River enthusiast and executive director of GOALS Youth River Expeditions, Brett Hochmuth harnesses the power of waterways to foster and enhance human connections. The concept took root when Hochmuth, a former Idaho Springs middle school teacher, began taking his students on field trips to what he describes as the great equalizer: the river. During these six-day trips, he discovered that his students displayed more passion and purpose than throughout the rest of the school year. This inspired him to dedicate his life to sharing the benefits of river expeditions with young people beyond Clear Creek County.
Go Outside and Learn Something
As a nonprofit organization, GOALS (short for “go outside and learn something”) aims to improve the future for children and the environment. By offering growth-focused river expeditions, they showcase the positive impact that nature and children can have on one another. While the majority of programs cater to young people, the organization also leads adult expeditions, such as the upcoming Rouge River trip in Oregon this September. During these journeys, Hochmuth and his experienced team of river guides spend a week exploring rivers and canyons across the western United States and international destinations. Hochmuth’s ultimate goal is to help kids connect with their most authentic selves.
Around the River Bend
GOALS offers various expedition types, including those for elementary, middle, and high school students, as well as adult and specialty programs, with river trips running from March through September. Hochmuth is still accepting applications for the summer and fall seasons, using questionnaire responses from participants to create well-balanced expedition teams based on personalities and experiences. He emphasizes that all expeditions share the same mission and approach, regardless of the participants’ age or experience level.
Throughout the multiday adventures, Hochmuth encourages participants to reflect on what they want to bring into their lives and what they need to let go of. Each adventurer receives a journal at the beginning of the journey, complete with prompts and readings tailored to the specific group and location. Around the campfire, campers share passages from their journals, sparking meaningful and open discussions under the stars. As Hochmuth explains, “Kids begin to shed their ego and speak to one another more openly and with greater understanding. They interact in ways that you don’t often see in the high school cafeteria.”