How does our Blue Ridge Expedition differ from Outward Bound’s program?

By Anne Mead

I recently got an email from a parent who asked a great question: How does our Blue Ridge Expedition differ from Outward Bound’s program?

Well, first off one of the unique things about our program is at least half of our Expeditioners are returners or former campers of our program. One of the benefits of this is our culture. Green River Preserve is founded on a community of respect: respect for yourself, respect for others, and respect for all living things. Each of our programs (summer camp, expeditions, school programs) opens with a respect circle where we ask the participants to agree to live by this value. We have found for expeditions, it is extremely beneficial to have this established knowledge, history, and culture in at least part of the participants. Those that are new to Green River and our philosophy are more readily able to “buy in” to this culture when their peers find it second nature. Along with the respect circle, we have the 12 Expeditioners establish “group norms” or rules for the community. Almost any trip company (Outward Bound, Moondance, NOLS, Adventure Treks) I am sure does something similar. One of the benefits we witness in having former GRP campers is, the tone for respect really carries out in these group norms and helps establish a cohesive community. This is key to have a successful trip. The group is a significant part of the experience and setting the tone in the beginning is critical to that success.

Another unique aspect of Blue Ridge Expeditions is we have a primitive base camp (Reasonover) the Expeditioners get to use as their home. There is a great big cook shelter with space for a covered fire ring, games, and learning space. It can often be rainy in the mountains, and having this space is wonderful not only for cooking but for having a space out of the rain to continue program. There is also a boys sleeping shelter in one direction and girls shelter in the opposite direction. The Expeditioners spend the first few days at Reasonover getting to know the routine and preparing for their backpacking trip. For campers new to a simplistic lifestyle and an experience like this, it is helpful to have this place they really get to know as “home.” We have found it makes first timers more comfortable in the woods. Once they complete the backpacking trip, the group returns to Reasonover and takes day trips for the final few days of the expeditions. Campers are always thrilled to return “home” and be in this magical spot. .

A unique aspect of all of our programs is the Expeditioners have input in deciding where they will venture. For example, the leaders will present them with 3 different backpacking trip options. The Expeditioners will then decide as a group which trip best fits the group and their desires as a whole. This decision making process brings ownership and responsibility to the Expeditioners, and we have found brings a profound impact to the trip.

Green River Preserve is a place of learning and education (You can even earn college credit with some of our trips!). We focus a lot in Expeditions on both hard and soft skills because we feel the combination of these skills is what makes a good leader. Communication among your team is just as important as how to pack a pack. We emphasize these lessons through experiential learning and exploration during the trip. Expeditioners even help with this process by picking a topic of their choice and presenting it to the group sometime during the 14 days. We have a healthy library at Reasonover and in the past Expeditioners have taught topics like the night sky, how to make the best pita pizza, knot tying, and more.

All of our Blue Ridge trips have up to 12 participants (typically 6 boys, 6 girls) and 3 leaders. Two of our three leaders this summer are return Expedition Staff. They are phenomenal. Our leaders are teachers, outdoor educators, certified in wilderness first aid, and more. They participate in 2.5 weeks of staff training with us prior to the summer.

I have personally lead trips for two other companies as well as Green River Preserve before coming to my current role as Director. The level of respect for one another and participant involvement in decision-making are two things I think we do extremely well and set us a part from other programs. I see it during the summer on the participants faces and hear it during the year from former Expeditioners and parents: Expeditions is a positive life changing experience.

If anyone has any questions, I would be more than happy to speak with you in more detail about our Expeditions. Call 828.698.8828 or email: