Introduction to Backpacking 

Ages: 12-14

August 12-17 (Sun-Fri)

This 6-day, 5-night adventure camp is an introduction to backpacking coupled with whitewater rafting on the White Salmon River. Students will learn how to travel safely as a group over challenging terrain as they backpack and mountaineer on Mt. Adams, a dramatic glaciated volcano towering 12,280 feet above sea level. Students will camp under the stars on the side of Mt. Adams, hike and glissade on snow and ice, traverse mountain trails, and whitewater raft the world-class White Salmon River.


This camp combines outdoor skills, leadership development, environmental science concepts, outdoor adventure, and an appreciation for the power of nature.


Students should expect to make new friends, learn new ways of traveling in the outdoors, and come home with new-found confidence and leadership skills. Participants do not need prior rafting or backpacking experience, though they should be in good physical condition and able to work within a cooperative group setting. We encourage participants to bring their own gear. However, we have some equipment to loan if necessary.

Dates:Sunday, August 12- Friday, August 17, 2018

Ages: Adventure seekers, ages 12-14

Activities: Backpacking, Mountaineering, Whitewater Rafting, Leadership, Teambuilding

Partner: All Adventures Rafting

Instructor: Kelly O'Dowd, CMS outreach coordinator and educator; Joel Whitmore, farmer and outdoor educator

Accommodations: When we are not on the mountain, we will be bunking in single-sex bunkhouses or tenting in the field at our forest campus at the Mt. Adams Institute in Trout Lake, WA.  The Forest Campus provides a rustic campus in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest fully equipped with bathrooms, indoor communal space, and kitchen/dining area.

Cost: $975 per student ($925 if you register before April 1st)  Need-based scholarships are available.


Kelly O'Dowd

CMS Outreach Coordinator & Instructor

Kelly graduated with a degree in International Relations and Anthropology. Through a study abroad experience focused on environmental science and sustainability, she became passionate steward of the environment. Kelly has worked with children in various capacities over the years as a camp counselor, nanny, and program manager of a experiential semester abroad in India. Kelly moved out to Washington to join the CMS team where she shares her excitement for exploring new environments with students in a variety of subjects.

Joel Whitmore

Farmer & Outdoor Educator

Joel found his passion for nature in weekly hikes with his family around Ithaca NY. As the 5th of 7 children, he quickly jumped into the kitchen to help his Mom with the daunting task of keeping the family well fed. His mother inspired a lifelong love of food through cooking and gardening  Joel graduated with a BS and BA in International Politics and Development at SUNY Oneonta with a focus on the issues of global food insecurity and water access. An excitement to share his passions brought him to the Northwest to work as an outdoor educator focusing on the power of good food and farming.


Sunday, July 9. Sense of Place. Watersheds. We will meet at Mt. Adams Institute where we will be staying nights one, four, and five. Once we’ve done some brief introductions and eaten lunch, we will go on a beautiful and dramatic hike at the base of Mt. Adams to get to a viewpoint where we can get a sense for our place in the valley. We will learn about the ecology of the area, get to know each other, and begin the fun. We’ll come back, get a short campus tour, and set up our tents. In the evening we will cook our first meal together.


Monday, July 10- Wednesday, July 12. Backpacking 101. Mt. Adams Geology and Glaciers. We’ll spend Monday morning covering many important basics of how to travel safely in the backcountry.  We’ll pack up our belongings and hop into the vans to head to our trailhead at the base of Mt. Adams.  Mt. Adams rises 12,282 feet above sea level.  After lunch at the trailhead, the group will pack in a few miles up to our campsite at Morrison Creek. The next morning, we will enjoy the fresh morning mountain air as we day-hike about 3 steep miles along the South Climb Trail up to Crescent Glacier, around 8,000 feet. We’ll learn about glaciers: why they are important to natural systems and people of the Northwest and how they are being affected by climate change. After lunch we’ll develop our wilderness leadership skills as we learn from Kenji and Kelly about self-rescue and mountaineering on glaciers. After descending from Mt. Adams, we will camp at Morrison Creek again.  On our third day on the mountain, we will explore the Round the Mountain Trail, the lava beds, wildflowers, snow, ice, rock, and stunning views of the region before packing up and heading home.  Wednesday evening, we’ll be back at our base camp at Mt. Adams Institute for dinner and rest.

Thursday, July 13. Salmon, Water Quality, Dam Removal & Service. In the morning we’ll head to the White Salmon watershed for a day of watershed science and community service.  In the afternoon, we’ll be joined by local ecologists to interpret the ecology of the river, including key salmon issues, and discuss the recent de-commissioning of the Condit Dam, a 100-year old dam removed in 2011. 


Friday, July 14. Whitewater Rafting & Bringing It Home. On our final full day, we will raft a beautiful section of the White Salmon River with Wet Planet.  We will synthesize all that we have learned and what we want to take away from our experience.  We’ll meet up with our parents at 4 pm at Mt. Adams Institute (directions at the end of this document) for a final farewell.  The students will share experiences and reflections about their time together with the parents before we depart.  We will wrap up by 5 pm.


Cascade Mountain School, a program of Mt. Adams Institute

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