Echo Ranch boasts of wilderness programs

Facility offers three camps: Sourdough, Kayak and Wilderness

Posted: Sunday, April 05, 2009

Last year, I ran a radio commercial with the voice of Echo Ranch saying, "Get them kids off the couch, off them video games and out to Echo Ranch."

I thought it was pretty funny. Then again, I'm not like most people. The point though is that Echo Ranch is a great place for kids to come and burn some energy and enjoy the outdoors. They have been sitting behind desks and computer screens all winter long, and it's time for some movement.

Rain or shine, we do our best to plan activities that encompass the Echo Ranch property and beyond. One exciting way for your kids to stay active this summer is through our wilderness program.

Sourdough Camp is our four-day backpacking camp designed for ages 10 to 13. There are guy and girl camps scheduled throughout the summer. Each Sourdough group has 10 to 16 campers. The kids take the bus from Auke Bay to the Point Bridget Trailhead where a pair of counselors will lead them on their first hike to base camp on the other side of Cowee Creek.

They are allowed to carry their backpacks, but any extra luggage will be brought out for them. With hiking distances of no more than a couple of miles, it should be suitable for most kids. The director of the wilderness program, Ray Fish, provides the group with all their meals and supplies during the four days. Sourdough camps are meant to be fun and less dependent on schedules than the summer camps. Who doesn't like sleeping in and waking up to orange juice, hot chocolate and pancakes cooked over the fire?

Kayak Camp is a four-day water excursion in Berners Bay for ages 14 to 18. After arriving at Echo Ranch the campers will be hands on in preparing for the trip. The first objective is to repack their luggage to make it ready for the kayaks. Then over the next few hours they will learn the basics of kayaking.

Kids learn proper paddling techniques, water safety and what to do should their kayaks flip over. They also will learn about bear safety and how to set up and take down a campsite without leaving a trace.

At least two counselors go along on the trip. Both have completed kayak training and are certified in first aid and CPR. Also included in their gear is a two-way radio in case of emergency. We want to make this a fun and safe experience for campers of all skill levels. This is an awesome opportunity to experience Southeast at its finest.

A new addition to the program is our Wilderness Adventure Camp for ages 13 to 15. The idea is to offer a camp that combines both hiking and kayaking.

The campers spend half their time at the Sourdough base camp and hiking the Point Bridget Trail. The next few days are spent on the water kayaking in Berners Bay. In addition, campers learn outdoor survival skills such as how to light a fire with one match and how to use a compass.

Survival skills help to enlighten their experience with Echo Ranch and prepare them for future adventures. For those who are interested in variety, this could be the outdoor camp of choice. This summer, we are offering one camp for boys, from June 23 to 26, and one camp for girls, June 29 to July 2.

The Southeast is a beautiful place to grow up, and it would be a shame to miss out on God's creation. Our goal is to provide safe and affordable opportunities for youth to explore what's around them. Whales, sea lions, eagles, bears, even porcupines come with the territory.

You can register for any one of these wilderness camps online at To get an idea of where your camper might be headed, there is a map of Point Bridget State Park located on the DNR Web site. Additionally, Echo Ranch wishes to express its gratitude to the U.S. Forest Service for its cooperation in making these trips and other camper experiences possible.

• Jon-Michael Gwinnell is a staff member at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. He can be reached at

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