Intercept Texas Big Bend Backpacking

Intercept Texas Big Bend Backpacking

This 28-day backpacking course is a rare chance to experience desert solitude in the presence of rugged mountains, canyons and mesas.
Designed specifically to help families rebuild strong, healthy relationships, this expedition is ideal for teens struggling with low self-image, engaging in potentially risky behaviors, not living up to their potential and demonstrating poor decision making skills. The journey begins with a desert backpacking expedition and ends with a transition phase that includes a family seminar. During the course, instructors facilitate activities that build teamwork skills, help students make better decisions and encourage each student to find the leader within themselves. The expedition also includes a structured opportunity to give back through two days of community service.

The wilderness expedition concludes with an intensive family conference and workshop, which helps the entire family leverage the experience into a model for everyday life. Both parents and teens walk away with a new outlook, a new plan and new optimism for success.

Course Area

Big Bend, Texas
Our Texas course area, one of the most remote and geologically interesting in the Outward Bound system, lies along the US-Mexico border in southwestern Texas. Here, the Rio Grande River carves a huge sweeping bend through the area–earning its namesake, Big Bend National Park. This 750,000-square mile wilderness area is an ideal setting for desert backpacking, canyoneering and rock climbing. In this region, delicate desert flowers exist alongside fossilized trees millions of years old; mountain passes give way to steep-walled canyons and cliffs. Much of this landscape has remained unchanged for centuries.

Is this program a good fit?

Outward Bound Struggling Teens & Young Adults Expeditions are highly effective programs for individuals who exhibit:

  • Anger issues
  • Low motivation
  • Chronically poor school performance
  • Defiance
  • Risky behavior issues

Struggling Teens & Young Adults Expeditions are not for teens with a history of violent behavior, recent suicide attempts, serious eating disorders, chemical dependencies, or chronic juvenile offenses.

Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this program is right for your family.

Intercept Courses
Outward Bound Intercept expeditions are specifically designed for struggling teens and their families. These highly structured courses remove young people from the pressures and influences of home and school, and present them instead with healthy risks and natural challenges. In a fresh, wilderness environment, students practice new ways of making choices and setting goals.

  • Achievable Goals: Instructors work with individual students (average 1 to 4 Instructor/Student ratio) to make solid self-assessments and set achievable goals.
  • Build core skills: Instructors teach students the skills they need to travel safely through the wilderness. As the group builds competency, they confront obstacles that require real-time, cooperative decision-making and attention to detail.
  • Practice Outward Bound values: Instructors mentor students through the process of self-discovery and encourage appropriate risk-taking and positive approaches to daily challenges.
  • Demonstrate mastery: As the course nears the end, Instructors step back – and allow students to experience the joys and challenges of taking charge.
  • Transfer skills: Students prepare to reunite with families and transfer Outward Bound successes to lives back home. This phase involves two days of volunteer work and culminates with a facilitated conversation between students and their families.
  • What students learn: Equipped with conflict resolution skills, communication strategies and a keen awareness of themselves and others, students are empowered to start on a new path.

The wilderness expedition is followed by a carefully designed curriculum aimed at preparing students to reunite with their families, reengage in their home lives, and transfer their successes at Outward Bound to the challenges they will face in the future.

The post-expedition curriculum includes at least two days of community service and culminates with a facilitated conversation between individual students and their families. This conversation provides a chance for the family to work together to make a plan for the student’s return and for the student to verbalize his or her continued commitment to growth and goals for the future.

Listed below are a few of the activities:

Desert Backpacking

On the Texas-Mexico border, students learn to backpack through rugged desert up to mountainous terrain with elevations ranging from 2,500 to 7,500 feet! During the expedition, instructors will help students learn safe desert travel, teaching them to plan the expedition around water management strategies. The group will navigate “from tinaja to tinaja’, which are desert water sources vital to desert life. This is a rare chance to experience raw desert solitude in the presence of rugged mountains, canyons and mesas.

Rock Climbing and Rappelling

Regardless of a student’s rock climbing background, they are sure to find something that will both challenge and encourage the expansion of their comfort zone.

Students learn about general rock-climbing equipment, safety, and etiquette before learning how to belay. The full day of rock climbing provides ample opportunities to climb, belay, and rappel over the edge while safely descending to the base of majestic cliffs.


The Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives students the opportunity to reflect on their Outward Bound experience. Many students use this reflection time to make significant decisions about their future, journal, and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings unencumbered by the constant external stimulation of modern life. The duration of Solo is 48-72 hours.

During this phase of course, all students receive sufficient food, water, and shelter to keep them safe and healthy. Instructors choose Solo sites to offer as much solitude as possible while retaining some proximity to the group. While students spend the majority of their Solo time alone, Instructors do check on each student as often as needed, usually 1-4 times per day, to ensure that each student feels safe and comfortable.

Students may have mixed feelings leading up to Solo: nervousness and hesitation regarding the unknown but also excitement to rest, reflect, and test their new skills while alone. Students find that Solo provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period of time and often becomes one of the most memorable parts of their Outward Bound experience.

Personal Challenge Event

Time and weather permitting, the course will end with a Personal Challenge Event (PCE) that is a final individual physical feat.

The PCE is non-competitive run to show students how their mental and physical stamina has grown as a result of their wilderness expedition and training regime. Students celebrate the completion of their PCE and wilderness expedition with a final banquet and graduation ceremony at the basecamp.


Service is an integral part of the Outward Bound curriculum. We encourage service to the environment in the form of leaving campsites cleaner than we find them and practicing Leave No Trace® ethics throughout the expedition.

Preparing people to be of service to others -the giving of yourself and your time to individuals, the environment and communities — is one of the core values of Outward Bound. Additionally, students have a structured opportunity to put giving back into action through 2 days of community service that is an integral part of their course.

Service in Texas is designed to offer as much interaction with local people as possible, as a way of exchanging cultural awareness. The specific type of service project depends upon the structure of your course and local needs and opportunities. Service projects could include helping paint and clean in a border town or working in a local wilderness area.

Family Seminar

Your teen has made great strides, learning how to balance freedom and responsibility, how to be part of a team, and how to make good choices and stick by them. They feel good about themselves and life.

But now it’s back to reality. How do you and your teen translate the incredible Intercept experience into lasting positive change?

You as a parent or guardian are a critical link in the success of the Intercept experience for your teen. You will have the opportunity to think through your relationship while they are with us using a provided comprehensive workbook. Then, an intensive two- or three-day seminar helps form and solidifies the path that begins for your family when the Intercept expedition ends.

The next step is the parent conference and debrief. You’ll meet one-on-one with at least one of the expedition instructors to learn how your teen fared on the course. You’ll hear a detailed account of what the course was like, the struggles and success of the group, and how your teen handled the challenges. With the instructor, you’ll prepare for the next day’s meeting with your teen.

Now it’s time to make a plan. Together with an instructor acting as a facilitator, you and your teen will come up with a new agreement to guide life at home. The goal for you is to know that your teen can conduct himself or herself appropriately and to clearly define what you expect. The goal for your teen is to have a say in the direction their life takes and to clearly understand what is required to earn more freedom.

At the end of course, both you and your teen will walk away with a new outlook, a new plan and new optimism for success as a family.

Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this course is right for you.

Visit the Voyageur Outward Bound School frequently asked questions page to learn more about the application process, scholarships, what to expect, how to pack and where your course begins.

Upon enrollment on a Voyageur Outward Bound School course students receive a day-by-day course itinerary, detailed packing list, and detailed arrival and departure information specific to their course.

Scholarship Info

Our Scholarship Program is guided by a single principle: Every person should be given the opportunity to experience adventure and challenge, develop character and compassion, and learn leadership skills and service ethics, regardless of financial ability.

Moreover, we bring together diverse groups of students to instill cultural understanding and teamwork skills that enable them to become principled leaders.

Thanks to generous donations from alumni, parents, corporations, foundations, and others, Outward Bound awards up to $3.7 million in scholarships to 6,000 students each year.

The Voyageur Outward Bound School scholarship program is need-based and in order to be considered, applicants must first enroll on a course, pay a $500 deposit and check a box noting that they are interested in a Scholarship. The deposit payment is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 enrollment processing fee (usually non-refundable). After the applicant enrolls, a Course Advisor will send them a Scholarship Application along with the other enrollment materials. The applicant is required to submit a copy of their most recent 1040 tax return along with the completed Scholarship Application. The average scholarship is 15-30% off of the posted fee. If the applicant receives an Outward Bound scholarship but it’s not enough for them to participate, Outward Bound will refund their $500 deposit, including the $150 enrollment processing fee.

In some cases, applicants can schedule a payment plan with the Voyageur Outward Bound School rather than paying for the whole course in one lump sum. In cases of payment plans, final balances are due at least 90 days prior to the course-start.

Packing for a Voyageur Outward Bound School course

In general, Outward Bound provides sleeping bags, sleeping mats, rain gear, and all group cooking, camping and traveling equipment. Students need to provide their own clothing, footwear, toiletries and a few other items, like a headlamp and water bottle.

Traveling to and from the Voyageur Outward Bound School

MN Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students meet in the Duluth International Airport baggage claim at 1:00 PM on the first day of the course. Students typically return to the Duluth International Airport around 11:30 AM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 1:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

TX Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students arrive in El Paso, TX the day before their course officially begins.  Students spend the night in a local hotel (not included in course-cost) as directed by their Course Advisor. Students typically return to the El Paso International Airport around 1:00 PM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 2:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

Explicit travel directions will be shared with you after you enroll on a course.  Students should refrain from making travel plans prior to being approved for their course and receiving travel details for their specific course as the exact details may differ slightly from the directions listed above.

Airlines Unaccompanied Minor service Fees

Please Note: Virtually all airlines, except United and Southwest, require that travelers age 14 or younger flying without a companion over the age of 18 pay for their Unaccompanied Minor service. This fee ranges anywhere from $40 to $75 each way. In most cases, the Unaccompanied Minor service is OPTIONAL for travelers between the ages of 15-17.
Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this course is right for you.

Intercept Texas Big Bend Backpacking – 28 Day

Dates Days Age Tuition Course #
11.15.16 – 12.12.16 28 14-17 $6595 VRIB-661
1.31.17 – 2.27.17 28 16-20 $6895 VRIB-761
3.14.17 – 4.10.17 28 16-20 $6895 VRIB-762
11.14.17 – 12.11.17 28 14-17 $6895 VRIB-763

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