Muir Wise Summer Leadership Program
"The beauty is in the walking-- we are betrayed by destinations." -Gwynn Thomas
Muir Wise is a summer wilderness education program designed to promote self-knowledge and personal growth through an exciting three-week backcountry adventure. Our goal is to help our students develop valuable leadership qualities while honing their outdoor skills, and to create an intimate connection to the natural world, thereby fostering a sense of environmental stewardship. Unique to the program is its focus on creating an intellectual as well as an intuitive connection to the natural world through its commitment to a slow daily pace. In promoting an experiential-- rather than destination-oriented-- mindset, we provide ample time for reading, writing, drawing, and nature observation as we travel through some of California's most breathtaking wilderness.
Muir Wise begins with five days of skills training at Golden Trout Wilderness School. The first two days are spent at and around the school's facility and are designed to help acclimate students to both the elevation at which the program will be operating- GTWS sits at 10,200 feet and much of the backcountry portion takes place in the highest Sierra- and to the ethos of the program. This entails learning how to slow down and see, hear, smell, and deeply observe the wild world all around us. Students are also grounded at this time in fundamental wilderness skills to help them navigate the weeks ahead. The latter half of this first week is dedicated to attaining a certification in wilderness first aid through a 20 hour course at the school's campus. Throughout this week, the students are treated to wonderful nutritious meals served up from the camp kitchen, and their evenings are spent around the campfire and under a canopy of brilliant stars.
into the Backcountry
On the sixth day, students depart from Golden Trout and head into the backcountry for their first week of the Wilderness Immersion section. This portion of the program focuses on delving into a wide array of nature-centered learning. With students adopting various roles, each acts at once as student and as expert and teacher to their peers in their particular discipline. With mindfulness and curiosity as our central tenets, short hiking days are interspersed with time for students to study, learn from others, observe the natural world, draw, and teach. This week is guided by the experienced hands of the program's instructors, wilderness experts steeped in local knowledge and with their own diversity of talents. Students will also benefit from meeting and spending time with the local rangers who offer their own unique perspective as seasonal denizens of the wilderness.
Each student assumes a unique role once in the backcountry, and has time each day to deepen their understanding in their particular discipline and share that learning with others. The seven roles are:
Each role is supported by dozens of texts (each student is assigned a Kindle with a role-specific selection of books) and by the instruction of their two expert teacher-guides. The Muir Wise mobile library contains more than 70 texts on an amazing variety of subjects!
After a week of walking and learning, the students arrive at the solo location where the group meets their resupply. Following a celebratory meal, students are set out at solo sites where they spend the next 48 hours on a monitored solo. These two full days alone mark a distinct transition in the Muir Wise Program after which the students become the authors and leaders of their wilderness experience.
the return home
Post-solo, the students hit the trail once again, this time in control of their own week-long backpacking trip from the solo location back to Golden Trout. The adult instructors recede into supporting roles, and the group uses all they have learned to author their own unique experience as they return home. During this week roles are exchanged, cooperation and leadership are tested, and students are forever transformed.
photos from muir wise 2016
Ever since going on the Muir Wise camping trip I have been much more aware of my natural surroundings and my impact on the earth. I feel as though my gained knowledge of the Sierras has changed my outlook on the modern world and made me conscious of the world around me. It occurred to me that most people know very little about the environment that they live in and around. Learning about the geographical history of the Sierras and surrounding regions has helped me understand cycles of nature and how and why things in nature are the way they are. On my fall backpacking trip, I realized how much more I was looking around at the world surrounding me than the others on my camping trip, who only saw the areas around their feet. I learned that there is truly no point in the journey if you can't see how you got there. Golden Trout played a major part in changing my outlook on the natural world. It is a truly magnificent experience to be there. -Caroline
Muir Wise was an enriching experience that pushed me well beyond my comfort zone and deepened my love for the outdoors. The entire experience made me a more conscious camper and allowed for me to have trust in my abilities to keep myself safe when enjoying nature. -Emily
Muir Wise has impacted my life significantly. By being exposed to the natural world in a way that I had never been exposed to it before, I learned how vital being in nature is to humans, especially teenagers. There are two memories from my time there this summer that perfectly enunciate this:
The first was probably the second or third day of Muir Wise, we were all playing camouflage (we had just eaten a magnificent Marcus-made lunch). I realized that I was having more fun then, just playing with them, than I had had in awhile, because I seriously hadn't just played in awhile. Sure teenagers goof off all the time, which of course is fun, but we also get caught up in this seriousness, and the need to feel mature and adult-like. I hadn't realized how much we needed to just play again, and we were playing outside. Quite literally just running around in the woods, without any distractions from electronics and without needing to feel like we had to fit in someplace.
The second memory was on the last day of Muir Wise, when we were back at camp. I was sitting by the stream, looking out at the meadow. The birds were singing, the grass was dancing, the wild flowers smelled sweet, the trees were standing happy and strong, and the mountains were looking as magnificent as ever. I suddenly had a strong urge just to be more a part of it, so I quietly crept across the brook and sat under a willow, distancing myself from the people. It was then that I saw a doe, and her two tiny fawns. They couldn't see me, but I just sat there and watched in awe.
I still think about that day all the time, and truthfully ever since then I've had a constant, nagging urge to be back. Being at Golden Trout makes me feel whole, and while backpacking and getting dirty may not be everyone's thing, I honestly believe that everyone needs what it provides. -Fiona