Adventure Club: Spotlight on Youth Leadership

Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC) is a youth leadership program run by teen members of The Mountaineers. Here is the story of two MAC leaders, Stephanie and Logan.
stephanie houston stephanie houston
Mountaineers Adventure Club Leadership
December 12, 2017
Adventure Club: Spotlight on Youth Leadership
by Stephanie Houston and Logan Urrutia, youth leaders with intro by Josh Gannis, former Youth Education Manager

Both Stephanie Houston and Logan Urrutia served on the Mountaineers Adventure Club Leadership Team. The Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC) is a Youth Leadership program run by teen members of The Mountaineers. With staff and volunteer support, the stated aim is to help the youth of the Puget Sound discover and explore the public lands and waterways of the Pacific Northwest, to help them grow as individuals, and to foster greater connections to our public lands to help steward and conserve them for future generations. These youth represent not only the future of The Mountaineers, but the future of responsible, sustainable outdoor recreation. But I'll let them speak for themselves…

Stephanie Houston

Mountaineers Adventure Club Treasurer 2015-2016

As a child, I was luckier than most when it came to the outdoors, although it didn't feel like that at the time. My parents literally forced me outside for “mandatory hikes.” I always just assumed it was something that everybody had to do and didn't recognize how fortunate I was at the time. 

My parents drove me to endless national and state parks and made me get out of the car to hike a few miles uphill, while my sister and I trudged behind them moodily. Even though it was always a struggle to actually make me get outside I still felt a sense of accomplishment after I was done with the hike. For my short legs hiking was always a fight, but as I grew older and became involved in competitive swimming, I grew stronger and began to do longer mile hikes.

The summer after fourth grade, my family and I found ourselves in Glacier National Park. The weather was hot which made the air smell of pine trees. I set out to do my first ten mile hike with my parents and sister. The hike ran along a glacier where the park had set up little plaques to show how far the glacier had receded in the last 50 years. I had already learned about climate change in school and knew it was an important thing, but during this hike something struck me. The plaques gave me a real sense of how humans could change something so massive and permanent in just a few decades. 

As I was hiking towards where the glacier had hidden away I began to feel incredulous that more people didn't care about the beautiful world that we live in and they didn't try to protect it. That day I had ten miles to think about how natural everything was out there, but seeing the glacier recede made me realize that not everyone understood how amazing these places were — and that is why they didn't protect them.

When I started high school, I joined my environmental club which has a very passionate group of kids. It's hard to make a difference though as just a small group. I went to multiple environmental symposiums and meetups to learn about different ways to protect our environment individually. While meeting these people was encouraging, I felt like there must be some way for youth to care more about conservation.

It was around this time that I discovered The Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC) and Washington Trails Association (WTA). While I still got out to go hiking about once a month, it was nowhere as near as much as I wanted to go because I didn’t have the access to rides or friends who would want to go hiking on the weekends. 

I joined MAC in January of 2015 and was amazed that this program was run by kids and yet the trips worked out so smoothly. This was definitely something I wanted to do. Around the same time, I was looking for something I could work on to help expose environmental problems to people who didn’t think about them much. I looked for trail building opportunities because there's no better way than to get people to make an effort, then to make them fall in love with nature. By maintaining and building trails, I felt like I was helping expose the beauty of nature. When trails are closer and safer, inevitably more people will use them and feel compelled to protect the natural world. While I knew I was helping out, these groups also helped me on a personal level. The leadership and social skills that I have gained from MAC and WTA are priceless.

Because there are opportunities like MAC and WTA, the motivation to conserve Washington’s beautiful parks become a more prominent goal in many people’s lives. It's important to learn from a young age how pristine nature can be, so that we keep it that way and share the trails with the next generation. 

Logan Urrutia

Mountaineers Adventure Club Vice President of Skills and Trips 2015-2016; President 2016-2017

I grew up in a family that had never owned a tent. I begged my parents to camp and spend more time in the outdoors. My mom could hardly wait until I turned 14, so I could experience all that I wanted to, and signed me up for a WTA trip laboring for a week doing trail work. I loved it! 

As part of my preparation for the WTA trip, I took a few visits to REI to gather required gear. I had done a lot of research on equipment. It just so happened that the Sales Associate I was working with was the current Vice President of the Mountaineers Adventure Club (MAC) and invited me to come to the introduction meeting in September! I was exhilarated and knew this would be a stellar experience. 

Prior to my meeting in September (this was back in 2013), I had completed two WTA week-long trips and LOVED them. I knew being outside was my jam. I had so much anticipation waiting for that first MAC meeting that September — and for good reason. It was more than I ever imagined it to be. I found so many like-minded peers and a plethora of activities and trips to expand my experiences. 

And so it began... I've had so many opportunities to experience, learn, and apply my skills. In addition, I've been able to mentor others and develop my leadership skills. The volunteers that work with the MAC group are always crushing and spot on with their skills and techniques. Thank you, thank you! 

I'm now certified in Wilderness First Aid, Crevasse Rescue, Ice Axe Skills, and Belay escape. I started top roping 5.7's in Vantage and am now leading a 5.10b and hope to take the Crag course this upcoming spring. I had never been on cross country skis until the MAC group went to Methow Valley. I can hardly wait to return to do more cross-country skiing. The fall trips to Leavenworth are always memorable and involve lots of new faces. Probably my most superb experience to date was climbing the Chief in Squamish alongside my great friend, Michael Telstad, #thanksforthegreatpics.

The MAC group keeps me busy, but I have also been able to continue doing volunteer trail work with WTA and reached a milestone this summer by logging in 25 days to date. This fall I became a WTA Youth Ambassador and hope to spread the news and get more youth outdoors. I love being immersed in nature, giving back to a place I care for and play in, and meeting life-long friends. 

Many adult and youth have pressed the idea that youth need to be involved, so the outdoors will be maintained and conserved for later generations. Yes, this is all true, but I believe it's more than that. For some of us, it's about finding ourselves, understanding who we are, and realizing what we value. It also gives us an opportunity to hone life-long skills that could, in the future save our lives or others. Growing the personal individual and how nature and all that it gives to us can actually help us find ourselves and who we are. Being in the outdoors helps each of us to find our identity, to network with like-minded individuals, to seek out new challenging and rewarding experiences, and ultimately to better each of us. It is about each personal individual and their gateway to the outdoors. 

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2016 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.
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John Boland
John Boland says:
Mar 11, 2018 06:11 PM