What are Teen Adventure Quests?
Quests are Camp Tawonga's on-the-go adventure programs that we have been leading for over 25 years! Quests take the best parts of camp (nature, swimming, Shabbat, and small group building) and go on the road with SUVs, a trailer, and our oldest and most trained staff! Our years of experience have made us experts on all our locations, working with the best guides, training the best staff, and creating the best programs for teens.
A Quest is an excellent opportunity to experience new adventures, become more independent, and make lifelong friends.
Who are the Quest Leaders?
Each Quest has 2 - 3 adult Tawonga staff including at least one male and one female leader. Quest leaders are among our oldest and most highly trained staff, and they receive additional pre-summer training (beyond what all Tawonga staff receive) in wilderness safety and leadership, group building, driving, teaching, and Jewish programming. Between them they hold certifications in wilderness first aid and lifeguard training, and their driving qualifications are screened by a third party.
These special people, often past counselors and wilderness leaders at Tawonga, share the responsibilities of bonding the group, staying in touch with camp while on the road, leading Jewish and nature programs, and generally conducting safe travels. Campers can expect their leaders to keep their confidences, prioritize safety (both physical and emotional), set appropriate limits, and have fun with the group.
What is the food like on Quest?
We shop for fresh, nutritious food about every 3 days on Quest. All meals are kosher-style, just like at camp, so we never eat pork or shellfish, and we serve either meat or dairy products, but never both at the same meal. If a meat meal is served, a vegetarian option will be provided as well. Snacks are always available on the van rides, and occasionally teens may use personal money to buy treats like candy and soda.
The rotating cooking team sets the weekly menu with the leaders, so everyone has a chance to eat their favorites and learn to cook new meals. Common meals include pancakes, French toast, deli sandwiches, mac 'n' cheese, soup and pasta, burritos, grilled salmon, hot dogs and hamburgers, quesadillas, and pizza. At first, the leaders are very hands-on, guiding the shopping and cooking in the first week or so of the Quest. As the group grows more comfortable with their new skills, the leaders start to step back and let the teens take more responsibility. It's amazing to see how skilled and self-sufficient teens can become in two or three weeks!
What's Jewish about Quest?
Every day, meals are started by singing the Motzi as a group, to give thanks for the food and cooks. Even if you've never heard it before it's easy to learn.
Every week the group celebrates Shabbat and Havdallah through creative, participatory programs. Quest leaders provide a theme for the week, candles, blessings, song books, etc... Quest teens make these events their own by contributing poems, songs, stories, skits, and special meals.
Furthermore, once a week Quest leaders will lead an activity that illuminates the connections between Judaism and nature or encourages the group to examine their own Jewish values.
Food on Quest is served kosher-style. We do not mix milk and meat and we do not serve pork or shellfish.
Camp Tawonga is the JCC camp for the San Francisco Bay Area. We are non-denominational and our community is open to all families, Jewish (in all its diversity) and non-Jewish. Traveling with a Quest is a great opportunity to meet and make friends with other Jewish teens from the Bay Area and all over the country!
What if my teen has never been backpacking or rafting before?
All sports and activities are set at an introductory level. For activities such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, and rock climbing, we hire professional outfitters who provide safety equipment and training to the group. Tawonga staff will always adapt activities to the group's abilities, so this is the perfect way to try new things in a supportive, small group environment. Jump on in and find out how much fun it is!
What are the teen responsibilities on Quest?
As an independent "camp on wheels," Quests depend on the teens helping with a lot of the day-to-day work. Activities like cooking meals, cleaning dishes, setting up campsites, and packing the trailer are shared by everyone. In the beginning, Quest leaders will role model and assist in getting these tasks done. Teens will be assigned to work groups (such as Cooking, Cleaning, Campsite & Trailer) for which they are responsible. Over the course of the trip, everyone will have a turn at every job rotation, and the work gets easier as the group learns to work together and masters new skills.
Furthermore, each 2-3 week Quest has a laundry day (so don't pack clothes for 2-3 weeks!). Teens learn to do their own laundry with added guidance as needed from the leaders. These experiences give Questers more ownership over their trip and help them become more independent.
Do I need special equipment to go on Quest?
The packing list for a Quest is similar to the packing list for going to camp. The list includes things like comfortable clothes, hiking shoes, a sleeping bag and water bottles. For 2-week and 3-week Quests, a large backpack is also required. You will receive the complete packing list in the spring, and if you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to call our office and ask.
What outside, professional outfitters do you use?
Camp Tawonga has been leading Quests for over 25 years. We select professional companies to work with based on their expertise, their proven safety record, their ability to work with teens, recommendations from other clients, and our own positive experiences over the years. Tawonga staff lead activities such as backpacking, swimming, and day hikes. We use professional companies to provide excellent equipment, instruction and guiding for whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, surfing, and other specialized activities. Each company requires its own waiver forms which we will send you ahead of time. Please read and sign these forms and return them to us with the rest of your paperwork. Altered forms are not valid, so if you have any questions, please give us a call.
How do I pick the Quest that is right for my teen?
First check which Quests are designed for your teen's grade level (7th-8th or 9th-10th). Next, look at the specific itineraries posted on our website to see which locations and activities are most exciting to your teen. You can also call our office for guidance at 415-543-2267.
Beyond these basic ideas, here are some guiding thoughts for specific Quests:
A Taste of Quest - This trip is a great transition from residential camp to Quest. It spends 3 nights at Camp Tawonga and we even provide the backpacks for the trip to the park! After this short adventure you'll be craving the full Sierra Slam experience or more!
Two Week Quests - We sometimes recommend two week trips as the longest Quests for anyone who has only been away from home (without family) for a week or less. The Sierra Slam, Surf 'n' Turf and Rock and River Quests are also awesome adventures for teens who have already been away from home for two weeks or more.
Three Week Quests - Our longest Quests offer more outdoor adventure activities, a longer backpacking trip, and more opportunities for teens to discover their leadership potential.
What if we don't live in the San Francisco Area? Can you help us get to or from a Quest?
Every year many teens come from outside of the SF Bay Area to experience the adventure of Quest! If possible, it is ideal if you have a friend or family member in the area who can pick your teen up the day before the Quest begins and return them to the airport after your Quest ends.
If you do not have any contacts in the Bay Area, we can find a Tawonga host family (someone who is going on the same Quest or to camp the same session) who will pick your teen up from the airport the day before the Quest begins. Then on the way back to San Francisco, we will arrange for your Quest to stop at the airport and a Quest leader will walk with your teen up to the security checkpoint. In your registration forms you can request this option and we will call you to arrange all the details. We make it easy so you can join us for an incredible trip!