Teton Valley Ranch Camp and the WRMC
The latest installment of the WRMC blog series profiles Teton Valley Ranch Camp (TVRC), a Western style youth camp that has been operating in Wyoming for 75 years, and stands as Wyoming's most historic residential summer camp. In this interview we caught up with TVRC Executive Director Carly Platt.
The mission of Teton Valley Ranch Camp is to provide educational excellence in camp programming in an enriching western environment.
WRMC: What do your participants gain from the wilderness setting?
TVRC: An appreciation and love for the wild places of Wyoming and the planet. An understanding of the principles and practices of Leave No Trace. Knowledge about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: wildlife, plant life, geology, ecology, and our role as stewards of the environment. Recognition that spending time in the outdoors can be FUN! The basic hard skills needed to plan and execute a backcountry expedition and an ability to identify hazards and manage risk proactively.
WRMC: Why does your organization send employees to the WRMC?
TVRC: Risk management is an important practice in all aspects of our organization's programming. The WRMC has been particularly helpful for us as we make policy and decisions to manage the risk of bringing young children on backpacking and horse packing trips in remote Wyoming wilderness areas. Especially helpful to us in recent years have been ideas for staff training, advice on legal considerations, and conversations about "hot topics" and other current industry trends. Another hugely beneficial aspect of the conference is networking and sharing ideas with other backcountry program directors. It is helpful to speak with others in the backcountry industry, even if their programs look very different from our summer camp setting.
WRMC: How has attending the WRMC helped you provide a better experience for your participants?
TVRC: By regularly attending the WRMC, we are able to stay informed about current industry standards and best practices to ensure an objectively high quality, educational, and fun experience for our campers. At the conference, we are challenged annually to revisit our programmatic decisions and to incorporate exciting new ideas in the months leading up to our summer season. Through lessons and frameworks we have learned over the years, we have also been able to incorporate risk management into our curriculum as an important takeaway for our staff and campers alike!
WRMC: How has attending the WRMC changed the way you manage your program?
TVRC: Attending the WRMC has provided our year-round staff with principles, resources, and connections to make risk management an institutional priority. More than anything, the opportunity to have conversations and share ideas with other leaders in the backcountry industry has made our program stronger and stronger with each year we attend.
We feel lucky to have outstanding WRMC attendees like the staff from Teton Valley Ranch Camp joining the discussion each year. For the chance to network with knowledgeable and experienced folks from TVRC and other similar organizations please join us at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 2014.
Click on the image below to learn more about the WRMC or to register online.
Permalink | Posted by Rahel Manna on Aug 28, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Leadership, Professional Training, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wilderness Risk Management Conference
Exploration Film Tour Celebrates the Spirit of Adventure
The first annual NOLS Exploration Film Tour features two and a half hours of exciting short films based on themes of wonder, discovery, curiosity, and the timelessness of the wilderness experience.
For one night, come celebrate the wonder of the outdoors through film. NOLS believes these films will inspire viewers to get outside and have their own adventures.
Lander Valley High School and NOLS team up for incoming freshmen orientation
On August 12th and 13th NOLS teamed up with Lander Valley High School to provide a taste of outdoor recreation to the freshmen orientation. This is the second year that NOLS has helped out with the freshmen orientation and NOLS hopes to make it an annual event for years to come.
City Kids Wilderness Project and the WRMC
The Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC) unites hundreds of the nation’s leading outdoor organizations, schools, and businesses annually in an effort to “offer an outstanding educational experience to help mitigate the risks inherent in exploring, working, teaching, and recreating in wild places.” WRMC attendees absorb and learn a lot from one another through workshops, exercises, structured networking sessions, and much more.
We want to highlight some of the organizations that continually come the WRMC and find out why they attend and how the WRMC has influenced their risk management practices. Recently, we interviewed Colleen McHugh, the program director of City Kids Wilderness Project (CKWP), an outstanding nonprofit youth organization that has been returning annually to the WRMC.
Montana Conservation Corps & the WRMC
In this installment of the Wilderness Risk Management Conference blog series, we are focusing our attention on the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC). This nonprofit development program for young adults has been following in the footsteps of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, using conservation projects to foster citizenship and personal growth in its members. WRMC staff caught up with Montana Conservation Corps Program Director Lee Gault, who represented MCC at the WRMC 10 years ago, and asked him about the dynamic relationship that has been evolving between MCC and the WRMC for over a decade.
In the span of one year, the MCC, as a single branch, is able to train 300-400 participants of varying age groups and backgrounds. The different programs offered at MCC also vary greatly. One program in particular, the Veterans Green Corps, serves American military veterans who are “transitioning from military to civilian life” and “range in age from 24-35” said Gault. Using the training and exposure that the MCC program provides, many American veterans who are MCC alumni are able to transition into civilian positions and go on to work with the national parks service and the national forest service.
Thoughts From the Field: Rediscovering My Calling
The NOLS Winter/Spring Course Catalog will be available soon! Following is a sneak preview of one of the insightful stories shared by NOLS grads in the newest catalog.
Thoughts From the Field: Rediscovering My Calling
By Scott Taylor, 2013 Spring Semester in Australia
Before my NOLS course, I had taken a break from the university of Vermont because my priorities had become unhinged. I saw NOLS as a way to get my feet wet in an untraditional educational arena as well as embark on the coolest adventure I have ever done.
On the plane from Boston to Western Australia, the contrasting emotions of apprehension and excitement pulsed through me. upon our arrival at NOLS Australia, my coursemates, instructors, and I divvied up 75 days worth of food and medical rations for 16 college-aged students from the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands.
In the frontcountry, civilization and infrastructure allow us to live a convenient but hectic existence. In the backcountry, wilderness tested our physical ability, emotions, and decision-making abilities. Each day, two students were scheduled to be Leader of the Day, which entailed safely scouting and navigating rapids, keeping the convoy of canoes in a tight formation, managing breaks, and selecting campsites. During the river section of the semester, we also each researched and taught two short classes.
The emphasis on the hiking section was on map reading and route- planning. As we progressed as a group and individually, the instructors’ role in decision making became less prevalent, and they eventually stopped traveling with us during the day. Each afternoon, we rejoined them in time for class. We were also required to teach another class, write two essays, and keep a species list. As our navigation and risk management skills grew, we earned the privilege of spending the last week traveling in the absence of the instructors entirely.
The next week we spent with Aboriginals of the Bardi tribe. We learned about their cultural structure, built spears and fished for dinner, and took part in storytelling. I am truly grateful for the time they spent with us.
I learned a tremendous amount about myself, and I feel like for the first time in my life I am on the right track to further my education and pursue and explore my passion. NOLS reinforced my longstanding interest in the outdoors, and I immediately started building on that. I am now a natural resource management major and ecological restoration minor at Colorado State University. I attribute a large part of my current situation and progress in a field I am passionate about to my time in Australia with NOLS. I cannot praise the program enough.
The Australia Backpacking Course Back From the Bush
After 35 days out bush, our Backpacking Course students returned to Broome for their final pack up and graduation. Their backpacking section was quite an adventurous journey through the King Leopold Ranges. They experienced some of the true wonders of the Kimberley environment, hiking through open savannah grasslands with pockets of tropical rainforests. Some of their highlights included close encounters with the local wildlife, swimming under crystal clear waterfalls, exploring the Munboon Plateau, a 40 hour solo and a highly successful Small Group Expedition.
After the ABC completed their backpacking section, they traveled to the Jarlmadangah Burra aboriginal community to learn about local Indigenous culture. They camped in the center of the community, learned from guide, TJ, and played basketball with some of the local kids. It was interesting for the students to learn about the people who have lived sustainably on the land they had been travelling on for so long.
We farewell our amazing ABC students as they transition into their lives back home or continue onto new adventures. Keep posted for the NOLS Australia short film coming out later this year with some highlights of this awesome experience.
The Australia Combo Course Returns From the Sea
The ACS spent the first 26 days backpacking in Western Australia’s Kimberley region in the King Leopold Ranges. It's beautiful country to backpack through.
The days were hot, so they would start early to beat the intense heat of the day. They enjoyed cooling off in oasis watering holes and some had nice water falls.
A normal day consisted of waking by 5am and hiking by 6, then going for a few hours. The idea was to get to the next camp before 3pm, which was the hottest part of the day.
There would usually be a class in the afternoon. They cooked dinner early and got into their tents when it became dark. The students learned about personal care, basic camping techniques, leave no trace principles, basic and advanced navigation using a topographical map and compass, different leadership styles, and the flora and fauna of the area they ventured into.
After backpacking, the ACS switched to sea kayaking, which seemed like a welcomed change of pace. They paddled through the Dampier Archipelago, which is a beautiful place to paddle.
During that time, the students learned basic sea kayak skills, paddling efficiency, interpreting the charts for navigation, gauging sea state, weather patterns, how the moon affects the tide and how to fish out of a kayak.
The water was warm and the beaches were white, with smooth sandy landings that were wonderful places to camp and practice paddling techniques.
The students learned that leadership looks very different on the water versus on land.
And everyone had fun!
We wish our wonderful ACS students the very best in their journeys back to the 'real world' and welcome them back for more NOLS adventures in the future... Stay posted for the NOLS Australia short film coming out later this year, capturing the special memories from this trip of a lifetime!
In-Town Staff Value Out-of-Office Play
It's no secret that NOLS is a great place to work. Listed in Outside Magazine's "100 Best Places to Work" for the last six years, NOLS has been recognized nationally for its commitment to outdoor education and encouraging a good work-life balance. [Read more on this recognition here.]
NOLS employees are allowed to work flexible schedules so they can get outside and play. Many staff members at NOLS take advantage of this perk. With support from supervisors, employees can take time out of the workday to participate in community-wide lunchtime bike rides, climb at the local crag or complete individual training regimens.
The organization also takes that support a step further by encouraging staff to participate in races and multi-day events, even when these events take place on weekdays. NOLS employees are participating in outdoor ventures all over the world but are also playing roles in Wyoming’s growing adventure race scene.
For example, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute employees Kira Gilman, Jill Moeller, and Anna Horn entered and competed in the inaugural REV3 Casper Strong Full Day Adventure Race at their supervisor's urging.
The team members cheered each other through a series of unique and entertaining events in Casper, Wyoming. The Casper Strong race was a team effort and these three ladies bonded while tackling challenges along the course.
Gilman began the race for WMI’s team with a 12-mile trail run and then completed an archery section on top of Casper Mountain. Moeller then competed in the next leg of the race, mountain-biking and carrying a 50-pound salt block uphill. Finally, Horn tubed a whitewater section of the North Platte River to the finish line.
This winning team returned to the office with Casper Strong belt buckles and many stories to share.
"It was fun to have my supervisor encourage me to try something new and challenge myself. The push I receive from co-workers to pursue personal goals and well-being outside of the office is a huge part of what has made working in-town for NOLS sustainable for me," Horn reflected.
NOLS is committed to continuing its support and encouragement of employee wellness—a key ingredient in what makes the school an awesome place to work!
Fremont the Backpack
By Kaybe Loughran
Fremont the backpack sat in a heap
Of bags, tents, and jackets, three feet deep
He waited there for a future cold weather snap
When Nate finally would have time to repair his strap
Fremont remembered his first trip out
He hadn’t an idea what the Winds were about
Back then he was Deuter pack 2602
And his nylon was shiny, factory new!
Johnny the student carried him over ridges and creeks
Together they scrambled over so many peaks
One day they hiked and hiked what felt like nonstop
Until they found themselves on Fremont peak, right at the top!
Johnny was so happy that he marked the event
By naming his trusty pack after their first mountain ascent.
Over the next few weeks, Fremont and Johnny traveled together
The land was so rugged and so was the weather
Fremont became less shiny and acquired more wear
His nylon was breaking and he needed repair
Johnny’s instructor taught them packs could be sewn
So that buying a new one could be postponed
He showed them his gaiters and other gear
Which he would probably keep using for many a year
“Take care of your things and repair them here!
You’ll eliminate work that NOLS staff must endure.”
Fremont came back into town with a little red patch,
A mark that adventure never comes without a scratch.
He hung out, rested, and became ready to spring
For the excitement the next course could bring
A few days later Fremont met Carrie Jean,
A young energetic girl of sixteen.
The first night at camp Carrie forgot
To put her snacks in the bear fence, and guess what they brought?
A little brown mouse who nibbled right through
Fremont’s fabric and into her shoe
“Eek!” she said in the light of the morning,
“My gulch crunch is gone and the ants are swarming!!”
Fremont was dragged across granite and mud
His zipper was dirty and could not be tugged
"Help" he cried, though only the tent could hear,
"Someone please teach this girl about gear!"
The tent sighed and let Fremont under his fly,
He could do little but at least he could keep Fremont dry.
So after three long weeks Fremont returned to the base
Bashed, bruised, and torn all over the place.
Kevin gave him one long look and shook his head
“Not back to the gear room, but the back pile instead!”
So that’s where Fremont is and that’s where he’ll stay
Until the base has a cold, slow, quiet day.
The staff at NOLS works hard to keep their gear in working order. Students are sent into the field with good quality stuff. Due to the nature of NOLS courses, gear never stays pristine, but NOLS instructors use these opportunities to teach students how to repair their own things. According to Kevin McGowan, who runs the gear room, whatever can be repaired in town can also be repaired in the field. Students are equipped with stove and tent repair kits as well as patch kits and a speedy stitcher for all sorts of gear. They learn repair techniques and important lessons about taking good care of their belongings. Students are often issued used gear with character and history. Puffy coats may be marked with small patches, but they are just as warm as any other jacket.
Amit puts a patch on a puffy coat that just came off of a course.
When gear comes back that needs extra special attention, like Fremont the backpack, it is usually out of commission during the busy summer months until the staff have time to work on it. The branch currently has a pile of gear to sort through, which will probably have to wait until winter. Some of this pile will end up getting sold at garage sales if it is beyond repair for extensive courses but still of use to someone else.
The pile of gear in need of repair grows steadily during the summer months.
The lifespan of a backpack is usually about two years, and a lead rope will last a few courses before it must become a top rope. Other gear has different expected lifespans, but gear ends up being approximately 18 percent of NOLS’ budget, a large part when you consider everything else that a NOLS course covers (travel, food, wages, etc.). The sustainability office is working on ways to minimize the amount of new gear NOLS purchases and maximize the amount that NOLS can repair. In general, sustainability is an integral part of NOLS’ mission, and as much as NOLS students and staff can reuse and repair, they will! NOLS instructors hope students come off courses with new drive to take care of their gear and purchase less.
Issue room staff Augustine works on sewing up a pair of pants.