- Gwendolyn Dreyer
CAGS Backpackers Summit III Recap
One of the major benefits of a CAGS Backpackers membership is the ability to register for our annual summit - located in a different California location each year. Our summits focus on fellowship, hiking, program/personal development, and administrative business. We cram a lot into our weekend!
This year, we were hosted by our members from Trek Wild of Girl Scouts of California's Central Coast at beautiful Camp Arnaz near the Ojai Valley. Although tent and tentless outdoor sleeping was available, due to the weather, most of us stayed in the lodge's beautiful main room which had a robust heating system.
Day 1: Friday, January 17
Although our formal opening did not begin until 11 am on Saturday, many of us arrived Friday night as is tradition. At 5 pm, we gathered at a local Mexican restaurant a few miles down the freeway from Camp Arnaz so our friends from Trek Wild could have a moment to open up the facilities for us. We greeted our brand new members from Butano Creek Girl Scout Camp and Two Sentinels Girl Scout Camp, both from Girl Scouts of Northern California. They are our first resident camp programs to join our coalition and we couldn't be more thrilled to add their perspective to our conversations.
After sufficiently filling ourselves (backpackers know how to eat), we headed up to Camp Arnaz where we found our Trek Wild buddies greeting cars outside and making sure the lodge was nice and toasty for us. After loading in our belongings, we set-up our camp chairs and chatted for a couple of hours before heading off to bed.
Day 2: Saturday, January 18
Attendees began stirring around 6 am, cooking breakfast in the kitchen and preparing for a short, 8 am hike up Sulphur Mountain Road, right next door to Camp Arnaz. As we headed up the mountain, we learned quickly that Sulphur Mountain Road is NOT a metaphor when we spotted (and smelled!) the tar oozing out of the side of the mountain. We also had spectacular views of the entire camp property from several outlooks.
We arrived back to camp at 10 am just in time to greet the rest of our arrivals and officially began our summit at 11 am. Our getting to know you activities concluded at noon when we all packed into the large (but not that large) kitchen to prepare our offerings for our Backpacker Potluck Lunch. All attendees were invited to prepare one of their favorite/go-to trail meals to share with the group. We had pastas, grains, soup, pudding, and most memorably, trail sushi!
At 1:30 pm, we returned to the classroom and began our Member Group presentations. Every year, all attending groups are given the opportunity to do a "state of the union" style presentation on their backpacking program - the highs, the lows, progress made over the last year, and hopes and dreams for the future. It's a wonderful way to share our triumphs, struggles, and receive valuable feedback and support for our efforts. (Powerpoint optional.)
Around 3:30 pm, we started our website presentation which began with cake to celebrate its launch from just two days before! We delved into our visitor analytics (how many people visited, which pages were most popular, etc.), how to promote the site, and general discussion about our goals and potential outcomes from having a web presence.
We took a break to prepare and eat dinner at 6 pm, and everyone interested in contributing to our blog returned to the classroom around 7:30 pm for Blogger Orientation. We finished up around 8:30 pm and most went promptly to bed after such a full day of activities and business.
Day 3: Sunday, January 19
Another early morning hike awaited us as we left Camp Arnaz around 8 am. After a 45-minute drive, we hit the trail at the Blue Heron - Murietta Gate Trailhead in Los Padres National Forest. A brisk walk from our cars through Matilija Canyon Ranch (wildlife preserve) brought us to the North Fork Matilija Trail. We leisurely hiked our way up to Matilija Trail Camp (with some time-consuming river crossings), stopped for lunch, and made our way back to our cars, and ultimately, Camp Arnaz by 1 pm.
After an hour break to clean up and rest, we returned to the classroom at 2 pm for a Risk Management seminar led by the representatives from Girl Scouts San Diego. It started with a presentation on the different types of Heuristic Traps - mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of decision making - and how they can be dangerously alluring to trip leaders on the trail. After the presentation, attendees paired up to discuss and compare the ways their organizations and councils mitigate particular types of risk. After the breakout, we reconvened to present on what was discussed and learned, and what we want to bring back to our various organizations.
After our mini-seminar, we piled into our cars, headed into town, and sat down for salads and pasta at a local Italian restaurant at 6 pm. After we stuffed our faces with all the carbs one could hope for, we rolled back to Camp Arnaz and enjoyed s'mores by the fireplace before bed.
Day 4: Monday, January 20
Our final morning was filled with breakfast, packing our cars, and cleaning the lodge. After taking care of the facilities, we gathered outside for group reflection on our experiences and all we had accomplished over the summit.
At 10 am, we said our goodbyes to the majority of the group and a small handful of us drove down to Emma Wood State Beach and had a stroll down Ocean's Edge Trail, stopping for snacks and tidepool exploring along the way. At 12:30 pm, we said our final goodbyes, piled into our cars, and went our separate ways bringing home new friends, new knowledge, and a renewed flame to continue our work bringing as many girls as possible into the wilderness.
Gwendolyn is the Webmaster and Blog Editor for CAGS Backpackers and has been a Girl Scout for over 30 years. She is a Camping and Backpacking Trainer for Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles and was the Nature Director of a backpacking-focused summer camp in Northern California.