Muir Wise Leadership Program

“The beauty is in the walking—we are betrayed by destinations.” —Gwyn Thomas

The Muir Wise Summer Leadership Program, a three-week intensive wilderness learning experience in the Southern Sierras, offers students a unique mixture of leadership development, natural history education, wilderness skills training, and opportunities for profound self-reflection and personal growth. Each class of participants is comprised of about five Thacher students and two non-Thacher students, with approximately one-third receiving a scholarship to attend. 

Program 

Muir Wise begins at Golden Trout Wilderness School with a five-day primer in Wilderness First Aid and the fundamentals of backcountry travel and safety. It continues with a two-week group wilderness odyssey through Sequoia National Park, a two-day solo at the headwaters of the Kern River, and a week-long student-led return backpacking trip to Golden Trout. Mindfulness training, student-led teaching, and the lasting lessons of a prolonged wilderness experience are at the heart of the program.

What They Learn

The Muir Wise experience not only equips students with the technical skills critical to any trip through the wilderness, it also challenges them to observe the world and themselves in new ways, emphasizing curiosity, the exchange of ideas across many disciplines, and thoughtful reflection. They hone practical skills like orienteering, nature observation, route finding, campsite selection, and Leave No Trace travel techniques.

They also dive deeply into roles like the navigator/medic, the poet, the historian, the naturalist, the tracker, and the skeptic, allowing them to be both student and teacher and to view their experiences through the lens of different disciplines, philosophies, and expertizes. In the end—after a 48-hour monitored solo and a return-backpacking trip to Golden Trout that’s authored and led entirely by the students—participants in Muir Wise come away with new perspectives on learning and teaching, self-sufficiency, collaboration, and leadership.