Letter from Director
Searching for identity in an increasingly complex world follows an arduous yet promising road. There are a multitude of factors pulling us in various directions along the way. But in the end, it is the principles we live by that define who we are. As outdoor education leaders who seek to help others find their identities, we must continuously circle back to these questions and persistently put in the effort to define and live by our own guiding principles.
Appalachian Expeditions (APEX) is built on the idea that we are part of the natural world, therefore the natural world is part of our identity. Over the last 3.5 billion years, humanity evolved from a single-celled organism to the walking, talking, big-brained creatures we are today. Each successive generation passed on traits that better enabled their offspring to adapt and live in a changing world. In this way, we reap the benefits of living on Earth because our ancestors evolved with certain beneficial characteristics. As a nonprofit outdoor education program, we strive to create opportunities for people to connect with the natural world and reclaim that part of our wild past.
Spending time in nature relieves stress, inspires creativity, and improves mental and physical health. As a person comes to understand the first-hand advantages of spending time outside, they can also begin to understand how these benefits are intrinsic to our wellbeing. Spending time outside and the innate joy that comes with it is embedded in our DNA; it is an essential part of who we are as humans.
Although there are numerous ways to spend time outdoors, we choose to foster connections with nature through accessible adventure sports. Backpacking, boating, and biking provide outstanding opportunities to engage with nature in unique and exciting ways. The sense of timelessness while hiking, the exhilarating feeling of hurtling through whitewater, the wind in your face as you cruise down the trail on a mountain bike; each of these experiences awakens the life force within. While there are legitimate fears and risks associated with these activities, overcoming the challenges and obstacles to success can help one learn and grow in myriad ways.
While opportunities to attend outdoor education programs exist throughout the United States and around the world, APEX prefers to get people out in their own backyards. We create opportunities for people to explore the wild corners of the places they call home and learn to appreciate the wilderness that surrounds them. By creating opportunities to connect to nature close to home, we hope that we can foster a relationship where people learn to care for the natural world. This is the essence of grassroots activism in a world where a changing climate can threaten the places people love.
Lastly, we want to recognize the inherent challenges and rational fears that people may have when spending time outdoors. From busy lives in work and school, to spiders, bears, and extreme weather, there are lots of reasons people find to stay indoors. Our programs provide safe, fun, and engaging opportunities to connect with the natural world so people feel more comfortable and receptive to its natural wisdom. If one seeks to remain true to themselves while searching for identity, we believe spending time outdoors is a crucial component of that search.