Experience the Power of Wild Places

Find your “Reset” at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center

It had been less than three weeks since Mira had dropped her eldest, Abby, off for her Leadership Adventure Camp at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center—but to both mother and daughter, it felt like a lifetime.

Their world, like so many families’, had been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mira and her husband had done their best to keep their kids active and engaged throughout the series of shutdowns, and yet, they could tell that Abby in particular was struggling with an increasing sense of isolation and uncertainty.

When they found out about Experience Learning’s Leadership Adventure Program—one of the organization’s many Mountain Stewards Summer Camps that had been adapted for safe adventuring during the pandemic—it seemed like just the thing to raise her spirits.

Abby was excited to go, so they instantly signed her up. Now the 18 days had passed, and Mira was back on Spruce Mountain (at 4,863 feet, West Virginia’s highest peak), waiting anxiously outside the center’s main yurt to collect Abby and hear how her time had been.

A flurry of campers emerged, and Mira caught sight of Abby with a giant smile spread across her face.

That smile didn’t disappear the entire four-hour ride home.

“It was the happiest I’ve seen her since all the COVID shutdowns began,” said Mira. “She was absolutely glowing. She loved everything about the experience and learned so much.”

Calling Adventurers of All Ages

Located just off the summit of Spruce Knob in the Monongahela National Forest, Experience Learning’s 400-acre campus has served as a haven for nature lovers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts for decades. But the organization’s appeal and impact are not limited to those groups alone.

“Here at Experience Learning, we believe in the power of wild places to inspire, engage, and empower us all.” – Vicki Fenwick-Judy, Executive Director

From bite-sized adventures for the youngest members of the family to adult backpacking trips and wilderness first responder training, Experience Learning offers camps and programs for everyone. This year, they’ve added a series of NICA Adventure Camps. In partnership with the West Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League, these mountain bike-fueled adventure camps will combine bike skills and wilderness exploration.

Its Mountain Stewards Summer Camps for kids and teens are divided up by grade levels, and activities are always age-appropriate. Confronting challenges is an important aspect of the organization’s programs, though, so participants should expect to be supported in stepping out of their comfort zones.

“Through this experience I’ve met so many wonderful people, seen some of the most beautiful sights in West Virginia, and been given the chance to grow.” – 2020 Mountain Stewards Summer Camp Participant

Beyond their emphasis on embracing personal growth, each of Experience Learning’s summer camps has the following qualities in common as well:

Expedition-Style with a Stewardship Focus

Not only do campers learn how to take care of themselves in the wild, but they also spend time thinking about and working on caring for the world around them. Every camp concludes with a service project that adds to the sense of empowerment and satisfaction campers experience.

Small Groups Only

No camp program has more than 14 participants, with a maximum child-to-instructor ratio of 1:7. Experience Learning only runs three programs each week, so your child is one of 42 rather than one of hundreds of campers. These small groups help foster community by making it possible to reflect, talk with, and listen to each other in deeply meaningful ways.

The Real Deal

Campers completely disconnect from technology and focus instead on building connections with the people and world around them. Organized, instructor-led activities are balanced with opportunities for participants to truly explore, adventure in, and enjoy the wild and wonderful forests, caves, and streams of West Virginia in a more self-guided manner.

“This camp has led me closer to where I want to be in life and helped me realize what makes me happy and what I would like to continue doing. Even in 50 years I’ll never forget this place.” – 2021 Leadership Adventure Program Participant

Experience Learning summer programs are about more than just fun (although there’s plenty of that, too!)—they also provide rich opportunities for exploration, skill-building, and learning beyond the classroom.

The Wild Awaits

Registration is open now for this year’s Mountain Stewards Summer Camps, happening in June and July, and for adult programs, too.

​​If you’re looking for an immersive outdoor experience for yourself or your child—where you get to leave technology behind, take on new challenges, and build meaningful relationships with the people and world around you—this is your chance. 

You can learn more about all of Experience Learning’s camp offerings and register today at https://experience-learning.org/camps/.

Come experience the power of wild places!

Places to Go, Things to See: