Meet the Wilderness turns 30 |

Meet the Wilderness turns 30

Staff Reports

In the months before the space shuttle Columbia blasted off from the Cape the crew had trained hard for their mission. In the middle of this training they undertook a 10-day backpacking trip in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. Why did these busy space professionals take time from training to go camping? The answer lies in fact that NASA wanted the crew to learn how to work together by overcoming the challenges of the backcountry.Many organizations in the USA recognize the power of these wilderness experiences to change lives, and most are focused on providing trips for our youth Meet The Wilderness is one of these.However, most wilderness programs serve fewer than 500 kids a year and an estimated 80 percent are defunct within four years. Meet The Wilderness is most definitely not in this group this August they celebrate 30 years of continuous operation in Eagle County, now serving more than 2,500 kids each year.In 1974, a group of teenagers experienced one, five-day backpacking trip into the Holy Cross Wilderness. The “staff” was Jim Himmes, his friend Greg Earle, and his wife Elizabeth. The equipment was rented, begged or borrowed and rain became a dinnertime challenge each evening. However, despite (or because of) the challenges the kids returned home proud of their achievements.It rapidly became obvious that kids who completed the wilderness trip were more confident, co-operative and responsible. Jim continued to develop the summer program and work in the Vail Ski Patrol in winter.”I have many, many great memories from those early years,” he says. “I’ll never forget the smiles as kids reach the top of a 60-foot rock face; or the young boy who dragged a small fish he caught all the way around the lake. You should have seen his face when I asked him to clean it.”In 1984, MTW built a challenge course behind Minturn Middle School and Joe Schmitt arrived to further develop programs. Joe (now the Executive Director) reports that the challenge course “has been instrumental in helping local youth at all levels of our school system. Each fall and spring teachers from all across Eagle County use a half-day with MTW to make it easier for their kids to get along inside the classroom. We are happy to provide the tools to promote achievement”.Meet The Wilderness has shown that their efforts are helping the lives of kids. Using a survey designed by a Harvard social scientist, MTW proved that the vast majority of youth groups experiencing a wilderness trip display enhanced self-esteem, trust, and responsibility. VT By Tom McCaldenIt’s a party!30 years later after its inception, the leadership at Meet The Wilderness is inviting Eagle County to come celebrate three decades of service and achievement.When: Friday, Aug. 27 at 6 p.m.Where: The Donovan Pavilion in Vail.What: Barbeque by the Gourmet CowboyAlso: Bluegrass music by Slipstream, wine and beer by Avon liquors and O’Dells brewery, and a silent auctionCost: $65 per personInformation: Call (970) 926-9376

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