Teen Adventure is founded on the belief that group wilderness trips offer teens the unique opportunity to disconnect from the world and create unforgettable experiences centered around the outdoors, teamwork, and self-discovery. Originating from a base camp in Lexington, VA, trips of twelve campers and two leaders embark for three weeks of hiking, canoeing, and service projects.
The core Teen Adventure Program (TAP) is for first-year TA campers, and includes hiking on the Appalachian Trail and whitewater canoeing on the James River. Teen Adventure Leadership Training (TALT) is for second-year TA campers, and includes the same trip elements as TAP, but it places a special emphasis on leadership skills and includes a service project. In both programs, campers have considerable responsibility for the day-to-day planning and management of their trips, meals, and group activities. Campers are encouraged in their emotional and spiritual development as they grow through these wilderness challenges in collaboration with their peers.
Teen Adventure Farm & Art (TAFA) is an option available to first- or second-year TA campers. It is a different kind of adventure within the TA program, one for those who want to explore their relationship to the land and interpret themes of cultural and ecological resilience through artmaking. TAFA campers will explore the beautiful and mountainous region of Rockbridge County by digging in at local farms and spending time in the wilderness. They will cook with the food they harvest, they will camp out in the woods, they will experience the leadership training and skill development that TA is known for, and they’ll do all of this with the same camp games, songs, traditions, and silliness that they know and love!
The TAFA trip’s home base is a lodge located on the grounds of Thunder Bridge, a cultural arts center and campground, where campers will get to meet local artists who use the facility’s studios and gallery space. Nearby activities will include day hikes to Devil’s Marble Yard and swimming in Cave Mountain Lake. The TAFA trip will also travel to area farms, take an overnight backpacking trip, and spend five nights canoeing and camping on the James River.
TAFA campers, like all other TA campers, will begin and end their trips at the Teen Adventure base camp, Common Ground.
Teen Adventure operates in one three week session:
Saturday, June 29 – Sunday July 21
Drop Off: 1-3pm on the first day of the session.We would love for you to drop your camper off at the start site of Teen Adventure so you can meet the staff, talk with the directors, and see where the magic begins! If you have campers going to another BYM camp on the same day, we ask that you drop off your TA camper first.
Pick Up: 10:30-11:30am on the last day of the session.
Life at Teen Adventure differs from that of the other camps because almost every day begins in a different place than the last. Each trip is broken up into one or two hiking sections, a canoeing section, a day or two of rock climbing, and for TALT a service day. But no matter what part of the trip they’re on, our campers are almost always on the move!
Campers wake around 7:30 to enjoy a group activity such as stretching, singing, or games. The campsite is taken down, belongings are packed up and, after breakfast, the day’s voyage begins. Campers pull on their packs, load their canoes, or put on their climbing harnesses. And off they go, taking breaks for games, overlooks, songs, and snacks.
After resting for lunch, the trips resume a rigorous day of hiking, canoeing, or climbing. Additional breaks allow the group to come together, rest, and play. When the trip arrives at their campsite, the campers break up into chore groups to set up camp: erecting tarps, gathering firewood, filtering water, and preparing dinner.
After enjoying dinner as a group, trips finish meal clean-up and unwind from a long day with a group activity such as reflective sharing and collective singing around the Fire Circle, group games, and check-ins or discussions. Finally, everyone finds a spot beneath a tarp or under the stars for a well-deserved night’s rest.
The centerpiece of each trip is the hiking section, which is spent on gorgeous stretches of the Appalachian Trail. Here campers learn how to set up a campsite, cook over portable stoves, start a campfire, and overcome physical challenges to take in all that the AT has to offer.
The New River’s gentle flow and periodic whitewater rapids make it a perfect stretch both for learning basic canoeing skills and meeting exciting challenges on the water with one another.
Service projects might include running a day of activities and games for young campers at Lexington area day camps, working on an organic farm, or helping with maintenance projects at Boxerwood Nature Center.
On both TAP and TALT trips, campers get opportunities to serve as the “Leaders of the Day.” On these days, they’re responsible for rallying and organizing their trip, helping them grow more comfortable and confident in a leadership role. TALT campers get two opportunities to be Leader of the Day, along with more structured and in-depth feedback from their trip leaders and the group.
TAFA campers might harvest vegetables or help care for animals at a local farm, they might participate in a papermaking workshop and make their own trip journal, and they might paint a mural as a service project.
Jesse Austell, Co-Director of Teen Adventure, began working for the camping program in 2003. He has worked as a Counselor, Trip Leader, Trip Manager and starting in 2010 as TA Director. When not at camp, Jesse is a research and financial consultant for nonprofit organizations. He has an MA in Applied Sociology and Nonprofit Management and a BA in Nonprofit Finance. Jesse enjoys biking and urban agriculture and recently completed a cross-country bike trip from Florida to San Francisco. In the past Jesse has also helped lead an outdoor adventure and experiential learning program for inner city youth in DC.
Rosie Eck, Co-Director of Teen Adventure Quaker Camp, was a camper at Catoctin and Teen Adventure, starting in 1999. After TA, she worked as a counselor and staff person at Catoctin for five summers and as a trip leader at TA for two, spending one summer away in Chile (but returning in time to cook at Catoctin!) She majored in Studio Art and Hispanic Studies at Oberlin College and especially enjoyed painting animals and elementary foreign language pedagogy. In 2013, she moved to Baltimore where her time primarily revolves around facilitating healthy environments through play – as a Playworks Americorps coach at Mount Royal Elementary Middle, leading art workshops and spending lots of time outside with friends. She is proud to be the reason why a few hundred Baltimore schoolchildren know some of our favorite camp cheers and games.