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The TRUTH About Recreating with Kids: Snowshoe Edition

Picture this: two enthusiastic guides, a mountain of snowshoes, and the unexplored wilderness (read: well-trafficked trail-head) waiting just beyond the doors of our big, yellow school bus. Our foundation's grand entrance into the world of recreational field trips promised an epic snowshoeing escapade up Castle Peak, led by Tahoe Adventure Company. Little did we know, we were about to dive headfirst into the unfiltered TRUTH about recreating with kids.

Note: For any reader unfamiliar with our youth programming, our camps align with Washoe County School District's school breaks and, while they are outdoors, our camps are STEAM based and focus on environmental stewardship. Given this, our field trips usually involve some sort of citizen science - like restocking the Truckee River with Rainbow Trout alongside NDOW’s AmeriCorps educators. We don’t usually go on big, recreational snowshoeing trips like this. 

The crisp mountain air embraced us as we disembarked from the school bus, our breaths forming clouds in the early morning chill. The snow crunched beneath our boots as we gathered around the guides, eager for the adventure that awaited us on Castle Peak.

Tahoe Adventure Company, our chosen trailblazers for the day, exuded enthusiasm as they distributed an impressive array of snowshoes. The sheer magnitude of our snowshoe collection resembled a small mountain itself, and with a sense of childlike wonder, we strapped on our gear, ready to conquer the snowy terrain.

As we started our ascent, the guides regaled us with tales of previous outings, sharing their wisdom on managing the boundless energy and curiosity of young adventurers. It didn't take long for us to encounter the first challenge — maintaining order among the group. The kids were excited and wanted to test their snowshoes all over the trail and they were quick to forget about any kind of trail etiquette. Castle Peak is a popular winter trail for cross-country skiing, so keeping some awareness of those around you is pretty important. It quickly became apparent that if we didn’t wrangle our kids in a bit, we’d become a skier’s worst nightmare. Luckily our guides, seasoned in the art of guiding both young and old, seamlessly balanced the need for structure with fostering a genuine connection to the outdoors. 

With every step, it became apparent that the unfiltered truth about recreating with kids wasn't just about managing logistics; it was about embracing unpredictability. Halfway through the trail, with rosy cheeks and a hint of exhaustion in their eyes, two of our campers seemed miserable. This sport just wasn’t for them. Their initial excitement had given way to the realization that this snowy escapade wasn't as straightforward as they had imagined. Along with one of our chaperones, the two campers decided to head back down the trail, a decision that could have easily been perceived as a retreat. Yet, as they retraced their steps, something magical happened. The two young adventurers, initially uncertain and perhaps a bit disheartened, found solace in each other's company. They shared stories, laughed at their earlier missteps, and took in the sheer beauty of the winter landscape they had momentarily left behind.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group continued our ascent. The trail, though challenging, revealed its secrets to those who persevered. We took a venture off trail into some deep snow that really put our shoes to the test, which the kids LOVED. They were bouncing through waist-deep powder, making snow angels every chance they got. We even crossed over a creek, which some kids commented made them “feel like hobbits”. To cap off our adventure, we decided to infuse a bit of friendly competition into the mix. Snowshoe races, with camp prizes awaiting the winners, served as the perfect motivation for the kids to conquer the final stretch.

The promise of prizes sparked an undeniable energy among the group. Children who had contemplated turning back with our other campers now sprinted eagerly through the snow, fueled by the prospect of victory and the allure of camp rewards. The snowshoe races not only added an exhilarating climax to our journey but also turned an ordinary hike into a memorable adventure, demonstrating that a little friendly competition can be a powerful motivator in the great outdoors.

When we reunited back at the trailhead, the guides, recognizing the courage displayed by our campers who decided to turn back , commended their decision to venture off the beaten path. It became a poignant lesson in embracing one's own journey, even if it deviates from the original plan. As the rest of us piled up our gear, snowshoe race winners celebrated their victories, and we headed out to lunch, it became clear that our escapade wasn't just a trek up Castle Peak. It was a true, once-in-a-lifetime moment for some of our campers and we formed some core memories for those kids.

*Registration for our upcoming Spring Break Camp is now open! Register before February 9th for an Early Bird Discount. Click here for more information.


About the Author

Bradley is from a rural town in southern Nevada where they grew up herping with their family in the Mojave Desert. They attended UNR and studied Wildlife Ecology, then later pursued a degree in Secondary Science Education. Before joining our staff, Bradley served an AmeriCorps term as a Naturalist Educator. Outside of work, you can catch them out on the crag or birding at a local park. Oh, and if you ever have a question about toads or the best paddle-boarding spots in the Truckee Meadows, Bradley is your go-to pal!

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