“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” —John Muir
The Thacher School has operated Golden Trout Camp (GTC) for over 50 years, connecting thousands of students, alumni, families, and other visitors with the ancient Foxtail pines, endangered Sierra Bighorn Sheep, and a wide range of other unique flora and fauna that make up the beautiful alpine ecosystem of the southern Sierra Nevada.
Golden Trout Wilderness School
Today GTC is run as the Golden Trout Wilderness School under a Special Use Permit from the Forest Service and provides wilderness education programs throughout the summer months. More than half the programs are grant-funded and dedicated to serving disadvantaged and minority youth. Other programs offer educational opportunities to the general public. The Golden Trout Alumni Natural History Encampment brings multiple generations of alumni together each summer to rediscover this breathtaking spot. Fees for any of these programs go toward maintenance of the historic facility and toward providing excellent staff and instructors.
Every year, just a few days after arriving on campus, first-year students find themselves on the trail to Golden Trout. This week-long trip, which is divided between camping at Golden Trout Wilderness School and backpacking through the surrounding Cottonwood Lakes Basin in smaller groups, is their first taste of the Thacher outdoor experience. There’s the practical: Becoming familiar with backpacking gear, learning about topo maps and navigation, deepening their knowledge of Leave No Trace ethics and tactics. And the personal: Facing challenges and discomfort with maturity and a positive attitude, forging relationships in a truly unplugged environment, taking on extra responsibilities in order to support group efforts.
New Faculty Training
Faculty members at Thacher wear many hats, including backcountry guide. Those who are new to the School participate in their own wilderness orientation at Golden Trout Camp before students arrive for the academic year. During this weeklong program, they hone wilderness safety and survival skills, as well as strategies to help students thrive and reach their maximum potential as they navigate the wilderness. They’re also introduced to a wide-ranging mix of School traditions, from The Banquet Song to the reading of The Chambered Nautilus.
Summer Work for Students
Some students from Thacher and other schools come to the Southern Sierra Nevadas for summer work at Golden Trout Wilderness School. The full schedule of groups and workshops hosted at GTC throughout the summer keeps them busy on maintenance and upkeep projects at the camp and on the surrounding trails.