Backpacking & Hiking
Why is it that people who've been backpacking love it so much? In a way, it's like stepping back in time before human development. You see stars unbelievably bright, underscored by meteorites hurrying across the heavens. You smell pine forests, feel the soft touch of the wind, and see mountains, lakes, streams, trees and animals in their natural state, as they have been for millenia. And you develop a profound sense of independence, totally self-sufficient in the wild.
Backpacking is part of the Outdoor Living Skills (OLS) program at Shaffer's High Sierra Summer Camps. We call it the "Outdoor Living Skills" program because there's so much more to backpacking than strapping on a pack and hitting the trail. There's route and gear planning, learning what to pack and how to pack, meal planning, how to select a camp site, how to setup and take down a camp, how to make a fire safely, how to cook, and sanitation. As part of our preparations, campers learn orienteering, which is how to read a topographical (topo) map and use a compass and a GPS to navigate cross-country. (OLS and the Explorer Program are completely separate programs. OLS participants split their time between OLS activities and regular camp activities whereas the Explorer Program is an entirely separate one-week program conducted away from Camp in the Tahoe National Forest.)
You'll also gain an appreciation of nature and "leave-no-trace" camping, how to camp with minimal impact on the environment. And of course you'll enjoy camp fires (fire restrictions permitting), marshmallows, hot chocolate, songs, and games under an umbrella of stars brightened by the mountain elevation. The Camp provides all necessary equipment, other than sleeping bags.
Our trips last from two to five days and are conducted in California's splendid Tahoe National Forest. The actual trails vary depending on participant age, fitness, experience, interest, and local conditions. Potential trails include:
Pacific Crest Trail
We hike a 14 mile (23 kilometer) section of the renowned Pacific Crest Trail, which passes close to Camp. We start at Jackson Meadow Reservoir at about the 7,000 foot (2,100 meter) elevation and hike mostly downhill to Sierra City, elevation about 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), with an overnight stop along Milton Creek. Pickup is less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Camp.
Lakes Basin Recreation Area
Other potential trails include various routes in and around the Lakes Basin Recreation Area near the Sierra Buttes, which begins just 10 minutes from Camp.
This jewel lies just 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Camp at the end of a beautiful and moderate trail. It's great for a quick overnighter, particularly if you're with us for only a week. You can still experience sleeping under the stars even when you don't have time for a full backpack trip.
If you don't want to go backpacking, or if you just can't get enough of the exceptional hiking trails in the area, you'll have the chance to go on numerous day hikes. Some of our favorite hikes include:
This hike begins from Packer Saddle, starting at about 7,200 feet (2,350 meters), and ends at the summit of the Sierra Buttes, which is 8,587 feet (2,800 meters). This 6-mile half-day hike is moderately strenuous, but we take the hike easy enough so that nearly everyone can participate. The view from the observation tower at the summit is outstanding. On a clear day, you can see all the way up to Mt. Lassen 150 miles away, as well as many of the 70+ pristine mountain lakes in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area.
Again, with this jewel just 2 miles (3 kilometers) from Camp at the end of a beautiful and moderate trail, we'll mount a half-day trip just to go the lake, swim, take in the scenery, and return.
This is another peak close enough for a half-day hike. It is more moderate than the Sierra Buttes hike, but provides a tremendous view of the Buttes, Mt. Lassen, and the Sierra Valley, which is the Sierra Nevada's largest alpine valley.
North Yuba River
Since the Camp is nestled along the banks of the headwaters of the North Yuba River and a contributory stream, we take advantage and go on river hikes. We explore the plant and aquatic life, and even occasionally find gold! (After all, we are in California's high gold country.)
If you want to sleep out under the stars but don't want to strap on a pack, don't worry. You can! What would a sleepaway camp be without sleep outs? You can spent the evening in the forest with other campers and staff and make it back to camp in time for a breakfast cooked by our chefs. What could be better? We have standalone sleepouts and sleepouts paired with other activities such as rock climbing and even arts and crafts!