AAU 3/8/13 END OF COURSE
We have just waved good bye to our AAU 3/8/13 Semester Students. An amazing group of students whom endured a very wet week on their Coastal Section.They were not dampened at all though, jumping in to participate in the finishing tasks of their expedition! Gear was repaired and cleaned in record time and now we just have to wait for our normal dry season weather conditions to return so we can put it all away! A big thank you AAU 3/8/13!! We celebrated with an Aussie BBQ of Kangaroo and Parlova dessert! It was awesome to hear their stories from their adventures with the Bardi Mob up at One Arm Point; big fish were caught, boomerangs thrown and spears crafted!!
NOLS gets Cowboy Tough
A lot of people at NOLS are planning for the first Cowboy Tough adventure race in Wyoming. NOLS is sponsoring and designing the ropes section and a trekking and orienteering section of the race. But there are two more people at NOLS gearing up for the race: Team Wyo competitors Katie Everson and Adam Swisher.
The two-person team brings the experience of many NOLS courses, some as students and some as an instructor, the in-town roles of an admissions officer and curriculum publications manager, and a variety of endurance racing.
Everson,a marathon and half marathon runner and NOLS Pacific Northwest Semester graduate jumped at the chance to compete in the first Cowboy Tough race shortly after moving to Lander, Wyo. for a job at NOLS Headquarters. Her teammate, Adam, is an instructor with a few adventure races under his belt. Together, they’re training for a top finish, though they recognize just finishing will be a challenge.
This weekend, they will spend a day biking and hiking outside of Lander. They have a few days planned this summer for multi-day training, preparing themselves for pushing through the point of fatigue together.
After building their endurance through the spring, Swisher and Everson will turn their focus to the more technical aspects of the race like navigation and taking on the relatively new skills to both of them: whitewater kickboarding and canoeing.
We’ll keep you updated on their training and their goals as July 18 approaches. In the meantime, wish Team Wyo speed and perseverence as they prepare!
Hang Thao: Discovering His Full Potential
As a high school student who rarely missed class and finished all his work, Hang Thao was introduced to Seattle Summer Search, a leadership development program for low-income youth in King County, Wash. Through the organization, the 16-year-old was directed to NOLS and found his chance to reach for more. His Wind River Wilderness course in Wyoming helped Hang discover that he had much more to contribute to the group than “just being around.” He could, and did, lead a group of peers through times of conflict.
“The most important part of NOLS is its ability to uncover the hidden potential within a person,” Hang explained, “I grew up believing I was an average student like everyone else. I rarely saw myself as a leader.”
As a Seattle resident, Hang received a scholarship for his course raised through the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG day of giving. Last year, NOLS alumni, parents and friends in the Seattle area raised over $5,000 in scholarship dollars for two Seattle area students.
“Without the scholarship there is no doubt that I would have never been able to take the NOLS course,” Hang said, “Our low-income household would not have been able to spare money for it.”
Through the generosity of the Seattle community, Hang was given the opportunity to explore his skills and ability, and has since been able to apply these acquired skills at school, home and his workplace. Before NOLS, procrastination and lack of motivation and commitment seemed to follow him, and his only goal was to pass class. Now Hang is motivated and even excited to learn and soak in as much information as he can.
Having gained so much from his course, Hang is now a big advocate for outdoor education. He believes it is necessary for future generations to expand their knowledge beyond the computer screen.
“NOLS is an example of growth outside of the cramped room, where we learn a sense of respect that has been forgotten when everything we know is fed to us,” he said, “NOLS taught me to be as much as I can be.”
Hang concluded, “If NOLS is able to inspire just one student a year then they are successful in making a better future for the people, nation, and world.”
Help more Seattle students like Hang discover their potential. Donate to NOLS through GiveBIG tomorrow, Wednesday, May 15, and help us raise $10,000 for Seattle area scholarship students.
Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on May 14, 2013
AAU 3/8/13 - Australia Spring Semester Broome Switch
And out they go again for the next stage of the adventure…
The AAU 3/8/13 Australia Semester group just drove out this morning, headed for One Arm Point, the rendezvous for the Coastal Cultural section of the semester. Late yesterday, the intrepid group arrived back in Broome after a rainy last night in the Kimberley. How ironic! Here in Broome we are well into the ‘Dry’ season, with the last rainfall over 7 weeks ago & none expected until November.
The afternoon was spent switching gears from one course type to the next. Resupplies of food, fuel & all important spice kits (also known in the field as ‘food repair kits’) was accompanied by meeting a new instructor joining them for the last part of their Australian Journey. Sam is what many would call a ‘Fair dinkum Ozzie bloke’ in all the best ways. Hailing from the South of Australia he has been working in this part of the world for over 10 years. They will also be joining many Bardi aboriginal guides for the next week where they will craft boomerangs & spears, learn about traditionl law & seasons, and all with the backdrop of a group of Islands, in the grand King Sound.
Just a few hours ago students rose for an early 5am breakfast before we all headed to the library for some story telling about the last section. Highlights that were shared included many more wildlife encounters, with a special treat of seeing Brolga, the largest bird in the Kimberley at up to 4’ 3”. Students also took on Natural history teaching, each being responsible for leading a class or discussion with their peers.
For many the challenge of descending the Carson escarpment & the incredible views over the valley was the highlight of the hiking section. As a testament to their success individually & as a group, they were given many opportunities to take on high levels of leadership. The last section of the hiking route was handed over by instructors & as a group the students planned a ration period. For the last 6 days, students broke into small groups & strode out without instructors on a mini expedition of their making. During this time they worked in small teams, choosing camps, navigating, dealing with first aid issues based on their earlier training & mostly, put into practice everything that the last 2 months of expeditioning had taught them. Fantastic.
We send them to the Islands now, fingers crossed for their exceptional journey to continue in the same theme as it has so far. We will see them again on the 20th when they return to Broome for the final graduation.
NOLS SW Celebrates Earth Day
On April 22, 1970, thousands in the United States rallied to celebrate the inaugural Earth Day, a chance to show and garner support for environmental action. Today, nearly 200 countries celebrate all over the world.
Here at the NOLS Southwest, we celebrated by joining the movers and the shakers of Tucson to connect with our community. Alongside Tucson Clean and Beautiful, 4H, Bicas, Southwest Conservation Corps, and many other inspiring organizations, we set out to spend a fun-filled day with local kids in the sun!
It certainly was fun-filled. At the event, our partner organizations taught us to bake sun-oven mesquite-flower cookies, make flowers out of old bike spokes and tires, and string together old components into wind chimes. Folks got good and dirty in the mud pit and flew high on the ropes course.
Fearless Intern Matt McArdle dynoing on the ropes course!
We spent the day teaching orienteering and bracelet making. With some p-cord, old cordelette, and webbing “beads,” we strung together wearable art.
Duck Murphy offering up his best fashion advice.
After teaching our navigation enthusiasts how to use compasses*, we set out on one of our three orienteering courses to practice navigation. The children became instant experts and guided us around all of the Earth Day happenings.
Another truly wonderful day in the desert!
*Fun Fact! The plural of compass is compasses not compi! The things you learn as an intern!
The Wonder Wedge: Inventing for a Cause
By the end of his sophomore year in college, Jim and Sue Opeka’s son, Daren, was struggling with his geology major. Overwhelmed with too many extracurricular activities and responsibilities, Daren was confused and unhappy. But he felt unsure as to how to change the situation. Jim and Sue knew he needed something to clear his head, and since he’d always been an athletic, ‘outdoors kid’—playing sports, camping, whitewater rafting, hiking—his parents suggested NOLS.
After leaving a summer camp job due to poor work conditions, Daren still wanted an epiphany in the mountains. He knew what he needed to do. That fall he made his way to Lander, Wyo. for a Semester in the Rockies.
Daren found in his NOLS instructors the mentorship and motivation that was lacking at the camp. He relished refining his hiking and camping skills and became smitten with rock climbing, which remains his passion to this day. But it was on his canyoneering section in the Grand Canyon that Daren found the epiphany he sought.
“He called us and said, ‘I went into the canyon a geology major and came out an English major. I never looked at a rock and thought about what it was … but rather the story it told,’” Sue recalled.
NOLS was a life-changer for Daren and his parents. He left a confused young man pursuing the wrong major with no real idea as to who he was and what he really wanted to do with his life; he returned a man who was young. NOLS helped Daren discover himself. Back home, Jim and Sue noticed that he was more mature, focused, self-aware, and driven. Daren decided to return to NOLS someday as an instructor. He wanted to help other young people “find themselves,” a dream he lives today.
Jim and Sue believe that with all the distractions of today’s world—technology, social pressures, and job and marketplace insecurities—outdoor education is more important than ever. Out of this belief, the Opekas decided to donate the proceeds of The Wonder Wedge, a hardware product Jim invented that is designed to provide safety in ladder use, to the NOLS Annual Fund.
Last fall, the couple attended a local “huge, well-attended garage sale” in their town to sell the wedges.
“Because most people have no idea what NOLS is, we also had an opportunity to share our positive opinion of, and experiences with, NOLS. We used the term ‘life-changer’ a lot,” Sue said.
The Opekas chose to donate the proceeds from The Wonder Wedge sales to NOLS because of the difference it made in their son’s life.
“It is a wonderful organization with proven results. We are grateful for the positive impact NOLS had on our family,” Sue said, adding, “As Daren says, ‘Being in the wilderness provides clarity … a sense of what’s really important.’”
To learn more about philanthropy at NOLS or to make a gift, visit giving.nols.edu.
Robby Rechord: An Inspiration and a Role Model
With Expedition Denali right around the corner, the suspense and anticipation is building every day. There’s no doubt the nine climbers who make up the team are focused and are preparing themselves mentally and physically. Although these spirited and courageous individuals are the nucleus for the entire expedition, have you stopped and asked yourself who makes up the instructor team? One man comes to mind right away. He is a senior NOLS instructor. He is an avid backcountry skier. His extensive winter camping experience has led him to teach the NOLS professional level one avalanche course and Winter Instructor Seminar. He is the NOLS Teton Valley program supervisor. This spring he will be the first African American to lead a NOLS instructor course. His name? Drumroll… Robby Rechord!
Robby grew up in Chicago and was introduced to the outdoors at a young age by his grandfather, who often took him fishing. Sometimes when his grandfather would fall asleep in the heat of the day, Robby would wander off and venture through the few acres of woods surrounding the pond, exploring every nook and cranny like he was the first to have discovered it. His thirst for adventure continued to grow into his college years when he attended Colorado College. There, he discovered his true passion: skiing the pristine, unmarked backcountry slopes of the West, which led him to settle in Jackson, Wyo. in 1994.
Expedition Denali marks a sort of culmination for Robby. He is intoxicated by thought of being the African American instructor on this team and delivering such a crucial and significant message to the world. He hopes the expedition will play a pivotal role in exposing the outdoors to more African Americans. His mindset is simple and straightforward: “Why not try this? Take a look at the cultural standing of black people in America. We are playing the race card on this one. We need to get more black people outside to create advocates for our beautiful and natural places.”A chord also struck Robby when two of his fellow climbers made comments that Expedition Denali, “Is a way of giving permission to black people to do something outside the norm,” and “Could help combat the obesity epidemic among black women.”
Now, with all this in mind, we must also recognize that going into the backcountry for a 30-day expedition isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Robby knows we must meet people where they’re at. So instead of creating the misconception that Expedition Denali is going to generate an army of young black mountaineers, he suggests making alternative choices when planning a vacation. How about instead of going to Vegas or on a cruise, try visiting one of our national parks? If you live in the city, Chicago for example, get out and go for a walk along the lakeshore and listen to the birds and watch the sunrise (or sunset), and reap the numerous benefits of that simple act. Robby hopes that those who take a liking to the natural world also consider it as a career option, not only as an avenue of recreation and reflection. From a field biologist to a forest ranger, we need people of color in these positions to welcome more people of color as the years pass on.
It’s true for all of us that we need to unplug from our laptops and phones more often. With the ever-increasing technological advances, it is often an oversight that nature will become more and more important as well. We are a generation that is “logged in and tuned out.” Nature, whatever arrangement you seek it in, is raw and true. It has therapeutic benefits undiscovered by many. Our lands are sacred treasures that need to be kept close to our hearts. So, if you are someone who isn’t currently keen on the thought of wilderness, just ask yourself, “Why not try it”?
Permalink | Posted by Brent Wallen on Apr 30, 2013
Rock Rescue and Wrapping Up
As they entered the last week of their semester, the WMR (Whammer) students had a chance to use their skills in a student-led cliff rescue scenario in Sinks Canyon outside of Lander, Wyoming. The exercise involved rappelling to two “victims” on a small ledge, assessing and treating their injuries, and evacuating one with a tandem rappel and the other with a litter lower. This is in preparation for students’ final “graduation” scenario on May 2nd, the last day of their course. This full-day scenario will incorporate skills learned on every section of the course.
The Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester is a new course offered for the first time in 2013. It began with a one-month Wilderness EMT course outside of Lander, Wyoming, followed by one month in the canyons of southern Utah, two weeks on the Yampa River, and two weeks of climbing around Lander. Students will walk away with Wilderness and Urban Emergency Medical Technician, CPR Instructor, Leave No Trace Master, Basic Swiftwater and Rock Rescue certifications. You can read more about the first WMR here and here.
Natural Gas Project Cancelled in Australia
Woodside Petroleum’s plans for a liquid natural gas plant in Western Australia have been abandoned. Though still facing the threat of offshore development, the decision is an exciting victory for NOLS Australia’s classrooms and especially for the town of Broome where operations are based. The school has been keeping close track of the project since 2011. At that time, the proposal faced stiff opposition from a number of local indigenous and environmental groups. James Price Point, the development’s proposed location, is a large peninsula just north of Broome. The area is said to hold sacred Aboriginal songlines and dinosaur footprints that are among the largest on the planet.
NOLS Australia students in a backcountry class.
Photo: Elizabeh Leschied
In addition to being home to sites significant to both human and natural history, this region of Australia’s northwest coast is an important operating area for NOLS Australia. Semester students experience cultural immersion during a section in the Bardi Aboriginal homeland. Australia Backpacking and Sea Kayaking students paddle through the Dampier Archipelago, a few hundred miles south of Broome on the Indian Ocean.
The purpose of Woodside’s proposed facility was to refine natural gas extracted from the nearby Browse Basin- an offshore gas field roughly the size of North Carolina. The plant would have cost an estimated US$45 billion, and would have served as a stepping-stone to transform the small town of Broome into “the next Dubai.” The plant would also prepare the refined gas for export to Asia. Woodside cites competition from shale development in North America and the option of a cheaper floating facility as the reason for the project’s cancellation.
The construction and operation of the facility would have been completed against significant public outcry. There are places in Western Australia that are still unexplored, and NOLS courses are sometimes the first humans to see to them from the ground. It is our hope that Western Australia can balance development with conservation, and that this area will remain intact as one of the most unique and genuinely wild places on Earth.
AAU 3/8/13 - Switch visit!
Last week we briefly got to visit the AAU semester students during the switch between the Canoe & Backpacking sections.
After 40 days of travelling North on the Drysdale River, they made it to Bulldust Yard. At this stage the group pulled the canoes far beyond the flood zone & began the task of preparing to switch into a new section type, backpacking.
Flying in to deliver the next food ration, we were intrigued by stories of slick-rock camps, crocodiles, close dingo encounters, inspiring summer storms & best of all a feeling of accomplishment in themselves for what had been achieved! A particular highlight for the group, involved a 24-hour solo experience. Students were each placed in a solo spot in view of both the Drysdale River & the incredible Solea falls. Here they wrote & pondered about their experience thus far & contemplated achievements & goals for the next section.
There was a great amount of leadership success in daily travel by canoe to each camp. Students were deemed ready to take on leading the day’s travel in leadership teams of two. This was a massive responsibility, where under the guidance of the instructors ‘Leaders’ made decisions concerning navigation, destination camps, portages of the canoe when rapids were not safely runnable, & choosing lines when they were. It sounds like there were many good stories that came out of this challenge!
I can definately say, the group certainly looked a lot dirtier & hairier than they did just a few short weeks ago. They also seemed to have grown from a group of excited, nervous & shy individuals into a solid expedition team, focused, skilled & confident in where they were & why they were there.
After a very short stop, we lifted off by helicopter, heading back to Broome & leaving the intrepid adventurers to their journey South. They will begin with quite a topographical obstacle – the ascent of the Carson escarpment. Enjoy the pictures & we look forward to again seeing them in May.
- The NOLS Australia team.