On Saturday, June 22, 2013, nine of CommunityGrows BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) went on their first camping trip. Armed with backpacks, warm clothes, sturdy shoes, a flashlight and toothbrushes, they hopped on a bus at 10 AM which took them into the wilderness, far from their neighborhood for a weekend of adventure. Joined by CommunityGrows staff Nora Brereton, Adrian Almquist and Adrian Gaino, the teens hiked into a campsite surrounded by eucalyptus trees overlooking the Pacific ocean. It was like going a million miles away to a place in nature with fresh air, trees, wild animals like coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and gray foxes, and an extraordinarily diverse wildlife population. More than 600 species, from expansive birds of prey to North America’s tiniest butterfly, make their home in this park. Hard to believe they’d been transported into another part of San Francisco–the Presidio.
Rob Hill Campground is a hidden Presidio gem and is the only camping facility in San Francisco. It is a fantastic venue for outdoor learning and fun. To provide children and youth who traditionally have not visited national parks with overnight camping experiences, the Crissy Field Center (operated by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service), the Presidio Trust, and Bay Area Wilderness Training have developed the Camping at the Presidio (CAP) program.
A guide greeted the youth and orientated them to the campsite and activities. After setting up their tent and cooking area, they had lunch and went on a hike to Lobos Creek with Park Rangers. The hike was educational with a scavenger hunt to find plants and historic landmarks. Then back to camp to rest and prepare for dinner. Yumm…healthy burritos! Everyone hung out and got to know each other better, played games, dominoes and Uno. BEETS volunteer Johanna Peterson and CommunityGrows Director Barbara Wenger came by for dinner.
Then darkness fell and the over-nighters hiked up the hill to a private campfire to roast marshmallows for smores, make banana boats and tell spooky stories. Nora’s tales were especially spooky and left some listening for sounds throughout the night!
At the ungodly hour of 7:30 AM on Sunday, the youth did a “rise-and-shine,” or at least tried to. A breakfast of pancakes was prepared which made it all worthwhile. Then the tents came down and the campsite was dismantled. The Camping in the Presidio bus came to pick them up and take them back to the Hayes Valley Youth Center. This camping trip is one of the highlights of the year for our youth and we were thrilled to offer it to them.