By Land and by River, ETC Campers Explore Nature's Beauty

By: Mollie Shauger | Thursday, October 17, 2019 | Summer Camp

Campers with the Explorers program and their canoes by the Delaware River.

There are a few things that one learns after hiking more than 30 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  

According to seven teens who recently did just that, they are: 

  1. Teamwork is key.
  2. Be prepared for blisters. 
  3. Extra pockets mean you can hold extra snacks - including tortillas. 

The campers shared their advice while relaxing at picnic tables outside the High Point State Park visitors center, having just finished the second excursion of their two-week long Explorers program, which is among the variety of Environmental Trips for Challenge programs offered at Fairview Lake YMCA Camps

The first week, the campers in grades 8 to 11 canoed about 45-50 miles along the Delaware River, from Sparrow Bush, N.Y, to the Kittatinny Point Visitors Center in New Jersey. During the second week, they hiked 35 miles of the Appalachian Trail, ending at High Point State Park, home to the monument at High Point, the highest point in New Jersey.

Fairview Lake YMCA Camps’ unique location provides for easy access to two national destinations for outdoor recreation: the Delaware Water Gap and the Appalachian Trail. It also allows for campers to learn about the natural world by experiencing its beauty, and its challenges.

The Explorers trip is one of 15 ETC programs to choose from, ranging from one-week camps to three-week long trips. Programs vary by the degree of challenges and off-camp stays, and are rated in order to help parents determine what’s most suitable for their child. The Adventure Sampler program, similar to Explorers, offers outdoor experiences like canoeing and camping, and also climbing and high ropes course activities.

The most recent Explorers group included campers of varying backgrounds and abilities, with many hailing from towns just outside of New York City. 

During their hiking adventure, the campers and their three trip leaders would wake up around 8 a.m. and eat a breakfast of instant oatmeal before setting off on their trek. They hiked roughly 10 miles a day, stopping for lunch and dinner, and to sleep in tents. 

Though they had a goal of reaching their destination of High Point State Park by a certain time, the Explorers trip provides opportunities for campers to explore their surroundings, by stopping at natural landmarks and scenic overlooks along the trail. Sleeping in the outdoors also provided the opportunity to observe nature at night, with sights including a Barred Owl and Blood Moon.

The pace of the trip also allows for novices and experienced hikers alike to enjoy it.

“Anybody can have a successful trip,” said ETC Director Brendan Rearer. “Time can dictate a slower pace and accommodate a wide range of abilities.”

The trip leaders help to encourage the campers along the way, and make sure no one is carrying more gear than they can handle.

For more information about Explorers or other ETC programs, visit


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