Outdoor Education | Endless Adventure: The Journey from Camper to Pioneer

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we meet Addison - a member of our youth club The Pioneers.
Margaux Gottlieb Margaux Gottlieb
Former Mountaineers Youth Programs Coordinator
February 26, 2019

Meet Addison - an eight year old with a quiet yet self-assured presence. Addison, like all Mountaineers, loves the outdoors. She loves swimming, fishing, kayaking, rock climbing, and camping in her family’s gigantic tent – “no seriously, it’s gigantic!” she’ll tell you.

Addison first joined The Mountaineers as a camper. Proudly she displays her collection of buttons signifying the different years she attended camp. At camp, she spent time learning many new outdoor skills, yet for Addison, rock climbing represented the highlight of her camp experience, that and of course finding Billy (a small stuffed goat and the camp mascot that is hidden each day for campers to discover). Like her Aunt before her, Addison became driven to climb. Motivated by her passion she sought out the opportunities The Mountaineers could provide.

Last fall, Addison and her family stumbled upon Pioneers, one of the three year-round adventure clubs open to all Mountaineers families. As part of the youth and family initiative and its commitment to bringing outdoor education and appreciation to today’s youth, The Pioneers offers families the opportunity to get out at least once a month for children ages seven to nine. To Addison and her family, this opportunity meant not only the chance to continue climbing but also to rebuild a sense of confidence in the outdoors.

From the ages of two to five in Addison's life, her mom Lynne, battled cancer. The desire to join a group that gets outside together came from the need to make up for lost time in the outdoors. "We kind of missed some years of being able to have that freedom," Lynne said. "And so we’re now relearning how to get out. Ron and I did this as a couple and as single people, but as a family we haven’t really had a chance. The Mountaineers was our way of remembering we know how to do this.”

Addison and her family have attended every outing since the start of the program — and with each experience, their confidence grows. One particular trip stood out to Addison’s father. It was a day of stewardship with Washington Trails Association (WTA) at Cougar Mountain. The group set off in pouring rain as fat drops of water rolled down the sides and off the brims of the green WTA hardhats. Addison along with the rest of the Pioneers shoveled gravel into hefty brown wheelbarrows carting them off to areas of the trail that needed tamping. Mud spattered hands, faces and boots. Amid the hard work, laughter broke out in response to splashing from the heavy wheelbarrows as they wobbled down the path. Despite the conditions the group was having fun and by the end of the day the extent of accomplishment could only be matched by the extent of the group’s sogginess. That day reminded both Addison’s dad, Ron, as well as the rest of the adults in the group that even the smallest and least likely of circumstances can produce big results and even bigger smiles.

As Mountaineers, freedom, confidence, a sense of accomplishment, all represent reasons to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. And all of these qualities reflect what The Pioneers program can bring to the lives of our members. Addison and her family are no different. They were seeking a reintroduction to enjoying and embracing the outdoors and they found it, in addition to finding the satisfaction that goes along with being a part of a larger community. 

Addison best sums it up, in a letter to a future Pioneer:

"Dear Mountaineers Kid,

I'm going to tell you why you might like to join the Pioneers. It's kinda new, so don't worry if you don't know about it yet.

The group leader, Margaux, is good at doing what the kids want to do. This one time, we were supposed to go hiking at Rattlesnake Lake. When we got there, we saw a lake bottom that we wanted to explore. If the parents had been in charge, we probably would have gone straight on the hike. But Margaux let us stay and play and explore and climb on the tree stumps! I climbed on top of this huge boulder, and then all the kids joined me, and then Margaux climbed up! All of the grown-ups stayed on the ground and took pictures. We eventually went on the hike, but I think all of the kids enjoyed climbing the stumps and boulders the most.

My favorite part was when we went snowshoeing, and we found an igloo that another group of kids made. That was really fun to play around the igloo (without breaking it). And then we snowshoed for a while more, and then we found a nice place to sit down for lunch. Margaux brought out two Pocket Rockets and another tiny stove to boil water. And she brought hot cider, hot chocolate and hot lemonade packets, so we all could have hot drinks! And then the kids played in the snow.

Every trip has a grownup from The Mountaineers who knows what they're doing and brings snacks. When my dad and I went on the trail work party, one of the leaders brought popcorn and a Pocket Rocket stove and made it right there on the trail!

These are the reasons I like Mountaineers and Pioneers so much and know you will too."


Interested in learning more about our youth programs? Visit https://www.mountaineers.org/youth to see our clubs, summer camp opportunities, youth gear library, and more. 


This article originally appeared in our Spring 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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Anita Elder
Anita Elder says:
Tue, Feb 26, 2019 2:09 PM

Love this!