Wilderness Week

Wilderness Week is a unique Bitney program that takes place each fall, usually during the third week of September.  By that time we are just settling into the routine of classes, homework, assemblies, ultimate, and wham, we suddenly transport everyone into a completely different environment.  Each year the particulars of Wilderness Week are different, but the overarching goals and themes remain the same. 

The goals are simple enough and basically twofold:

  1. To get young people out into the mountains, the deserts, the rivers, the beaches – away from the creature comforts of home and the ever present 24-7 fascination with all things digital and technological.   To pay attention, even for a few days; to the sun, the moon, the sky, the basic topography of where they happen to be, and the people with them.  To have fun doing so, and to actually learn something about being prepared for the wilderness and the issues confronting the ecosystems they are visiting. 
  2. To strive for some solid community building; get the students to know each other a bit better, and get the students and staff (and parents) to interact on a level that is simply not achievable in the classroom.  During Wilderness Week, students and staff may literally find themselves crossing the same stream, climbing the same rock, sitting around the same campfire, or laughing at the same jokes.  In other words students and staff are literally and figuratively “in the same boat.”  This fits in quite well with Bitney’s strategic goal of aiming high academically while building a strong community.

The atmosphere around the school is usually pretty good at the beginning of school.  After Wilderness Week it is even better.   In addition, almost everyone learns everyone else’s name. We usually try to alternate the program where one year the entire school is together in a tent camping or lodge situation, and the next year we divide into six or seven different groups and head in different directions for a more personal experience.  The past two years offer good examples of that.  Last year the whole school participated in an outdoor education program put on by the Gateway Mountain Center in the Donner Summit area.  We all stayed and shared meals together at the Clair Tapaan Lodge.  During the day we were in separate hiking groups to explore the many natural and historical offerings of the area, culminating with the entire school climbing Donner Peak on the last day.

All school Wilderness Weeks in the past have taken place at such varied places as Sterling Lake Camp outside Cisco Grove, Camp Augusta outside Nevada City, an old CCC camp near Mendocino, Sugar Pine Point State Park, Fallen Leaf Lake, the Rogue Rive, and most recently at the Clair Tappan Lodge near Donner Summit. 

For 2012, we are once again breaking up into several small group excursions, each leaving the school at 8:20 on Monday, September 10th and returning to the school on the afternoon of Friday, September 14th:

  • Rouge RiverMr. Herring and Ms. Snow will lead a rafting trip on the Rouge River in Oregon.
  • Coastal RedwoodsMr. Young will lead a camping trip to the Coastal Redwoods near Ferndale, CA.
  • Santa CruzMs. Noble and Mr. Elkin will lead a camping trip at New Brighton State Park.
  • Mendocino CoastMr. Wood and Ms. Pugel will lead a camping trip near Fort Bragg, CA.
  • Tahoe BasinMs. Phillips will lead a hiking/biking/climbing trip near Squaw Valley, CA.
  • Coastal RedwoodsMr. Young will lead a camping trip to the Coastal Redwoods near Ferndale, CA.
  • Pt. ReyesMs. Simpton will lead a camping trip to the coast near Pt. Reyes, CA.
  • Mt. Gould Mountaineering TripMr. Schneider and Mr. Peterson will lead a backpacking trip entering the Eastern Sierra from Onion Valley and camping near Flower Lake. Tthe group will attempt to summit Mt. Gould. Check out the video from the 2010 trip Mr. Schneider led to Mt. Goode.

It would be our goal next year to once again undertake an all school event.