Life out on the Trail

Life on the TrailWelcome to the Christikon Life out on the Trail

Information for trails campers and their parents.

Who Can BackpackWho Should Not Go BackpackingOrientationsHealth Screening & Medications ManagementWilderness LifeThe Life of FaithFood and Meal TimesHow Do I Prepare?The CreationCare ProgramInsuranceCampers’ Vehicles Communications at CampNo SwimmingFishingCamp Store (Canteen)NotificationCampers’ ImagesPacking for CampWhat to Take to Camp

Is backpacking hard work? Yes, it’s likely the trails camps at Christikon will challenge you physically (and mentally and spiritually, too). Trails camps are not designed simply to “push you to your limits,” however. We want you and everyone else to taste the delights of the Christikon life in some of the world’s loveliest country, and to find it a good experience in which to participate.

At the same time, there will be challenges. At the start, you’ll probably develop some sore muscles; and you might find your first day or two in the higher altitudes can contribute to tiredness and even a headache. But most people don’t find this too much a problem. You can expect to do a fair amount of hiking (up to 5-8 hours some days); and you will be carrying between 1/4 and 1/3 of your body weight in your backpack.

Junior high Wayfarers and senior high CreationCare participants hike with packs on usually only the first and last days. Senior high Mountaineers backpackers, who typically cover more terrain, normally have routes that include a lay-over day, when packs are not carried.

Who should not go backpacking. Most people in reasonably adequate shape can participate. People who should not be in Christikon trails programs include those who have physical disabilities that interfere with walking (for example, a “trick knee” that “goes out” from time to time), or who are unable to carry the extra weight of a pack (perhaps because of a “bad back”), or who are seriously overweight, or who are not interested in a more “primitive” camping experience away from modern conveniences. (There are no shower houses out in the wilderness!)

What happens when we get to camp? When you arrive at Christikon, you will spend the first night at camp, for packing-out and orientation to life in the wilderness. You’ll learn how to set up and take care of your tent (in which you will stay that night). You’ll be briefed on safety and low-impact camping practices (water treatment, group hiking, camping in bear country, latrine procedures, health care, etc.) Your group will leave the next morning after completing your packing-out.

Health Screening and Medications Management. When you register, the packet of information you receive will include a health form which requires the signature of a parent or guardian, and the signature of a physician. This health form helps us to to provide appropriate medical care when necessary. The form should be mailed to the camp at least three weeks before you arrive at camp.

When you come to Christikon, you will go through a brief health screening, where one of our staff (under the direction of our Health Care Manager) will go over your Health Form with you, and discuss any special needs you may have. You will need to turn in any medications you bring with you to camp. Following the accreditation standards of the American Camp Association, Christikon must have all medications (including non-prescription ones) under the control of the Camp Health Manager (or the appropriate counselor when persons are away from camp). Special arrangements are made during health screening with campers who must carry certain medications with them at all times (e.g. asthma inhalers).

Life in the Wilderness: What’s in store for you. While you’re out on the trail, you’ll be learning to know yourself better, and to reflect on your abilities, your goals, and your calling. You’ll be part of a community where everyone matters. You’ll become involved more deeply in caring for the Creation, by developing a sense of life with minimum impact, and by sharing in trails work and rehabilitation projects.

The life of faith. We also hope that camp will help you grow in your faith. You don’t have to be a Lutheran to be at Christikon—you don’t even have to be a believer. But the faith shapes our life together at Christikon. We worship together at the beginning and end of every day. We take time each day to study the Bible together. We usually have daily Quiet Time, so each of us can have a brief chance to be alone with the Word before God. And there are all kinds of unscheduled times where we find ourselves both challenged and deepened.

Food and meal times. Sharing together in the common life during meals is a significant part of the Christikon life. On the trail you’ll be sharing “family style” in meals that you and others prepare for the whole group. We try to serve tasty and nutritious meals, even as we try to live within budgets and to use ingredients that don’t weigh too much or take up too much space. So there are some limitations on what we can have for meals. But we hope you’ll find the food good for you, and that you’ll participate as graciously as you can in the meals offered you.

If you have special dietary needs because of allergies or other health conditions, please let us know on your health form, and make sure we have the form well in advance of the time you are at camp. We will make every effort to accommodate medical needs. If you prefer a vegetarian diet, we hope you will be able to exercise some flexibility in that during the brief time you are with us. There’s not much meat in our menu: some tuna on one night, a bit of chicken on another.

How do I prepare? By praying. By planning to share yourself with others. By committing yourself not only to your own needs, but to the needs of others. And by physical activity that increases your stamina.

Prepare with physical activity. Brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, or other activities that increase your heart rate for a sustained period of time, are best for preparing you. If you haven’t been too active recently, start slowly, and increase the time you spend with these activities. Try to work up to doing them for at least thirty minutes a day, three or more times a week. Make sure you stretch out your muscles before and after your training periods. Start several weeks before you come to Christikon, or even several months. It will all help you be better prepared for hiking in the mountains.

The CreationCare program: backpacking and service. CreationCare participants will be spending up to eight hours of work days doing trails work and/or site rehabilitation, as arranged with and supervised by personnel of the U.S. Forest Service. Like other trails groups, your first night and last nights will be at the main camp. Your first and last days out on the trail will include travel (some times in your vehicles) to the site of your work project. And there usually will be one day available for hiking and/or getting up into the area high country. Christikon and the Forest Service will be providing you with cotton work gloves, hard hats (when required), and the necessary tools (and instruction in how to use them safely). For some of the work you do (like working in brush or carrying debris) you’ll want to have clothing that protects—long pants and long sleeves on a shirt. If you can bring along a pair of leather work gloves, you will probably appreciate the increased hand protection they provide. It’s hard to know in advance what the weather will be like. But it’s possible you may be working some times under wet—and even muddy— conditions. It may be wise to have an extra change of work clothes along.

Other information and Christikon Policies

Accident/Health Insurance. “Excess-only” insurance is carried on all campers to cover medical expenses resulting from accidental injury (up to $3000) and illness (up to $750) that will not be covered by the camper’s own family health insurance. The $25 deductible on each claim must be covered by a camper’s family. Notice of intent to file a claim with the camp’s insurance must be made within sixty days of the accident or illness. Claim forms are available from the camp.

Campers’ Vehicles. Any vehicles campers bring to camp must be parked and locked in the Parking Area and not used during the camp session.

Communications while at camp. Emergency messages may be carried to trails groups within a day when necessary. Emergency evacuation can be done in the same time span, or by a helicopter when there is a life-threatening injury. Mail service is provided to the camp on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Those who send letters to campers should take into account both transit times and delivery days. Trails campers will be able to receive mail only on the first and last days of a session. Because of our location, Christikon has only one telephone line. We ask that parents seek to contact campers only for emergency messages. Campers may not use the Christikon telephone, except for urgent reasons. Cell phones do not work at Christikon. E-mail access is not available to youth campers.

No Swimming. Because the river, lakes and streams in Christikon’s area are very cold and swift-moving, and because we do not have waterfront supervisory staff, swimming is not permitted in the Christikon program.

Fishing. If you fish, you must do so according to the laws of Montana. Montanans under age 12, or non-residents under age 15, may fish on an adult’s license when accompanied by the license-holder. Fishing licenses are required for anyone age 15 and above, or non-resident youth under 15 who wish to fish independently of a licensed adult. We no longer sell fishing licenses at camp, but you may get them online before you come to camp at, or make a purchase at camp using a camp computer/printer and your credit card. See that Web site also for license costs and options (All licensed fishers need a Conservation license. Non-residents may choose among 2-day, 10-day or Season Fishing Licenses.)

The Camp Store (Canteen). Trails campers will have access to the camp store on first and last nights at camp. The Canteen has T-shirts ($12-$15), sweat shirts ($22-$40), backpack chairs ($35) water bottles ($9), snacks (candy, fruit, popcorn), beverages, postcards and stamps, maps, plastic bags, etc. (Actual prices may vary slightly from these.)

When Christikon Will Notify Parents/Guardians. A camper’s parent or guardian will be contacted by telephone whenever there is an injury or illness that necessitates a visit to a physician, or when a camper has an illness or displays conduct or behavior that seriously interferes with camp life. If an injury or illness is not life-threatening, contact with parent/guardian may be made after the camper has seen professional medical help, so Christikon can offer more complete information.

Christikon’s use of campers’ images. Unless Christikon is notified in writing to the contrary, the signature of parent/guardian (or adult advisor signing for self) on the Health Form also constitutes a release of all rights on photos or video recordings of the named camper (or adult advisor) that are taken by Christikon staff, and grants permission for use of these images in promotion, publicity, or other information.

Packing for Christikon Trails Camps

Pack light, be prepared. Take special care as you prepare. You don’t want to carry any more than you need. You’ll be carrying not only your own gear, but food and equipment for the group. On the other hand, once you’re out in the wilderness, you can’t run back home to get something you wish you had taken. And because you may face a wide range of weather conditions, you need to be prepared for both warm and cold, for both wet and dry weather.

So as you pack for camp, think carefully: do you really need it? Will you be unprepared without it? Keep in mind the Three Virtues of Trails Gear: light weight (the pounds add up quickly), low bulk (there’s only so much space in your pack), and multiple use (whenever you can use something for more than one purpose, you’ve saved yourself some weight on the back).

Christikon provides you with backpack, tent, and gear needed for the group (food, cooking utensils, bear bags, rope, maps, stoves, etc.) You need to provide your own personal gear (see the checklist).

Foot wear. Plan to take care of your feet. They’re your only means of locomotion. For most hiking, sneakers or tennis shoes simply can’t provide the support and protection your feet need when you’re carrying an additional one-fourth to one-third of your body weight. You’ll need well-fitting hiking shoes that are already broken in. If you buy new hiking shoes, be sure to wear them several weeks before you come to camp. Otherwise you’re going to have real problems with blisters. But you don’t need to buy big heavy hiking boots. Most of your hiking at Christikon will be on trails, so really heavy footwear is unnecessary. Good foot support and protection are the most important considerations. You may want to have several changes of socks with you. Sometimes hikers wear two sets at a time, a thicker pair over a thinner set. It can help keep your foot from sliding around in your shoe. For the thicker socks many prefer wool; others choose various synthetic fiber socks designed for hiking. You may also want to have along some old sneakers or sandals (not “flip-flops”) or similar light-but-secure footwear, for crossing creeks, and for use at the end of the day when hiking is done.

Sleeping Bag and Pad. You want a sleeping bag that is as warm as possible and as light as possible. While down bags are wonderful, they are very expensive. There are many bags on the market with special synthetic fibers designed for trails bags. Many now have temperature ratings that help you compare between various bags in the same brand (but you probably won’t stay warm down to the low temperatures they list….). Most “car-camping” bags are generally too heavy to carry for the amount of insulating you get. You’ll probably also want a sleeping pad. This can be either closed-cell or open-cell foam. There are some fairly inexpensive ones available, as well as some more elaborate ones (for example, self-inflating ones). Again, light weight and insulating capacity are important considerations.

Clothing. Be prepared for extremes of weather. While we hope you have some warm, sunny days, you might well have to face a snowstorm. The nights generally get quite cool in the high country, some times near or below freezing. It’s best to have clothing that you can put on in layers. Items insulate better that way, and can be removed in stages as you warm up. There are many wool and synthetic fiber fabrics that make excellent choices. (Cotton fabrics insulate very little when wet.) A stocking cap and gloves or mittens are wise additions to your gear (though in a pinch, you can wrap a shirt around your head and put socks on your hands). A rain poncho or lightweight rain jacket is essential. The camp has a limited number available; but we don’t have enough for everyone. So have your own, if at all possible. It’s good to pack most of your items in small plastic bags, to help protect against wetness. You might also want a large garbage bag to use as a pack cover at night or in the rain. Plastic bags will also be available for sale in the Canteen. Because mosquitos become quite active in the high country, you’ll want insect repellant, too. Some even like to have a hat with mosquito netting.

For a list of what to take to camp with you, click here.