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For Alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School Spring 2016  •  Vol. 31 No. 2


At NOLS we’ve been teaching our students leadership for over fifty years, yet it is still challenging to explain the message of what leadership is, which is why our field courses teach the seven NOLS leadership skills. Recently, I was paging through our Leadership Educator Notebook and came across the essay “The Abilene Paradox” by Jerry Harvey. This story is about a family’s communication issues, as they travel over 100 miles through a desert to have lunch at a mediocre restaurant no one actually wanted to go to. The Abilene Paradox is when “organizations, groups and individuals, frequently take actions in contradiction to what they really want to do or think is best.” At the end, Harvey suggests how to communicate well, “Don’t play victim or victimizer. Don’t collude in things you really don’t agree with. Take responsibility for problem solving. In a conflict, seek out what the real issue is—don’t get pulled into the phony issue.” This issue of The Leader features stories of NOLS grads who took the nontangible lessons of communication, judgment and decision-making, and vision and action to make changes when necessary, back to their lives at home. For Dan Hammer, his Semester in New Zealand sparked his interest in the environment and saving our classrooms. This led him to create Global Forest Watch, an online deforestation monitoring tool. For Sarah Lugaric, the transformative experience on her Mexico Women’s Sea Kayaking course in Baja, led to contacting NOLS Professional Training to design a custom course. She also began a career in leadership development, which was rooted in the leadership skills she learned at NOLS. For Seth Bloomgarden, his Semester in Africa awakened an appreciation for simplicity and the environment. He returned from his course and developed a passion for paddle boarding, and joined the Surfriders Foundation in Miami. Within NOLS, as we continue to develop our curriculum and teaching, we also continually evaluate how we present ourselves to the world. As part of our current strategic plan, we are taking another look at the NOLS brand, now that we have added and expanded to include NOLS Professional Training and the NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute. NOLS has changed since the school began in 1965. We are larger, our product offerings are more diverse, as are our students. NOLS is an increasingly complex organization to present to our many audiences—students, parents, alumni, and the outdoor and educational communities. Our goal is to provide a clear story about NOLS.

John Gans, NOLS Executive Director

Leader Editor Kim Freitas Designers Kristen Lovelace Anna Boyle

Alumni Relations Director Rich Brame NOLS Executive Director John Gans Creative Director Brad Christensen Art Director Eryn Pierce Editorial Board Bruce Palmer Anne McGowan Pip Coe Melissa Hemken Molly Herber April 2016 • Volume 31 • No.2 Published three times a year in April, August, and November.

Postmaster: Send address changes to National Outdoor Leadership School 284 Lincoln St. Lander, WY 82520 The Leader is a magazine for alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a nonprofit school focusing on wilderness skills, leadership, and environmental ethics. It is mailed to approximately 65,000 NOLS alumni. NOLS graduates living in the U.S. receive a free subscription to The Leader for life. The Leader accepts paid advertising and welcomes article submissions and comments. Please address all correspondence to or call (307) 332-8800. Alumni can direct address changes to or (800) 332-4280. For the most up-to-date information on NOLS, visit or e-mail The Leader is printed with soy-based inks in Portland, Ore., on paper using 10 percent post-consumer-recycled content. A paperless version of The Leader is available online at



Cover photo credit Dimitri Staszewski




5 FIELD NOTES: How NOLS Ruined the Old Me


6 ISSUE ROOM: Whose Public Lands?

Reflections from a Semester in Australia.

7 WILD SIDE OF MEDICINE: Sand Dunes Rescue 8 ALUMNI PROFILE: Satellite Imagery: A Catalyst for

Positive Change 20 ALUMNI TRIPS: Return to the Backcountry with Friends


21 REVIEWS: 40 Rod Road and Inspired to Ride

Recognize this person? The first 10 people to contact us with the correct answer will receive a free NOLS t-shirt. Call NOLS Alumni at (800) 332-4280 or email

22 GEAR ROOM: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter


Daniel DeKay recounts his experience teaching in Honduras.

25 JABBERWOCKY: Catch up on your coursemates’ lives


26 SUSTAINABILITY: Energy Efficiency Audit

24 RECIPE BOX: Paleo Review: Summit Savory Chicken

26 SCHOOL NOTES: Miss your home base? Catch up!

A NOLS alumni trip included three sets of mothers and daughters.

28 BELAY OFF: Lessons from Africa 30 INSTRUCTOR PROFILE: It's All About the Students


31 TRAVERSES: Capturing Alaska, One Photo at a Time

A Fulbright scholar's project: recording Mongolian songs so their oral tradition is not forgotten.


ANSWER TO LAST ISSUE The answer to last issue’s “Who Is This?” is Joe Austin, our Medical Review Manager. Joe is a former NOLS instructor and spent many years working as the Admissions Manager.

EVAN REIMONDO Issue Room, pg 6

NIKA SLADE Profile, pg 8

ALISHA FALK Feature, pg 10

ANNE MCGOWAN Feature, pg 14

Reimondo is the Environmental Stewardship Coordinator for NOLS, where he works to preserve access and further the conservation of NOLS’ outdoor classrooms. When not lost in policy documents, he prefers to spend his time getting lost in the mountains.

Slade is from Port Townsend, Washington and is thrilled to be a new part of the NOLS Lander community. A 2008 NOLS New Zealand Semester grad, she has since worked with various wildlife conservation organizations translating her love for the land through her fieldwork, cartography, and expeditions.

Falk is currently a student at the University of MontanaMissoula. She hopes to switch over to the main campus in 2017 in pursuit of a health and human performance degree. She is passionate about protecting wild places and believes experiencing them is essential for her well-being.

McGowan is the Development Communications Coordinator coming to NOLS with years of newspaper writing and editing experience. She’s an avid walker and a fan of Nordic skiing, ice-skating, tennis, reading, and her family.

Spring 2016


What do you think? Join the conversation. Send your feedback or conversation starters to, post it to Facebook, tweet it, share on Instagram (@NOLSedu), or give us at call at (800) 710-6657 ext. 2254. Find back issues online at

Letters to NOLS

NOLS Instagram

Microfiber Contamination Regarding the most recent Gear Room “Repreve Fibers,” the author Anne McGowan misses a major concern while patting herself on the back. Microfiber contamination will be one of the biggest environmental concerns we face outside of climate change. Learn more at: www. Beverly Stone

Beverly, We appreciate your perspective on the fall 2015 Leader story by Anne McGowan about Repreve Fibers which are made from recycled plastic bottles. Thanks for reminding us about the potential for microfiber contamination. Our intent was to highlight the career of a NOLS grad who, after his course, found a way to integrate his values into his life. The company he works for has recycled billions of water bottles. We think that’s something worth letting our readers know about. As you note, microfiber and microplastic accumulation in the world’s oceans is alarming and a growing concern. It’s hard to analyze relative impacts of plastic bottles vs. fibers or clothing made from the bottles, but we hope readers weigh their purchasing and disposal decisions carefully as more science comes to light. Thank you again for your input.



Rich Brame, NOLS Alumni Relations Director


We asked: Learning to cook delicious meals in the backcountry is a huge part of every NOLS course! What are your favorite recipes? You said: • mmhaskins11: Gingerbread cake with dark chocolate pieces crumbled on top. Best trail treat! • isabellydancr: Best pizza I’ve ever had was on my NOLS trip but probably because we had just hiked 8 miles. • chronicher: Cinnamon apple turnovers. • msoulen: Wild berry pies for birthdays! • shaedy_bug: Backcountry pizza > normal pizza • wackjeller: Cornbread with spicy orzo soup.


The summer I was 19, I went on a thirty day Wind River Wilderness course. I wasn’t an outdoorsy kid, but I was curious. I heard about NOLS. Basically, you go into the woods for a few weeks and come out a total warrior. That’s actually not how it works at all, but it’s what I thought at the time. I made NOLS a must-do. After months of anticipation, I was on a plane to Wyoming, carrying a duffel bag of gear I didn’t know how to use. I arrived at NOLS Rocky Mountain and found myself in a circle with twelve 16- and 17-year-olds and three twenty-something dudes in trucker hats grinning from ear to ear. These were the people I was going to spend the next thirty days with. There was a time when I remembered every single day of my NOLS course. I don’t anymore. I do remember hiking an extra three miles in the snow because we had misread the map. I remember eight days in a row of sleet and rain. I remember the smile of one of my peers, at age 16 in his vintage Oakleys, being the natural leader he was, as I crumbled under my fear of walking across a boulder field. That summer ruined me. I complained. I cried. There were times

Erin Sullivan learns the ways of the NOLS experience. Erin Sullivan

I shut down and gave up. I constantly dreamt about home, about a hot shower, about not sleeping on a piece of 1/4 inch thick foam anymore. One night I got up in the middle of the night to find the stars so bright I could see my shadow. I looked up. It felt like the first time I ever looked up in my life. And there were moments like that. There were moments of pure exposed beauty, of laughing, singing, and storytelling that were not fleeting, but instead meaningful

A moment of exposed beauty in the wilderness. Erin Sullivan

and formative. In those moments too, that summer was ruining me. It ruined the old me, because it pushed me in ways I couldn’t even understand yet. It showed me a path of ambition and compassion, and asked if I was going to get on it. And I haven't always loved it on that path, but it’s so damn magnetic that I can’t step off it. My feet simply won’t go in any other direction. Thirty days in the wilderness ruined my life. My old life—the one where I was comfortable, where I let things be handed to me and didn’t try too hard— and opened me up to challenge, hard questions, and what it truly means to try. That summer cracked me open, so light could get in. The things that ruin us, the things that crumble our perceptions of ourselves, the things that have us looking up at a star-filled sky asking, “Why am I doing this?”—those are the things that spark who we were meant to be. Read the full story on the NOLS Blog:

Spring 2016



Students hike through one of NOLS’ classroom areas. Jared Steinman

The push to transfer federal public lands to state and local control has finally reached national-level dialogue. This issue is stirring up controversy across the West, from a talking point in presidential primaries, to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by anti-federal militants, to various bills advanced by western state legislatures either studying or demanding transfer of lands. Roughly 47 percent of all lands in the West are public lands managed by federal agencies. Western states such as Wyoming and Utah, home to classic NOLS classrooms, are interested in taking ownership of federal lands to decrease environmental and wildlife regulation, to increase mining and

drilling, and to increase local control. Called a land grab, state takeover, public lands transfer, and other labels, the loudest voices behind this issue come from fringe players who oppose environmental safeguards, regulation of use, or any management with a perceived federal origin. NOLS courses run predominantly on public lands, and have a considerable stake in the integrity of land management and permitting systems. Loss of these public lands could remove our ability to operate and would likely result in degradation of the wild character of these landscapes as states do not have the policies, expertise, or finances required to manage and protect these vast tracts of land. Most states also




QUESTION What is a unique geologic aspect of Helka, a volcano in southern Iceland? And, why is there a question about Iceland in The Leader? Answer on page 25.


lack sufficient environmental review and public involvement processes required by the National Environmental Policy Act for consequential actions that may impact natural resources. By federal statute, public lands are managed for multiple use and for access by all Americans. This management allows NOLS to operate expeditions that offer true wilderness experiences to our students. By contrast, most western state-owned land is statutorily required to maximize revenue derived from the land, and there is no guarantee of public access. In Wyoming, for example, camping is not permitted on state lands. If these public lands were transferred to states, there would be no legal barriers to their outright sale or exclusive lease to private interests. State and local governments already benefit from public lands. Public lands generate billions of dollars annually by supporting thriving tourism, hunting, and outdoor recreation industries, and by supporting regulated uses like grazing, timbering, and mineral extraction. While the obvious battleground for the end of federal public lands is the rural West, the issue is a national one. The lands in question are managed for multiple use by all citizens. Today, the expansive tapestry of federal public lands belong to all of us. If you are concerned about the fate of public lands, participate in the process in your area and in frontline states to keep public open spaces and wild lands accessible for future generations.


I was hiking with my friend Sam at Great Sand Dunes National Park in south central Colorado. When we approached the largest dune, people were playing in the sand, flying kites, and sliding down the dunes. Sam pointed out a group of people sitting at the base of the dune. During our mile-long approach this group hadn’t moved. This seemed odd because the strong surface winds made sitting in the sand unpleasant. As we neared the group, we overheard the anxiety in the voices of two folks standing close by. They asked us if we knew first aid and pointed to the group sitting in the sand. “I think someone is really hurt and his wife is waiting for him down in the parking lot.” Once we determined the scene was safe, we approached the group and asked if they needed any help. The patient lying on the ground hollered, “Please!” He was lying on his belly and was clearly in a lot of pain. I conducted an initial assessment while Sam interviewed the bystanders. The patient was complaining of severe pain in his right hip but was not suffering from any immediate life threats. He had been sliding down the largest sand dune on a sand board and had hit a patch of grass. The board stopped but the patient was thrown 25 feet and landed on his right knee. While protecting his spine, we attempted to roll him to complete a patient exam but he would not tolerate any movement. I felt confident that he had not fractured his pelvis and his vital signs were within reasonable ranges.

There was a deformity in his right hip and his thigh muscles were in spasm. The patient reported no relevant medical history and he passed focused spine assessment protocol. Our assessment of his injuries included a possible dislocated or fractured femur and possible dehydration. Bystanders took turns helping our patient drink water while protecting him from the blowing sand. By now, our patient had been lying on his stomach in the sand for over two hours. A ranger arrived on scene and informed us that given the injury, the remote location, and the challenging terrain, the National Park Service (NPS) had requested a helicopter an hour ago. We marked a landing zone and within five minutes we could hear the whine of rotors approaching. Our team secured our equipment just as the helicopter approached. We briefed the flight team on the patient and

assisted in packaging and loading him into the aircraft. From touchdown to takeoff the whole evacuation took ten minutes. Afterwards, our team stood nervously chatting, not wanting to go separate ways. Our patient had been in severe pain and all involved in his care reported feeling overwhelmed by the experience. Later that day, I received a call from the NPS ranger. Upon returning to the parking lot he met the patient’s wife. She hadn’t walked into the dune field, was anxious for news about her husband, and passed along gratitude for the care provided. Sam and I ended up returning the rental sand board to the store the next day. As we explained to the clerk why we were returning a board we had not rented, a young couple approached the counter and overheard our story. “You see?” said one to the other. “I told you you’re going to break your leg.”

Great Sand Dunes National Park in south central Colorado, the scene of the accident. Emily Welden


C. side flashes. D. blast effects.

Answer on page 26.

Spring 2016



Deforestation is occurring globally. There are established links between the composition and expanse of the Earth’s forests and climate change. But here’s the thing: how can we monitor and measure changes in forests when those ecosystems are remote and spread over the globe? Enter NOLS 2003 Patagonia Semester graduate Dan Hammer. Following his NOLS semester Hammer went back to college, finishing with a degree in mathematics and economics. In 2007, Hammer began work at an economic think tank, the Center for Global Development, in Washington, D.C. “I went straight back into the trade,” said Hammer, “studying the drivers in economic regions for deforestation.” Hammer and his team realized no one was stationed on location to observe the deforestation, so the team spent three years translating satellite imagery into something useable for policy analysis and figuring out why deforestation was happening. “We were squarely behind the computer, learning how to program on top of the satellite



Dan Hammer and Emily Wistar enjoy hiking and spending time outdoors. Courtesy of Dan Hammer


Tree cover loss in the United States (annual, 30m, global, Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA) displaying loss with > 30% canopy density. Tree cover loss is not always deforestation. Courtesy of

imagery. Thanks to NOLS, I have had a visceral response to deforestation, even seeing it through the lens of a satellite or computer screen.” That work eventually became the interactive, online resource Global Forest Watch (www. Within the first 72 hours of its launch over 140,000 people viewed Global Forest Watch. Using satellite imagery and an analysis tool, the site systematically and accurately determines the rate of landscape changes in forests, including threats to wildlife habitat, key species, and natural resources in real time. The popular website illustrates the importance of monitoring forest ecosystems and human impacts, such as tree cover loss from unauthorized logging, to biodiversity improvement projects in response to habitat loss. Hammer’s wife Emily Wistar is a 2005 NOLS North Cascades Mountaineering graduate and was also involved with the creation of Global

Forest Watch. “Throughout the development process of Global Forest Watch, we talked about why this project is so important to us and we often circled back to our NOLS experience.” Since its inception, Global Forest Watch has gained momentum and, in 2015, Hammer was one of 23 selected to receive the Presidential Innovation Fellowship. This award led to working for a White House program prototyping service-oriented architecture at NASA. After the Presidential Innovation Fellowship, Hammer began his current role as the Chief Data Scientist for Earth Genome, a new project using satellite imagery to incorporate the value of nature into the decisions of the world’s key institutions. Hammer is creating a catalyst for positive change in conservation by harnessing the power of new technologies. “I realized there are a lot of things you can do to make a difference,” he says. “My connection to it all is the environment.”


In 2000, Sarah Lugaric took time away from her busy New York City office life at J.P. Morgan Asset Management to explore the outdoors with NOLS in Baja, Mexico. At that point in her life, Lugaric’s days were typically filled with high priority deadlines, endless meetings and the constant ringing of her cell phone. She signed up for a three-week NOLS Mexico Women’s Sea Kayaking course, which opened new doors for lifelong adventure and learning. Today, Lugaric often shares how her Baja experience was incredible and influenced her vision of new horizons: “I learned so much in Baja and really got a view of an alternative future. I remember every morning schools of fish were leaping out of the water and I would be thinking ‘it’s our international markets meeting back at the office right now. I can’t go back to that.’” Lugaric returned from her NOLS adventure and launched into a new career in leadership development in San Francisco. Her new professional path ran parallel with a personal commitment to engaging with the outdoors. Getting off the grid and spending more time exploring and reflecting are now part of her yearly plan. Lugaric said, “This is just essential for me, I don’t know how I went for so long without being outdoors in this way.” As her 40th birthday approached, Lugaric knew she wanted to share adventure and a transformative outdoor experience with her friends. She contacted instructor and NOLS Professional Training Senior Account Manager Lynn Petzold to help design a custom all-female course in Baja. Lugaric sees the trip as a great accomplishment, and that it was a way

to pay it forward to her friends: to share the growth she’d experienced on her first outdoor expedition. “It was just another really profound and amazing experience to touch other people’s lives with some of what I had gotten from NOLS.” Creating a custom trip is one thing. Getting friends and colleagues to step into the experience is another. Lugaric invited her pals. Knowing many of her female friends are mothers, she thought they would especially appreciate taking time off for themselves. She wanted them to have time to disconnect, reflect and rediscover their own passions. “There is something that happens with becoming a mother, that it’s very easy to lose all manner of focus and emphasis on yourself and your own personal journey and growth.” She offered her friends the chance to take a break from hectic frontcountry life and to experience a transformative wilderness experience. “I think that there is a real gift to the

remote setting that can only be accessed by working hard to get off the grid,” she reflected. “We all know the magic that happens in the backcountry.” “The healing and energizing effect on me was much like my time in Baja, but the significance of having that time and space felt far greater given how much more complex and full my life has become.” Today she runs her own company, Seven Streams Group, where she helps clients with leadership development and strategic planning. Lugaric continues to take the lessons she learned on her NOLS courses into her daily life. “Strategic planning, from my standpoint, is driven by the principles of outdoor leadership.” What started as a kayaking trip in Mexico sixteen years ago has grown into an ongoing connection with NOLS and the wilderness: a new career and powerful shared experiences with a circle of friends and clients.

Lugaric spends precious moments with her close friends. Courtesy of Sarah Lugaric

Spring 2016







When I signed up for the NOLS Australia semester, I was given a gear list. Some of the gear seemed vital, while other things seemed questionable. One of the questionable items was a sun hat. I debated what kind of hat to bring with me, finally deciding on a fashionable, woven plant-material hat that looked passable as an Aussie-style Outback hat. During the course, I wore the hat every single day on the Drysdale River. It was the only thing keeping my brains from scrambling during our frequent outdoor classes on wildlife, Aboriginal culture, and leadership, but it barely kept me from getting sunburnt as I struggled through chaotic, frustrating hang-ups with the canoe. I also wore the hat during my calmest moments, when I sat to listen to the Outback and consider how old the land in Australia actually is, which made my most challenging days easier. One evening, my hat proved another merit: it became a home for an enormous, hairy spider, cute in a Dr. Seuss kind of way. I cursed the color of the material as I shook out the multiple-eyed creature staring back at me. Toward the end of the canoeing section, the hat finally began to fall apart completely. I felt a tiny twinge of sadness for the loss. By this point, I had long been admiring my instructor’s hat. I thought to myself, “Man, if I could get myself one of these hats it would be a true Aussie souvenir to bring home to my father.” My dad had always dreamed of visiting the Outback and was so proud of me; in his eyes, I was the girl version of Indiana Jones! For the next re-ration I requested a brand new, glimmering Aussie hat that would stand up to any amount of abuse. My old hat went back to Broome, where we started our journey, crumpled into a trash bag. In this new hat, I successfully navigated the Outback. I powered through the tallest grass, feared not the crocodiles or largest bugs I have ever seen, and explored the landscape with passion and wonder. Even the feral cattle avoided looking directly at me! I spent my final week on (Ewan) Sunday Island in the company of Irene Davey and two members of her family who were Bardi Aboriginal guides hired to teach us about their culture. Davey humbled me and reminded me to think about our world a bit differently. Davey reminded me that I was a person capable of changing the world and protecting the great environment I had just spent three months intimately exploring. She reminded me of those who were there first, and spoke of the pain many experience upon being separated from the land.


My hat protected me from the sun while we spoke. I brought my Aussie hat home as a gift for my father. He passed away shortly after I returned from Australia, but not before he saw me home safely. I like to think that he has the right hat for his next adventure. I advise all future explorers to pick just the right hat. One that will hold up and help you remember your adventure. Then again, maybe the hat is not what changed my experience for the better—maybe it was the person underneath the hat who changed. In my opinion, there is no better way to learn than in the outdoors. If you ever find yourself on your way to the middle of nowhere, make sure to bring a proper hat. Read the full story on the NOLS Blog: blog.nols. edu/2015/10/26/who-needs-a-hat-a-lesson-from-myaustralian-adventure.


Left: Falk wears her hat on her NOLS Semester in Australia. Courtesy of Alisha Falk Right Top: Students backpacking through the Australian bush. Brian Hensien Right Bottom: A boomerang, traditionally used as an Australian hunting weapon. Alisha Falk Spring 2016







Gracias is the main town of the L empira department, or region, of Honduras. Honduras is a rugged and mountainous country, but Gracias and the villages of Lempira are some of the most rugged, poor, and isolated in Central America. The Bomberos, or firefighters, of Complay 30 are based in Gracias and serve the emergency medical needs of a population 180,000 strong in a district the size of Rhode Island. The Bomberos are a proud bunch. The emblem on their Land Rover ambulance, which was donated by Taiwan, displays their watchwords: honor, discipline, and self-sacrifice. Their department has fifteen full-time firefighters and another fifteen volunteers, including two women. The Bomberos already practice wilderness medicine to its true definition: treating patients hours, if not days, from definitive care. They perform rescues of lost hikers in nearby Celaque National Park, inspect local business for fire safety, and deliver care to peasant families high in the hills. It is an understatement to say the people of Gracias and Lempira are independent and need to find innovative ways to care for each other. The economy is almost all subsistence agriculture. There are few paved roads and minimal public infrastructure. A small hospital serves the region, but the closest modern hospital is over 120 miles away along unpaved, steep, and narrow roads. There are no helicopters. NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) instructors Daniel DeKay, Mike Moxness, and Virginia Plambeck saw an overwhelming need in Gracias for the kind of training WMI provides. They reached out to the Bomberos to teach the first of a five-course series on wilderness emergency medicine in December 2015. They brought their knowledge working as nurses, paramedics, and wilderness medicine practitioners to teach the Bomberos topics including patient assessment, improvised splinting, focused spine assessment, along with others designed for those who treat patients far from a hospital. “My reaction from the students was there was a high practical value in what we were teaching,” said DeKay. “These folks are the search and rescue team, the swiftwater rescue team, and the fire department all in one. They were grateful for our training, we were welcomed with open arms, and there was a shared sense of brotherhood.” When Moxness first toured the Gracias Bomberos, he noticed the only equipment in the ambulance was a cot and backboard. First aid items taken for granted in the United States, such as cravats and Ace bandages, are difficult to find in Honduras. He immediately donated four old cervical collars and encouraged volunteers from MEDICO, a nonprofit on whose board he sits, to donate bandages, splinting materials, and first aid items. When DeKay arrived, he went to the local secondhand store to buy used clothes for improvised splints. It’s something that happens on all wilderness medicine courses to teach students how to use everyday materials to splint broken bones on call. The difference

Practicing building a splint. Daniel DeKay

in Gracias was that instead of boxing up the clothes at the end of the course, the Bomberos stocked their ambulance with these materials, and will actually use them, to splint broken bones on calls. At WMI, instructors believe wilderness medicine is about a passion both for the wilderness and medicine. Passion is in large supply among the Bomberos in Gracias. For the WMI instructors teaching in Gracias, they hope to provide what is lacking: material and educational resources.

Left: Some of the Bomberos in Honduras who received wilderness medicine training. Daniel DeKay

Spring 2016







In the summer of 2015, three pairs of mothers and daughters made NOLS history when they enrolled on the same alumni horsepacking course, based out of Three Peaks Ranch in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t marketed as a mother-daughter trip, and—as best as anyone can remember—it hadn’t happened before. At least one mother-daughter duo and their instructors agree it was a very happy accident. Elodie Craig and her daughter, Elizabeth Bethea, have always had a strong relationship, respecting each other and enjoying time together. Craig, 63, is a multi-course NOLS alumna and seasoned horsewoman living in Utah. She’d dreamed of taking a NOLS course, but couldn’t find the time until she retired. A bum shoulder made backpacking courses impossible, but led to horsepacking, reigniting a childhood pasOFTEN, THE PEOPLE sion for the animals. Bethea is a 33-year-old CLOSEST TO US—FAMILY law enforcement officer in Orlando. She has hiked the MEMBERS—STRUGGLE Appalachian Trail numerous TO UNDERSTAND WHAT times, enjoys whitewater rafting and “other adven- IT MEANS TO TAKE A tures,” she said. But she’d NOLS COURSE. only been on horseback twice in her life. Still, when her mom returned from two separate NOLS courses (Horsepacking Prime 2012 and Alumni Horsepacking in Patagonia 2013), and “raved about how amazing it was,” Bethea couldn’t say no to accompanying her mother the next time. Craig was thrilled. “I was so excited Elizabeth would experience the beauty and ruggedness of the Winds with me,” she said of the weeklong course. Shari Kearney, a veteran instructor of over one hundred NOLS courses, had never led one with multiple pairs of family members. After this one, she said she would do it again in a heartbeat. “It was awesome to be part of it, to see people sharing this thing that’s so important to them,” Kearney said. “Like Elodie. She has so much respect for her daughter, and just wanted to get out on a horse in the wilderness with Elizabeth.” Family dynamics were not an issue, Kearney continued, with everyone—including mothers and daughters—getting along. “Sometimes, family members are not always nice to each other, you know, but that wasn’t the case at all,” she remembered. In fact, Bethea said taking the trip with her mom enriched their relationship. “Her knowledge of horses in general, in addition to horsepacking, was great,” she said. “I asked her for help if I needed it, instead of always relying on the instructors.” And there was no falling into stereotypical roles. “If I couldn’t do something or I needed help, she would show me how to do it rather than doing it for me,” Bethea continued. For Craig, experiencing the trip with Bethea was the best part of the trip. While she knew her daughter was someone who approaches challenges believing she can conquer anything, Craig was still

Top: Elodie Craig set out on her horse with a pack horse in tow. Elizabeth Bethea Bottom: Elizabeth Bethea and her mom, Elodie Craig, in Desolation Canyon. PeeBee van den Toorn

“amazed” at how quickly Bethea took charge of her horse and developed a relationship with him. Instructor PeeBee van den Toorn, who had also never led a multiple mother-daughter course, called it “real and special.” What was unique, she said, was sharing the hard-to-describe effects of a NOLS course. “As an independent participant on a NOLS course, it can be so difficult to bring the magic, experiences, and lessons of nature, of the group and of the wilderness back home,” van den Toorn said. “Often, the people closest to us—family members—struggle to understand what it means to take a NOLS course.” Craig agreed. “How can you even begin to describe the NOLS experience?” she mused. “You cannot. You have to share the experience to fully understand and appreciate all that you learn, see, and do.”

Left: Horses roam free on the NOLS Three Peaks Ranch. Brad Christensen

Spring 2016


Herding Songs Process and Storytelling in the Mongolian Steppe





A short five-hour bus ride southeast of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, I found myself ten kilometers outside of Delgerkhaan—a small town of a few thousand people, placed in the middle of a seemingly never-ending swath of steppe. This region was the birthplace of Ghengis Khan (Chinggis in Mongolia) and is famous for its large collection of archeological sites and healing mud baths. I had come for something different. Having traveled throughout much of Mongolia, I assumed I had already seen the country’s notorious grasslands. I was wrong. Waking up early, I made myself a small pot of coffee before walking outside. Taking in my surroundings, I saw a small cluster of mountains to the south. North, there was nothing but white horizon. Most pronounced was a deep quiet I had never experienced. I heard and felt the absence of sound. Taking off my gloves to clasp my metal coffee mug, I warmed my hands as I took in deep breaths of the crisp, cold air. I closed my eyes and listened to the open steppe. Hearing the door of the circular tent creak open, Davlaa, my host, came outside with what I saw as a strange collection of items. Taking a blowtorch, he bent down to light a small pan of twigs and wood chips. I watched as he edged the pan beneath his battered Toyota hatchback to heat the oil. Letting the car heat up, he went back inside to fetch the car’s battery, having kept it there to keep it from freezing during the night. Davlaa stepped into the car and coaxed the engine to light. The car’s tires crunched through the snow as we made our way across the white landscape. We were going to visit Tsendsuren, an old Mongolian herder, and record her performances of Mongolian long song—a traditional singing style that is becoming harder to find in herder communities. Entering a Mongolian ger, I have done everything from joining a group of Buddhist monks in feasting on boiled sheep, to watching a dubbed version of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. While I have learned to set my expectations aside, I am still continually surprised by what I experience as I travel across Mongolia, recording music in herders’ homes. Driving up to Tsendsuren’s ger, her family’s dog barked loudly, signaling my arrival. Batsaikan, her son-in-law, came out to hold the dog back. I entered the circular home, bending low to make sure my head didn’t hit the top of the short threshold. Tsendsuren’s daughter, Narantuya, and Batsaikan looked at me curiously. Tsendsuren, small, quiet, and smiling, sat opposite me as Narantuya handed me a bowl of warm milk tea. Batsaikan placed his left hand under his right elbow. Extending his right hand, he offered me his snuff bottle. I reciprocated his actions, accepting the bottle with my right hand. Opening the bottle slightly, I touched the opening to each nostril and inhaled gently before handing it back in the same formal manner. I felt the familiar tingling sensation run up my nostrils as I caught glimpses of Batsaikan’s

It would be jarring, and rude, to walk into someone’s home and immediately ask them to sing.

conversation with my translator. He was surprised by how comfortable I appeared as I accepted his snuff bottle. They laughed; usually foreigners start sneezing from the powdered tobacco. Tsendsuren sat patiently as we politely shifted the conversation from pleasantries and small talk to the reason why we had come. It would be jarring, and rude, to walk into someone’s home and immediately

Staszewski recording Tsendsuren. Ochirkhuyag Myagmardorj

ask them to sing. Shy and humble, Tsendsuren initially laughed off my request in a loving manner only older people can muster. Slowly, she warmed to the idea, but insisted her grandson bring her nice deel to wear during the performance. He helped her button the long overcoat before she tied its silk sash around her waist and wrapped a colorfully decorated bandana around her head. We helped Tsendsuren stand up. Her back arched forward as she took small steps toward a seat in front of the altar where she would perform. I attached a small microphone to Tsendsuren’s collar and positioned her in front of my camera. Her eyes were bright and smiling as the atmosphere shifted to focus completely on her. I motioned for her to begin, and her soft but powerful voice filled the ger. I’ve grown familiar with my process. Several weeks of planned, or often chance, meetings lead to phone calls, which leads to brainstorming, research, and note scribbling. As everything starts falling into place, there’s itinerary building. To-do lists lead to ticket buying, supply gathering, equipment checking, battery charging, and eventually bag packing. When

Left: Mongolian herders set off for another day of work. Dimitri Staszewski

Spring 2016


Delgerkhann collects water on a brisk morning in Mongolia. Dimitri Staszewski

the day finally arrives and the trip begins, the journey has already been long underway. For those of us drawn to exploring the outdoors, this type of process is welcome and routine. We find comfort in it. It provides focus. The details might differ slightly, camp stoves and rations replaced with cameras and memory cards, but the feeling of growing anticipation as the expedition approaches is the same. It was this ongoing sense of adventure that brought me back to Mongolia. When the recording process finally begins, I hurriedly but purposefully set up my audio recorder and camera. Familiarity and facility with my equipment are essential. Always keen to record as much as possible, I know my performer’s interest and willingness to collaborate will, most likely, fade sooner than my willingness to keep rolling. I’ll press “record” on my camera, then on my audio recorder, walk in front of my setup to make a loud “CLAP” before walking back and motioning to the performer to begin singing. Mongolian herders have no trouble finding reasons to sing; often they don’t need a reason. Yet, as I arrive, set up my equipment, and hit “record,” they are indisputably singing for me. For me. Really think about that. How many times in your life have you sat back and listened as someone sang just for you? Part of my process is to revel, to continually be astounded by this honor. I would be foolish to take any performance for granted, or to act like I deserve or am entitled to it. As a performer begins to sing for me, while I am there to record, preserve, and share their performance with the world, I must also set aside those



How many times in your life have you sat back and listened as someone sang just for you?


more grand imperatives and simply appreciate the single performance I am witnessing. Tsendsuren’s voice was beautiful. She transitioned from powerful vibrato to soft whispers as elongated syllables formed her long song. While her singing was special, her performance was elevated by her story. Tsendsuren is 79 years old and represents a group of herders who have seen the world change drastically in front of their eyes. Her mother gave birth to her in the field outside their ger. She remembers fishing next to Soviet soldiers when she was little. When she caught a fish, she would always run home right away because she was so excited. “The lake used to be rich with fish,” she said, “but now it’s getting scarce.” At the same time, herders with Tsendsuren’s musical experience are dwindling. When Tsendsuren was young, an old woman would sing with her. They never had formal lessons. Tsendsuren learned by listening and singing along with her mentor. When her informal teacher died, Tsendsuren stopped learning new songs. She used to sing all the time when she was young. Now she says, “I am forgetting some of the songs.” She never had the opportunity to teach a young person the songs she knows. While this was sad to hear, it validated being there to record. Traditional music will remain part of Mongolian culture with or without the existence of nomadic herding. New generations of aspiring Mongolian musicians still learn traditional singing styles, and professional musicians continue to perform in front of large audiences. Yet performances by herders exhibit something staged performances by professional musicians cannot. Herders sing about actions they carry out on a daily basis, the environment they inhabit, and use songs as tools to calm and train their animals.

She never had the opportunity to teach a young person the songs she knows.

Performers like Tsendsuren represent a dwindling oral tradition. At the same time, they are not teaching young people in the way that Tsendsuren was mentored. When I talk with older herders, many repeat the sentiment less people sing in the countryside now than when they were growing up. Most herders I speak with attribute this change to access to new forms of media. With solar-powered television sets in most countryside gers, and an ever-growing data network, singing after a long day of herding doesn’t carry the same entertainment value it once did. Instead, young herders catch the most recent episodes of Mongolia’s Got Talent and will check their Facebook pages when they go into the nearby towns. After recording one song, Narantuya persuaded her shy husband to perform a song all together. Putting on matching formal deel, they joined Tsendsuren by the altar. As they began to sing, their performance took on an elevated significance. Individually, we came to the unspoken understanding Tsendsuren would not be around much longer. While Tsendsuren may regret not mentoring a young singer, she has clearly passed along some of her musical knowledge to her daughter. As I listened as their family sang together, I was honored to help capture the moment. I felt proud as I left Tsendsuren’s ger. Not only had I preserved performances by an amazing singer, I had given her family an opportunity to sing together and to capture a moment they would cherish forever. I will send them a copy of their performance. I ask a lot as I enter a stranger’s home and ask them to sing for me. While I bring tokens of my appreciation, I do not feel it is always possible to return the favor. Leaving Tsendsuren’s ger, I felt as if we had both been able to give each other something precious. In November, I rode two days on horseback to a group of reindeer herders. There, I found myself participating in a shamanic ritual. My next trip will take me to western Mongolia where I will record Kazakh herders who use golden eagles to hunt fox and marmot during the winter. The stories that come from those trips will make far better campfire stories than my hour-long visit to Tsendsuren’s ger. By immersing myself in my process, I have come to appreciate small details in my ongoing journey alongside the larger-than-life types of moments that take months to plan. Both have come to leave me in awe, force me to question what I know, and inform how I act moving forward. I am still learning how to tell both types of stories well, but think both are equally important to share. It has become so easy to share our experiences with friends, family, and strangers as we post pictures of our peak ascents and sunset hikes. I fall into the trap myself. As we explore the wild parts of the world, paddling rapids, braving thunderstorms, or recording music in the Mongolian countryside, it is important to remember our journeys do not begin or end with those moments. By making time to search for and appreciate each step in our process, we can gain a greater appreciation for the places we’re exploring and the people who are a part of those journeys.

Author Bio Dimitri Staszewski is a recording engineer, producer, and adventurer who enjoys merging his passions for creating multimedia content and exploration. That mindset has led him to work in the Mongolian steppe, renowned recording studios in New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans, a dude ranch in Colorado, and as an intern and Outfitting Assistant at NOLS Rocky Mountain. He participated in a 2011 NOLS Semester in the Southwest and aims to become an instructor in the near future. Thinking about his own temporary nomadism during and after his NOLS semester, Staszewski wanted to meet and live with people whose lifestyle and culture revolved around nomadism. He made it to the Mongolian countryside for the first time in 2013. Leaving inspired and feeling like his project was left unfinished, Staszewski returned to Mongolia on a Fulbright-mtvU scholarship. He is adding to his online archive of traditional Mongolian music, The website’s goal is to capture and preserve uses of traditional music in the daily lives of herders. To see Staszewski’s full project visit To get in touch with Stazewski, feel free to email him at dimitri260@gmail. com or visit his personal website For frequent updates on his project follow him on Instagram

Spring 2016


Kelsey Wicks

Jared Steinman

ALUMNI TRIPS Are you interested in returning to NOLS in the backcountry but can’t take weeks off work? Do you want to share your NOLS experience with your non-grad friends and family? Do you want to adventure and network with like-minded, outdoorsy adults who know the meaning of EB? If you bellowed, “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!” then join us on an alumni trip in 2016.

NOLS offers short backcountry trips for our alumni and guests. These trips have top-quality instructors, and though they aren’t guided adventures, we do cater a bit more to the desires and maturity levels of our participants. Customized trips are also available. Call us to design your dream adventure. For more information or to sign up, call NOLS Alumni at (800) 332-4280 or visit


NOLS ALUMNI REUNIONS Reunions are a great way to meet other NOLS grads in your community and build your network. These social events feature snacks, libations, outdoor gear raffles, camaraderie and tales of adventure. Guests are always welcome. See for details. Watch for details on NOLS alumni spring reunions in ... • San Francisco, California • St. Louis, Missouri • Atlanta, Georgia • Boston, Massachusetts • Austin, Texas • Washington, D.C.



• Denver, Colorado


Dates: August 7-13, 2016 (starts and ends in Lander, Wyoming)

The trip begins with eight hours of classroom and scenario-based Wilderness First Aid instruction at the beautiful Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus. The trip then travels into the Wind River backcountry for a five-night backpacking expedition where the remaining eight hours of first aid curriculum is interspersed with classic wilderness and travel topics like camping, cooking, map reading, navigation, non-technical peaks and fly fishing.


Dates: August 13-21, 2016 (starts and ends in Lander, Wyoming) This backpacking trip is fast-paced and high-mileage, and will travel through the heart of Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains and cross the Continental Divide, potentially multiple times. Elevations will be consistently above 10,000 feet and terrain will include high mountain passes, boulder fields, possible peak ascents, established trails, and, in general, glorious alpine splendor! There will be a focus on fine-tuning backcountry travel and living skills, such as map reading, route finding, navigation, cooking, and fishing. Anticipate lots of mileage, plenty of big hills, team camaraderie, iconic scenery and an unforgettable adventure. Expedition alumni only.


Dates: August 11-19, 2016 (starts and ends at NOLS Three Peaks Ranch, Boulder, Wyoming) The adventure starts at Three Peaks Ranch, where NOLS horse courses and re-ration logistics are based. After an introduction to ranch life, riding, and horsepacking, you’ll ride into the mountains with a train of pack animals for five nights and six days of camping, fishing, and riding.



By Grove N. Mower, Wilderness Horsepacking 1985

Directed by Mike Dion

Several miles down a long dirt road, the Lazy T Ranch is the setting of this charming novel located near NOLS headquarters in Lander, Wyoming, the Three Peaks Ranch, and NOLS Teton Valley. NOLS graduate Grove N. Mower tells a rough-andtumble tale of a young man’s need for adventure and exploration, which reminds readers of experiencing loss, confusion and growing pains. Forty Rod Road follows the main character, Hank, as he transitions from Ivy League country club life to a summer working as a ranch hand, living in a trailer and using an outhouse. A self-proclaimed “screw up,” Hank needs a change to create closure after his close friend’s death, but his western ranch experience isn’t what he expects. Through real, hard ranch work, he becomes a part of his own western drama and learns a thing or two about life, love, and the true value of a good neighbor. Although the novel addresses heavy coming-of-age themes, it is done in a lighthearted and entertaining way, making Forty Rod Road a page-turner that readers may not want to put down. A little rough around the edges, the dialogue provides a few good laughs and teaches readers a cowboy lesson on the way the land can shape a person, especially in a place that is so close to our hearts, the Wind River Range. Reviewed by Sarah Zimmerman, PR and Marketing Intern, ©2015 Grove N. Mower.

Let’s do the math, 4,233 miles, 17.5 days, over 240 miles a day—an ambitious rate to travel coast to coast nonstop, unsupported, while living from the seat of a bicycle. Director Mike Dion’s Inspired to Ride is rooted in the journey of an elite group of athletes competing in the 2014 Trans Am Bike Race. Beyond that, it’s a story of pushing mental and physical limits. “560 miles in, I still haven’t looked at my bare feet yet,” Mike Hall admits to the camera. In 2012, Hall set the Guinness World Record for the fastest unsupported circumnavigation of the world. Hall has an unmeasurable intent to win and his methods question what it is to compete at this level. From working on only a few hours of sleep caught in state park bathrooms, living off a mix of liquid diets and two-day-old Subway sandwiches, the tour pushes everything into the foreground. Riders intensely focus on preparation, navigation, maintenance, conditioning and care in this expedition across North America. If you want to watch a film about the beauty of this country and the people in it, clip in for some harrowing riding and questionable rashes. On the ride Hall said, “People ask me if I’d like to bike around the world again and just enjoy it, but if you like to race— going slow isn’t necessarily what’s enjoyable.” Reviewed by Kirk Rasmussen, NOLS Video Producer, ©Mike Dion.


Hey, NOLS Grads!

The Alumni Newsletter provides:

Subscribe to our brand-new electronic Alumni Newsletter!

• News about NOLS • The scoop on alumni discounts and benefits • Curriculum and career services updates • Alumni-only trips, seminars, local events and networking opportunities


Spring 2016



Drinking from a LifeStraw. Courtsey of Aran Seaman



LifeStraw is a personal water filter that removes bacteria and protozoa from water. This product was developed in response to Guinea worm disease, which is the cause of water contamination in some countries, but has also gained traction in the outdoor community. This product was introduced in 2005 and is an ultra light, travel friendly, and straw-like filter. In 2008 the product was made available to consumers, who were mostly outdoor enthusiasts. Since it is a straw, it is designed to drink directly from streams or lakes. It is challenging to use the product, since the user has to lie down to sip from a stream or lake. When the user has walked away from the water source, they won’t have water to drink unless they’ve filled up their water bottle. Another way to use the product is to fill a water bottle and drink from it through your LifeStraw. We had the chance to catch up with Aran Seaman, the North American Distributor for LifeStraw, who has worked for the company since the inception of the product. Originally developed because of Guinea worm disease, hollow fiber filters are gaining traction in developing countries where safe drinking water is not readily available.


In 2014, LifeStraw launched their “Follow the Liters” program, which gives a child in developing countries safe drinking water for an entire school year. This initiative started in western Kenya, and today has expanded to four different countries. Larger Lifestraw community purifiers are distributed to schools identified as not having safe drinking water. In addition to providing these water filters, LifeStraw donates money to help support health education and follow-up visits to make sure the filters are used correctly and have a positive impact on the schools. In addition to the philanthropic efforts, the LifeStraw personal water filter is prominent in the outdoor market. Hikers and backpackers choose this water filtration system because it is lightweight, easy to use, and does not require any wait time to purify drinking water. It also covers the major risks in North American water­—bacteria and protozoa­­—and is an inexpensive upfront purchase. When choosing a water purification system to take into the backcountry, consider taking one that supports the philanthropic efforts of providing LifeStraw products to children in developing countries. The LifeStraw personal water filter retails for about $20. LifeStraw’s parent company is Vestergaard, and their brands are dedicated to improving community health. In North America, distributes this product. Interested in learning more? Visit for more information on the Personal Water Filter, recent philanthropic efforts, and other products.


What is the Paleo diet? The Paleo (Pa·le·o) diet is based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.

In 2013, Wyoming native Ty Soukup launched Paleo Meals To Go as a source for backpack-friendly Paleo meals. They now have about a half-dozen pre-packaged, freeze-dried meal and snack options ready for the outdoors. I field-tested their gluten-free, grain-free, milk-free, soy-free, nut-free “Summit Savory Chicken” on a recent course in the Frozen Lakes area of the southern Wind River Mountains. The Pros: • If low-weight packing is your goal, this packet meal is durable and incredibly light at 2.89 oz. • Preparation couldn’t be easier. Basically open the packet, add boiling water, and wait a few minutes. • Minimal waste or clean up. • The ingredients seem right in line for folks with a Paleo goal. • It smells and tastes attractive without excessive salt or oddball additives. The Cons: • The portions are pretty small for a hungry two-person mountain team. One packet alone won’t keep the tent group happy. • Like many freeze-dried meals, taste was pretty flat, but a robust spice kit will increase satisfaction. • At $12.99, the per-meal pricing seems higher than some competing (probably less nutritious and certainly non-Paleo) brands. The Upshot: • If light, easy, and Paleo are your big backcountry food goals, Paleo Meals To Go is well worth a try. Check them out at



Pre-packaged and easy to prepare, Paleo Meals To Go travel well. Anthony Stevens


Contact the Alumni Office at (800) 332-4280 or to update your coursemates on your latest adventure.

GRADS FROM THE ‘80S Carol Lee Rawn, Baja Sea Kayaking ‘82 & Brooks Range ‘89 Carol and her husband Tim Mackey met on the NOLS Brooks Range 1989 trip, married in 1995, and have two daughters. They recently had a great weekend with “the Queen” Jeanne Cashin, also Brooks Range 1989, who still keeps them laughing. They would love to hear from fellow alums and instructors Chris and Sherry. Email: GRADS FROM THE ‘90S Liz Tuohy, Rocky Mountain Instructor Course ‘94 Liz recently took on the role of NOLS Director of Education, where she oversees what and how NOLS students learn. Based in Lander, Wyoming, Liz brings over 20 years of NOLS and educational experience to her new position. Congrats, Liz! Tom Kimmerer, Outdoor Educator ‘92 Tom’s book, Venerable Trees–History, Biology and Conservation in the Bluegrass has been published by the University Press of Kentucky. In the book, he acknowledges the importance of NOLS for

influencing the way he thinks about interpreting science for readers. Although it has been 23 years since his NOLS course, he has not forgotten what he learned at NOLS, and it certainly influences his writing. His second and third books are already in the works.

Lyman “Cinco” Jones, Wind River Mountaineering ‘89 and former instructor Lyman passed away, on October 11, 2015 after a battle with ALS. He is survived by his parents, siblings, nieces, Uncle Henry, soul mate Brenda and his spiritually-adopted son, Jacob.


Tara Breed, Semester in the Northwest ‘91 Tara passed away on July 27, 2015 as the result of a fall while descending the 13,088foot summit of Paiute Peak in Boulder County, Colorado.

Madeline “Maddie” Friend, Yukon Backpacking & Wilderness ‘09 & former Alumni Intern Maddie is living in Bogotá, Colombia on a Fulbright Grant. She teaches English at a university there and does biological research on a protozoa called Foraminafera. In her spare time, she has been adventuring through the country, which is one of the most geologically diverse in the world! IN REMEMBRANCE Daniel J. Regan, Wind River Wilderness ‘73 Daniel passed away unexpectedly on October 21, 2015 at his home. He worked as an environmental consultant for several businesses and had a great love for dogs, often adopting strays. He is survived by his three siblings, and nieces and nephews.

Matthew Werner, Wind River Mountaineering ‘92 & Semester in Alaska ‘93 On October 13, 2015, Matt passed away at the age of 40. Matt worked for the National Park Service and Glen Canyon NRA for 10 years. He was an EMT as well as a structural and wildland firefighter. Matt is survived by his mother and his two brothers.

“ Kayah” Jennifer Kendall Gaydish, Wilderness First Aid ‘12 On December 20, 2015, “Kayah” Jennifer Kendall Gaydish died from injuries sustained from a 50-foot fall at Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area, a climbing area in Virginia. Kayah, a

Top: Liz Tuohy is the new NOLS Director of Education. Bottom: Kathleen Pelto’s wedding photo. Courtesy of Kathleen Pelto

resident of Asheville, North Carolina, was a long-time climber and wilderness ranger who worked as a regional coordinator for the conservation group Wild South. Her friends and colleagues remember Kayah as selfless, quiet and humble. Doug Demarest, Former Instructor Doug, of Anchorage, Alaska, passed away on December 29, 2015.

MARRIAGES, ENGAGEMENTS, AND ANNIVERSARIES Kathleen Pelto, Pacific Northwest Sea Kayaking Instructor Course ‘04, and Daren Opeka, Rocky Mountain Instructor Course ‘06 Kathleen, of Bend, Oregon, married Daren, on February 6, 2016 at the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, AZ.

WILDERNESS QUIZ ANSWER Helka, almost 5,000´ and located in the highly active geothermic region of southern Iceland, is an aseismic volcano, meaning it shows minimal signs (like earthquakes) in the days and hours leading up to its eruption. The NOLS Alumni Iceland Hike Trip will drive past Helka this July.

Spring 2016 25

Remember the moment you first set foot in a NOLS building, wherever in the world it was? All novel and unfamiliar in the first days, it was comfortable and familiar by the time you were deissuing and celebrating your course. Well, it’s business as usual at NOLS locations around the world; stay up to date on the activities here, or on the NOLS location Facebook pages. NOLS SCANDINAVIA • Operations are based in Katterjåkk, Sweden, 68°25´ north, or about the equivalent of being 250 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska. The base is located very near the Norwegian border and all expeditions visit both countries. Only three people live in Katterjåkk year round, our summer staff of four really boosts the local population!

A student at NOLS Scandanivia takes a break on a backpacking course. Courtsey of NOLS Scandanivia

• Our hiking and sea kayaking expeditions explore both Sweden and Norway, and some may cross into Finland. Some groups camp so that their heads are in Norway and their feet in Sweden. • Our Scandinavian expeditions include local foods. Rations offer brown goat cheese and hot drinks made of powdered blueberries. NOLS PATAGONIA • November saw the year’s first Patagonia Year rock climbing course finish. They replaced hundreds of unsuitable bolts and mismatched hangers at the Cerro Aguila area. The routes are now safer for NOLS and the community. • January is “NOLS Pro Season” with seven business school courses from Cornell,

Columbia and the University of Texas. We also added a custom course in December for employees of General Electric who won a wellness competition. • This season starts a new course, the Patagonia Cultural Expedition, which combines a traditional 30-day wilderness course with visits to remote campos and interactions with local pobladores. • Spanish Programs is having its most successful year ever. With our Spanish Programs Coordinator now based in Santiago and able to travel more effectively for marketing events, all Spanish field courses are full. We also continue to see growth in Spanish language Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA), Wilderness First Responder courses and No Deje Rastro (LNT). NOLS ROCKY MOUNTAIN • We were busier than ever this fall! We had 133 students on 11 semester courses, including two Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semesters and an Outdoor Educator Semester. In the spring, we’re looking forward to a record number of semester students. • At our far-flung Rocky Mountain campus in Tanzania, East Africa, we educated more students than ever, including two local educator courses and a very successful NOLS Pro course for students from Cairo American College.

Giraffes are often seen near NOLS East Africa. James Kagambi




B: Ground current causes roughly half of all lightning injuries as the electricity disperses from the point where the lightning struck.




When you want to reduce your environmental impact and save money doing it, improving the efficiency of existing facilities is a cheap and easy strategy. At NOLS, we conduct annual facility efficiency audits to think intentionally about how we might run our courses using fewer natural resources. Simple steps that require relatively low upfront costs, like insulating hot water pipes and water heaters, installing weather stripping on doors and windows, and ecofriendly landscaping all generate real cost savings. Other projects that cost nothing but time, like trimming tree limbs to gain more southern sun exposure or educating students and staff to turn off lights and close outside doors behind them, have the added benefit of an educational component. Combined, these projects can make a substantial difference in one’s environmental footprint. The NOLS facility efficiency audits are easily replicable. Do-it-yourself energy audits are readily available online, applicable at work or home. To launch your own energy audit, start a conversation with your family, roommates, colleagues, or tent mates. Keep a running list of improvements you identify and work within a budget. By reviewing progress and changes annually, you can make new goals, and, most gratifyingly, check items off the list. The ripple effect of this kind of plan can lead us all toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

• The really big news from Arusha is that they found a reliable source of white gas—from athome dry-cleaning kits! This cleaner-burning fuel will make stoves last longer and relieve a common source of frustration. • We’re reimagining our Outdoor Educator curriculum. Our new OE courses will have an emphasis on teaching group facilitation, inclusive community building, advanced rock rescue and first-aid skills, institutional risk management, ecological systems, and expedition planning. • In the Gulch, Claudia and her staff are hard at work tinkering with spring rations. Always on the hunt for new sources of protein and healthful fat, they’re introducing a wider array of nuts and dairy. NOLS NORTHEAST • We ran two sections of our ever-popular Adirondack Backpacking - Prime course, designed for working adults and timed to the peak of fall foliage. • After the success of the inaugural Alumni Service Trip last July, the Northeast will offer the course again next summer, as it offers an important opportunity for NOLS to give back to the Adirondack Park. • Finally, Lindsay Yost reports, “We threw one hell of a 50th celebration in Lake Placid, with over 60 attendees. Donations were made on the spot, and instructors and students from the ‘60s and ‘70s came out of the woodwork to help us celebrate.”

this summer! Australia contains an amazing ecosystem with unique flora and fauna including pristine rainforest, ancient rock formations and beautiful beaches. • Since the installation of solar panels at NOLS Australia’s Broome headquarters, our base generates more electrical power than we use. • Our operating area in the Kimberley Region is a biologically diverse area with 76 native mammal, 295 bird, 178 reptile, 42 named frog and 2,000 plant species! NOLS ALASKA • Our new classroom and staging area nears completion. This new addition to our main building increases our course hosting capacity. • The multi-use, heated addition will be classroom and staging space for our first course, a Wilderness First Responder Recertification training in early May. NOLS SOUTHWEST

NOLS Southwest has a new trucker hat available. Kathleen Pelto

WSCU students learn the ins and outs of avalanche rescue techniques. Courtesy of NOLS Teton Valley

NOLS WILDERNESS MEDICINE INSTITUTE • Curriculum Director and icon Tod Schimelpfenig has worked with a translator to publish NOLS Wilderness Medicine in Spanish for the first time ever. We are excited to support Spanish WMI courses! • Gates Richards, Tod Schimelpfenig, and Shana Tarter co-authored a chapter on wilderness medicine education for the 7th edition of NOLS Wilderness Medicine edited by Paul Auerbach. • Electronic certification cards have arrived! WMI graduates will now receive certification cards digitally. This results in savings of 20,000 envelopes and countless hours of work each year. • The WMI SOAP Note app has been downloaded over 11,000 times since it launched one year ago.

• Our movement toward more earth-friendly transportation now includes three flex fuel vehicles, a gas/electric hybrid, and a bio-diesel bus. • Check out our new NOLS Southwest Trucker hat! [pictured above]

Lindsay Yost with Hamilton College students, all NOLS grads! Courtesy of Rebecca Hession

NOLS AUSTRALIA • We’re offering a new, three-week sea kayaking course in Western Australia’s Pilbara Region

NOLS TETON VALLEY • By winter’s end we will have had a record 104 students experience the thrill of backcountry ski camping with NOLS. We’re also focusing on the spring and summer. We’re busily preparing Sawyer’s Laminated Fir Oar Blades. Made from Douglas fir, ash and forged metal, these oars are a key part of rafting the Salmon River.

WMI’s SOAP Note Application. Courtesy of WMI

Spring 2016 27


Seth Bloomgarden was an avid traveler searching for his next adventure, and for this adventure he wanted to push his comfort zone. “I felt like NOLS would be a great test for me, to really sharpen my skills and know I’d feel comfortable in just about any environment.” He was an extensive traveler, but had mainly stayed in hotels and gone sightseeing. The challenge of a NOLS course drew him. He felt a wilderness experience would prove “that I could thrive in any kind of environment.” He chose a 1990 NOLS Semester in Africa course in Kenya. “I’ve taken on several leadership responsibilities over the years and so much of that has been highly influenced by my training at NOLS.” The semester course consisted of various sections— mountaineering, safari, backpacking and coastal travel, a variety that appealed to Bloomgarden. During the coastal section, Bloomgarden and his coursemates traveled by dhow boats. These boats are 45 feet long, open-cockpit and work vessels of the coast. They are rudimentary boats, lacking the modern block and tackle system, and Swahili sailors helped the students sail the boats. “Everybody would really pitch in to really pull sails,” Bloomgarden said. “If we were going through shallow areas, they’d take out long poles and would pole our way through the shallows to propel the boat forward.”


Communication was essential during the course; Bloomgarden and his coursemates spent time learning the basics of Swahili. By the end of the semester they learned the fundamentals of the language. This learning deepened the students’ appreciation of communicating across cultures. One of the experiences Bloomgarden appreciated the most was the opportunity for quiet reflection. He recalled, “I set off with nothing more than my day pack, with some very minimal essentials in it, and I ended up finding myself on this cliff overlooking the ocean.” At that moment, he felt totally content to sit and take in his surroundings. “And I said how can this be? Perfectly content sitting here—even if I had a million dollars in this backpack, I couldn’t spend it anyway. All I had to worry about all day long was coordinating my food, water and shelter.” He started scribbling all this in his journal, so he could remember the mental space he was in at that time. After coming down from the cliff, he drank coffee and chatted with one of his Kenyan friends. He ripped the page out of the journal and handed it to his friend. “I quickly scribbled my address on it and said ‘If you remember, will you send this to me in a year or two’s time?’” Bloomgarden thought nothing more of the letter, and continued his adventure on the semester course. After finishing the course he met his family in France—it was a completely different world. “It was all so unfamiliar, going from wearing the same pair of hiking shorts and the same boots and camp shoes for as long as I had—it was an awkward adjustment.” Coming off the NOLS course he felt like modern geographic obstacles didn’t exist—he was accustomed to climbing over or around anything in his way.




Bloomgarden realizes that his past NOLS course is relevant to his future. Courtesy of Seth Bloomgarden


reminder of just how valuable that experience had been and how relevant it still is today as we all get so caught up in our day-to-day lives.” He remembered the simple pleasures on his NOLS semester, and that happiness often comes from small things. “Sometimes it’s just about the simplicity and the simplest pleasures of reconnecting with the natural environment.” After reading the letter, he put it away with other mementos from his NOLS course. Rediscovering His Journal Many years later, Bloomgarden went to his parents’ house to clean out boxes he’d left in their basement. He expected the project to take a few hours; he didn’t expect to come across the box from his NOLS semester, containing the journal he kept on the course as well as the letter he sent to himself. Opening the box brought him right back to the place of mind he experienced on his course. He spent several hours rummaging through the objects and memories in the box. “To be able to have that journal, to look back on it … it’s the younger me reminding the older me of what’s really important in life.” More than twenty years later, his more mature self was looking back through his younger self’s eyes and really reconnecting with his semester experience. Life after NOLS

Top: Bloomgarden spends his free time paddleboarding on the ocean. Courtesy of Seth Bloomgarden Bottom: Posing with a group of paddle boards. Courtesy of Seth Bloomgarden

Getting the Letter After his course, Bloomgarden landed an office job in New York City and was feeling very removed from the wilderness. One day, a letter in his own handwriting arrived; he immediately recognized it as the page he wrote on his NOLS semester. He stopped working, shut his office door and took a moment to take in the message he’d written while in the backcountry. “Part of what I had written to myself was ‘if you ever get to the point in life where you feel you’re all caught up and things are spinning out of control—just remember that you can be back here at this place, right now with nothing and everything can be fine.’” It was a humbling moment in the chaos of his office life— to stop and remember the reflective time spent writing the letter as well as his NOLS semester. It reminded him of the impact of the experience. “Getting that message from myself, was another

Of the lessons he learned at NOLS, Bloomberg has incorporated the environmental awareness most into his life. Keeping with his love of the coast, he took the “environmental ethics learned on course and moved it into a marine and aquatic environment.” Bloomgarden developed a passion for paddleboarding and has led paddling tours from New York to South Florida. Along with his career, “I’ve got my environmental side, the outdoor side, which keeps me grounded.” Today, Bloomgarden is on the executive committee and board of directors of the Miami Surfrider Foundation. The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting surf environments on oceans and beaches. The Miami chapter of Surfriders is one of the most active in the organization. Bloomgarden feels that his time on his course sparked this love of the outdoors and the environment. Looking back on his semester, he said, “that was an experience not many other people have, and how fortunate and valuable it was to be able to have it as a young person.” Although life has taken Bloomgarden away from the backcountry, he feels fortunate to carry forward both the environmental and leadership lessons he learned at NOLS. Spring 2016 29


Greta Mills climbing in Frey, Argentina. Erin Browning



Greta Mills started to rock climb at age 14, and she’s been playing outside ever since. From planning her dream expedition to ski traverse the Sierras or strategizing how to make the best silnylon rain skirt, she dives into all aspects of the outdoors thoughtfully and joyfully, and brings the same joy to her students. Climbing was Mills’ entry point to the outdoors. The sport let her enjoy spending time with friends while taking on real responsibility and independence, a unique opportunity for a high schooler. Her love for the outdoors carried through college as she worked for her university’s outdoor program, then Outward Bound. She came to NOLS after an ongoing debate with her partner, a NOLS instructor, as they each tried to convince the other to start working for their respective organizations. Eventually, the pull of extended wilderness expeditions and the emphasis on leadership development brought Mills to NOLS, and she completed the Instructor Course in 2009. Since then, Mills has worked to create studentcentered courses as a climbing and hiking instructor. In a way that’s characteristic of folks who teach in the outdoors, when Mills talks about what draws her to climbing, she doesn’t mention the highest grade she’s climbed, or the sense of empowerment of overcoming the challenge; she said, “usually it teaches me all the lessons about being more humble … if I’m struggling, I realize that I feel like I’m entitled to be good at this, and


you’re not entitled to anything. You have to work hard at things and accept how they are.” Similarly, she’s not the type of educator who wants her students to think of her as the highest authority or parrot everything she says. Instead, she finds out what excites them and nurtures that excitement. As soon as she starts talking about students, the energy in her voice rises and it’s easy to hear how genuinely she wants them to grow and succeed. She said, “it feels like a total privilege to … give the people what they want,” whether that’s learning how to lead climb or to name the birds flitting around the climbing camp. This personal and personcentered teaching style feeds into an overall group environment that creates “the opportunity [for students] to have been their best self on their NOLS course,” said Mills. She recognizes that students come to the backcountry with their own goals, emotional baggage, insecurities and dreams. Drawing on four years of studying sociology, she works to meet students where they are in relation to the backcountry, the group, and the places from which they come. Though it’s preferable to imagine that the backcountry is a neutral space and a NOLS course enables students to build their own culture afresh, as Mills said, “We’re bringing all of our baggage with us.” That awareness helps Mills teach conflict resolution and topics on diversity and inclusion, situating apparently individualized conflicts in relation to the culture and context a person might be coming from. For Mills, having this context empowers her as an educator. With a heightened awareness for her students and her passion for climbing and the outdoors, she makes it easy to remember what most NOLS instructors strive for: that it’s all about the students.


I had the opportunity to go on my first NOLS expedition in July of 2015 in Southeast Alaska. Before the expedition, I thought Alaska was a nice, sunny place. It became worrisome when I saw the sky day after day stay completely gray; apparently, southeast Alaska is a temperate rainforest. I intended to learn and develop alongside my fellow students and photograph the expedition to share our story. I soaked it all in. Halfway through the expedition I was telling scary stories at midnight in the tent. I finished, went outside, and saw something I will


never forget: a sky filled with glowing, dancing lights. I grabbed my camera, made a makeshift rock tripod, and began shooting ‌ Follow Kedyn Sierra on Instagram: kedynsierra. Find NOLS on Instagram: If you tag us with #nols, we might share your course photos on the NOLS Instagram page!


Kedyn Sierra Photographer, Filmmaker for Guayaki / Deuter / Mountain Khakis / Klean Kanteen, Icebreaker / SOG and more 306 posts


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Spring 2016


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Donate. “I can honestly say my NOLS course taught me how wonderful life is. I believe I learned how to make myself happy. Away from technology, social norms, and societal restrictions I felt free, and excited for life at all times. That is a feeling that I will never forget and one that I will continue to strive for throughout my life. I felt happiness, in the truest most wholesome form on my trip. I truly believe that my NOLS course was the turning point in my life, and I emerged from it a better person in every way.” Simon Morrison Fall Semester in the Southwest ‘13

Eryn Pierce

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The Leader - Spring 2016  

The Leader is a magazine for alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a nonprofit school focusing on wilderness skills, lead...

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