Scott Gehrman has operated his Groveland-based company for 17 years, but his salary is no higher than what he pays his employees. As founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization, Lasting Adventures, his mission encompasses more than providing a great outdoor experience to the general public.
"We give youth a full-value contract," he says. "Be here. Be safe. Be honest. Set goals. Let go and move on. Care for self and others."
Gehrman requires himself and all the guides to meet the same expectations. As highly trained professionals, they hold certifications in first aid and CPR, in addition to specialized certifications such as wilderness Emergency Medical Technician training, for ski patrols, as lifeguards and in Outdoor Emergency Care.
A few of the company's guides began in junior high or high school, looking for a memorable outdoor adventure. Having discovered a new love, they returned to the company.
Jon Hart, Rory Beyer, Braden Beane and Claire Loncarich began wilderness backpacking in some form as teens with Lasting Adventures. In the process they became volunteer junior leaders, and are now serving on staff. Guides share their knowledge of the Yosemite and become friends with tour members.
Alicia Kelly Johnson from Southern California took her daughter, Skylar, on a six-day backpacking trip for her thirteenth birthday. She had met Gehrman at a PTA convention. After talking with him, felt it was just what they needed. They joined a gym and went hiking to prepare for the three-summit trip.
"At the end of the first day's hike I looked over at Mount Hoffman and asked, 'Which bus are we taking?' " Gehrman informed her they would be hiking there, as well as to Clouds Rest and Half Dome.
Johnson continues, "The guides took such great care of us. At the end of the trip we were dirty and happy, but I met other women who I'll be friends with for the rest of our lives."
When she and Skylar got home, her younger daughter decided she wanted to go. Johnson plans to take her on a trip this year.
Gehrman's background in education and counseling led him to create numerous youth development programs. He often speaks on the subject to schools and community groups. He's collaborating with Project Adventure from the East coast.
"So many kids today in our high-tech society don't know how to just play—you know, skipping rocks and enjoying the outdoors," he says.
On strenuous hikes it's common for kids and adults to get so tired that they lose their focus and want to quit. The guides' job is to recognize the signs and be there with the necessary encouragement to keep going—or with the announcement that it's time for a break. At night around the campfire the groups discuss what they accomplished that day.
As a non-profit organization all profits go back into the company to provide opportunities for disadvantaged youth to join the experience.
"These adventures are about developing life-skills required for navigating in a changing world," Gehrman says.
Yet, the experience isn't something only teens can benefit from.
Dan and Tami Kedziorek are both in their 40s and from Michigan. Earlier this month they exchanged wedding vows at Glacier Point. But five days before their wedding day they took off on a wilderness tour with Lasting Adventures.
"With the confusing permit process, planning a route in unfamiliar territory, and trying to coordinate everything from clear across the country," Dan says. "we didn't want to get lost, hurt or dead just days before our wedding!"
The Kedzioreks speak of the excellent care they received with the company, while accomplishing unimaginable challenges in the 30-plus miles of wilderness trekking. They hope to spend future anniversaries doing the same thing.
Guide biographies and tour details can be found at www.lastingadventures.com. From day trips to one-week and two-week camps to custom hikes, th company provides all the gear, food, set-up and clean-up services necessary for a safe and successful wilderness adventure.
Instilling memories that last a lifetime is as much about relationships as it is about the experience. Lasting Adventures seems to have mastered both.
Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at email@example.com.