Today's Sierra Club Outings program is a different animal. While early trips stayed close to home, now more than 300 domestic and international treks span the globe. The Club's first hikes aimed to introduce novitiates to the wilderness, combining "comparative ease and comfort with the opportunity to see some of the grandest scenery." Modern outings run the gamut from strenuous cross-country explorations to the gentler base camps, so no level of wilderness experience is excluded.
Sierra Club outings are no longer unique in a world crisscrossed by adventure travelers, but they still offer something special: a passionate commitment to conservation. Trips are planned and carried out by volunteers, with fees charged just covering costs. Like the earliest High Trips, today's excursions incorporate lessons about natural history and environmental issues. In the 1950s, Club rafting trips down the Yampa and Green Rivers helped ignite public interest in saving Dinosaur National Monument; contemporary Club outings introduce members to the beauty and vulnerability of Utah's canyon country, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and wild areas in virtually every state and many countries.
For adventurers who want to immerse themselves completely in the Club's mission, there are service trips, in which participants build trails, revegetate overused areas, or map archaeological sites in splendid surroundings. They're part of a long tradition: The Club pioneered service trips back in 1958. More recently, the Club instituted activist trips, in which members explore a wild area at risk while learning how to shepherd grassroots conservation campaigns when they return home.
Though he might miss his big stoves, Will Colby would feel at home on a 21st-century Club outing. He might even warm to the modern requirement that campers pitch in with chores and cooking. Whatever the setting, the Sierra Club hopes that trip participants take a little bit of his and Muir's spirit with them-and find that wilderness adventure is, as Club members Terry and Renny Russell wrote in their 1967 book On the Loose, a means "not to escape from but to escape to."