A Note About COVID-19 and Tawonga’s 2022 Season
In order to prioritize the health and safety of our campers, staff, and entire Tawonga community, we have made some changes to our 2022 programs and Camp practices. You can read about these changes to our 2021 season here in our FAQs and see below for more specifics about Adventure Quests.
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.
If I have friends who want to go, can we be on the same Quest together?
Yes! As long as spaces are available, friends who sign up for the same trip will be together.
Do teens go on Quests not knowing anyone?
Yes! About half of Quest teens come alone and ready to make new friends. Many Questers are new to Tawonga and have never been to camp or Quest before. Our leaders are skilled at creating an inclusive group experience, and the fun and challenges of outdoor living naturally bring the group together very quickly. 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 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 San Francisco Bay Area to experience the adventure of Quest! In 2021, due to COVID precautions, it is required that all campers quarantine for 10 days before a Tawonga program. Thus, campers are welcome to join quest from out of the Bay Area as long as they can drive with their family to the drop off location, and can quarantine during this travel time and the days prior.
We are still able to drop campers off at an airport after quest, if the family chooses to assume this risk. After the other kids have been picked up from Quest, we are happy to arrange for your Quest leaders to stop at the airport and a Quest leader will walk with your teen to the security checkpoint. Please make a note of this in your registration forms and we will call you to arrange all the details.
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) and which dates work with your schedule. We are not offering Quests for 6th graders in 2021. 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.
What outside, professional outfitters do you use?
Camp Tawonga has been leading Quests for over 25 years. Tawonga staff lead activities such as backpacking, swimming, and day hikes. We select professional companies to work with based on their expertise, their proven safety record, their ability to work with teens, references from other clients, and our own positive experiences over the years. We use these 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.
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 and may be borrowed from Tawonga – just let us know in advance of the Quest!. The packing list for quests is available here. If you have any questions, feel free to call our office. Click here to watch a short video about packing for Quest.
Can I bring an iPod or cell phone?
Quests are a chance to literally and figuratively “unplug” and take a break from technology in order to connect with nature and with the other people on the trip. We allow iPods only for listening to music as a group in the SUVs, and teens take turns DJing. Personal cell phone use is not permitted. We will stop at a pay phone or allow the Questers to use a leader’s phone about once a week so that Questers can call home and keep in touch with their families.
What are the teen responsibilities on Quest?
Quests depend on every teen pitching in to make the trip run smoothly. Teens rotate through different responsibilities, cooking meals, cleaning dishes, setting up campsites, and packing the trailer. In the beginning, Quest leaders are very hands-on, guiding and assisting Questers to get these tasks done. 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 if my teen has never been backpacking or rafting before?
This is normal and they should come on a Quest! 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.
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, candles, blessings, and song books, while 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 dairy 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!
How can I stay in touch with my teen on Quest?
All Quests (except A Taste of Quest) have 1-2 mail stops to receive letters from home. We’ll provide the mailing address for each mail stop with the quest itinerary before the trip. Teens are also encouraged to pick up a pen and paper and write home! Quests are a great opportunity to unplug and cell phones are not allowed. Each teen will have the chance to call home about once a week using a Quest leader’s cell phone.
What is the food like on Quest?
Teens help to plan the menu, grocery shop, and prepare meals on Quest. Common meals include pancakes, French toast, deli sandwiches, mac ‘n’ cheese, soup and pasta, burritos, grilled salmon, hot dogs and hamburgers, quesadillas, and pizza. The cooking team rotates so that everyone has a chance to put their favorites on the menu.
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. Let us know about any special dietary needs or food allergies so we can plan accordingly.
Snacks are always available, and occasionally teens may use personal money to buy treats like candy and soda.
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, CPR and lifeguard training, and their driving qualifications are screened by a third party.
These talented staff, 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 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 do all Quests have in common?
- Are open to all genders, with the exception of Women of the Wild, which is an all-girls Quest. We save half the spots on each trip for each gender until April, to keep the groups balanced.
- Have 8 – 12 teens, keeping the groups small enough for our philosophy of community, communication and team work.
- Are led by 2 – 3 adult Tawonga staff with at least one male and one female leader (click or scroll to Quest Staff for more details).
- Travel in 2 vehicles towing one trailer for luggage.
- Primarily involve car camping in beautiful locations around the United States, sleeping outdoors in state and national parks as well as private campgrounds with bathrooms and showers.
- Offer all adventure activities at introductory levels, no previous experience needed!
- Include a water sport (such as sea kayaking, surfing, or whitewater rafting).
- Include a backpacking trip in a national park or forest, exploring the area’s natural beauty
- Celebrate Shabbat and Havdallah, eat kosher-style, and engage in creative Jewish programming
- Are created for specific age groups, so you can choose between trips for younger or older teens.