WHY JOIN THE BACKCOUNTRY TRAILS PROGRAM? Personal growth: Backcountry alumni consistently rate themselves higher in self-confidence, work skills, community-building, and physical fitness after completing the program. Career advancement: Most of our alumni go on to be hired for one or more seasons with other outdoor or conservation organizations, including the NPS and USFS. Rare opportunities: Spend five months living in and exploring some of the most beautiful places in California, where many people only get to visit for a few days in their lives if they’re lucky. New friends: Meet people from all across the country and bond over a unique experience that very few people have done. Trainings and scholarships: All members receive free Wilderness First Aid certification and a half-time AmeriCorps Segal Education Award, in addition to on-the-job training like wilderness navigation, pack animal safety, and trail construction techniques.
The Backcountry Trails Program is a highly structured, paid, service and development program for young adults that focuses on trailwork, community, and wilderness exploration. At 44 years and counting we are the longest-running special program of the California Conservation Corps, and have also been partnered with AmeriCorps for over 25 years.
We are looking for 80 diverse young adults ages 18-25 who are willing to leave behind the conveniences of modern life and venture into the mountains to spend five months doing some of the most challenging and ultimately rewarding work of their lives. Members spend five continuous months living and working on a trail crew in the wilderness of California. Locations vary, but often include Sierra parks and forests such as Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Stanislaus, and Inyo (Miwok, Monache, and Paiute lands), and northern California mountain ranges including Klamath and Shasta-Trinity national forests (Wintu, Tsnungwe, Karuk, and Shasta lands)
Members do not need any prior trail work or backpacking experience to join, but it is essential that members are willing to work very hard, safely, with minimal supervision, and produce quality work. The program provides training in technical work skills, backcountry living, wilderness first aid and more, and can provide almost all personal backpacking gear necessary for the season to those who do not wish or are unable to purchase their own. Food, housing (camping), and health insurance are provided ($500 monthly deduction for food costs).
Backcountry camps are located anywhere from 1 – 30 miles from the nearest road, store, phone, or electrical outlet, at elevations up to 12,000 feet. Camps are extremely rudimentary. Food, mail, and other supplies are delivered by pack mules once a week. Meals are provided. The food is great, and there is lots of it! Please note though that we may not be able to accommodate highly restrictive diets.
We strive to create a safe and inclusive environment for all our members. Committing to five months in the wilderness with a bunch of strangers is daunting! Our crews consist of a mix of CCC and web hires from widely diverse backgrounds, led by supervisors with years of experience in both trail work and youth development. We recognize that outdoor work and recreation have a long history of exclusion, and we hope that the opportunity our program provides can be one avenue toward creating more inclusive outdoor spaces.
The program is designed as an entryway into conservation, natural resource, and other outdoor work, but a conservation background is not required. We welcome applicants of all backgrounds and interests! Crews spend their work days performing trail work that can include cutting brush with loppers and handsaws, digging with shovels and picks, clearing fallen trees with crosscut saws, and using metal rock bars, sledgehammers, and gear-assisted grip-hoists to move large rocks and logs and build trail structures. In addition to technical trail skills, members learn wilderness living and travel skills and receive Wilderness First Aid certification.
In addition to on-the-job training and experience, members live and work closely with staff from our partner agencies, which gives them the chance to network, ask questions, and gain valuable insights that give them a leg up in the highly competitive outdoor field. Upon completion of the program our members qualify for non-competitive Federal hiring status, which grants them priority hiring status for qualifying Federal jobs. Most of our alumni have gone on to work for other outdoor organizations for one or more seasons, including the NPS, USFS, and State Parks.
The BCTP also focuses strongly on personal growth and development. Our program is extremely physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. Members live with their crew in an isolated, rudimentary backcountry camp for the duration of the season, and are expected to participate in camp chores and curriculum in addition to work. Evening curriculum may include topics like native fauna and flora identification, natural history, wilderness survival, wilderness first aid, career development, community building, and health and safety. There is very little unstructured time, especially during the work week, and the only outside communication is by snail mail. There are strict buddy-system, sobriety, and non-fraternization policies that are in place for the entire season, including weekends. The work is hard, the living conditions are uncomfortable, the interpersonal relationships are trying, and the standards are high. As a result, our alumni consistently rate themselves higher in self-confidence, community-building, self-discipline, reliability, and physical fitness at the end of the season than they did before.
Backcountry seasons are tough, but they’re also fun! Crews create events, celebrate holidays, and bond with each other through music, conversation, art, games, and shared experiences. Members are also strongly encouraged to explore on the weekends, and get a rare chance to experience the wilderness in a way that few are able to. We regularly hear from alumni who say that their Backcountry season was one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences they’ve ever had.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Phone: 707-601-5617 or 707-572-8752
Email: [email protected]
HOW TO APPLY:
Apply online here: https://form.jotform.com/232824324559157
If you have any questions, email us at backcoun[email protected], or call us at 707-601-5617 or 707-572-8752
Applications close February 19th, 2024
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