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Bears, Bugs & Backpacking

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Q + A Addressing Common Concerns About Adventure Camp in MT

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 09:00

summer camp Montana bears, bugs, backpackingSummer adventure camp in Montana? Sounds great. But what about ... Bears, Bugs and Backpacking? 

Bears: “Do you see bears while camping in Montana?”

No, we have never seen bears while camping in Montana with Alpengirl, nor have we seen a mountain lion. We have seen bears while touring Yellowstone Park, always at a distance. Many other tourists in the Park stop to watch the bears at a distance too. There are bears and other wildlife in the areas we travel, and they avoide us due to the fact that we are together as a large, loud, energetic group, and we keep a clean camp and follow the rules of Leave No Trace. The most well-known rule at Alpengirl (regardless of location in MT, WA, WY or ID), is that campers may only have 8 specific items in the tent at night, and none of those 8 items have a scent that might attract wildlife. In short, we have not had any close wildlife encounters and aim to keep it that way. The opportunity to view from a distance is a real treat - we have seen bears, moose, swans, sandhill cranes, otters, antelope, fox, bison, wolves, and more on our trips, but never face to face!

Bugs: “Are there lots of bugs in Montana?”

No, Montana has a fairly dry climate that doesn’t support lots of creepy crawlies unless you go looking for them (under rocks, in brush, or in log piles). The most numerous bugs we encounter are mosquitoes, which at times can be a challenge depending on the time of day, location, and type of snow year we’ve had. Generally, mosquitoes do not bother us during the day, but they may bother us on windless early mornings or during evenings around dusk. We may also see mosquitoes in wet areas such as next to a creek or wetland. The packing list calls for girls to bring insect repellant, and we suggest including a long sleeved, breezy, light-colored cotton shirt for best mosquito protection as well. A light head net it also a great option for peace of mind when the mosquitoes come a buzzin.' Otherwise, we don our repellant, cover up with pants and long sleeved shirt, and carry on with our outdoor adventures!

Backpacking: "How hard is an Alpengirl backpacking trip?”

Alpengirl's backpacking itineraries range in length and challenge level, but they are all carefully planned to present an empowering challenge to a group of teen girls without surpassing campers' ability level. Typically lasting 3-6 days, our backpacking itineraries venture into diverse environments, from the Hoh Rainforest in Washington to the high lakes of the Tobacco Root and Gallatin Ranges in Montana.

The Montana & Yellowstone Adventure backpacking trip itinerary illustrates a typical Alpengirl schedule: The backpacking segment of the camp session lasts 4 days and 3 nights, and usually takes us on a beautiful loop hike throught the Spanish Peaks, near Bozeman, MT. On the first day, we backpack about 5 miles with very little elevation gain. This typically takes about 4 hours of walking at a slow pace, staying together as a group so we can enjoy trail games, snack breaks, and the occasional sing-along. We pitch our tents next to a beautiful creek for the first night. The next day, we leave our tents set up and empty our packs. Carrying only the essentials, such as rain gear, water, and lunch, we head out for a 4 mile round-trip day hike to a high mountain lake where we can swim! The 2 mile climb to the lake is rewarded by glorious views and a perfect picnic spot. The 2 miles back down to camp are a breeze. On the third day, we pack up all our gear and backpack about 3 miles (mostly uphill, going slow and steady) to reach another lake. This is where our leg muscles really grow stronger, and our confidence and pride grow too! We camp lakeside on the third night, and if conditions are right for it, enjoy another swim. The fourth and final day of backpacking is mostly downhill, and having eaten the majority of our food, it’s a quick 7 miles with lightened packs to get back to the trailhead where we started.

Backpacking is one of the BEST parts of camp, for many reasons. It is an opportunity for positive bonding and team building as the group hikes together, overcomes the challenges of the trail together, and girls support and encourage one another. Individually, each girl is empowered by the thrill and challenge of living 4 days with everything she needs on her back. It is a unique experience that creates a feeling of self-reliance, confidence, and strength. There’s no better conditions in which to have this kind of experience than in a supportive group of other adventurous girls, lead by capable women. Starting as a pre-teen or teen introduces girls to an activity to be enjoyed for a lifetime, and at Alpengirl, we foster this lifelong love of backpacking through camps that are specifically geared toward enjoyment and growth.

Read more about backpacking at Alpengirl Camp.