We live outside of Washington State (or outside the US) - can you accommodate us?
Many of our campers come from out-of-state and some live in other countries. This is why we start and end nearly all of our programs at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. A fair number of our campers also arrive and depart via airplane alone, without their parents. Blue Compass staff are well versed with meeting and dropping off campers at the airline gate. We realize that it is a big time and financial investment for parents to travel with their kids, therefore we accommodate alternative travel arrangements as much as possible.
How do you manage the inherent risk of your programs?
We rely on three main risk management principles for leading wilderness adventure trips. In general, we feel that training (for both staff and campers) and careful planning are the precursors to managing risk. We also realize that no amount of training and planning can guarantee the absence of an emergency or accident. Therefore we have established comprehensive risk management systems so that if an emergency happens, we have a plan.
Our three risk management principles:
My kid doesn't have a diagnosis, but I think he/she may benefit from one of your programs - do you accept kids without diagnosis?
Absolutely. Although many of our staff are specialists in the areas of autism spectrum disorders, Attention-Deficit Disorder, and Learning Disabilities, we also place a realistic value on formal diagnosing. We realize that not all kids meet criteria for a diagnosis, or even need to have one – they simply are “different” from what our society perceives as “typical” and can benefit from smaller group learning experiences with trained and experienced staff. We also support those parents who do not believe in having a label placed on their kid. Our philosophy is that diagnoses can sometimes be helpful in making a kid eligible for services, having insurance pay for services, and possibly normalizing a set of behaviors or way of being, but beyond that we are not invested in putting anyone in labeled boxes.
Do you accept kids with a history of physical aggression towards others?
We do not. Again, our main goal is to keep all campers and staff safe – we are not a program that serves a population of teens who may need physical restraint in order to keep them safe. In general, we do not accept kids who have been given the diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder for the above reasons. If you are struggling to find a program such as this, please give us a call and we can make some good recommendations.
Can I send my kid to one of your programs on a plane without a parent?
Yes. This is one of the main reasons we start and end our trips at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Our staff make it easy to pick up and drop off your teenager by making any accommodations we can, including picking your teen up or dropping them off at the gate. About 20% of our campers arrive via airplane without a parent.
My teenager is resistant to go on a program - what should I do?
This makes sense to us. They are teens after all, and would rather be doing what they want to do over the summer break – yes? Can you take a guess as to what activity we hear from teens that they would rather be doing all summer? Yes – video games tops the list. Now we at Blue Compass love video games as well but we also heavily appreciate having balance in one’s life, and feel that spending a week or two on a wilderness adventure supports this balance well. It should also be noted that although the majority of our teens are at least somewhat reluctant before the program starts, we have experienced that time and time again these same teens absolutely love the experience and often have a hard time on the last day, knowing that it’s all over. All that said, we often recommend that you do whatever it takes to get them to day 1 of the program – show them the website, look at the slideshow, Google-map the area where the program is taking place, or have them email or call us. Some kids get excited with getting the gear together for the trip, so sitting down and looking at the “What to Bring List” can be fun as well.
What kind of equipment will I need to send with my kid?
We will send you a detailed “What to Bring” list. Generally, your teen will need a sleeping bag, appropriate footwear, and suitable outdoor clothing. We follow a “Simple is Best” philosophy so actually take just the bare essentials on our expeditions – this keeps things manageable for our campers.
Will I have any communication with my kid during the program?
Generally we do not have kids and parents communicating during the program. This guideline is very common in the world of camps, and is research-based in that communication does little to augment the campers experience, and can even take away the benefits of “being on their own” – sometimes for the first time. Of course if there is an emergency (including minor ones) we make an exception and contact parents as soon as possible. That said, you know your child better than we do. If you feel a check-in would be beneficial for your child than let's make arrangements prior to camp starting. Our staff does document the trips through still photography so parents can “vicariously enjoy” the experience. Where WiFi is available we post photos and videos on our Facebook and/or Instagram pages daily. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments on this guideline, we love to have discussions with parents around this subject.
What if I am nervous about going on the trip?
If you weren’t nervous, we’d be worried – or at least surprised. Most kids who attend camp or any program like ours have some fears before they get to us. This is very normal and is to be expected. We are convinced that part of the ingredients that go into a successful and fun experience like this have to do with the fear and uncertainty that happens before the trip starts. It’s kind of like jumping off the high-dive for the first time – it wouldn’t be as fun if it weren’t at least a little scary – right?
What if I don't know how to backpack or paddle?
If you don’t know how to backpack or paddle a sea kayak, again, you will be just like most of the other teens on your trip. It is a huge part of our staff’s job to teach you how to participate in these activities. We can pretty much guarantee that you will know a lot more about these activities by the end of your trip – regardless of how much experience you have at the start of the trip.
What will we eat?
We use slingshots to kill everything we eat – which is often squirrel. Just kidding! Eating is extremely important on our programs, so we have put a lot of time and energy into developing our menus. We have a menu that is developed to meet 3 needs – 1. Taste good, 2. Be easy to pack and prepare, and 3. Provide you the nutrition & energy (calories) you will need during your program. For breakfast, oatmeal with brown sugar and/or raisins is fairly common. For lunches, some items are peanut butter & jelly, tuna fish, chicken,and hummus (so good!) on tortillas or pita. Dinners usually consist of pasta or rice and beans with various sauces. For snacks, each participant gets a big bag of GORP, which stands for “Good Old Raisins & Peanuts”. However, our own recipe includes a large amount of peanut and regular M&M’s.
Where do we sleep?
If the skies are clear with no forecast for rain, we sometimes sleep under the stars. You will be sleeping under tarps which you will learn to set up if we think that it may rain. Tarps are great for wilderness travel as they provide a large amount of ventilation and they are lightweight and pack down very small.
Where do we poop?
Most of the areas which we travel in have already established “privies”, which are basically small private bathrooms that compost waste in a pit below ground. However, on the backpacking trips, you may have the unique opportunity to poop in the woods! If you’ve never done this before, it may just be worth the entire trip. You will learn how to dig a “cat hole”, your own private bathroom with a view, then cover it up so no one, not even the raccoons, ever knew you were there. Pooping in the woods may seem odd at first, but quickly it becomes easy and, dare we say, enjoyable!
Where do we shower?
We don’t. We’re actually (mostly) not kidding here. On the backpacking trip, you may have the opportunity to swim in a mountain lake or stream during the program, or on the sea kayaking trip, swim in the Puget Sound – the large body of water you will be paddling on. On all of the trips, for the benefit of your parents and others who might sit next to you on the flight or car ride home, you may have the opportunity to shower on the last night of the trip.
At Ranch Camp we will shower everyday.
How far will we hike or paddle?
We hike or paddle about 3-6 miles per day. A group’s average speed is about 1 mile per hour for these activities so it usually takes 3-6 hours per day to get where we’re going, plus time to take water & snack breaks and a longer break for lunch. Quite often we arrive at our new campsite each day by mid-afternoon, with a couple hours to relax or play before dinner time.
What are the staff like?
The staff are the ones writing this so look for some heavy bias here. Blue Compass staff are hand-picked professionals who have a proven record of experience in the wilderness as well as with working with children and teens. Additionally, we attempt to hire staff who are good cooks, play an instrument, can sing & dance with some spirit, are good story tellers, are connoisseurs of Greek mythology, and smell favorably.