American Explorers

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation offers the American Explorers Basecamp and Big Creek Challenge Course to regional nonprofit organizations at no cost as part of our commitment to the community, youth education, and building leadership and outdoor skills.

In exchange, we request our partners share how their use of the Basecamp and Challenge Course enhanced their programs and impacted youth leadership, training, outdoors skills and the like.

Here are some examples:

MOSS and Headwaters Academy – September 2016

Montana Outdoor Science School (MOSS) and the Headwaters Academy returned to the Basecamp and Challenge Course for a 3-day program designed to facilitate a bonding experience for 6th and 7th graders at the beginning of the school year, and to gain exposure to life outdoors. Fifteen 7th graders participated in the challenge course and then hiked to Castle Camp for a night of camping. Group then joined nine 6th graders at Basecamp for one more night of camping. The 6th graders did a day hike to Castle Camp as well.

“The program at the Challenge Course was effective in bringing the group together to overcome unique challenges and experience new activities. Our groups experience at Basecamp was effective in preparing the group for backpacking with less amenities, giving an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company, to bond and to foster a love for the outdoors. We gained a sense of fulfillment from being outside, and the kids expressed a major sense of accomplishment at spending time away from home and in the outdoors.”

Scout Troop 676 – October 2016

Bozeman Boy Scout Troop 676 utilized the Basecamp for annual planning meeting, team-building. For a service project, scouts moved firewood from pasture restoration site to Basecamp.

“Facilities were ideal for creative thinking to build annual program, specifically the open layout of the lodge living space and the technology (video screen, Wi-Fi) were ideal.”

Would you recommend to others? “Absolutely! This is an amazing gift/opportunity and wonderful resource for the nonprofit community… It is our hope to make this an annual event.”

Montana Weed Control Association – September 2016

The Montana Weed Control Association, Twin Bridges, MT, held a board retreat at the Basecamp. Concerning the Challenge Course. A participant noted, “I really wasn’t sure what to expect with the board and the challenge course, but the group I had was awesome. We had some dare devils and some who weren’t so much (myself included there). The instructors were great! We learned a little about each other with those challenges and proved we worked well together as a team. The board meeting at the base camp was the best I’ve ever had. We were relaxed and productive and all of us really enjoyed the environment! Can’t say enough good about that experience.”

Visions Service Adventures – September 2016

VISIONS used the Basecamp as a location outside of their routine comfort zone(s) for an intensive 48-hour retreat. “We hoped that it would have the essentials for conducting business (internet, cell phone service, etc.), be an ‘open’ space physically and mentally where our team was comfortable, and have a little bit of an escape, luxury feel to it since we flew a facilitator in to host and we wanted to treat her to Montana’s beauty…. We left the Basecamp more unified, motivated, and ready to face the season.”

L’esprite – September 2016

L’esprit, based in Livingston, MT, experienced a day at the Challenge Course with a goal of building trust and rapport among group members and staff members.

“As a team leader, I thought our day at the course brought our team closer together and allowed us the opportunity to support one another and be supported by one another. Our team members gained a sense of pride and accomplishment and increased trust of one another and their own abilities. This was a great experience for our kids and staff and something we would not have been able to do typically given our limited budget. Staff was so patient and encouraging with our kids. Thank you so much!”

Hoppa Mountain – June 2015

Thank you so much for making it possible for teens in Hoppa Mountain’s Youth Leadership Camps to experience the High Ropes course at Mountain Sky Guest Ranch. It was a phenomena experience for both groups and as you are so well aware, it was the first time that most of these teens had the opportunity to challenge themselves on a course like this. We recognize that it took a great deal of coordination time, training and a very experienced staff at Mountain Sky to create a safe situation for each group of 20 teens too. We are so very grateful for the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch staff’s work and the commitment of the Arthur Blank Family Foundation to make it all possible.

We asked the teens what they learned from their experience on the High Ropes course. Here are some of their learnings –

  • “Super fun. You’ve got to learn to trust people too. Trust is important.”
  • “Worrying about something is often pointless.”
  • “Pushing oneself is important for me.”
  • “You must be confident and strong willed to do the course.”
  • “Push through, even if you are unsure.”
  • “I can challenge myself by doing new things.”
  • “You can always set new limits for yourself.”
  • “If you have encouragement, it is a lot easier.”
  • “Take it slow and steady. Encouragement is key in life.”
  • “Don’t look down. You must truly trust others to succeed.”
  • “You must be brave and courageous to do tight rope walking.”
  • “It is good to give advice and encouragement.”

Again, please know how very grateful we are that our local teens can have this kind of challenging learning experience. Some of them have great difficulty trusting others too, because of past life experiences. A course like this is a wonderful opportunity for them to recognize they can trust and do whatever they set their mind to.

The Trust for Public Land – September 2015

I couldn’t have asked for a better venue than the American Explorer’s Basecamp to bring my team together for some much needed face time. Besides the spectacular setting, the Basecamp has just the right combination of rustic and modern amenities. It really felt like the “retreat” setting we were looking for, and the time we spent together there was invaluable. Thanks so much for your hospitality. We look forward to seeing you again.

Dick Dolan, Norther Rockies Director, The Trust for Public Land