We are so excited to be back at it this year. We are paddling for a week and heading back to the White Mountains for some quality hiking.

“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” -Joseph Campbell

Our ethos in Avalon Natural Connections is that we sometimes need to disconnect from our busy, scheduled lives in order to unlock and connect with the leaders and strong individuals waiting to emerge in all of us. The natural world provides us with the perfect backdrop to explore what we truly value; through exploration we can return home to a more grounded version of ourselves.

Successful candidates will demonstrate an earnest interest in exploring the outdoors (regardless of experience) and in learning about their own leadership potential in a unique and cooperative setting.

The program was created in 2007 by Avalon Nature Preserve director Katharine Griffiths and local educator Doug Elliot. While Avalon Natural Connections has evolved during the past decade, our mission has remained constant-a deep commitment to help teens connect with the natural world surrounding them.

Paddling Long Island (July 8-11, 2024)

We will begin accepting applications in February, 2024.

This 4-day programs will take us adventuring through our varied local waterways. While our island can certainly seem overcrowded and confining at times, being water-bound certainly has its advantages; Brookhaven has hundreds of miles of shoreline and we will take you exploring in several of our favorite harbors, and perhaps even the Long Island Sound if the weather cooperates. Each day we will meet up and explore a waterway in the Stony Brook and Port Jefferson Harbor complexes. With our focus on water safety and padding instruction, Avalon’s instructors will help you gain confidence and proficiency in your own abilities to go out on your own aquatic travels. Our instructors have decades of paddling experience and intimate knowledge of local waters-and they are eager to share it with the next generation of paddling enthusiasts. Participants will have the opportunity to develop both kayaking and stand-up paddling proficiency. Our hope is that you will not only learn to explore our waterways, but that you will also be inspired to become stewards in protecting these local natural gifts.

Off-Island: Hiking New Hampshire’s White Mountains (July 22-26, 2024).

We will begin accepting applications in  February, 2024.

We are happy to announce that based on the current low transmission rates, we will be looking to run our hiking program in July. This 5-day, sleep-away program is designed to help participants learn to lead an active, safe hiking life. Based out of the AMC’s Joe Dodge lodge in Pinkham New Hampshire, we will explore some of New England’s best hiking and scenery. We will sleep at Joe Dodge’s comfortable bunk rooms and eat our meals at the Joe Dodge dining hall or on the trail. If you have not participated in one of our youth programs, you will be asked for a brief interview. You may apply without experience in one of our programs and these applications will be reviewed on a case by case basis. Participants need not be experienced hikers, but they should be physically fit enough to hike for several hours over rugged terrain each day. If you would like to receive more information, please contact Doug Elliot.

T.S. Eliot wrote, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” As you return to Long Island from your mountain travels, Avalon is sure that you will come to see your own environment with new appreciation and respect.

Applications are now being accepted. If you have any questions, feel free to email Doug Elliot.

Apply at the following link:

*Please note that you may need to apply from a private Gmail account-some districts will not allow you to fill out the form from a school-based account.





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What are the important dates for this program?

  • Online application opens: Mid-February, 2024
  • Online application closes: May, 2023
  • Acceptanced participants notified: Early May

What gear do participants need?



  • Swimsuit
  • Shoes that can get wet-not flip-flops
  • T-Shirt
  • Shorts
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Waterproof sunblock
  • Small drybag


Where can I purchase the gear needed for the program?

Gear needed for the program can be found online and in-store at the following retailers:

Meet Doug

Doug Elliot has been teaching and coaching in the Three Village Central School District for 30 years. Doug co-founded our Natural Connections program with Katharine and Steve over a decade ago and has enjoyed sharing his passion for the outdoors with Avalon’s campers.

An avid hiker and paddler, Doug’s travels have taken him far and wide, but he has never lost his true connection to Long Island’s natural landscapes-a connection he strives to foster in all of our Natural Connections participants. You may even hear him play his bagpipes when we travel to the mountains!

Email Doug

Meet Katharine

Katharine Griffiths is the Executive Director of Avalon Nature Preserve in Stony Brook, NY. Originally from Canada, Katharine has spent the last 20 years working on the design, construction and maintenance of the park. She has served on numerous village and community environmental boards and enjoys the challenge of balancing conservation efforts with economic and development needs. Katharine is an avid traveler and has hiked extensively though New Zealand, Australia, Africa and the Himalayas. She hopes to inspire young minds to travel and be active members in their communities.

Email Kathy