Frequently Asked Questions. Scroll down to answer some of your questions, or search our website below for more answers!
What is Wilderness Trail? Wilderness Trail is a backpacking ministry. That means that our primary focus is ministry, and we use backpacking as a tool to accomplish that. Backpacking is overnight hiking, carrying everything you need in a pack. It means setting up a different camp every night and then hiking to a new camp the following day. We go hiking for 5 days and 4 nights, in groups of 10 people.
Do I need previous experience? You don't need to know anything about backpacking in order to participate in Wilderness Trail; we provide everything you need and will guide you through it! If you (and/or your youth) are out of shape and have never even seen a mountain before, you can do it. We promise. If you're an avid backpacker, you won't be disappointed. The routes we choose are designed to be challenging but possible for all of our wide range of participants.
Who Can Participate? Youth ages 12 and up are eligible to participate. Rising seventh graders through college students are welcome on our Summer Events. We accept registrations from groups (youth groups, children's homes, etc.) and individuals. Rising 9th graders and up (14 and older) may participate as individuals (for example, arriving without an organized group and dropped off by Mom or Dad). Ages 12 to 13 must have an adult chaperone in order to participate.
What is the retreat at the Property like? During Summer Events, participants arrive between 2pm and 3pm on the first day of the event. We spend the afternoon and evening hours getting prepared to go backpacking. That includes things like playing games, dividing into our small hiking groups, handing out equipment, getting our trail food, packing our packs together, worshiping, and learning about the "dos" and "don'ts" of hiking - what we call "Trail Etiquette".
What happens on trail? We wake up early on our second day together to pack up, eat breakfast, and be at the trailhead by 9:00am (if not earlier). During the four full days on trail, groups will hike an average of 10 miles and eat lunch somewhere along the way. Once at camp, hikers set up tents, rest, gather firewood, help pump water, and play. After dinner together, the group gathers for campfire and some W.T. traditions such as "Little Foxes" and "Holy Grounds," as well as a devotion or discussion. The exact schedule and activities on trail are determined in part by the Staff and individuals in each group, which is part of what makes Wilderness Trail an experience worth repeating.
What happens after we finish hiking? Hiking groups are picked up between 8am and 11am on their 5th day of backpacking. After returning their equipment, they take a much needed shower and then we enjoy a nice, big lunch as a large group. During the afternoon we meet in our hiking groups, play wiffle ball, and have free time before the closing activities after dinner. The following morning, hikers are free to wake up and leave (or get picked up) as early as they like, but no later than 9am. A continental breakfast is offered (no matter how early).
How much does it cost? Each Summer Event costs $305/person. We ask for a $75 deposit to be paid within a month of registering. That price includes almost everything you need, such as: backpacking equipment (tent, pack, etc.); all meals and some snacks for the full week; staffing; full programming; and a souvenir T-shirt from the week. Need-based scholarships are available; complete and return an application to be considered.
Where is the "Base Camp" or the The W.T. Property? Each hike begins and ends at the W.T. Property. Each Summer Event begins and ends at our 60+ acres in Troutdale, VA - affectionately known as "The Property" among our ministry family. Hikers gather for meals, worship, games, and fellowship at our lodge. Eight sleeping shelters and one Adirondak offer rustic accommodations. Each week, we worship and have communion at our outdoor chapel. Horseshoe pits, a basketball court, volleyball court, four square, gaga ball pit, and rocking chairs on the porch of our lodge provide entertainment during free time. The infamous Weaver Field is the best wiffle ball field this side of the Mississippi. Staff housing, an equipment shed, and two newly constructed bathhouses round out our facilities.
Where do we go Backpacking? We're lucky enough to hike in the mountains of southwest Virginia and northern Tennessee area. Our hiking area goes as far south as Elizabethton, TN. There we hike on the Appalachian Trail which goes by Laurel Falls, Watauga Lake, and hiking on the ridge of the Iron Mountains as it heads north to Damascus, VA. In Virginia we hike on the old Appalachian trail which is now know as the Iron Mountain trail. Along with the Iron Mountain trail we hike parts of the Appalachian Trail, Lewis Fork Trail, and Virginia Highlands Horse Trail. These trails offer a wide array of landscapes like the open fields of Mount Rogers, great bald of White Top, and the old forest of the Raccoon Wilderness area.
What should I bring?