hue. Oh look, there’s even a free intro to the sonnet you can write during your solo time. 

Reason #17: Independent travel planning. You’ll get the chance to implement your acquired orienteering skills, demonstrating your ability to travel with autonomy. After which you’ll be able to mutiny against your instructors. 

Reason #18: “Focus” reflection times. These devotional sessions provide the mental space to process your wilderness experiences as a group and connect them to facets of your spiritual life. So you won’t go home and shrug your shoulders, saying, “I dunno” when your mom asks if you learned anything. 

Reason #19: “Church in the woods.” Between focus sessions, solo time, and practicing other spiritual disciplines (fasting, prayer, affirmation) amongst the daily realities of living out in the wilderness, you’ll get to explore how a Christian community can operate beyond the walls of a church building. 

Reason #20: The amazing feel of a shower and hearty meal at the end of the trip. Warm water out of a faucet may never feel so heavenly.

Reason #21: Memories to foster and stories to share for the rest of the year. Pro-tip: Use for ammo to divert the increasingly ubiquitous questions, “What are your plans after high school?” or “What do you want to do with your life?” Here’s a couple of good starters, to the tune of: “Hey, did you know I slept on the ground for 21 days?” or “Hey, did you know I lowered myself off a 150-foot cliff? Crazy, right?”