We have big plans for 2019 - thanks to you, we're doing them!
Hear our youth members' stories
"I'm probably going to drive my friends insane someday with the amount of time I spend talking to them about CLC, but honestly what's insane to me is the constant influence that this amazing community has had on every aspect of my day-to-day life. The incredible amount of growth that I have experienced in two short years with CLC shows itself to me in new ways every day and it’s something I couldn’t be more grateful for.
For the first two or three Watersports meetings I attended, I didn’t open my mouth for anything more than to say my own name. I felt scared being totally out of my element, which looking back now I smile at because as the one who is leading those same meetings today, not only am I regularly speaking with ease but I feel like I’m with a second family. If I was told two years ago that one day I’d be the president of Watersports, I would have scoffed. But in reality, every single experience I’ve had and every step I’ve taken forward with CLC has pushed me into the place where I am today. By identifying and accepting my struggles with confidence, I've been able to break through the mental barriers that I once had. Now I am in a place where I’m able to help others who may feel the same. I’ve proved to myself that I’m a strong leader, which are words I never would have thought to use while describing myself two years ago, at a time when I was too shy to even speak up in class.
Never do I smile more or laugh harder than with the fantastic people I’ve met, whether we’re having a blast on a trip or we’re working through problems as a crew. CLC is a community that is constantly encouraging and inspiring me to challenge myself by stepping up, and I want to help extend this experience to others as best as I possibly can. I am so grateful for the fantastic friends I’ve made, and I dearly love everybody who is involved with me in CLC."
I chose this moment from Camp Disaster in 2017 to share because I really tested myself regarding my guiding capabilities and was successful. I gained a lot of confidence in myself as a guide that day and I want to share a meaningful experience I had. Thank you for reading.
Last June, I was the boat captain of one of our paddle boats on the Wenatchee River. We had just finished lunch and had gotten the boats prepared for the second half of the river when I asked my crew, “Hey, what if we go through a rapid upside down? Are you all down for that?”
We got the go-ahead from the adults and planned for an awesome time. The last rapid before the takeout is one of my favorite rapids because it is a series of giant waves created by boulders and has a slight curve to the left. The most exciting part is that the take out is right after the rapid. We flipped the raft over and clambered back on top. The current's pace increased and we were drawn in. “ALL FORWARD!” I shouted as we approached the first giant wave.
We were getting increasingly close to the shore despite my efforts to move us to the middle of the river. That's when I noticed the problem: the spare paddle we have inside the boat was acting as a rudder, turning us towards the shore. Panic emerged in mind and was quickly crushed as I worked to keep my head cool. I stuck my guide stick in the water and pulled with all my might.
We were bursting through each wave which covered the boat (and us) in water. I kept pulling us to the left, while the rudder pushed us to the right. We flew through the rapid and made it out without losing a single person.
After celebrating our success, we set the boat right-side up and made it safely to shore, ending our fantastic day on the river. I came away with a new sense of accomplishment, a feeling of success and a great memory I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
In October of 2017, a friend of mine invited me to go on a hike with CLC. At first, I perceived CLC as a chill group of people who went hiking together sometimes. I thought, “Hey why not?” and went on a trip. I had so much fun on that first trip that I wanted to come back.. Soon, I went on a climbing trip--my first time climbing on a wall outside. It made me feel confident, moving up the wall using my own strength.
When I joined CLC, I was struggling to find sure footing in my life. My grandfather had died and I could not figure out how to move forward. I would stay at home watching videos of people doing amazing things outside, but I didn’t do any of them myself. Everything I watched others doing seemed unattainable for me. The people who did those things were professionals who had worlds of experience and I honestly could not see anyone like me climbing mountains or rock climbing. I had very little faith in my own ability to become that good.
While up on the wall for the first time, I realized I was doing something I never thought myself capable of. I found myself to be completely capable of the feats that I had watched videos of, but never imagined myself doing--I felt like a badass. It wasn’t a hard climb or impressive by any means, but I was proud of myself just because I was going for it.
I never thought I could or would have the opportunity do things like climb mountains. I love telling people about the trips that I’ve been on because I’m proud of the hard work I put into them. I’m proud of my friends that do things that to others may seem off-the-map but are daily activities for us; from climbing to rafting to organizing an auction.
CLC has helped me to trust my confidence. Looking back on my experiences over the past year in the program, I’ve surprised myself on what I am able to do. I would never have imagined myself planning trips, climbing mountains, or becoming the Rock and Alpine president. By becoming competent and trusting in what I do in the outdoor world and beyond, my confidence grows. Part of CLC is that every member who learns something turns around and helps the next new member learn that thing. This expectation that every student becomes a teacher makes an inclusive environment where everyone is always learning. In this process I’ve found my own weaknesses but it has given me opportunities for growth and learning from those mistakes.
CLC offers a world where you can make mistakes safely and learn from them. At CLC, I am not only training to be a rafting or mountain guide, but I am preparing myself for things like applying for a job even if I’m not sure that I will get it. I’m training to find the difference between fear and danger. I’m training to run my own company or facilitate meetings and conflicts with general ease. I’m training to work and make hard group decisions while valuing others opinions. Most of all, I and my peers at CLC are working to become leaders so that we can step up and become the leaders that we believe our communities need.
By far the best memory I've made in my time with CLC was on this past year’s Lower Salmon rafting trip. On the last evening before we went back to Seattle, after a long days pull down a river that was flowing the opposite direction as a wild fire burned on a ridge near the river we set up camp on a sandy bank and were set to start dinner. It had been an exhausting day, and everyone was feeling both physically and emotionally drained. As we set up camp to cook baked potatoes for dinner Alyssa and I decided that we wanted to cook for everyone. At this point I don't even remember who originally was scheduled to be on dinner crew, and while I'm sure beyond a doubt that they were willing to cook, Alyssa and I wanted to take care of everyone that night—we had the energy for it. I remember putting on music as Alyssa and I bustled around the kitchen space genuinely enjoying ourselves as we cut and boiled potatoes, as we fried mushrooms and prepared toppings with lots of help from Lydia. We cooked a great dinner for everyone, and at the same time allowed ourselves and the rest of our group to unwind from the day so we could work hard the next day.
To me that memory represents my favorite part of CLC. As incredible as it is to explore the world with all of its gorgeous wilderness, the thing that continues to keep me engaged with CLC is the people and their attitudes towards each other. The thing that makes all of the hard work and time that goes into CLC worth it is the sense of support that exists here. I know that there are people here that genuinely care about me, that will go out of their way to help calm me down when I’m overwhelmed, that have and will continue to help me grow into who I want to become. Both inside of CLC, and in my life outside of it. They consistently go above and beyond to support each other in any way that they can—and sometimes that means cooking up some potatoes and having a lot of fun in the process!
"Back in September, I was with CLC rafting on the Tieton River. I was R4ing with three friends. R4ing is where there are four people in a raft and none of them is in charge, all decisions must be made unanimously, everyone must be experienced enough to read the river and know when moves should be made, and everyone has to know each other well enough to anticipate what the other people are going to do before they do it. In other words, it's a party.
'Left or right?' I asked. We were about 15 yards away from a split in the river. Small waves lapped against the bow of the raft. 'Left has bigger waves,' said Vivian. “But Jacob said that the left in general was safer,' replied Alyssa,. 'We should go backwards!' exclaimed Collin. 'Yeah!' we all agreed loudly and enthusiastically. At this point we were about 5 yards from the small island. Everyone heaved on their paddles and the raft surged backwards towards the right channel. We almost made it: the raft missed the bank, but not the trees.
Overhanging branches whipped into the raft. Branches snapped against our PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices) and helmets. Then we were through. The raft spun into the middle of the channel and we started paddling again, trying to avoid the branches protruding from the opposite bank. When we had stabilized the raft we looked down, and saw that it was covered in leaf litter and twigs, none of which had been there seconds before.
We then noticed that we were approaching a rock in the middle of the river which we were told was “impossible to hit” by Jacob, a commercial river guide with a lot of experience on the Tieton. The left channel was normal but the right was barely big enough for a raft to squeeze through because of a fallen tree in the river. We went right. The raft surged forward towards the gap. We had hesitated and were too far left. The left tube of the raft hit the rock, the river pushing the right tube underwater. We all started yelling 'Highside!' and jumped on the left tube trying to force it back down. The raft spun off the rock and through the gap into calmer water. Our self bailing boat had become a bathtub. All I remember thinking was 'Uh oh, that’s not supposed to happen.' After that we started to figure it out and hit fewer rocks and trees, but even with our mistakes it was an incredible experience.
"My first CLC trip was Camp Disaster 2017. Besides the occasional day hiking, I had very little experience with high adventure so I was very nervous and excited. During that trip, I rafted the Wenatchee for the first time, learned about climbing, and learned more about what it means to lead a trip. Halfway through camp, I was encouraged to try guiding a section of the Wenatchee. I was nervous that I would end up dumping everyone out of the boat. Eventually, I mustered up the courage and decided that if people with the same experience as me csn learn and do it, then so could I.
A year and a half later, I have led many trips and trainings, been a Quartermaster, and pushed myself farther than I have before. Cascade Leadership Challenge has taught me organization, leadership, teamwork, and how all of it will help my growth as a young adult. It has taught me to keep the mentality to try new things."
CLC has given me the chance to view the world in a completely new way. With the sights I have seen, I have learned more about how the world functions and how I fit into that puzzle. While backpacking with CLC this summer, I enjoyed getting to see different habitats and landscapes. We started the trip above the tree line, surrounded by a dusty landscape and my favorite ‘melty’ trees, which spread out at the base to protect themselves from the wind and harsh weather conditions. As we descended below the tree line, the view of the trail ahead was blocked by tall pines, and we heard accounts of other hikers seeing bears. Thinking about it, all of this makes sense. In school, you learn early on how altitude and climate affect the landscape, but it is hard to visualize and fully understand.
The principles of Leave No Trace have helped me to understand how I fit into the world around me. It’s really easy to take wood from a site or not respect the area in another small way, thinking that you’re only one person and so your impact is not influential. But understanding how this one action, when multiplied by many visitors, is detrimental to an ecosystem has been an important lesson for me. Unlike way back in the time of George W. Sears (1800s), who was somewhat ironically titled an early conservationist, it is not acceptable to cut down multiple trees to make a campsite every night of the trip. Instead, you have to look for a sturdy spot to place your tent.
Within CLC, I have found a welcoming community that loves to have fun. And when I say fun, I mean the kind of fun where you are laughing so hard you’re crying—literally. When I laugh that much, it means one of two things: either I’m way too tired or I feel really comfortable with the people around me. Thankfully, when my fits of laughter were a common occurrence during the summer backpacking trip with CLC in the Olympics, it was mostly the latter. I have found that the intimate and supportive environment that is created on CLC trips propels this feeling of comfort. Being comfortable in my surroundings—even those with bears in the forest—has allowed me to push my limits while on trips. For instance, while in the Olympics, a stomach bug had the audacity to make me ill. At that point, I was feeling pretty crappy but was still able to laugh and make jokes about it with the others on the trip and hike out under my own power.
Feeling relaxed and at home even while far away has other implications. It is easy to change how you act to try and better fit in with the crowd around you, but when that crowd is a bunch of trees and birds, that notion falls apart—you forget about normal fashion styles, instead opting for a flannel shirt and patterned running shorts. While CLC hasn’t compelled me to wear these outfits at school and in the ‘real world,’ as I use my skills from CLC as a launchpad to go on many more adventures, I will get many miles out of those outdoor outfits and stand out.
I used to respond to this question by stating the facts: we're a youth-led outdoor organization that teaches leadership skills through high-adventure activities like rafting, mountaineering, and backpacking.
There is a lot of shock factor in this statement alone, resulting in responses like "That's so awesome!" or "I wish there had been something like that for me when I was your age." or, my favorite: "They let teenagers do that!?"
Yup. And we're good at it, most of the time.
These kinds of conversations leave many in awe. How could teenagers with little outdoor experience jump right into high-adventure trips? As I think back on these conversations, I realize that I have been leaving out a vital piece of information. CLC is not just an outdoor group. CLC is a community where people care for one another and welcome new members.
On my first trip with CLC, I was welcomed warmly as a new member. That trip was Camp Disaster, the annual summer kick-off where members head to Leavenworth for a week of rafting, climbing, and hiking. From day one, I was immersed in a friendly and positive environment. The first time I guided a raft was at Camp Disaster. I was very hesitant about taking on command of a paddle boat because I did not want to screw up, but the training and encouragement I received from my peers made me feel confident enough to try. I picked up the guide stick and, with the help of the boat captain, I guided my boat through my first wave train. These kinds of small accomplishments with early celebration from my fellow campers made me want to go on another trip. And another.
A year and a half later, I have gone on to do many things I had never expected myself to be able to do. I have gone on longer rafting trips, organized weeklong expeditions, summited a volcano, and much more. I have gotten to know my peers in many kinds of situations, with many laughs and Oreos, as well as many challenges. We work together to better and challenge ourselves. We trust each other so we can take managed risks. When we struggle, we have each others' backs.
Now, when I am asked about what I do with CLC, I tell them that I go on expeditions with a community of driven, compassionate, people. That CLC is a community of people that supports one another when someone is not having a good day, where everyone is working to become their best self. At the end of the day, that is what I have received and what I am working to give back.
I am immensely grateful for this organization and how it has impacted my life.
Thank you, 2019 supporters!
Thank you for joining us on February 23rd at the Mountaineers Seattle Program Center! By coming to our 2019 Auction and donating, you have supported our 10 year commitment to youth leadership development in the Pacific Northwest.
With your generous help, we raised enough money to fund our Seattle training center, the purchase of climbing, rafting and other adventure equipment, and our scholarship fund so every interested youth can participate, regardless of their ability to pay.
A special thank you to our sponsors: Carl & An-Marie Bellows and Sound Seismic.