The TLS Program is unique to TSP as it is our only program that incorporates a physical challenge of bike touring alongside the opportunity to develop and utilize leadership skills. TLS take place in the breathtaking, scenic Lake Champlain Valley and Adirondack Mountains in Vermont and New York. Each participant plays an important role in the success of the TLS Program. Good physical condition and a positive attitude are essential. Participants will be responsible for transporting their own gear and assisting with the group equipment, such as tents, stoves and program supplies. Each night, group members will sleep in tents or under the starry summer skies. Each TLS participant will share in the responsibilities of food preparation, site set-up and pick-up, providing day camp activities, and performing community service projects.
The Lake Champlain/Adirondack Mountains TLS Program begins with a three day orientation at the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA. Following orientation, participants will be transported to Northbeach Campground in Burlington, Vermont. Participants will spend three days in Burlington doing service and getting accustomed to biking in a group before heading out via ferry to New York state. Participants will continue their journey to Keene Valley, Tupper Lake, and Lake George in New York State. The group's journey will end just outside of Saratoga Springs, New York where they will be picked up by a bus and transported back to camp for their two day debrief. The participant's daily mileage averages 25 miles and can range from 16 miles to 45 miles depending on the day.
All TLS Program participants will take part in three days of orientation at the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA prior to departing on their journey, and a two-day debriefing at camp upon their return. During orientation, TLS participants will develop camping and group-building skills, as well as cover bicycle safety, maintenance, and repair. They will become acquainted with fellow group members and discuss program goals and regulations, thus setting the standards for the success of their adventure. Participants will also review how to pack their bikes, use "leave no trace" camping skills, and participate as an effective group member. As a team, they will review the cycling route and plan activities for work in the day camps.
The service work our teens take part in on TLS is primarily focused on physical service in the outdoors. We do our best to arrange service projects that meet the needs of the local community and in the case of Northern Vermont and the Adirondacks, agriculture and farming are a primary industry. Participants will stop at farms along their route to help weed gardens, pick berries, and learn about the farming industry. Aside, from farm-based projects, the group will also help maintain gardens at the Keene Valley School, volunteer for a community fair in Keene, stack firewood at a State Park, and volunteer with the Lake George Association in Lake George, New York.
The TSP summer is about helping participants transition from the role of camper into the role of leader. It is our hope that while on TSP, participants learn to identify their own personal leadership strengths and work to develop skills that will help them in their futures. During orientation, participants will meet with their trip leaders to discuss their strengths and weaknesses and set goals for the program. Each participant will be given the opportunity to serve as Leader of the Day at some point during their trip where they will be responsible for leading the group with the guidance of trip leaders. Outside of Leader of the Day, participants will consistently be asked to step up and support their group. Opportunities may include helping to prepare a meal, setting up camp, making sure the group is on time to a service project, and showing general active follower-ship.
The TLS groups will be in isolated areas at times. Our leaders carry cell phones and/or other electronic communication devices for emergencies. However, it is important to remember that this does not guarantee immediate communication from the group to our office. Radio and cell phone transmission can be unpredictable and dependent on terrain, atmospheric conditions and other variables. There may be occasions when we have no phone access to our group for over 24 hours. However, we require all TLS leaders to call the Travel and Service Program Office at the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA office a minimum of once a week.
Each program is led by two caring and competent adults (21 years or older) who are certified in CPR, Wilderness First Aid and Life guarding (if there is swimming on the program). We look for leaders who have demonstrated that they are positive role models for young teens, are mature, responsible, and able to problem-solve effectively and make decisions particularly in an off-site setting without the additional staff support that is available in a traditional camp setting. About half of our leaders typically come from within our camps. In addition we also recruit individuals who have experience as teachers or with programs such as NOLS and Outward Bound. TSP leader candidates complete a written application, submitted three references, and are interviewed by the Travel & Service Programs Directors. Each leader is required to participate in a 9 day training program prior to the beginning of their assignment.
The TLS Program takes place rain or shine, so participants should be prepared to ride and/or perform service projects regardless of the weather. In the case of severe weather, the leaders will make alternative plans, but this will only happen when riding conditions become questionable or unsafe. Participants will learn how to ride safely, read a road map, and keep warm and happy.
The Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA will provide the following group equipment: tents, stoves, cooking utensils, maps, first-aid kits, and tool kits. We encourage borrowing or renting equipment (with the exception of a helmet) when possible. Most items are available at cycling shops or by mail order. Bikes must be well-maintained before your arrival at camp. Call your local bike shop for "tune-up" options they may provide. Participants will receive a complete equipment list upon acceptance into the program.
BCCYMCA has a limited number of touring bicycles available for rent. Due to our limited supply, families with international campers will be given priority for renting. Please call our office if you would like to inquire about availability and details.
TLS participants will strengthen their biking, camping, and traveling skills. They will also have the opportunity to learn and practice techniques of positive leadership in group situations, while clarifying personal and societal values through discussions and activities. Independence, cooperation, responsibility, achievement, fun . . . these qualities, and more, are the essence of the TLS Program.