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For Alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School Summer 2014 • Vol. 29 No. 3


From the Director

WE HAVE BEEN DOING A LOT OF LOOKING AHEAD LATELY. A S WE EMBARK ON A NEW strategic plan, which we developed over the past year, we look ahead to exciting new things. This issue of The Leader is chalk-full of exciting announcements. These new developments and long-term plan come at a time when we’re also reflecting. NOLS has been around for nearly 50 years now, and our imminent anniversary next summer has us turning one eye to where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished in our time learning in the mountains. This issue of The Leader illustrates that dual focus we find ourselves in this year. You can get an introduction to the NOLS Strategic Plan: Vision 2020 on page 14 and preview the many new course types we’re adding in 2014 and 2015 on page 10. This is an exciting and inspiring time for the school, and I’m optimistic about our continued excellence over the next seven years, as well as the next 50. In this issue, you’ll find stories that demonstrate how looking back can inspire, improve, and inform our futures. On page 5, you’ll find an insightful reflection by a new mother and NOLS graduate. I always enjoy hearing about how one’s NOLS experience plays a role in parenting. But NOLS experiences also beget NOLS experiences; our youngest location is in the Northeast, but this isn’t the first time we’ve been back East. The NOLS East branch paved the way in the early 1970s, something NOLS Northeast Program Manager Lindsay Yost explores in her entertaining feature on page 12. Both new classrooms and those classrooms that have been changing students’ lives for 49 years need to be protected. This year, marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. This is a significant celebration at NOLS; I invite you to learn more about the Act and its enduring effect on NOLS and our students on page 6. After that, I encourage you to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, wherever you may be, and reflect on where your past, including NOLS, took you and where you intend to go in your next seven years. I hope it includes plenty of open skies and adventures!

John Gans, NOLS Executive Director

Leader Editor Casey Adams Designer Alisha Bube Alumni Relations Director Rich Brame NOLS Executive Director John Gans Creative Director Brad Christensen Art Director Samantha Pede Editorial Board Larkin Flora Bruce Palmer Pip Coe Melissa Hemken

July 2014 • Volume 29 • No.3 Published three times a year in March, July, 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 30 percent post-consumer-recycled content. A paperless version of The Leader is available online at





5 FIELD NOTES: Parenting as a NOLSie


6 ISSUE ROOM: Happy Birthday …

NEW NOLS COURSES We’re introducing all sorts of new courses. Read about new offerings around the world.

7 WILD SIDE OF MEDICINE: Your theory is all wet 8 ALUMNI PROFILE: At the core of education 9 ALUMNI PROFILE: Leaving a legacy


20 ALUMNI TRIPS: Return to the backcountry, and bring a friend 21 REVIEWS: Rivers and poems

Artist: Walter Cumming

22 GEAR ROOM: Have a seat 24 RECIPE BOX: One pot. One treat.

WHO IS THIS? 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 The answer to last issue’s “Who Is This” is longtime NOLS instructor Doug Lowry.

GOING HOME: NOLS BACK EAST Then and now: A look at NOLS East in the 1970s and NOLS Northeast today.


25 JABBERWOCKY: Catch up on your coursemates’ lives 26 SUSTAINABILITY: Summer sunshine

VISION 2020: A PERSONAL LOOK AT THE NOLS STRATEGIC PLAN NOLS transitioned from the previous strategic plan to a new one this year. Learn more about what will guide us over the next seven years.

27 SCHOOL NOTES: Miss your home base? Catch up! 28 INSTRUCTOR PROFILE: Ariel Greene 29 BELAY OFF: Two worlds? 31 TRAVERSES: The mountaineers


COVER: LEARNING TO LEAD BEYOND THE CRAG One NOLS grad plays a key role in the birth of a climbing community in Myanmar.


JIM MARGOLIS Feature, pg 10

LINDSAY YOST Feature, pg 13

MOLLY LOOMIS Cover Feature, pg 16

JASON BREMILLER Belay Off, pg 29

CALEB HARRISON Traverses, pg 30

Margolis instructs rock climbing, mountaineering, and skiing courses for NOLS. He was a Summer Semester in the Rockies student in 2003, at the suggestion of his father, a 1974 Fall Semester student. He took an instructor course in 2009 and began working for NOLS in June 2010.

An instructor since 2008, Lindsay has worked at a number of NOLS locations around the world. She’s an accomplished hiker and skier and now heads up NOLS’ programs in the Adirondacks.

Beginning in 2001, Loomis spent many years working her way around the world as a NOLS instructor. Currently she splits her time as a National Park Service Climbing Ranger and a freelance writer. Follow her at for articles on adventures like her recent expedition with a crew of NOLS alumni to tackle a Himalayan first ascent in Northern Myanmar.

BreMiller lives in New Hampshire where he teaches English, coaches hockey, and leads outdoor trips at Phillips Exeter Academy. He recently reactivated his NOLS field instructor status and hopes to spend more time outdoors watching his students fall in love with wild places.

Harrison is a two-time graduate of NOLS. His latest expedition took him to the Homathko Ice Field in British Columbia. He is currently working on several conservation and environmental education projects in Alamosa, Colorado. Harrison has called Fort Collins, Colorado, his home for the past seven years.

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What do you think? Join the conversation.


Send your feedback or conversation starters to, post it to Facebook, tweet it (@NOLSedu), or give us at call at 800-710-6657 ext 2254. Find back issues online at


For Alumni of the National Outdoor Leadership School Spring 2013 • Vol. 28 No. 2

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Leader Survey Have you filled out the online survey about The Leader? Find it at and add your responses to ideas like these: We asked: Other ideas for The Leader ? You said: "Photos and stories from NOLS reunion events?" "THE LEADER IS GREAT" "A spotlight of some 'behind the scenes' person who works at Headquarters would be cool!"



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WILDERNESS QUIZ What are the Marlborough Sounds? Where are they, and why are they such a special and important place? Answer on page 25.

Field Notes


IT WAS MY DAY TO LEAD THE CANOE portion on the Drysdale River during my Semester in Australia. There was a late rainy season that year, which meant fast and high water levels for most of the 40 days on the river. As a novice paddler, I was not prepared for the maze of strainers so dense you couldn’t see the end. I choked. I couldn’t see a line. The instructors had to take over. I was crushed, and my mistake nagged me for the rest of the trip. But the trip went on. This is the ultimate lesson in parenting. You are not in control. You will make mistakes, and will find a way to continue. Failing can be the best lesson, and that is the beauty of NOLS. You feel your failures acutely, but for the most part safely. My struggles at NOLS motivated me. I was fortunate to find a career in adventure education, leading and eventually supervising at-risk youth backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail. When I took up the role of mama two years ago, I thought I was taking a hiatus from adventure education. I never expected that I would reflect on my NOLS experience as much as I do. The awareness that we are not in control doesn’t mean we can’t be prepared. Below are a few of my favorite NOLS-inspired tips to parenting. 1. Pack Your Diaper Bag Like a Backpack Our instructor taught us to embrace the small drawstring pouch. It goes against the lightweight movement, but having things in separate bags helps organization. The smaller a child is, it seems, the more accessories she requires. You will live out of that bag. I had a small bag for her toiletries, one for extra clothes, and a bag for a few toys. Only diapers were loose. Bonus: burying your own poop makes you a diaper-changing champ! 2. Kids Love Meals from the Cookery Whatever diet you follow, it seems that

Rebecca’s daughter blows bubbles on the beach. Rebecca recommends paying attention to what interests your kids in the great outdoors. Rebecca Whigham

5. Spend Lots of Time Outside I am preaching to the choir here, but get outside as much as possible. Get just enough gear to make it comfortable. Do what you love and pay attention to what interests your child and get involved. It’s not the same intensity, but at two, 3. When in Doubt, Smoke that my daughter hikes, fishes, gardens, and Proverbial Cigarette boats. We also fly kites and bird watch You will get lost in those strainers of par- because she loves it. enthood and feel overwhelmed. The trick is to recognize and STOP. Sometimes 6. Less is More, Unless it is Time. that means locking yourself in the bath- This was the most transferable lesson room for a few moments to collect your- to my frontcountry life. We don’t need self, and I recommend chocolate over the much, and excess can actually make us cigarette. Once you’ve regained compo- unhappy. Entering parenthood requires sure, the best re-entry is a long hug. fighting a new wave of stuff; our job is to filter. I notice when clutter creeps in, 4. When STILL in Doubt, Take her behavior declines. After all, a playing that Screaming Body Outside parent is the best toy of all. I haven’t parented long, but I worked One of my favorite things about with struggling kids for nearly a decade. NOLS was the slower pace. After the It is universal that children (and their physical activity of the day, we had ample grownups) are happier outside. If I find time to spend in community. If we keep myself becoming frustrated, that is my our family schedules simple, we can decue to get outside quickly. When my vote the afternoon to hiking or a frontdaughter was an infant crying without country equivalent and appreciate each pause, going out into the night air was other and the world around us. often the only thing that worked, and it still works today. kids like carbs, the backbone of NOLS eating. Getting kids involved in the adventure of cooking really helps to fight picky eating. I guarantee meals in the “NOLS Cookery,” whether prepared front or backcountry, will be a hit!

Summer 2014


Issue Room


after all the wilderness laws are passed, there will still only be one way to insure preservation, and that is through the education of users in the techniques, skills, and methods that will enable them to enjoy and still conserve." As Petzoldt’s quotation asserts, Wilderness has long been a deeply held value for members of the NOLS community, and the school has made strides on many occasions to “enjoy and still conserve” by improving Wilderness stewardship and by advocating for new Wilderness designations. This year is no exception, and there are many opportunities to celebrate the Wilderness 50th with NOLS.

Lindsay Yost’s scenic photo of Indian paintbrush next to an alpine lake in the Wind River Mountains took home the top prize at the NOLS Faculty Summit Wilderness photo contest. Lindsay Yost



FIFTY YEARS AGO, THE UNITED STATES passed the pivotal legislation known as the Wilderness Act of 1964. Since its passage, Congress has designated 758 different Wilderness areas, accounting for 106 million acres of Wilderness in the United States. The Act preserved swaths of land across the country as they were, simply on the basis of their merit as intact wild places. While the law's passage laid out a specific set of guidelines for how folks might visit these Wilderness areas, it simultaneously established a system of backcountry playgrounds that recreational users continue to enjoy today. Wilderness areas make ideal NOLS classrooms. Because of the priority placed on non-motorized, non-mechanized travel and the absence of industrial development, nature is dominant and situations and their consequences are real. Living in these conditions, away from the distractions of modern civilization, fosters self-reliance, judgment, respect, and a sense of responsibility for our actions.


It can also be a profoundly moving experience that leads to inspiration, and commitment to an environmental ethic. When the architects of the Act were putting the legislation together, they drew on the national land ethic that was coalescing at the time. Americans were developing a collective voice for conservation, preservation, and recreation. This voice is reflected in the Act: “...wilderness areas shall be devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use.” It’s no coincidence that this rising tide of awareness of the importance of wild places also gave momentum to outdoor schools like NOLS and Outward Bound, both established in America in the 1960s. Outdoor education has been fulfilling the mission of designated Wilderness ever since. In the preface for The Wilderness Handbook (1974), Paul Petzoldt wrote: "Perhaps our most important purpose is to teach practical conservation. Even

Faculty Summit Photo Contest At the Faculty Summit in early May, many instructors participated in a Wilderness photo contest, and the winners were announced at a reception sponsored by the NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Department. Lindsay Yost’s scenic photo of Indian paintbrush next to an alpine lake in the Wind River Mountains took home the top prize. Thank you to Custom Canvas Prints in Salt Lake City for furnishing the gift certificates for this contest! Community Wilderness Celebrations NOLS locations around the country, including NOLS Alaska, Rocky Mountain, Southwest, and Teton Valley are collaborating with other groups and institutions in their communities to plan celebrations this year. Contact for more information. National Wilderness Conference Representatives from NOLS will attend the National Wilderness Conference this October in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Check out for more information on attending this conference, and to find out about events in your corner of the country.

Wild Side of Medicine


THERE WAS ONCE A TIME WHEN WE DIDN’T worry about wilderness water quality. We drank anything flowing clear and cold without disinfecting and worried only about dark, murky water in the foothills. These halcyon days ended when a tale circulated of backpackers in Utah who became ill with “beaver fever” caused by Giardia. The story was founded in an article in a medical journal, making it hard to ignore. We adventurers argued, but resistance was futile. Physician and outdoor educator Thomas Welch wrote an editorial on water disinfection in the Journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine in 2004. In it, he points out that this classic 1976 Utah incident of backpackers experiencing diarrhea from Giardia, which brought this protozoa to the public’s attention and probably sparked the water disinfection era, looks in hindsight like a hygiene, not a water disinfection problem. Other groups using the same area (including two NOLS courses that

Today it’s good practice to not only find clear, flowing water in the backcountry, but to filter it in some way before drinking it. Tracy Baynes, STEP

Once upon a time, we drank any water flowing, clear, and cold without feeling the need to disinfect. Alisha Bube

I led that summer) didn’t get sick. Cysts could not be isolated from the water, the patients all became ill at the same time, and with a short incubation period, there is a strong argument that this event was not a waterborne protozoa illness. Giardia’s reputation is enhanced by an association bias. People go camping, get diarrhea, and assume the source was the water and the illness is “beaver fever.” This perception is encouraged when a diagnosis of Giardia is based on a history that includes a recent camping trip. The patient leaves believing he or she may have Giardia, when in fact there is often no proof. A person may leave a doctor’s office thinking he or she became ill from the water they drank when the cause of the illness may have been hand-to-mouth transmission. The public needs a lecture about hand washing, along with advice to be more diligent with water disinfection. Do we need to disinfect all wilderness water? We really don’t know. Despite

all the trail-head warnings, rhetoric, and water treatment product information, scientific evidence about the relationship between drinking untreated surface water in North American wilderness and intestinal illness is scant. There is still much we could learn about wilderness water quality and how it may vary by season, mountain range, soil, and other variables. The decision to disinfect water remains a balance between the risk of illness and consequences to our health, and the benefits and risks of the various water disinfection products. Someday we may have the science to give us a better sense of when we need to disinfect water. Until then, routine water disinfection has low health risks and is prudent. And hygiene, especially hand washing, is vital for avoiding illness on a wilderness trip. Welch, TR. Evidence-based medicine in the wilderness: The Safety of Backcountry Water. 2004. Wilderness Environ Med. 15:235-237.

WILDERNESS MEDICINE QUIZ WILDERNESS WATER IS SAFE TO DRINK IF IT: A. is clear and cold. C. has been disinfected. B. flows from an alpine area. D. is from an area free of beavers. Answer on page 26.

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Alumni Profile


WHILE DESCENDING FROM GANNETT PEAK in 1987, Laura McGiffert Slover took a big fall in a boulder field. One of the Wind River Mountaineering course’s instructors, Steve Goryl, assessed the situation and carried Slover down the rest of the mountain in a split coil carry. The 19-year-old was in pain, but not seriously injured. Determined to finish her course, Goryl advised her to “grin and bear it” and, if needed, ask for help. It was her first lesson in resilience, and it would carry her far. “NOLS GAVE ME THE CONFIDENCE AND DETERMINATION TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE WILDERNESS WHEN I ONLY SORT OF KNEW WHERE I WAS GOING. LAUNCHING AN ORGANIZATION IS VERY MUCH LIKE THAT.”



Twenty-six years later, in the fall of 2013, Slover was named CEO of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). As the leader and co-founder of her nonprofit organization, Slover works with policy makers and educators to develop nextgeneration testing in math and literacy. The native Washingtonian’s career path in education policy has wound from English teacher and coach, to president of the D.C. State Board of Education, to senior vice president of Achieve—a bipartisan education reform organization—and finally to PARCC. But her career as an educator really began at a less traditional trailhead: NOLS. Slover grew up hiking on the trails in Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island, Maine. When the opportunity arose for her to go on a weeklong backpacking trip through Harvard’s Freshman


Outdoor Program in 1986, she jumped at the chance. Hooked and wanting more wilderness education, she signed up for her first NOLS course in the Wind Rivers that next summer. Nine years later, Slover found herself back in Wyoming for an instructor course. Today, she uses her lessons of leadership and resilience at PARCC. “NOLS gave me the confidence and determination to lead others into the wilderness when I only sort of knew where I was going. Launching an organization is very much like that,” Slover explained, “Except in my current role I don’t have a 'crumpled up' map!” As a trailblazer in education reform, Slover has been aided by the concept of situational leadership. Sometimes it’s important to lead from the front, other times it is better to lead from behind. On her instructor course, Slover and a few comrades bombed giving a rock-climbing lesson to the group. Realizing they missed the mark with their audience, they retooled the presentation successfully. "So much of what I do is about communicating the right information to the right people at the right time,” Slover said of how NOLS helped her learn to tailor the message to the audience. “Starting with ‘On belay? Belay on!’ NOLS taught me that communication is only successful if the message is actually heard.” NOLS not only taught Slover leadership and communication, it also helped inform her educational philosophy. Slover wants to see more of this type of experiential education in our public schools, having teachers show, rather than tell. “Kids have all sorts of learning styles, and educators should do whatever it takes to help each one.”

Slover helped to develop the Common Core Standards that have been adopted by nearly all 50 states and that lay out expectations for what students need to know each year and by the time they graduate. With the Common Core, there are overarching goals (the what) but flexibility on the approaches (the how). Each classroom teacher determines the approach to get students where they need to be. In that sense, it is like NOLS— there are important key concepts, but each expedition is unique. Like Goryl on Gannet Peak, these lessons have carried Slover far, and she wishes everyone could experience NOLS. “NOLS teaches students to take on more than they think they can handle, push themselves, never give up, and celebrate success at the end of each day,” she added, “preferably with hot chocolate topped with cheddar cheese.”

Slover sees a connection between the NOLS education model and the potential of Common Core.

Alumni Profile



PARALLELS AND EXPONENTIAL IMPACT. Luis DeLeon is an English teacher, not a math teacher, but his life has some geometry that just can’t be missed. The summer after 10th grade, DeLeon took a NOLS course in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. “When I first felt something was when we stepped into the woods,” DeLeon said. But after a few days, he was terribly homesick. He shares both the excitement and the fear with his students at the same high school today. “I tell my students now that I thought if I got hurt or broke a leg I could be airlifted out and go home. I wasn’t really hoping for that,” he clarified, “but in some ways …” He continues: “I kind of realized there were 11 other students in that same situation with me. They all left their homes to experience this. Us together.” Like many NOLS grads, DeLeon finds it difficult to identify any single highlight of his course. He rattles off details of deep and enduring friendships, discovering he could make tortillas like his mom did at home, finding his strength climbing over a steep mountain pass, and breathtaking vistas. “The stars. I didn’t know skies could look like that,” he reflected. Now, almost a decade later, he’s back at his alma mater, YES Prep Public School system, teaching English and encouraging high school students to leave their familiar territory of concrete and streetlights for the same experience. And one of those dear friends made in the mountains of Wyoming has also become a YES Prep educator. YES Prep Public School provides students from underserved communities with high-quality education that prepares them for success in college, to compete in the global marketplace, and to give back to their communities.

Luis DeLeon carries high moments like this from his NOLS course with him and encourages his students to pursue similar experiences today.

“Our students are currently graduating from college at four times the rate of their peers. Today, serving 8,000 students throughout Houston, YES Prep is living proof that different outcomes are possible when students from low-income communities are given access to high-quality educational opportunities,” the YES Prep website states. Part of that education is summer opportunities; DeLeon chose NOLS and he encourages his students to do the same. “I wrote my personal statement for college about NOLS,” DeLeon recalled. “For the first time in my life, I felt like the world was suddenly expanded. That was probably the biggest gift that I got out of the experience: knowing the world is so vast and there are so many possibilities.” His course in the Wind River Mountains was the first time DeLeon found himself surrounded by people who were not like him and learned how to communicate with people with different perspectives; this experience of stepping outside of a school comprised of 98 percent Hispanic students prepared him for college as well. DeLeon went on to graduate from YES

Prep Houston, complete college, and return to teach at a different YES Prep campus—there are 13. The same person runs the summer opportunities program for all the schools as when he was enrolled, and now he works with her, traveling to the various campuses to give young people insight into what a few weeks with NOLS could be like for them. “I’m honest with them—I tell them I got homesick and tired, but also how I learned from it and became a better person, how it helped me through college,” DeLeon noted. And each year, a few students head off on NOLS expeditions on scholarship through the NOLS Gateway Partnership. As students prepare for their NOLS courses, DeLeon makes himself available to them, even surprising them with essential gear like wool socks. “I always look at NOLS as that first pivotal point when I realized more things were possible in my life,” DeLeon recalled. “It’s led me to everywhere else I’ve been afterward. I try to do that with my students; I try to insert it in lessons whenever I can.”

Summer 2014







Opposite: The cultural aspect of NOLS courses in India will be the focus of a new course in the area. Cass Colman Top Left: The new course in the Southwest is a base camping format, which will allow for maximum time on the rocks. Jared Steinman Top Right: Students interested in a semester experience can get one in a condensed format at a corresponding price on the new Pacific Northwest Spring Quarter.Willy Oppenheim

STARTING IN THE FALL OF 2014, NOLS WILL INTRODUCE FIVE NEW FIELD courses. Innovation with courses has always been central to NOLS’ operations, according to former instructor Bruce Hampton, who started at NOLS in 1972. “Back then … no one did any marketing surveys or much prior investigating …, other than it just seemed like a good idea and we wanted to be there!” Hampton recalled. “Once, I scouted in southwest Alaska just prior to the start of the course, and my pilot forgot to pick me up. I almost didn't get back in time to meet our incoming students. We had no idea where we were going or what to expect, but at least the pilot didn't forget … to pick us up!” Rest assured, this year’s new offerings have been thoroughly scouted and planned, spending up to a year in a committee approval process. A theme among them is a focus on one or two skills from popular sections of existing courses. SOUTHWEST ROCK CLIMBING NOLS Southwest is introducing a 16-day course in Cochise Stronghold, Arizona. The course will be run in January, designed to attract “J-term” college students. The front-country, car camping format will allow students to maximize their time climbing and learning technical skills like rappelling, anchor building, and traditional lead climbing. HIMALAYA CULTURAL EXPEDITION NOLS India has isolated the popular cultural section of its semester courses to create this expedition. It will run from mid-April to midMay and include an 18-day backpacking section and an eight-day homestay. Hindi will be taught throughout the course. The selfsustained backpacking section will contain the traditional NOLS curriculum with an in-depth focus on local environmental studies, from both scientific and sociopolitical perspectives. The homestay section will give students the chance to use their newly acquired Hindi skills and learn a local trade (such as weaving, knitting, or cooking) while living and eating with a local family. PACIFIC NORTHWEST SPRING QUARTER This new course at NOLS Pacific Northwest exemplifies “less is more.” This 65-day expedition sea kayaks in British Columbia, provides a two-day Wilderness First Aid certification, glacier mountaineers in the North Cascades, and culminates with a five-day independent student

expedition. Starting in April, it is designed to fit into the West Coast quarter system. Trimmed to the core NOLS experience, this course prioritizes extended time in wilderness with a focus on leadership for a similar cost as a quarter at a state university. SALMON RIVER RAFTING — ADVENTURE AND PRIME NOLS Teton Valley now offers two new summertime rafting courses, a two-week adventure course for 14–15 year olds and an eight-day prime course for ages 23 and over. Students will learn the skill of raft guiding on the Main Fork of the Salmon, which is one of the longest rivers without a dam in the United States. The prime course will be run during high water, making it a technical section emphasizing paddling and rescue skills. The adventure course will coincide with lower water, making it an ideal classroom for new boaters. Highlights will include camping on beautiful sandy beaches and a riverside natural hot springs. ADIRONDACK BACKPACKING — PRIME NOLS’ newest location, NOLS Northeast, has added a course for ages 23 and over. Scheduled for late September in the Adirondacks, this course is designed with working adults in mind, condensing the classic NOLS experience into nine days. Highlights include spectacular fall foliage and opportunities to climb “46ers,” peaks over 4,000 feet in the premier wilderness in the Northeastern U.S. “This is the largest number of new offerings we have had in a single year,” noted Associate Director of Admissions Joe Austin. “The ideal new course brings us not just new students, but students that wouldn’t otherwise enroll, instead of stealing from ourselves.” Such a course has a “new place, new skill, new time of year, new length of time, and all of these courses have those things,” he concluded.

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FOR MANY, THE A DIRONDACKS ARE A PLACE WHERE THEY FIRST experienced a deep connection with exploration and wilderness; it is where they learned to climb, paddle, backpack, or ice climb. It is a nostalgic place with old, dense forests that has fostered many a bond with wild places. This prior connection and sense of exploration in the East is also true of NOLS’ history. In 1970 and 1971, NOLS offered courses exploring some of the very same places NOLS Northeast students travel today. Bill Garrison, then director of NOLS East, loaded up the split-shift “NOLS West” hand-me-down trucks and drove east. Operations were based out of the Horace Mann School John Dorr Nature Center in Washington, Connecticut. Here, NOLS East students spent the first few days of a course learning skills such as canoeing, rock climbing, firearm use, preparation of small fowl and animals, chainsaw use, and ecology. However, what is less known about these courses is that they were a road show, of sorts, traveling through some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the Eastern United States: the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Baxter State Park in Maine, Vermont’s Lake Champlain, the Miramichi River in New Brunswick, Canada, and the Adirondack Park in New York. Courses linked together these idyllic wilderness classrooms and created a classic NOLS experience. Paula Hunker was a NOLS East student in 1970 and was hired as an instructor right off her course. She instructed NOLS East courses with fellow NOLS instructor Mary Jo Newbury. “Our course was like a mini semester, long before they started the semester programs in Lander,” said Newbury. “We had different skills that we wanted to teach, so we had to move to hit on those skill sets,” Hunker said with a huge smile and laugh. “We had so much fun—we were on the loose!” “Those were very different times,” she continued, as her eyes sparkled and she seemed to drift back to the early 1970s. She shared stories of rigging the war canoe with a Grumman canoe sail and of paddling it to race the ferryboat across Lake Champlain. Boots weighed 10 pounds, zip-bags were strapped onto Kelty frame packs, wool pants and double sweaters were standard issue, and dinner consisted of

Billycans over a fire. Students climbed the Knife Edge of Mt. Katahdin, paddled the white water of Webster Brook, rock climbed in the Shawangunk Mountains, and had many other adventures in between. “It was very different than 30 days of a NOLS experience typical of the West, but in some ways more real; we had to transition through towns and interact with people,” Hunker reflected. She remarked how transferable and timeless the NOLS model is, “The friendships, the leadership, all these things [were] the same as they are today.” In 2011, NOLS Northeast opened in the Adirondack Park and continued to test the NOLS model. Over the past three summers, the new/returning NOLS location has hosted 13 Adventure courses, all two- week expeditions for 14 and 15-year-old students. The majority of NOLS Northeast students come from the eastern United States to explore wilderness close to their own backyards. Their experiences remain true to the school’s core: life changing, empowering, and rooted in wilderness. This year marks the fourth summer of NOLS Northeast and will feature 11 courses: the 21-day Adirondack Backpacking and Canoeing Adventure, the two-week Adirondack Backpacking Adventure, and a new nine-day Adirondack Backpacking—Prime course for students ages 23 and over. It is an exciting time for NOLS to be in the Northeast. Over 6 million acres of sparkling waterways, boreal forests, and over 100 mountain summits make up the Adirondack Park in upstate New York. “I’m glad you are going back there, it is a great niche for NOLS,” Hunker said. It is truly a place where reputation preceded and NOLS has been welcomed with open arms. In fact, many NOLS supporters ask, “What took you so long?”

Opposite top left: Instructor Paula Hunker. Photo courtesy of Paula Hunker. Opposite top right: Paddling on Lake Champlain. Photo courtesy of Paula Hunker. Opposite bottom: Mock rescue on Mount Katahdin. Photo courtesy of Marc Johnson. Left: The views have changed little over the years. Lindsay Yost Right: Students on a recent course paddle the Northeast. Jen Sall

Summer 2014





WHAT KIND OF WORLD WILL WE LIVE IN AT THE END OF this decade? All signs point to a different landscape, both culturally and environmentally, when the year 2020 rolls around. America is becoming more diverse, and we are beginning to face some hard environmental truths. As individuals, it is important to ask how will we respond and adapt to a changing world. As an organization, NOLS has already asked these tough questions and is preparing for the future. In 2013, the school completed its previous five year strategic plan. By all metrics, we achieved our objectives and learned a lot along the way. We learned that with focus we are not only able achieve our goals, but far exceed them.


As 2013 wound to an end, the process of writing out a new plan also concluded. The process was slow and methodical, but every voice—from board members to new instructors—was heard. Five goals emerged: Alumni Engagement NOLS alumni are a group of passionate outdoors people and trained leaders. Our belief is that the NOLS experience should not end with the issuance of a diploma, but should be lifelong. To achieve an enduring NOLS connection, we will expand our alumni course offerings, increase non-U.S. alumni engagement, and keep alumni more involved with NOLS through social media outlets. One opportunity to re-engage alumni like you is the 50th anniversary celebration in 2015—keep an eye out for details.

Extend NOLS’ Influence with Improved Marketing The field of outdoor education has grown rapidly over the last several decades. Now, students have a plethora of choices for summer programs and semesters abroad. With increased competition, NOLS has to step up its marketing and outreach. NOLS still stands on its own as the leader in outdoor education, yet it will no longer suffice to rely on our reputation to advertise for itself; we will engage in a wide range of marketing efforts. Exceptional Student Experiences NOLS is ever striving to provide the best possible educational experience for our students. At the root of outstanding student experiences are well-researched and vetted curricula, and well-trained and passionate instructors. To those ends, NOLS will publish three curriculum books a year, make our curriculum relevant to a diverse student population, conduct a minimum of 12 research projects by 2020, and refine support systems for our programming. Planning for the Dynamic Outdoor Classroom The world as we know it is changing, and NOLS intends to stay ahead of that change. Our belief that wilderness experiences have profound effects on people’s lives is the driving force behind what we do. It is our job to take people to wild places so they may experience the grandeur of the wilderness and develop a lifelong appreciation. To

continue using the backcountry as our classroom we must anticipate and react to environmental, regulatory, and access changes. Services and Systems Optimization Since the founding of NOLS in 1965 the school has enjoyed steady, and at times, banner growth. With growth comes the challenge of integrating systems and guarding against unnecessary duplication of efforts. In the next six years, NOLS will streamline our operations to be more efficient operationally and financially by internally auditing our organizational structure, upgrading technology, and remaining fiscally sound. With the above five goals in place, NOLS faculty and staff are motivated to make the next seven years the best in the school’s existence. As we venture into the future, NOLS will be lean, nimble, and relevant. We believe in the importance of what we do, and our plan is to share that belief with as many people as we can in the next several years and change more than a few lives for the better along the way.

Summer 2014


Learning to Lead Beyond the Crag





STEVEN DAVIS AND THE OTHER CLIMBERS HE’S SHARING THE MONASTERY’S small room with wake early—the monks’ chanting, the pagoda’s bells, and the hoot of monkeys serving as an alarm clock. From their perch high on the hillside, Central Myanmar’s Shan Hills spread out in front of them before sloping away into the Irrawaddy Delta. On their way to the crag, the crew stops at a teashop for breakfast and places their lunch order for chicken and greens collected from the jungle. The dozen or so local climbers have gotten to the point where they can safely set their own top ropes, and Davis and his partner Erin Whittig rest in the shadows, coaching as needed. Motorcyclists and villagers walking to the market in Mandalay stop to survey the spectacle. When it gets too hot, the climbers return to the shade of the teashop, rehydrate on fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice and rest in the monastery until things cool off again and they can climb some more. Flash back 10 years to a paradigm about as different as possible— the snowy, ordered, cold environs of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota where Davis, as assistant dean of students, worked advising the school’s outdoor club. Intrigued with using the challenges of outdoor recreation to teach leadership and self-discovery, Davis was curious about making a career switch from books to a backpack. It was NOLS’s blend of hard skills and education that won him over and motivated Davis to pack up for a 30-day Pacific Northwest Outdoor Educator course in 2004, despite the fact that enrolling in an instructional course, instead of a Caribbean cruise or skiing in Vail, was “not the obvious choice for a 45-year-old.” “I could have gone to any number of schools to learn how to trad climb, but NOLS had unique value for me,” said Davis, who has a Ph.D. and Master’s in English from Yale and taught at both Carleton and Drake University. “It is the only course of its type that focuses on experiential education, hard skills, and the pedagogy of outdoor education.” Smitten with his time in the field, Davis headed out to Lander, Wyoming later that summer, moving into NOLS Alumni and Development Director Pip Coe’s rental apartment and interning at NOLS Rocky Mountain. In the fall of 2008, Davis moved to Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, to begin a one-year stint as a United States’ Department of State English Language Fellow developing curriculum for the State Department’s local teaching center along with other relevant education and advocacy projects. But bitten by the climbing bug, Davis was determined to continue climbing while in Myanmar even though he couldn’t find evidence of any established areas. “I’m an optimist. If it was there I was going to find it,” he said. Eventually Davis connected with a person in Mandalay involved with the Myanmar Hiking and Mountaineering Federation (MHMF), and as his one-year position evolved into four, he began spending his weekends scouring the surrounding hills for climbing sites. Davis instructed his Mandalay cohorts on what he was looking for, and they too began tromping through the hills, reporting back to Davis on their findings. Over a year passed. Then Davis received an email with a grainy picture attached. His Mandalay friends had found a shady, limestone crag they thought might fit the bill. As soon as he could, Davis traveled up Mandalay to check it out. He agreed—the red cliff had potential. But looking up toward the top of a nearby hill, he asked,

“What’s up the road?” The group walked a quarter of a mile farther, turned a corner, and found themselves staring at a spectacular wall of rock—a north facing, tall, shady crag with easy access. Davis was awestruck. “Here’s my life’s work,” he thought. He turned to his friends and told them that someday the walls in front of them would be bolted. “They thought I was crazy,” Davis said. “But they didn’t have any conception of what I was talking about. They hadn’t done it. They hadn’t seen photos or videos. The Myanmarese government blocked most websites, including YouTube, so the Internet was practically non-existent.” The MHMF had developed its own climbing tradition but Davis said it revolves around a military hierarchical structure and group outings often over 100 people. Mountaineering was defined as hiking up hills and occasionally peaks covered in snow, and there was little interest in learning more technical skills. It was a culture of camaraderie and an outlet for nationalism which Davis found its members intensely proud. The government appoints the MHMF’s leadership, which might help explain the style so different from the small, low-impact, fast and light groups to which Davis was accustomed. Just as Davis was ready to start developing the crag, his Mandalay friends simply stopped showing up. Soon Davis received a terse email stating the Federation had a problem "All they'd seen climbing with the Yangon was a crazy westerner University Hiking and Mountaineering Associa- running around the tion members that started hills with a bag of ropes joining them. and gear." A few years earlier the MHMF’s head wanted to make everyone an honorary member of Myanmar’s ruling political party. In protest many of the younger members formed their own organization, the Yangon University Hiking and Mountaineering Association (YUHMA). While it might sound sophomoric, the split provides insight into the challenging cultural dynamics in which Davis was working. Davis’ work for the U.S. government, although fully legal and sanctioned, also made some people uncomfortable and wary of the association. It’s a level of paranoia hard to imagine for most U.S. citizens, but as natural to Myanmarese as freedom of speech is to Americans. Political opponents who challenged the status quo were often thrown in jail or simply disappeared. It’s amazing that Davis was able to make as much progress as he did with something as unorthodox and utterly strange as bolting a cliff for climbing. A few Yangon students were keen to develop the

Left: Win Ko Ko preforms his daily meditation in Gamlang Razi Base Camp. Molly Loomis

Summer 2014


Former NOLS Instructor Andy Tyson and Chris Nance, Semester in the Rockies '00, visit Myanmar’s holiest Buddhist site, Shwedegon Pagoda with Myo Myo Win, Win Ko Ko, and other TCCM members prior to leaving on their expedition to Myanmar’s far north. Molly Loomis



crag, and in 2011 he and Whittig (whose presence was critical as a chaperone for the women climbers) took two of their students, Win Ko Ko and Myo Min Win, on a trip to neighboring Thailand’s climbing hotspot, Chang Mai. Neither had been out of the country, and Davis wanted them to experience a developed cliff and bona fide climbing culture. “All they’d seen was a crazy Westerner running around the hills with a bag of ropes and gear,” he said, explaining how these nascent climbers had never seen a climbing magazine or video. The climbing magazines Davis brought would come back weeks later tattered and torn. “They’d gone through so many hands it was like pornography,” he recalled. Win Ko Ko and Myo Min Win returned from Thailand motivated to start a new club that would focus on technical climbing skills, and in 2011 the Technical Climbing Club of Myanmar (TCCM) was born. “After visiting Thailand, I wanted to start developing eco-tourism and outdoor adventure in our country,” Win Ko Ko said. “It can provide jobs and outdoor adventure helps people get outside, while also teaching them to take care of nature and the environment.” In a place like Myanmar—where an authoritarian, hierarchical structure is the norm and the consequences for disobeying can be dire—voting, consensus-based decision-making, and the delegation of power was quite unfamiliar to the climbers. Davis said the newly formed club would have been much more comfortable if he’d simply told them what to do, but he wanted to simply be viewed as a technical advisor. Before long, Davis wanted to help TCCM members take the next step in gaining technical skills and developing their leadership, so he reached out to his old landlord Coe, who recommended the NOLS Gateway Partnership Program. NOLS India Director Ravi Kumar enthusiasti-


cally jumped on board, and, in April 2012, Myanmar had its first NOLS graduate, Naw Wah Wah Myo, a Burmese woman who traveled to India for a Wilderness Advanced First Aid course. Since then, four additional Myanmarese TCCM members have traveled to India for NOLS courses—Thin Thin Myat (Wilderness First Responder 2012), Win Ko Ko (Himalaya Mountaineering 2012), Myo Min Win (Himalaya Mountaineering 2013) and most recently Nyi Nyi Aung for a Himalaya Mountaineering course in January. “The leadership skills are the most important thing that I learned and want to take back to Myanmar. In my early hiking days with Myanmar University Teams and, sometimes with Myanmar Hiking Federation, we didn’t have clear tools for being a leader or sub-group leader during team trips,” Nyi Nyi Aung said. “The expedition behavior and tolerance for adversity were my favorite classes.” Traveling to India for a NOLS or WMI course isn’t just about learning how to improvise a splint or make Gado-Gado. Having been in Myanmar most of their lives, TCCM members found their NOLS course to be tremendous eye-opening opportunities and Davis explained that the growth they experience is profound. He’s watched these NOLS graduates gain self-confidence by traveling internationally (women traveling alone is very uncommon), gain tolerance and a better understanding of Indian nationals (there is a lot of fear and prejudice directed toward Indians in Myanmar), and the generosity of the Gateway Partnership has exposed TCCM to concepts of philanthropy, collaboration, and working for the greater good—practices relatively unheard of in Myanamar where any advantage is zealously guarded. “If they’re each out there for themselves, then they won’t be able to build capacity,” said Davis, elaborating on how this not only applies to TCCM but can extend throughout society to healthcare, education, and so on. “There’s a multiplying effect.” In the spring of 2014, TCCM members held a vote resulting in a change in leadership. While this might seem routine to those of us who’ve been voting since elementary school, it was a big deal for the TCCM members to utilize that decision making style on their own initiative. Numerous times, Davis watched groups grant power to the most senior person, even if he or she was not the best candidate for the task.

AS TOLD BY: Win Ko Ko “I wanted to go on this trip to learn climbing techniques and experience. When I left home, I left my wife and our one-day-old baby at the hospital. I was worried about them. But what I was most excited about was how the Himalaya would welcome me and treat me. I hoped to finish the training and to get back home safely and to share these lessons with my friends, buddies, sisters, and brothers in my hiking group in Yangon. Hiking is not like other sports in which one team and its opponents have to compete. It is winning over the mountains with people’s unity. I want to spread outdoor adventure sports among Myanmar youth. This is because these sports give mental strength, unity, conscious decision-making, and physical strength. Moreover, these sports will help Myanmar people love the environment. Outdoor adventure sports depend on the environment such as rivers, forests, and mountains—we need to conserve the environment to do these sports. It is like catching two birds with one stone.” Myo Min Win “The most important thing I learned was the [four styles of leadership]. I know I’ll use the mature and fair leadership skills that I learned on my course in the future. The most challenging thing for conservation in Myanmar is that the current government is less willing to abide by the established laws. There is also not much funding available for environmental awareness campaigns and collaboration. Our national parks need long-term, concrete planning, and most importantly lots of support. People in Myanmar think that hiking is a tiring and dangerous sport. They do not know that except for natural disasters, hiking can be safe by using systematic climbing techniques.”

“It’s easy to teach someone how to belay,” said Davis, “but my interest is in sustainability. If TCCM isn’t self-sustaining as an organization, than it's going to disappear. It’s a long process of developing skills that we take for granted.” With Myanmar’s recent opening, it’s exciting that out of all the pursuits these young folks could choose, it’s spending time in the mountains. And so far, they’re working hard to keep the momentum going. Last spring, past Instructor of the Year Andy Tyson traveled east where he volunteered on a 10-day high-altitude mountaineering training for TCCM. Later, he returned with several NOLS alumni and former instructors in tow, Chris Nance, Mark Fisher and myself, joining Win Ko Ko and TCCM for a groundbreaking expedition into Myanmar’s far north to attempt an unclimbed 19,000 plus-foot peak. The finishing touches have just been put on Myanmar’s first climbing wall—an overhanging panel in a TCCM member’s backyard and next year TCCM hopes to send a member on a NOLS Denali expedition. Climbing continues up in Mandalay, and Myo Min Win and his wife, Thin Thin Myat, are working on opening up Myanmar’s first outdoor gear store. Myo Min Win also wants to put his background in biology to use helping protect the national parks. For his part, Davis is simply thrilled that his passion for outdoor education and climbing caught on. “There’s a whole political theory out there. But more simply, I wanted climbing partners,” he said.

Nyi Nyi Aung "I was really worried about my course, especially the cold weather and high altitude since I am from a tropical, flat region. I prepared a lot by running in the sand and climbing stairs. I dream about doing a mountain clean up campaign. Plastic garbage is impacting some of the beautiful wilderness spots in Myanmar, so I would like to promote Leave No Trace principles. The hardest part of my dream is introducing camping stoves to Myanmar’s hiking associations and clubs, as most burn wood to cook and keep themselves warm in the wilderness. The general public is not yet familiar with outdoor activities, like camping, recreational hiking, and scouting. Most of the trips to natural areas are pilgrimages and few have knowledge of outdoor skills like tent pitching and camp cooking because wherever you go in Myanmar there are monasteries that are willing to give accommodation. Most of the public thinks rock climbing and mountaineering are too adventurous and most of the senior citizens think it is just taking a risk—a useless game of playful kids. They are not really supportive apart from a few elders. People appreciate the national parks but they still are not able to conserve the nature and provide the proper protection. Good habits haven’t been carried out, like plastic disposal and cutting wood for fire. Locals are challenged to implement these changes because of the lack of resources and poverty."

Eva Goubert tends to Wah Wah Myo's hand on a Wilderness Medicine Institute course in India. Photo courtesy of Wah Wah Myo

Summer 2014


Nick Braun

Adam Swisher

Alumni Trips & Reunions

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 2014.

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. Signing up: A $200 per-person, non-refundable deposit is required for enrollment on all alumni trips. For more information or to sign up, call NOLS Alumni at (800) 332-4280 or visit



NOLS is coming to your community in the fall! We’re hosting alumni reunions for grads, friends, families and guests across the nation. Reunions include snacks, tales of adventure, a gear raffle, camaraderie and networking. Stay tuned for autumn event details. See you there!

This kayaking trip travels among the Elaphiti Island Archipelago north of Dubrovnik, Croatia and will stay at a series of guesthouses in picturesque villages each night.

• • • • • •

New York City, New York Austin, Texas San Francisco, California St. Louis, Missouri Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dates: September 20-26, 2014 | Cost: $2,350

COASTAL KEELBOAT SAILING THE DALMATIAN COAST, CROATIA Dates: September 28-October 4, 2014 | Cost: $2,500

Join our sailing journey in a new location along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. This expedition is a second-level keelboat sailing experience for NOLS grads, friends, and family. The culturally rich Croatian coastline offers a picturesque background for this sailing expedition.


Dates: November 16-22, 2014 | Cost: $1,995 Paddle Bahamas’ pristine waters of the Out Islands and the Exuma Cays with NOLS. White sand beaches, palm trees, and warm sunny weather provide a great background for a wonderful week of exploration with family and friends. Reconnect with your NOLS roots in a relaxed and beautiful place.




For more information, see


Date: February 14-20, 2015 | Cost: $1,650

Build your skills and challenge yourself with a week of climbing at Arizona’s Cochise Stronghold. Refine your technical rope handling, gear placement skills, and hone your climbing technique with fellow adults, friends, grads, and guests.


A Naturalist’s Guide to the Snake River

I am Coyote: Readings for the Wild

By Margaret E. Creel, Former Instructor

Edited by Jay Schoenberger, Wind River Wilderness ‘00, Waddington Range Mountaineering ‘10 Born from duel passion for adventure and communal storytelling and a desire to have a collection of wilderness readings beyond a loose stack of yellowing photocopies, NOLS alumnus Jay Schoenberger endeavored to create an anthology of the best writings on the wilderness experience. Schoenberger manages to capture something special: the feelings one encounters in the wilderness. Organized into the arc of an expedition, this anthology will have travelers everywhere reliving and relating to the sentiments of these writings. Whether the trepidation of embarking on a voyage, the awe of taking in a perfect sunset, the fear of being hopelessly lost, or the sheer joy of the adventure, the reader will be transported. Imagine a craggy NOLS instructor sharing Voytek Kurtyka’s “The Art of Suffering” after a tough day on course or a NOLS alumna reading the words of John Muir to her family on their first expedition. As Bill McKibben writes in his foreword, “Put this book in your rucksack and head for the mountains. Read it tired at the end of a long day, by the light of a campfire. Forget what our culture insists: feeling small is actually feeling good.” Reviewed by Larkin Flora, NOLS Development Communications Coordinator. © 2014 Kimbrough Knight Publishing, LLC. The book can be purchased at A portion of proceeds go to the NOLS scholarship fund.

Photo: Andrew Burr

“It is not required that we know all of the details about every stretch of river. Indeed, were we to know, it would not be an adventure, and I wonder if there would be much point in the journey.” - Jeffrey R. Anderson In her book, Margaret E. Creel, longtime NOLS sea and whitewater kayaking instructor and Snake River Fund program director, strikes the perfect balance between Jeffrey Anderson’s quote and a lucid, accessible guidebook. “A Naturalist’s Guide to the Snake River” is packed with colorful photos, geographic factoids, inspiring quotations, and almost all things Snake River. If you’ve ever wondered about the Snake’s extensive length—all 1,036 miles of it, this flip-through guidebook is the answer. Whereas many naturalist guidebooks can be dense and overly academic, Creel offers an easily understood look into rich geohistory, wildlife, and human history. Published by The Snake River Fund in Jackson, Wyo., Creel’s waterproof guidebook is crafted with color-coded chapters ranging from “Common Terrestrial and Aquatic Invertebrates” and “Aquatic Invasive Species” to “Snake River Dams and Levees” and “River Day Trip Essentials”. It was initially an educational supplement for Teton Valley grade school children. Creel says the effort was a collaborative one, giving credit to fellow NOLS grad Becky Woods for the beautiful graphic design and the photos. Vivid photos of wildflowers, trees, and mammals of the Snake River abound and are accompanied by concise descriptions and definitions accessible to all audiences. So if you enjoy rafting through heart-pumping rapids or observing diverse ecology and wildlife, “A Naturalist’s Guide to the Snake River” is an essential piece to bring along on your next river adventure. Reviewed by Dave Wise, Alumni Relations Intern © 2013, Margaret E. Creel.

Outfitting Dirtbags Everywhere... Tents • Sleeping Bags • Pads • Apparel Summer 2014


Gear Room




IT’S A NO-BRAINER : WE LOVE TO CAMP. WHETHER IT IS BASE-CAMPING high on a mountain or kickin’ it by the local crag, when the pack comes off, it’s time to eat, sit, and relax after your long day. Around the campfire, hunkering under a rain tarp, or just soaking in the sun, your behind needs consideration! Time spent sitting on the ground adds up, and what you choose to sit on greatly affects your body temperature, comfort, and even your mood. NOLS students are often outfitted with the widely known butt-pad—that dark material made of ensolite—to protect their bums from rock and roots. But certain occasions afford more luxurious outdoor living. Enter the portable ground chair from Helinox. This chair is a lightweight folding camp or backpacking chair that sets up quickly and intuitively. Built with a single shock corded pole structure, it boasts breathable mesh on the back and sides, as well as a handy storage sack. The chair’s structure lends itself to a super easy disassembly: made of retractable alloy poles like those of a tent, the Helinox chair folds seamlessly into its stuff sack and into your pack. Resting your back and behind hasn’t been this simple since the La-Z Boy hit the urban living room. Minimalist hikers can rejoice the chair’s burden-free lightness at only 554 grams (580 with sack). And with a modest size when packed (30 cm long x 9 cm wide x 10cm high), the ground chair offers compactness that would shame a few of those bulky items you cringe over cramming in your pack. While the Helinox ground chair is comfortable, ultra lightweight, and super compact at this intern’s desk, we took the chair to the hands (and bums) of a few NOLS instructors to really get the inside scoop. Some positive feedback included the chair’s easy setup, great portability, and lightweight comfort. One instructor, at 5 feet, 2 inches, liked the fact that the chair, “doesn’t cut into my shoulders or backs of thighs,” like other outdoor chairs on the market. Another instructor experienced a drier time in wet weather thanks to the chair’s fastdrying and breathable mesh material. However, the ground chair fell short for some, particularly taller folks. One instructor found that for the chair’s comfortable “leanback” style, it lacked adequate height in the back. He found that his head “wants a place to rest.” In a similar fashion, another instructor found the chair had an undesirable rocking tendency. Over rocks and on uneven ground, the chair easily tipped over and was difficult to sit stably, so finding a flat area to sit is key. While maybe not as pretty, the NOLS-popular ensolite pads are better for extended backpacking and time out in the field. They pack well, are versatile, and can go anywhere you choose to sit. On the other hand, the Helinox ground chair is best suited for flat and even ground and better for “short hikes and more for base-camping” or “front-country climbing” noted a rock-climbing instructor. Overall, the Helinox chair is a solid chair built durably and comfortably, and is definitely tailored to more leisurely, short-duration camping trips.


The Helinox ground chair delights many (Dave included). If you’re not too tall, the chair is juuuust right. Brad Christensen


WMI LEADS THE WAY Since 1990, the Wilderness Medicine Institute has taught students to make challenging medical decisions in remote environments. Our graduates tell us our hands-on approach to education works. Whether you are new to wilderness medicine, or seeking continuing education credits as a medical professional, we have a course to meet your needs. Contact us at 866-831-9001, or look up WMI course schedules at

Vacation Condo - Sleeps 9 Frisco, Colorado For Friends and Families of NOLS Summer $89/night + tax Winter $139/night + tax


BIKE SKI BOARD 720-301-9818




Atlanta, GA

OCT 21-22

St. Paul, MN

NOV 11-12

Portland, OR

TAKE THE LEAD AS AN LNT MASTER EDUCATOR The Leave No Trace Master Educator Course is the highest LNT training, qualifying graduates to teach LNT courses. AUGUST 1–5, 2014 Sea Kayaking, San Juan Islands, WA AUGUST 18–22, 2014 Backpacking, Flat Tops Wilderness, CO NOVEMBER 7–11, 2014 Backpacking, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

For more information on courses and available scholarships visit or call (800) 710-6657 x3




OCTOBER 1–3, 2014


Intensive Wilderness Medicine Training


Recipe Box



Review: Though it may seem like blasphemy for those accustomed to concocting a meal from a smattering of small plastic bags, NOLS Rocky Mountain’s Gourmet Gulch offers a wonderfully simple solution to backcountry dining: one bag, one meal. Despite its simplicity, the Lizard Head Chili I sampled did not disappoint. With tasty veggies and earthy cumin, the recipe hit all the right flavor notes. Whether prepared straight from the bag on a weekend overnight or beefed up with additions like cheese and butter for more demanding days, this would be a welcome addition to any backcountry meal plan. One word of advice: If thick chili is your bailiwick, cut the recipe by ¼ cup of water or simmer a bit longer to reduce the liquid. The above recipe yields a more soupy dish. Finally, be sure to simmer adequately to prevent the dreaded underhydrated, chewy veggies. Your tentmates—and their olfactory senses—will thank you hours later.

Casey Pikla



Ingredients 3 oz instant black beans 1 oz dehydrated whole black beans 1 oz dehydrated corn ¾ oz dehydrated onions ¾ oz dehydrated red and green peppers ¾ oz tomato powder ¼ oz dried jalapeños, optional if you like a kick! 1 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp chili powder 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp salt pinch of brown sugar, optional

Directions: Combine all ingredients. Add to 2½ cups boiling water and simmer until veggies are soft. Optional: brown sugar to taste.


Contact the Alumni Office via telephone (800-332-4280) or email ( to find contact information for any of your coursemates.

GRADS FROM THE ‘70S Pam Boyle Roth, Absaroka Wilderness Course ‘77 Pam is the hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this summer with her husband of 33 years. Linda Thomas Terhune, Wind River Expedition ‘78 Linda was in the Winds with Jim and JJ Huntley and Tom “Ribo” Flavin at the lead. It was a wonderful trip ... one of the highlights of her life! She is currently an editor/writer for Purdue University and the mother of three children, including a daughter who did the NOLS Salmon River Backpacking and Rafting course in 2010. Would love to know what her coursemates are doing.

Pacific Northwest Division. In recent years this job has given him the excuse, and financial help, to attend the International Snow Science Workshop (ISSW) twice, and the National Avalanche School (NAS) twice. The ISSW and NAS are both excellent for skiing and mountain professionals. GRADS FROM THE ‘90S AJ Linnell, current instructor, and Molly Absolon, former instructor Congratulatory hats off to Victor, Idaho residents Molly and AJ for their sweeping victory of two city council seats. With a population recently exploding to near 2,000, Victor is Teton County’s largest city.



Drannan Hamby, Rock Climbing ‘82, & former instructor Based in Bend, Oregon, Drannan has an administrative job with the National Ski Patrol and is the division avalanche program supervisor for the

Rachel Flichtbell, Alaska Backpacking & Sea Kayaking ‘08 Rachel’s NOLS expedition was a great learning experience. She is now preparing to graduate from the Smith College School for Social Work with a

WILDERNESS QUIZ A region that NOLS courses frequently explore, the Marlborough Sounds are a collection of waterways, bays, islands and coves located on the north end of the south island of New Zealand. This unique area formed over 10,000 years ago after the last ice age when sea levels rose and filled in a series of deep valleys. The remaining coastline of the sounds accounts for approximately 1/5 of all the coastline of New Zealand! This region is rich with human and natural history. Maori tradition is deeply rooted throughout the sounds. Many of the islands also have a ‘predator free’ designation, which provides refuge for endangered wildlife. The New Zealand Department of Conservation manages over 50 reserves within the Marlborough Sounds, which contributes to the preservation of the area and the protection of its abundant wildlife species.

master’s degree, after which she will do a solo backpacking trip in the Scottish highlands. She is excited to use her NOLS skills in both the planning and execution of her trip! Nick Wilkes, Baja Coastal Sailing ‘06 After bouncing around Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Utah for a decade, Nick now lives with his wife Maya and two young boys in Madison, Wisconsin. He owns Devils Lake Climbing Guides (www. and Nick Wilkes Photography (www.nickwilkesphotography. com), and designs websites for artists and small businesses. Though he misses Western landscapes and adventures, he adores Midwestern culture and is thrilled to be back home. Brian Fabel, Winter Outdoor Educator ‘07 & current instructor NOLS instructor Brian Fabel is the new executive director for the Lander, Wyoming Chamber of Commerce. Michelle ‘Shelley’ (Janokjanc) Cole, Horsepacking Course ‘08 A week after her Wind River Horsepacking course ended, Shelley moved straight to Riverton, Wyoming and has been there ever since. She currently works for Central Wyoming College as a college success coach, where she helps high school students transition to college. Shelley and her husband enjoy working on their garden and spending time outdoors with their 1-yearold son (and another due in December!).

Top: Brian Hensien, NOLS video producer, and Libby Gadbois, NOLS admissions supervisor are engaged! Brian Hensien. Bottom: Brian Fabel, who has an extensive resume with NOLS, is moving on as executive director at the Lander Chamber of Commerce. Brad Christensen.

GRADS FROM THE ‘10S Alexandra Perry, Idaho Backpacking Adventure ‘12 Alexandra is a junior at Santiam, a private school in Oregon and was recently crowned Miss Oregon Teen USA. MARRIAGES, ENGAGEMENTS & ANNIVERSARIES Brian Hensien, NOLS

Video Producer, and Libby Gadbois, NOLS Admissions Supervisor Brian and Libby met as interns at NOLS HQ in 2009. They got engaged this May. Tobey Ritz, Wind River Wilderness Course ’76 & former instructor, and Amanda Weiss, Himalaya Mountaineering ‘02 Tobey and Amanda were married on May 17, 2014. Summer 2014 25

Philip Broyhill, Fall Semester in the Rockies ‘76 Philip passed away Saturday March 1, 2014. He was an accomplished, award- winning, and prolific artist. He worked and exhibited in a number of studios in the Boston area over the last 30 years and was constantly striving to reach his maximum creative potential. Laurey Masterton, Wind River Mountaineering ‘85 & former instructor On Tuesday, February 18, 2014, Laurey lost her battle against cancer. Laurey was an avid cyclist, beekeeper, author, and chef. Autumn Fahey, Idaho Combination Course ‘01 Autumn, of Craftsbury Common, Vermont, died March 15, 2014 after a courageous fight with cancer. Born in Morrisville, Vermont, the daughter of Kevin and Kate (Labosky) Fahey, Autumn was dearly loved by her family and friends and will be remembered as a beautiful, cheerful, compassionate soul.

James Alworth, Semester in the Yukon ‘09 & Fall Semester in the Rockies, ‘09 James passed away suddenly on March 22, 2014. He was a certified NY State whitewater guide, a LNT Master, a skilled photographer and artist, James loved spending time with friends in the outdoors. Andrew Kohake, Wilderness EMT ‘13 Andrew passed away unexpectedly on February 24, 2014 at the age of 25. He was deeply loved by his father George Kohake of Highlands Ranch; mother Karin Kohake of Pagosa Springs; sister Kayla Kohake; and grandparents Bernice Kohake Wessel, George and Kathy Loudis. Their favorite memories are his love for life, the outdoors, and his wonderful personality. Catherine ‘Cathy’ Blean Story, Wilderness Course ‘70 & former instructor Catherine Story passed away gently on April 25, 2014 in Bozeman, Montana. She was loved by all who had the fortune of knowing her. Catherine was a dedicated wife and mother who cared deeply about her family, church, and community. Cathy worked for NOLS in Lander, Wyoming for eight years as a summer and winter course leader in the Wind River Range.




C. While the risk is low from alpine water, we can’t be certain. Clear and cold water is not necessarily safe, and we never know where animals, including people, have been defecating.



NOLS Pacific Northwest

Virginia Pyle Petzoldt, 39-ers Course, ‘74 Ginnie was the mother of two NOLS grads, Dallas and Sheri, and was also the wife of Paul Petzoldt for the last 13 years of his life. Ginny passed away on February 13, 2014 at the age of 94.

John Mahaffey, Spring Semester in the Rockies ‘02 John passed away in mid-May after finishing a half marathon.

NOLS Headquarters



This summer is the first for not one, but two new solar power systems at NOLS. NOLS Pacific Northwest installed 42 panels on top of its facility less than a year ago. The system is 9.54 kilowatts and should generate about 20 percent of the facility’s electrical needs. NOLS was excited to work with both The North Face and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to envision and fund this project. As an additional bit of sustainability, the solar panels are made by SolarWorld, which does all of its manufacturing and assembly in nearby Oregon. It is expected that the NOLS Pacific Northwest solar energy system will pay for itself in less than five years. NOLS Headquarters is also proud to join the ranks of solar power systems at NOLS. With 90 panels, the solar array is 23.5 kilowatts, the largest currently permitted in the state of Wyoming. This array is the fourth NOLS solar project funded by Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Energy program in the past five years. Even with all the solar panels and efficiency initiatives, NOLS considers the impact of graduates to be the biggest and best contribution this organization can make toward the protection of the environment and NOLS classrooms. Most NOLS solar projects (NOLS Pacific Northwest and NOLS Headquarters included) have educational displays located inside the facilities to best serve this purpose. NOLS installs solar power systems like these to reduce environmental impact but more importantly to show students the organization is committed to living the same wilderness values taught in the field.

School Notes

Brag Bar NOLS Executive Director John Gans presented the 2013 faculty awards at the NOLS Faculty Summit this spring. Fabio Oliveira: (Field) Fabio first came to NOLS in 1997 as an Outdoor Educator Course student. He excelled on his student course and quickly followed with an Instructor Course in 1998. His IC instructors remarked, “[H]is technical skills are top-notch, but it’s his sense of humor and great all-around attitude which attracts other people to him.” Jared Spaulding: (Field) Jared came to NOLS in 1997 as a student on a Waddington Range Mountaineering course. Feedback from this course noted not only his comfort in the environments encountered, but a willingness, desire, and comfort to be on the sharp end of the rope. This desire and ability for climbing was also evident on his IC evaluation: “well-rounded teaching skills, a great sense of humor, and solid climbing skills.” Bri Mackay: (Combo) Bri came to NOLS in 2005 for the River Instructor Course. Her IC evaluation notes her exemplary expedition behavior, excellent self-awareness, and her clear, concise, and engaging communication style. Her field career has been complemented by a variety of in-town positions around the world. A supervisor noted she is dedicated to staff development and provides direct and effective feedback with compassion and concern. Ariel Greene: (Thomas Plotkin Instructor Mentorship Award) Starting with his very first course in 1997, his co-instructors have consistently commented on and complemented him for the time he invests in his students. A recent supervisor noted, “he was the instructor who spent the most time with students, both formally and informally.” He has been described as the perfect combination of intellectual and goofy. Read more about Ariel on page 28.

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 de-issuing 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 Blog at

NOLS SOUTHWEST • The Spring Semester on the Borders group that rock climbed at Joshua Tree National Park also completed a day-long service project with National Park Service personnel pulling invasive Sahara mustard weeds in the park. • The Spring Semester in the Southwest students spent an extra day in Texas doing cultural activities down by the Texas-Mexico border. These activities included visiting the Marfa Border Patrol Station for a presentation and a demonstration by their K-9 unit, and visiting and being interviewed by KRTS Marfa Public Radio. The students also traveled further south to meet Enrique Madrid, a border historian from Redford, Texas where they discussed local issues and learned to make a traditional Mexican meal. Finally, the students met with a geologist from Big Bend National Park to learn about local rock formations just before launching their canoes on a two-week journey down the Rio Grande.

NOLS Southwest is excited to bring caving back. Lindsay Nohl

• One of our two Fall Semesters in the Southwest will again feature a caving section! This will be our first student caving section at NOLS since 2010, when we temporarily halted the Southwest caving program due to concerns about White Nose Syndrome (WNS) in bats. Since being discovered in 2007, WNS has still not migrated west of Missouri and most caves in Arizona and New Mexico remain open for recreational caving.


NOLS Northeast students have the chance to summit 46ers. Rob Kinzel

• NOLS Northeast operates in Adirondack State Park in upstate New York just 60 miles from the Canadian Border. Six million acres of sparkling waterways, boreal forests, and over 100 mountain summits make up Adirondack Park. • NOLS Northeast students have the opportunity to climb some of the famous “46-ers” (high peaks in the Adirondacks) including Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in New York. On the Adirondack Backpacking and Canoeing Adventure, students paddle and explore the idyllic St. Regis Canoe Wilderness. • Over the past three summers, 28 percent of NOLS Northeast students have come from within New York State and 60 percent from eastern United States. • This year marks the fourth summer of NOLS Northeast and will feature 11 courses primarily for 14- and- 15 year-olds: the 21-day Adirondack Backpacking and Canoeing Adventure, the two-week Adirondack Backpacking Adventure, and a new nine-day Adirondack Backpacking–Prime course for students ages 23 and over.

Summer 2014 27

Instructor Profile


Ariel Greene received the Thomas Plotkin Instructor Mentorship Award earlier this year. Kevin Redmon



WHEN INSTRUCTOR A RIEL GREENE IS getting ready to go into the field, he doesn’t like to be rushed. “It’s good to be packed the night before the night before,” he said. It’s a typical May afternoon in Lander—splitter blue skies with a blizzard on the way—and Greene is busy mending the sleeve of his wind shirt. In a few days, he’ll head into the Wind River Mountains with a group of instructor course students, a position reserved for senior faculty. For the second year in a row he has been asked to serve as an instructor course leader. “I backpack exclusively,” he said, “which is probably pretty rare at the school. And I can understand why that is. I think most people would be driven crazy by doing the same thing over and over again.” For Greene, however, it’s precisely the non-technical nature of hiking that’s so appealing. Like Socrates, he prefers to ask questions rather than deliver lectures; like Aristotle, he often teaches while walking. Backpacking allows him to do both. “I think human beings are the most interesting things in the world,” he said.


“They’re so complex. In hiking through the deep wilderness, for many hours in a row, day after day, week after week, you have time to learn about people—to ask them questions, to listen to them talk.” Greene’s penchant for building rapport with his students through intimate conversation is one of several reasons that he recently received the second annual Thomas Plotkin Instructor Mentorship Award. “NOLS is one of the very few schools I can think of where teacher and student are together without disruption for so long, and the relationship can go so deep,” he reflected. Greene grew up in Westchester County, in the shadow of New York City. His parents, both neurobiologists, made a point of escaping the city each summer to go hiking. “I don’t have particularly fond memories of being 11 years old and being at a national park,” Greene admitted with a laugh. “I can remember pulling over at a vista and wanting to stay in the car to read Spiderman comic books instead of looking at the view.” A NOLS British Columbia Wilderness Course in 1997 changed all that. “In my late teens, going camping and staying out there for a while felt very different,” he recalled. “I remember being very inspired.” As an undergraduate at Columbia, Greene concentrated in English, but memories of NOLS were never far. “I had these experiences being in

the wilderness that I would daydream of. They seemed a bit unreal while living in Manhattan,” he said. Greene graduated from Columbia without a five-year plan, noting, “For the first six years out of college, I was living out of my backpack.” That didn’t change much in 2007, when Greene took a NOLS instructor course. He quickly developed a reputation for “quiet strength and grace,” as Staffing Director Marco Johnson put it. “It’s like just talking to him makes me a little smarter,” reflected one Alaska Wilderness student. A Semester on the Borders student deemed him the perfect combination of “intellectual and goofy,” while another said, “He was my best friend on the entire course.” When he’s not in the field, Greene turns to the humanities to “refill the reservoir.” Between courses, he composes chamber music for strings and gets lost in piles of books, anything from poetry to anthropology. Greene married fellow NOLS instructor Mary Joyner in 2012, and with the birth of their daughter last September, he now adds “parenting” to his list of frontcountry pursuits. By providing his students mentorship and emotional support, Greene has become more than just an outdoor educator—he’s become a transformative one. “I love being in the wilderness,” he said, “and a lot of my strength as an instructor comes from that. I’m naturally joyful out there. I feel more alive, and I want to share that feeling with others.”

Greene’s passion for the wilderness, teaching, and connecting with his students sets a golden example of a NOLS instructor.

Belay Off


IT’S TUESDAY NIGHT IN THE DORM AT PHILLIPS EXETER ACADEMY WHERE I reside and teach, two days after a 10-day Utah backcountry trip with my students. I hear them congregate outside my door for a post-trip reunion, peeling off their boots because, “we’ve been wearing our boots every day still!” Another confesses, “It makes me feel like we’re still there!” They stack their packs, stained red with smears of Utah dust, the telltale badge of any backcountry trip to the canyons: the grit that works itself into your boots, clothes, dishes, water, and teeth, but that catches in your soul in the lazy backwash hours of your return. I’ve set up our TV so we can browse the many pictures from the trip, and as I click away, the crescendo of commentary heightens. “Ah! It’s Sage eating 64 marshmallows!” “Andrew, your hair looks like a grease sponge!” “Has anyone seen Quappleton carrying the poop trowel around campus yet?” It’s the language of familiarity, the language of love, as if by invoking their stories they cement the reality of what they did in the desert together. That despite their present distance from rimrock and sage, they’re still carrying canyonfire in their hearts. The slideshow proceeds. We pause at a picture of the Milky Way: shades of violet and chalk, starclouds and space. They stare at the picture and grow quiet, their minds going back, their gazes turning wistful, full of remembrance. “It’s funny,” Tom, the 10th grader who took the picture, breaks the reverie, “there are so many things to DO here,” he pauses, his voice teetering, struggling to splice worlds, “but I find that I’m so bored by all this, you know?” His arm swing encompasses the entire noncanyon world. The others nod in agreement, and the silence stretches. “I’m so bored by all of this.” I understand Tom’s sentiment because I feel it, too, even after more than a decade of returning from the field, gazing backward over my shoulder every time. But navigating this world and that is endemic to getting outside, and I wonder how I can help my students span the gap. Our first evening in the field, Andy, half of our husband/wife instructor team, led a reflection about what to take with us from Exeter and what to leave behind. “I’d like to be able to be myself here,” one student admitted, “and not who everyone expects me to be.” “I hope our schedule can be chill,” another offered, “without something to get done every second.” It was clear they came seeking a different world than the one they left. Phillips Exeter Academy’s mission is to help students explore the confluence of “goodness and knowledge.” We employ a pedagogical approach founded by the school called Harkness; Students work together around an oval table, teaching themselves through conversation and collaboration. The teacher is a co-learner who reflects to students their own learning but almost always holds back, letting silences linger, creating space for students to find their

Students face the challenge of carrying the joys of the backcountry with them to the frontcountry. Jason BreMiller

way. But Exeter is also complicit in the world of ubercompetitive private education, where the strains of academic pressures and college admission often weigh heavily on students. It’s no wonder, then, that they open to the canyons like desert bloom. And once open, it’s remarkable to see what fills that space. AGENCY Luis, a 10th grader, shot a video looking down through a narrow shaft of canyon slot framed by a prominent chockstone. Below, Claire, another 10th grader, comes into view as she assumes a perch high enough on the wall to peek through the opening and assess her next passage. She’ll have to make a tricky move to progress. She hesitates, unsure, looking back down to where Andy waits out of sight, then up into Luis’ lens. Claire’s voice is barely audible from above: “Uh ... what do I do?” From the recesses, Andy’s words return hollow as if the canyon were speaking: “Use your smarts!” In the canyons, the kids come to see themselves as doers rather than thinkers only. They learn to trust themselves and the skills they’ve developed. “Where are we?” they ask over and over again during the opening days of the course, to which their instructors patiently reply, “Take out your maps.” By the end of the trip, they understand how to plot a course and follow it, that meals don’t cook themselves, and that if you haven’t planned far enough ahead to pack your raincoat accessibly, your teammates might look at you with reproach while you explode your pack to find it. Summer 2014 29

Belay Off

PURPOSE In the canyons, students’ horizons are confined to the daily living tasks of eating, drinking, and traveling, more concrete than the amorphous securing of a “successful future” or getting into a “good” college. Andrew, an 11th grader, identified this narrowing of purpose as one of the most formative aspects of his trip: “I was immersed in a primitive lifestyle and through it I regained sight of the world and the people around me—the sight that I lost at Exeter while thinking and thinking, toiling away about projects and college and my general future, because those things have always been the ends for which I work. In the canyons, the goal was to find water, to explore, to see things, and to strive only toward immediate goals. In the canyons for those nine days, I have never felt more conscious of what was around me. Without the distractions of civilization, I noticed the little things: the soft hum of air in my ears, the color of red mesa, the rock lines that flow like water, the texture of the sand.” COMMUNITY After a particularly long, hot, and arduous slog, we rolled into camp and the kids dropped their packs and slumped in an exhausted heap. Andy, his wife and co-instructor Kai, and I departed to scout the vista, but when we returned we discovered a lively scene of unexpected and raucous laughter. In his journal, Luis describes this moment: “Mr. Bre, Andy, and Kai looked over at us like the desert had driven us crazy! At one point, Janet even had to take out her inhaler because she was laughing so hard. I don’t even remember what we were laughing about, but we recognized the situation we were in. We were all alone in the middle of nowhere, no technology, and the only thing we had was each other.” The canyons help untangle the morass of grades and academic prizes and college admission and return it to a simpler foundation of human connection.

The wild thing put them there For wild-you to remember So when you breathe, you know the Wind is breathing back to you So when you falter, you know the Canyon can be your rigid spine. Veins crackle and sputter like firewood And awaken a new way of treading ground And illuminate the thought upon waking: “This is the day to shape the next upon.” The Canyons are words on a page A language the river swept away Silver scaled and glinting Jumping like fish They remain on the backs of our eyelids A bluish blob stained onto nothingness That we see, now Every time we blink.



TRANSCENDENCE As students begin to sense their own agency, as they fit this agency within the framework of their emerging community, as they attenuate themselves to their own capacity for wonder, something shifts inside them, a realization that can be transcendent. Eleventh grader Sage explores this emerging sense of self in his solo journal: “I gather some dead sage and fix my lighter underneath. I pull my fingers across the flint wheel, the only unnatural thing around me, and watch it engulf my namesake. I hold the plant upside-down, allowing the flames to climb. It vanishes in my hand with a blinding fireball and a choking cloud of smoke. It warms my bare chest, reminding me of the imminent chill, and I am reborn, a new person. The sun rests atop a red stone mesa, visibly shrinking its crescent on the horizon. The sun fades into tonight and tomorrow, and I fade into someone new, someone else.” These kids are not the same who left less than two weeks ago. They have been changed irrevocably. When I think about Tom’s words, “I’m so bored by all of this,” and how I might help my students shift worlds, it occurs to me that I want them to see that it’s not about this world and that at all—that it’s not all over when they leave the canyons. I hope they see how they This shot inspired much contemplation. Tom Appleton can enact what they learned in the desert on campus every day just as they witnessed Harkness in the desert. WONDER It’s the synergy between worlds that I most hope The night Tom photographed the Milky Way, he recruited a cohort to accompany him on a midnight foray. They’d never seen the Milky Way my kids will recognize; Tom’s starcloud suggests that before. Rachel, an 11th grader, wrote a sequence of poems that gets at sometimes we see better in the dark, and our maps tell us that when we’re lost there are ways to become this capacity for wonder. Here is an excerpt: found if we take the time to orient ourselves. “Using our smarts” is just good practice, and sometimes laughter We are either homesick or home heals a day’s ills. We’ll be knocking dust from our boots No way out but further in for years to come. There are petroglyphs etched Edited for length. Read the full article on the NOLS blog. Onto your ribcage and spine




Kyle Duba


There they go, The Mountaineers. Climbing to the heights Evermore. Upon ice and rock; Over snow and crack. They ascend. Heavy are their packs and stalwart are Their feet. As giants to the Empyrean Heights They push. Though bound by ice, Their prize is still glimmering Fire. One by one They inch their path. “To the top!” They cry in decided silence. For they did not come to gaze Midway up and say, “Look what I have climbed.” No.

They did not. The mountaineers’ purpose is pinnacle And nothing else. Whenever the bounds of Newton’s gravity Do not pull so persistently that Heavy boots take notice, And when the fiercest fits of blust Do not adamantly howl in Torrid twists of snow, So mightily To break the tracks etched Inch by inch, Then the mountaineer is Master— Not of mountain Or summit. No. Never. Ideals of conquest On such a timeless giant Are thoughts and boasts for

They who only ever peer From far Below With supercilious pretense Of grand adventure. Indeed, The Mountaineer who has placed Boot after tired boot Into the once pallid snow Turned glistening copper waves By early morning sun knows— Better than all— The only peak the climber has mastered Is the self, And the would-be Fall. Caleb Harrison, Hamathko Ice Field, British Columbia July 17, 2013

We’d love to hear from you! Send letters, cartoons, rants, limericks, or watercolors our way, and we’ll get them on the pages of The Leader. We’re easy to contact—try Facebook, Twitter @NOLSedu, email ( or the phone at (800) 710-NOLS.

Summer 2014


National Outdoor Leadership School 284 Lincoln Street Lander, WY 82520-2848 • (800) 710-NOLS THE LEADER IN WILDERNESS EDUCATION

Donate. “It’s through your generosity, kindness, and belief in the power of experiential education that I have had the incredible opportunity to join a NOLS Semester. From the bottom of my Amazon-soaked heart, I thank you. Please keep doing what you do and moving others to donate and extend these opportunities to others.” Chelle Roberts

Mauricio Clauzet

Semester in the Amazon ‘13, scholarship recipient


The Leader - Summer 2014  

In this issue, you'll find stories that demonstrate how looking back can inspire, improve, and inform our futures.

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