Pathfinder Florida Canoeing to Blue Ridge Mountains Backpacking and Rock Climbing



Because the Appalachians were once one of the largest mountain ranges in the world they have many different geologic landforms, climates and soils. This long evolutionary history and temperate climate create an area which is teeming with life. Participants can expect to share the wilderness with over 700 different kinds of trees, more than 50 types of mammals, 150 different types of birds and about 40 species of amphibians. 

This course area is situated within a million acres of national forests, federally-protected wilderness areas, and other public lands. Its diverse landscapes have been featured in many motion pictures, including The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans. <Click to learn more about this course area.>


Central Florida is home to some of the country’s most historic and biologically diverse waterways. It offers paddling on small, winding canoe trails as well as larger rivers and lakes, with camping in a variety of environments from hardwood hammock forests to barrier islands.

The Suwannee River, Ocklawaha River, and St John’s River offer hundreds of miles of paddling in some of the country’s most unspoiled wilderness. These rivers support a variety of ecosystems including freshwater springs, swamps, sandy beaches, hardwood hammocks trees, and salt marshes. Shaded by giant Cypress and Tupelo trees, these rivers support a variety of wildlife and have deep cultural histories.

<Click to learn more about this course area.> 



At the end of your course, you will participate in a personal challenge event. This is a great time to see how much your physical fitness and endurance have improved since you began your course. This event will be a running activity. It is not a race. Your instructors set a certain route for your crew and you complete the route at a level that will challenge you the most.


For thousands of years, and across many cultures, solitude and reflection in nature have helped young adults to recognize and bring forth their personal gifts. The solo ceremony and rite of passage experience is highlighted on this Pathfinder course to help participants prepare to chart their path and contribute more fully to their communities. Participants return from solo with a new perspective on the parts of themselves they are ready to leave behind and those they want to embrace as they move forward. They return to their crew ready to incorporate their personal learnings into the greater context of community for the final expedition and for life after the course.  On this course, students will participate in a solo progression that includes daily reflection time and a multi-day solo experience. 

Solo typically occurs more than halfway through your course and may last up to 48 hours. Your instructors will assign each participant an individual campsite within a designated area. Your instructors will teach you procedures to follow during solo and monitor you during this experience. You will know the location of your instructors’ campsite should you need to contact them; otherwise it is essential that you remain in your designated area. If your course has an overnight solo you will have your clothing, food and water.  In addition, you will have Outward Bound issued gear: including rain gear, shelter, sleeping bag, compass and whistle. 

Due to a decreased need for caloric intake, you will have less food available than you would have during your other course activities.Solo is a not a “survival test.” You will not be physically active during solo, as solo is a time for rest, recharge and reflection. Solo is also a good time to write in the journals we provide. If you have questions or concerns, please discuss with your Student Services Representative or your instructors.  


On this course, students have the opportunity to complete 12 or more hours of service in the community. Service projects for this course change to meet the needs of local community partners and may include such activities as trail work, river cleanup, organizing food for the local pantry or other projects. Students should bring any required paperwork to their instructors prior to course start in order to receive credit for service hours.

Phase I: Central Florida (15 days)


You can expect to spend a good deal of time each day in canoes. You will be in a tandem canoe, which means there are two participants per canoe. Depending on the wind and weather, the level of difficulty will vary day to day. You and your crewmates will learn or practice:

  • expedition risk assessment and management
  • route planning and navigation
  • paddle strokes and techniques for propulsion and steering
  • canoe-based assisted rescues and self-rescues.
  • canoe expedition equipment use, care and maintenance.
  • how to work with your paddling partner

It will be necessary for you and your crewmates to perform a swim assessment; as well as a flip and swim assessment as practice for paddling and self-rescue. This activity is closely monitored by your instructors. It is critical for us to determine your paddling comfort as you and your crew explore the area. Even if you are a non-swimmer or weak swimmer, you will still participate in this safety assessment. All students will be wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs) during the assessment. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required apparel anytime students are on the water.

Phase II: North Carolina (15 days)


During this component you learn safety precautions for backcountry foot travel, how to find campsites, how to navigate terrain as well as how to use a map and compass. Equally important will be time spent learning conflict resolution, communication styles, leadership and team building. After practicing these skills, your instructors will step back and let you and your crew work together to collectively navigate through the wilderness. Since your crew’s navigation depends on individual and group decision making, your crew could make some navigational errors along the way. You may hike 12 to 15 hours in one day to reach your destination or you could go three miles uphill one day and 12 miles over varied terrain the next day. The backpacks can weigh 55+ pounds. Remember, PHYSICAL PREPARATION IS KEY!


Specifics: Weather permitting, you may spend up to two days rock climbing and rappelling.

With a focus on the practice of safety, your lessons will start with the basics, such as working with ropes and learning to tie knots used for climbing and rappelling. You will progress to:

  • Top-Rope climbing or “top-roping”: A style of rock climbing in which a rope runs from a belayer at the foot of a route through one or more carabineers connected to an anchor system at the top of the route and back down to the climber. The rope is attached to the climber by means of a harness.
  • Rappelling: A means of controlled descent to lower yourself down a cliff, rock face or some other high location.



Participants will also have the opportunity to prepare for the unexpected by earning a Wilderness First Aid certification (WFA). This fast-paced, hands-on training is designed to teach skills to care for those who become ill or injured and are far from definitive medical care. This certification will include classroom lectures and demonstrations, combined with realistic scenarios where mock patients will challenge you to use what you have learned. This certification is offered through a partnership with Landmark Learning, who is an accredited organization. After successfully completing the WFA and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification students are eligible to apply for academic credit for this certification.

Background Reading

Here are some books that we encourage you to read as you plan for your course:

  • The Outward Bound Wilderness First-Aid Handbook by Jeff Isaac
  • Leave No Trace: A Practical Guide to the New Wilderness Ethic by Annette McGivney
  • Liquid Land by Ted Levin
  • Ten Thousand Islands by Randy Wayne Wright
  • The Swamp by Michael Grunwald
  • Stolen Water by W. Hodding Carter

Here are some books that we encourage you to read as you plan for your course:

  • The Outward Bound Wilderness First-Aid Handbook by Jeff Isaac
  • Leave No Trace: A Practical Guide to the New Wilderness Ethic by Annette McGivney
  • Knots & Ropes for Climbers by Duane Raleigh and Mike Clelland
  • The Outward Bound Backpacker's Handbook by Glenn Randall
  • The Outward Bound Map & Compass Handbook by Glenn Randall
Tuition & Payment

For your convenience, you may now pay the balance of tuition using our Online Payment Option. 

Please have the student's name, course number, course start date and balance due when using this payment option.

In most cases, a $500 deposit has been paid when you applied. Please refer to your Applicant Portal to confirm your balance. If you are unsure of your balance due, please call 1-800-878-5258 or email

If your payment is not received by the due date listed in your Application Portal, you will risk losing your position on the course and your $500 deposit. Please review the Application & Cancelation Policies.

North Carolina Mountains

Each crew will be given large tarps to set up as shelters. You will also be given a ground sheet and a foam sleeping pad to place under your sleeping bag.


You may be sleeping on river banks or beaches in tents with up to four other participants or on a camping platform in a personal bug tent. You will also be given a ground sheet and a foam sleeping pad to place under your sleeping bag.


Sample Course Itinerary
This is only a SAMPLE itinerary only. Adjustments will be made due to weather, programming area availability and group dynamics.

Day 1: Course Start in Orlando, FL; Duffle Shuffle; Safety Management Skills

Day 2: Canoeing Expedition and Team Building Initiatives; First Coaching Session: exploration of personal strengths, introduction to goal setting

Day 3-5: Canoe Training Expedition: navigation and camping skills

Day 6-7: Service Project: river clean up or work with community service organization

Day 8-10: Canoe Main Expedition: advanced navigation and group decision-making;

Day 11-12: Solo

Day 13-14: Canoe Final Expedition; Personal Challenge Event; Clean and De-issue Gear; Transition Banquet

Day 15: Second coaching session; Transition Day: flight to North Carolina

Day 16-20: Backpacking Training Expedition: backpacking safety, navigation and camp craft skills

Day 21-23: Wilderness First Aid Certification Course

Day 24-25: Backpacking Main Expedition: advanced group decision-making and leadership skill training

Day 26-27: Rock climbing: climbing, belaying, and rappelling

Day 28-29: Backpack Final Expedition; Personal Challenge Event; Clean and De-issue Gear; Third Coaching Session: goal setting for post-course; Graduation Ceremony

Day 30: Course End; Transportation to Charlotte, NC for flight

Goal Setting

Prior to the course, you will identify a member of your support system (parent, friend, coach, teacher, etc.) who can help you stay committed to your goals after the course.  Prior to completion of the course, you have the opportunity to participate in a phone call with this individual to give them insight into your experience, share the goals you have identified, and discuss how your newfound knowledge will transfer back to your daily life.