In 2011 a small group of us were backpacking in Lassen National Park when we came across a group calling themselves the Petaluma Wilderness Team. Their mission was to take high school kids backpacking and let them experience our nation’s wilderness. Our group looked at each other and knew right away Tehama County needed a Wilderness Team.
We formed the first Team and received a small grant that allowed us to buy enough tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, stoves and cook sets for six kids. The first year we took kids Guinea Pigs we knew personally for a shakedown trip. In spite of some rain the first day, everyone had a great time.
The following year we partnered with the Tehama County Police Activities League (PAL) to provide background checks, liability insurance and the ability to apply for grants through their non-profit status. The Lassen Park Foundation provides us with funds to cover the entire cost of the trip so students don’t have to spend a dime. We also added a second, all-girls trip to the schedule.
In 2015 we offered our first coed Wilderness Team for Butte County. This year we will add an all-girls trip for Butte County as well. Most trips are three days/two nights. Other than a few personal items, all gear is supplied and all expenses are paid.
Our goal was to take kids backpacking. Kids that might never get to visit a National Park — much less go backpacking in one. We want to show them the special treasures we have in our National Parks, especially Lassen Volcanic National Park, which is one of the hidden gems of our Nation Park system. We taught them how to live comfortably and safely in the backcountry while showing them how to visit without leaving any sign they were there. Lastly, we let them have fun and they got to see some pretty cool things.
Unfortunately we saw a steady decrease in youth participation, resulting in several cancelled trips, and then COVID shut down any chance for trips for those two years. We came to the decision to shut down the North State Wilderness Team trips, but know we had a good run and changed more than a few lives. Thanks to all that made these trips a reality for so many students.