Water World - Lynn Petzold's 9 Favorite Backcountry Locales
NOLS Senior Field Instructor and Professional Training Account Manager, Lynn Petzold is no stranger to stunning and captivating backcountry locales. Working NOLS courses in Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, British Columbia, and the U.S. and living in Bolivia and Spain has given her access to so many beautiful spots, it came as a real surprise when she agreed to whittle down her favorite spots to just nine. While she has experienced some of these places as an instructor on NOLS courses, there are a few that she has pursued on her own accord. Here they are, in no particular order...
1) Baja coast from San Felipe to La Paz (Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico)
"This coastline holds a special place in my heart. I started paddling here in 1993 and since then, I've witnessed changes like development of the area and a decline in the fisheries that used to thrive along the coast. I've enjoyed reconnecting with the local Mexicans every couple of years."
"While I was paddling at sunrise one morning along the southern end of San Basilio, I encountered these formations just off the coast. There was something really captivating about the contrast between these sharp protrustions and the serene, white beaches just behind me. This area holds some great memories!"
2) El Pulpito (Sea of Cortez, Baja, Mexico)
"2009 was a great year for paddling down in Baja! There was a point at which we were able to get really close to these caverns at El Pulpito. This is a north facing wall coming straight out of the ocean near San Nicolas. When there are high winds (which is typically the case in winter) and a built up sea, this is an area that you want to steer clear of. We were lucky enough to hit it just right. Being able to get close to these features was pretty special."
3) Laguna San Ignacio (Baja, Mexico)
"I've visited San Ignacio several times. These particular photos were taken during a NOLS Alumni Trip in 2008. We were there to witness part of the annual Gray Whale migration. The Baja Pennisula is the final stop along their journey from the Chuckchi Sea (which is just north of the Bering Strait)."
4) Deer Isle Archipelago (Maine)
"Deer Isle is one of my favorite spots to paddle on the Atlantic coast. This photo was from a NOLS Alumni Trip in 2008. I'm a member of the Maine Island Trail Association, which is an organization that promotes stewardship of this Archipelago. They also provide information to members regarding camping spots, since many of the islands are privately owned."
5) Rangitata River (South Island, New Zealand)
"Rangitata River is a unique spot on the South Island of New Zealand. I lived in nearby Christchurch for a year in 1995 and on the weekends, we'd escape to the river to go rafting. It is a little more remote and off the beaten path, a favorite spot for locals. Paddling with local Kiwis made it that much more special. Their fun-loving, adventureous spirit was infectious."
"Headwaters of the Rangitata River above the gorge. This is a salmon fishery and generally a beautiful, serene spot."
6) Eastern side of Knight Island (Prince William Sound, Alaska)
"Knight Island might be my favorite spot in Prince William Sound. This area is special, simply because its fairly remote and partially protected from the ocean. This area is great for humpback whale and orca watching!"
7) Harriman Fjord (Prince William Sound, Alaska)
"In 2011, I was working a STEP course in Prince William Sound. Harriman Fjord is located at the southern end of the Chugach Range, and the surrounding terrain feels immense. Between the rain, fog, and tide-water glaciers, it seems as though you're stepping...or paddling...back in time. This location brings back many memories and is my current desktop background!"
8) Lofoten Islands (Norway)
"In the summer of 2001, I went to Norway on a personal trip to paddle with one of my students, a Semester in Patagonia grad and native Norwegian. I was attracted to explore this area after hearing about it from my friend Lena Conlan, a NOLS/WMI Instructor and co-owner of a guiding company, Crossing Latitudes, which operates in this area."
9) Coastline from Bella Bella to Port Hardy (British Columbia, Canada)
"Part of the Inside Passage, this coastline provides 'world class' paddling. Between the Pacific swell, the lush, old growth forests, and spectacular islands along the coast, this place is surrounded by beauty."
"Sunsets here are pretty special as well!"
What's next on Lynn's list?
'An amazing experience'
By Nicholas Nerli, age 14
Growing up in Lander, Wyo., where NOLS Headquarters
and NOLS Rocky Mountain are located, experiencing a NOLS course has
been on my mind since I learned what NOLS is all about. Just the thought of
being in the backcountry during summer vacation was a dream. Furthermore, the
thought of going somewhere I had never been was fascinating, so after some
serious thought, I applied to take a course with NOLS Northeast.
I was so excited when I found out I would be going and, I admit, a bit nervous. For one, I had never flown. Second, I would be living in a foreign environment. I was committing to two weeks with strangers, but I knew I was going to have the time and opportunity of my life.
Learning new skills was very important to me. Throughout my course, I was able to engage in numerous learning activities, be it cooking and baking, first aid, navigation, or, most importantly, leadership. Being a leader was such an important role during my course, and the suggestions and guidance I was given when I was in a leadership role truly benefited me. I will never forget being leader of the day, for it was difficult, but as a team we succeeded that day. That experience will always stay with me and serve me when I face obstacles, big and small.
Climbing my first Adirondack high peak was stunning in a way I can't describe. The feeling I experienced looking over the green, lush landscape, Lake Champlain, and into Vermont was amazing! One morning, we awoke at 3 a.m. to climb Noonmark Mountain and watch the sunrise. The experience and view were breathtaking. Summiting each peak was beautiful in its own unique way. You must gain this experience to understand the pure adrenaline rush.
My instructors were knowledgeable, positive, and encouraging toward everyone, creating a healthy team. We grew from each other both emotionally and physically and shared experiences I can’t do justice to in writing. Through our friendships, we recognized our strengths and improved on our weaknesses in order to become the best we could be. Without my team, I would not have learned and gained so much.
Nearly three weeks have passed since I returned home. I brought with me memories, friends, and knowledge that I could not have imagined. I have come to miss my NOLS lifestyle and especially upstate New York, which I grew to love during my time there. I hope to once again experience the beauty and uniqueness of the Northeast. I also look forward to future NOLS courses and will use the knowledge I gained to be the most successful person I can be and strive for all I hope to be. NOLS Northeast was an amazing experience.
Sharing a Love for the Outdoors: Debi and Scott Flora
“The only sticker on my banjo case is a NOLS sticker,” Scott Flora proudly told me last week.
Scott and his wife, Debi, are the parents of two NOLS graduates, one of them an employee at NOLS’ headquarters in Lander, Wyo. The Floras were introduced to NOLS through a backpacking buddy and NOLS instructor when their son and daughter were still too young to really consider the program.
No strangers to the backcountry themselves, the couple met on a cross-country skiing trip Scott was leading through Colorado State University- Pueblo (formerly the University of Southern Colorado). As their family grew and the kids got old enough to walk (most of the time) they began taking family camping and backpacking trips into the Rockies and beyond.
Years later, their son, Bradley, was considering advancing his career in the ski industry. Debi and Scott remembered the Wilderness Medicine Institute, founded near their home in Colorado. It seemed like a good fit, so Bradley journeyed to Lander to become a wilderness EMT.
Scott and Debi witnessed a growth in their son’s confidence after his course, along with an increased awareness of the safety ramifications of adventure activities. This boost was in part to the clinical time the students spent in the ER of a nearby hospital.
“He was being treated as a professional, treated with a level of responsibility,” Debi explained, “I think that had a huge impact on how he saw himself.”
Bradley also benefited greatly from the scenarios that allowed him to work as a member of a team. Overall, his NOLS training was such a positive experience that when his sister, Larkin, was looking for a gap year program, Bradley suggested that she look into the semester courses.
Larkin’s Spring Semester in Baja brought on many challenges, including being one of two female students on the course. She worked on holding her own with men, and Scott believes that she came out of it able to relate to men in a new and different way.
Larkin and her coursemates faced other challenges, including multi-day windstorms, desert heat, lack of water, and long days of paddling. They also experienced the small joys of an unexpected citrus orchard, and a pod of dolphins playing near their boats, along with the cultural opportunities traveling in another country provided. For Larkin, these moments made the discomfort worth it.
This controlled adversity can be built into a course, such as an extra hard day of hiking, or it can come from external effects such as the weather. Debi and Scott feel that this adversity helped make Larkin’s transition to college the next fall smoother.
“Parents have concerns about their children going off to college, and having an intermediate step for kids is a good thing,” Scott stated, “When you think of a college student going through a course, and then they get to college and they realize that ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad!’ They are better prepared for adversity and challenges in life because they’ve experienced adversity and challenges at NOLS.”
The Floras believe that NOLS, and all extended wilderness travel, has a transformative affect on young people especially. For this reason they are strong proponents of wilderness education.
“NOLS graduates bring their personal growth back into the world,” Debi insisted. “How they interact in their job, with their family, their friends, their community is all effected by how they feel coming out of NOLS.”
Because of this, Debi and Scott have decided to donate annually to NOLS. They believe that outdoor education will contribute to making the world a better place and want to see the school continue well into the future.visit donate.nols.edu.
Former NOLS Chair honored
The Murie Center presented former NOLS Board of Trustees Chair Gretchen Long with the third annual Spirit of Conservation Award last week.
Long is a 1991 graduate of the 25 and over Baja Sea Kayaking course and was named chairman of the NOLS Board in 1998. She is also an emeritus board member of The Murie Center.
The Murie Center Spirit of Conservation Award is presented to an individual whose life work demonstrates a commitment to conservation, civility, and community—trademarks of the Murie family legacy. The Murie Center, in partnership with the Grand Teton National Park, engages people to understand and commit to the enduring value of conserving wildlife and wild places.
NOLS to Play Major Roles at Cowboy Tough Adventure Race
Starting Thursday morning in southeastern Wyoming is the Cameco and City of Casper Cowboy Tough Expedition Race. As part of the Rev3 Adventure Race Series, this point-to-point race, starting in Cheyenne and ending in Casper is also a national qualifying race for the North American Adventure Racing Series (NAARS). Teams of two or four people will race through a series of outdoor disciplines including trekking, biking, river travel, rappelling as well as other challenging activities.
NOLS is a major sponsor of the event, providing support in multiple ways. As the racers depart from Cheyenne, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute will join the medical crew, bringing the experience of three of WMI’s own WEMTs. Jared Steinman, the NOLS social media coordinator, Travis Welch, WMI’s program and retail store manager, and Greg Flemming, a WMI instructor will all use their training to provide medical attention as needed for the racer. In addition to being there to treat race-related illnesses and injuries, NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute will provide most of the medical gear.
A section of the adventure race will be orienteering. NOLS’ own Casey Pikla and Kelly Carlin will manage and oversee this portion as adventure racers go to and from each checkpoint. There are mandatory checkpoints as well as optional checkpoints for time bonuses. Once the race is over, Pikla and Carlin will continue to help by breaking down the orienteering section of the race.
On the other side of the race, NOLS’ own Katie Everson, admission office and Adam Swisher, instructor and curriculum and publications manager, will participate in Cowboy Tough. Everson, with a background in marathons and swimming and Adam, with a history of long -distance adventure races will be strong competitors as Team Wyo.
NOLS will also set up an information booth at the finish line in Casper, Wyo. The booth will host backcountry cooking demonstrations and knot tying lessons. Anyone in Casper for the race is encouraged to stop by the NOLS table for information and demonstrations.
“NOLS has been taking people into Wyoming’s backcountry for over 45 years. We’re excited to support an organization and race whose goal is to showcase and raise awareness to Wyoming’s recreational opportunities and wild places,” said Steinman.
While Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks garner most of the natural world attention of Wyoming, it’s important to remind visitors that the entire state is full of natural beauty from the sagebrush plains of the high mountain desert to the craggy peaks of Wind River Mountain Range and into each lush river valley surrounded and contrasted by the arid red rock canyon landscape.
NOLS at the International Climbers' Festival
Lander, Wyo. — This past weekend the International Climbers’ Festival took place in beautiful City Park in Lander Wyo. In its 20th year, the festival is the longest-running climbing festival in the world.
Among all of the big name sponsors and leaders in the outdoor industry was NOLS, which is headquartered in Lander. NOLS is always involved in community events, whether it is in Lander or in any of its locations around the globe. This festival was no different as many representatives of the NOLS community were present and playing key roles.
Heading the festival was NOLS’ own, Brian Fabel, who is the director of the International Climbers Festival, a NOLS instructor, and NOLS Rocky Mountain special projects manager. With the completion of his tenure as Climbers’ Festival director, he will be replaced by another NOLS instructor and staff member; Mandy Pohja.
NOLS also set up an information booth during the Trade Fair and Park Party to give out information to prospective students. Many NOLS employees and instructors lent a hand with the various competitions and events last weekend. Even more involvement came from the NOLS community who weren’t there for work but as avid climbers who are also very involved in the climbing community. NOLS employees have a keen sense of adventure and many of them climb in nearby Sinks Canyon, which offers world-class rock climbing for anyone in the area.
The International Climber’s Festival was a great success with many competitions and clinics that went on through the weekend, including the dyno-competition, which captivated the whole park as climbers, families, and workers alike gathered in a semi-circle around the bouldering wall. The weather was perfect as live music filled the warm summer air of City Park. One of the big draws of the festival was the line-up of presenters. Some big-name climbers descended on Lander for the festival, these included Tommy Caldwell, Henry Barber, Erica Wynn of NOLS’ Expedition Denali, Cedar Wright, Emily Harrington, and Timmy O’Neil.
As climbers and spectators slowly diverge from City Park, anticipation is already high for next years’ festival, as once again Lander, Wyo. will be ground zero for a weekend of climbing, events and festivities.
Team Wyo, NOLS, and Cowboy Tough
The starting gun for the Cowboy Tough Race, a three day adventure race beginning in Cheyenne, Wyo. and finishing in Casper, Wyo., will go off next Thursday, July 18. This race will highlight some of Wyoming's wildest and most beautiful locations. NOLS is helping in the organization, as well as comprising Team Wyo!
Join NOLS in helping make this race possible by volunteering next week. Learn more and sign up here.
The next adventure departs for the field!
Yesterday, we waved goodbye to our next group of adventurers.
This is a particularly diverse group! Including both the hiking & Sea Kayaking instructors, Australia, NZ, USA, Thailand, England, Switzerland & Brazil are all represented in the expedition!
There first day was a busy one, with an early pickup & straight into rations bagging. Students seemed to have fun getting to know each other, over airborne clouds of flour, exclamations such as "What is this grain/powder/spice for?" & marvelling at the fact that more or less everything they were going to eat for the next 44 days, was being bagged in just a few hours.
In the afternoon, Instructors went through student gear & helped to organize what they would need for each section, with all the hiking specific gear placed securely to pick up as they transition between section types in a couple of weeks.
After dinner at the base, students spent last night in Broome at the local camp group with instructors, leaning how to erect the tents & get around with headlamps. All snuggled into the their sleeping bags & sleeping pads for what will become 'home' for the next 1.5 months.
This course begins with a Sea Kayak section exploring the Dampier Archipelago. Students will spend nearly 2 weeks hopping from island to island, and seeing, living and breathing some of the most inspiring marine environments and arguably the best Petroglyph artwork in the world.
After returning to Broome for a night, they will switch gear, say goodbye to the sea kayaking instructors and head North about 7 hours by road to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Their hiking section will take them into some of the most pristine and wondrous hiking locations the Kimberley has to offer!
For those of you eager to know when you may be able to get mail in and hear from your loved ones, here is an outline of their course schedule:
Sea Kayak section – Dampier Archipelago, Pilbara
4 - 18th July.
Students will return to Broome Friday the 19th July, & stay in town that evening. There may be the potential for phone access late in the evening.
Hike Section – King Leopold Ranges, Kimberly.
20 July –15 August
Students will return late in the afternoon & stay the final night of their course in Broome. Again, there may be phone access late that evening.
After the celebration, we will drop all students back to their planned accommodation approximately 3pm.
If you would like to send mail, students will have an opportunity to receive it when they pass through town on the 19th July. Please keep in mind that we are a long way out from any major city, so allow plenty of time for your mail to get here before that date!
PO Box 3472
We will endeavor to update this blog site after they pass through town, so keep tuned!
- The NOLS Australia team
In the news: Tolerance for adversity
“When you exhibit a strong sense of purpose by doing something difficult, even if you begin alone, others will follow,” states a June 27 article in Fortune with the headline “On Wendy Davis and the power of tenacity.”
A recent, powerful example of tenacity in leadership, Texas Senator Wendy Davis has become a household name this week for her famous filibuster of Texas bill SB5. In the Fortune article, she and NOLS graduate and former NASA space shuttle commander Jeffrey Ashby are held up as shining examples of self leadership, tolerance for adversity, and vision and action—all leadership skills NOLS courses cultivate.
“Even some of her opponents nodded to her conviction before questioning her on technicalities of the bill,” the article states. Regardless of what you think of SB5, Davis’ leadership skills are admirable and an example to learn from.
Read the full article here.
AUSTRALIAN BACKPACKING COURSE IS OFF ON AN AUSSIE ADVENTURE!
The Australian Backpacking course drove off into the wilderness this morning to begin their adventure. The drive is 7 hours and approximately half of that is on dirt to Mt Hart Station where they begin. Their course area will take them into some of the most pristine and wondrous hiking locations the Kimberley has to offer!
The students had travelled from all over the USA and one from Holland to participate in the course. Yesterday the day was spent preparing rations, getting outfitted with gear and playing introduction games.
The team was super efficient with the ration preparation. The students bagged enough food for 30 days, which will all, be delivered to them via 4-wheel drive over 4 ration periods.
During the course orientation students were treated with Dougal’s footage of his salt water crocodile encounters he gained when visiting the local croc farm! Learning about these creatures is the best way to manage the risk of visiting their habitat! Dougal is one of instructors along with Owain and Amy, they are an experienced I-team having all worked together in the Kimberley before.
After lunch it was gear “explosion” time where in-town clothes are swapped for sun protection shirts and sandals with boots and gaiters!
For those of you eager to know when you maybe able to get mail in and hear from your loved ones, here is an outline of their course schedule:
27 July – 26 August – Students will be hiking the northern route through the King Leopold Ranges
26 August – 29 August – Cultural experience at Jarlmadangah, Eastern Kimberley
Students return to Broome late in the afternoon on the 29th August and there may be pay phone access late that evening.
Graduation – 30th August
After the celebration, we will drop all the students back to their planned accommodation at approximately 3pm.
If you would like to send mail, students will have an opportunity to receive it at the swutch between hiking and cultural sections. Please keep in mind that we are along way from any major city, so allow plenty of time for your mail to get here before this date!(Student Name)
PO Box 3472