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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.

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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.

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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.

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Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 4, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

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.

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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.

Permalink | Posted by plus.google.com/111321812422337541486 on Aug 4, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

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. 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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The water was warm and the beaches were white, with smooth sandy landings that were wonderful places to camp and practice paddling techniques.

 

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The students learned that leadership looks very different on the water versus on land.

 

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And everyone had fun!

 

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 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! 

Permalink | Posted by plus.google.com/111321812422337541486 on Aug 4, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

Australian combo course hikers about to get salty

Trailing pindan dust behind them, our NOLS Australia combo course students said goodbye to the King Leopold Ranges and began their transition to sea kayaking. Conducting the ‘switch’ in Broome, the students arrived back at the NOLS Australia base where they met their new instructor team and shared a lunch full of fresh food goodness.

 

hiking through the King Leopold Ranges
hiking through the King Leopold Ranges

 

A busy afternoon at the NOLS Australia base of cleaning, repairing, eating, briefing, eating, packing and some more eating and the sea kayak team were off to the local campground to get a good sleep before a long drive the next day.

 

So our hikers are on their way to learn a new skill and experience a new environment. They are heading almost 900km (over 500miles) from Broome to the sea kayaking location in the Dampier Archipelago- an area rich in aboriginal history, marine fauna and spectacular scenery. 

The happy group with the hiking and sea kayaking instructors
The happy group with their hiking and sea kayaking instructors

Students will not have access to outside communication on their sea kayaking leg and will return to Broome for their Graduation on the 2nd August. If you would like students to receive any mail it should be sent as soon as possible for it to arrive in time for the students graduation.

 

 

Permalink | Posted by Sharon Ferguson on Jul 17, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

AUSTRALIA BACKPACKING COURSE GOES BUSH!

This week saw our Backpackers kick off their course with a successful start. The 10 students travelled from all over the United States, to congregate in the tiny town of Broome. Most of the students had already met at their accommodation and started to form as a group, with some playful friendships developing.

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The group spent their entire first day preparing to embark on an amazing journey into the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. In the morning they worked efficiently to bag their entire ration of food for 35 days, before they even had morning tea! 

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After lunch, students focused on personal and group equipment that they would need to carry for the expedition. With the assistance of their two fantastic Instructors, Ben and Karin, each student sorted through their equipment to make sure they had all they may need for this rugged adventure. A class on how to pack their packs was followed by a delicious dinner, the course orientation and a discussion on how to create a positive learning environment, then it was off to the caravan park for the night.

 

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An early morning pick up by Garry, our favourite spice girl, saw the group head north towards the King Leopold Range Conservation Park. The group will be out hiking for the next 4 weeks, as they make their way through thickets of tropical rainforest, around spectacular waterfalls and across the open savannah grasslands. The Kimberley region of Western Australia boasts some of the most rugged, yet stunning scenery of this whole continent. It also plays host to many native species of plants and animals, some found only in this specific region of the tropics!

 

A brief outline of the group’s schedule is provided below:

Backpacking section

26June – 25 July

Students will be resupplied by vehicle during their course

NO access to any outside communication devices is available during this time unless an emergency

Cultural section

25 July – 28 July

Students will be in Broome, for the final night of the course on July 28th

Pay phone access may be available.

On July 29th, students will graduate, celebrate and then get dropped at their accommodation for the evening.

For those wishing to send mail, students will only be able to receive it at the end of their course. Please be mindful that Broome is a long way off the beaten path, therefore, if you would like something to arrive before these dates, be sure to allow at least 2 weeks for delivery!

(Student Name) 
ABC 6/25/14
NOLS Australia 
PO Box 3472 
Broome 6725 WA

AUSTRALIA

You are welcome to share this link with your friends and family

Cheers from the NOLS Australia crew!

Permalink | Posted by plus.google.com/111321812422337541486 on Jun 27, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

Australian backpacking and sea kayakers begin their outback experience

As the south of Australia shivers through winter, up here in the north our Australia Combo Course students have arrived to our tropical ‘dry’ season, complete with blue skies and daytime temperatures in the 80’s (°F). Our 8 intrepid explorers were all bright eyed and bushy tailed for an early morning pick up to get started on their NOLS adventure.

 

Day one was a busy start, with a welcome and introductions, then straight on to rations. After learning about what makes up a ration, it was then on to the task of weighing, bagging and packing their food for the entire 45 day adventure.  A very efficient group, with help from their Instructors and NOLS Australia in-town staff, meant the rations were done by midday. After a lunch break, it was on to their equipment. The students were briefed on gear and then instructors went through each student’s gear individually to determine what extra issue gear was needed. An afternoon and evening of briefings on positive learning environments, some safety components and a course orientation and delicious dinner! Then it was on to a local campground to set up tents, get some rest and an early start the next day.

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Our intrepid group drove out into the Kimberley early Friday morning for their hiking section in the King Leopold Range Conservation Park.  Under the guidance of their excellent instructors Marcelo and Tom, the students will be learning about leadership, hiking, navigation, first aid, natural history, life skills, indigenous culture and a whole lot more as they explore remote areas in the Australian outback. Here’s a brief outline of their schedule…

 

Hiking section- King Leopold Range Conservation Park

20 June - 16 July

Students will be resupplied by road

No access to outside communication

 

Switch- Broome

16 July

Students will transfer through Broome between their hike and sea kayak section

Pay phone access may be available at the campground (evening only)

Mail can be delivered to students during the switch

 

Sea Kayak section- Dampier archipelago

17 July - 1 August

Students will be resupplied by vessel

No access to outside communication

 

End of course- Broome

2 August

Students will be in Broome, for the final night of the course on 1 August

Pay phone access may be available at the campground (evening only)

Any remaining mail will be given to the students

 

On August 2nd students will graduate, celebrate and then get dropped at their accommodation for the evening.

For those wishing to send mail, students will only be able to receive it at the switch on the 16th of July or at the end of the course on the 2nd of August. Please address any mail as follows:

(Student Name) 
ACS 19/6/14
NOLS Australia 
PO Box 3472 
Broome 6725 WA

AUSTRALIA

Please be mindful that we are a long way from major cities in Australia, therefore, if you would like something to arrive before these dates, be sure to allow at least 2 weeks for delivery! 

Remember to check this Blog site for updates and photos around those contact dates. You are also welcome to share this link with your friends and family!

Cheers from the NOLS Australia crew (and our little friend in the shed)

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Permalink | Posted by Sharon Ferguson on Jun 25, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

NOLS Australia farewells Spring Semester Graduates

After 75 days out bush, our Spring Semester students returned to Broome for their final pack up and graduation.

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The hiking section was quite an adventurous journey with a visit to Morgan Falls, a student evacuation, a tropical thunderstorm and a very successful Independent Student Group Expedition. In high spirits, the group returned to Broome for a speedy switch over to begin their final section.

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The Cultural section of the AAU semester took place on Sunday Island, located at the northern tip of the Dampier Peninsular. The group spent 6 days and nights learning from the local Indigenous guides Irene, Wossy and Coji, about the Bardi-Jawi way of life. They spent the first 2 days exploring near the old mission, then made their way over to Gagin beach. During the day, students made their own spears to go hunting on the nearby reef, then at night, they would sit around the campfire sharing stories.

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We farewell our students as they transition into their lives back home or continue onto new adventures...

Permalink | Posted by plus.google.com/111321812422337541486 on May 27, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

Aussie semester students switch it up!

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As the small fixed wing Cessna headed north, to the isolated airstrip at Mitchell Plateau, I took in the breath-taking scenery and thought back to the beginning of this amazing adventure. It was 40 days ago that our group of students and instructors were flown into the unknown! What was waiting out there for our bold adventurers? The Australian outback can be so harsh and unforgiving… I was about to find out the real story!

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Canoeing the Drysdale

The spring semester group has spent the past 6 weeks, paddling approximately 220kms (136 miles) in tandem canoes, along the Drysdale River. The weather has been predominately hot and humid, with temperatures soaring over 40°C (104°F). Some light showers and one spectacular lightning storm provided some relief from the heat. This weather is very typical of the tropical monsoons encountered in the north of Australia at this time of year.

With expert tuition from their instructors, the students have been able to develop some impressive white-water canoeing skills – running up to grade II rapids - whilst also becoming very proficient at lining or portaging boats when necessary. Along with the canoeing skills, the instructors have taught an exhaustive array of classes, including risk management, leadership skills, first aid, natural history and environmental studies.

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The Switch

As students pulled bags of fresh fruit and vegetables from the re-ration supplies, there was an immense sense of appreciation amongst the group. This canoe expedition was completely self sufficient, carrying all of their food and equipment from the beginning. The extra treats brought in from Broome were a welcome surprise! Students performed an efficient, well-organised re-ration then shared some of their favourite moments from the course so far.

Some of the many highlights for this section involved a few close encounters with native Australian wildlife – a cloud of flying foxes ascending into a brilliant sunset, energetic rock wallabies bounding across the escarpment, snakes and lizards warming themselves on the rocks and the howling of dingoes into the darkness of night… Students also mentioned their 2-day layover at Bango Falls, taking time out for solos at Solea Falls and an impromptu visit from a group of local lads paddling the river, as peak experiences along the way. 

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As I departed from the group, I started to imagine the enchanting opportunities available in the next chapter of their journey through the Kimberley. Hiking along the escarpment, through narrow gorges, along the open plains and across the rugged mountains, breath-taking waterfalls, stunning rock art galleries, beautiful endemic flora and fauna…so much more to explore and discover!

Our students love to hear from home!

If you would like to send a letter or card from home,

students will be back in town on theDSCF5095

12th and 19th of May.

 Please allow around

2 weeks for delivery!

(Student Name) 
AAU 3/7/14
NOLS Australia 
PO Box 3472 
Broome 6725 WA

AUSTRALIA

You are also welcome to share this link withyour friends and family!

Cheers from the NOLS Australia crew!

 

Permalink | Posted by plus.google.com/111321812422337541486 on Apr 25, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

Get to Know NOLS Australia

NOLS Australasia Director Mark Jordan gives some insight into the world NOLS Australia students explore.

Brad_christensen_20121013_3556If you had one sentence to describe your staff, you would say:

Like the staff at every NOLS location: driven, enthusiastic, and skilled. 

How long have you been NOLS Australasia Director?

Two years 

What is your background with NOLS? Or how did it all begin for you?

I did a Waddington Range Expedition course in 1992 with NOLS Pacific Northwest, and a Rocky Mountain Instructors Course in 1993. 

What is your favorite aspect of running courses in your part of the world?

Australia has some of the most varied and unique ecosystems in the world. The cultural interactions are fantastic as well. 

What unique or particularly appealing aspect of Australia do you think potential students should know about?

The Kimberley region, where NOLS Australia operates courses, contains some of the world’s most remote wilderness. The area covers over 423,000 square kilometers (larger than the state of California) and has a population of less than 40,000 people. The areas where NOLS groups travel are true backcountry. 

What would you say most surprises students when they arrive or during their course in that part of the world?

In Australia we have only two seasons: wet and dry. This is a unique change for persons coming from more northern latitude climates.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I firmly believe a NOLS course, at any location, will be a watershed event in a person’s life. Australia is a great place to experience NOLS as well as a fascinating part of the world to explore.

Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Apr 1, 2014 in the following categories: Australia

Australia Spring semester students take off for an outback adventure

Spring semester students ready to work
Spring semester students ready for an adventure

Last week saw our NOLS Australia base transformed into a hub of activity, with the first course of the season preparing to embark on a journey into the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The 15 students on this course travelled from all over the United States, to congregate in the tiny town of Broome. For some students the tropical climate came as a stark contrast to the freezing temperatures of their hometowns in the US. The heat, however, did nothing to dampen their spirits as they got stuck into two full days of rations and equipment preparation.  

Getting sorted with rations
Getting sorted with rations

Day 1 began with an early pick up in town, a brief tour of the base then straight into bagging 75 days worth of rations. With the support of in-town staff and their awesome Instructor team (Jim, Dale and Kurt), students were able to complete the bagging process before lunch. After lunch, the ration process continued with sorting and weighing of the entire 2000 pounds of dry food! The highlight of the afternoon included a visit to the Broome crocodile park – where students learnt the important differences between freshwater and saltwater crocodiles.

One of the friendly locals...crikey!
One of the friendly locals...crikey!

Day 2 saw students delving into their packs and planning their equipment needs for both the canoeing and hiking sections. Total weights for the entire load of gear and food was finalised before lunch – excellent work! A high level of efficiency and organization from Instructors and the group enabled them to kick back and relax in the pool for the afternoon, whilst setting themselves up for a successful expedition with a class on creating a positive learning environment.

Pool party - students cool off from the afternoon heat
Pool party - students cool off from the afternoon heat

Day 3 - An early breakfast and a celebration of Nick's Birthday was followed by one final check around the base, then time to leave...

Happy 21st Birthday Nick!
Happy 21st Birthday Nick!

The entire group, all the food and the equipment was loaded into several fixed wing aircraft and headed north for a spectacular 2-hour scenic flight up to Drysdale River Station, where the real adventure begins!

Flight crew Michelle, George, Harry, Sim and Joseph with pilot Simon
Flight crew Michelle, George, Harry, Sim and Joseph with pilot Simon
Ready to fly - Frankie, Adeline, Nick and Travis with pilot Nicko
Ready to fly - Frankie, Adeline, Nick and Travis with pilot Nicko
Pilot Chris with his crew - Andy, Caroline, Moira, Jim and Kurt
Pilot Chris with his crew - Andy, Caroline, Moira, Jim and Kurt
Heading north - Kaitlyn, Jake and Elliot
Heading north - Kaitlyn, Jake and Elliot

The group will spend the next 40 days following the path of the Drysdale River as it flows through thickets of tropical rainforest, pours over spectacular waterfalls and meanders along the open savannah. Students will learn technical canoeing skills along with the leadership skills to live comfortably in the Kimberley wilderness.

Upon completion of the canoeing section, students will take to the rugged mountains of the Drysdale region by foot. The start of a new adventure…

A brief outline of their schedule is provided below: 

Canoeing section – Drysdale River

9 March – 17 April

Students will be resupplied by helicopter on April 17th

NO access to any outside communication devices is available during that time.

Hiking section, Drysdale River National Park

17 April – 12 May

 Students will most likely be in Broome for the night of May 12th

 Pay phone access may be available. 

Coastal/Cultural section

13- 19 May

Students will be in Broome, for the final night of the semester on May 19th

Pay phone access may be available. 

On May 20th students will graduate, celebrate and then get dropped at their accommodation for the evening.

For those wishing to send mail, students will only be able to receive it on the following dates - May 12th and May 19th - address details provided below;

(Student Name) 
AAU 3/7/14
NOLS Australia 
PO Box 3472 
Broome 6725 WA

AUSTRALIA

Please be mindful that we are a long way off the beaten path, therefore, if you would like something to arrive before these dates, be sure to allow at least 2 weeks for delivery! 

Remember to check this Blog site for updates and photos around those contact dates. You are also welcome to share this link with your friends and family!

Cheers from the NOLS Australia crew

Permalink | Posted by Cassandra Colman on Mar 12, 2014 in the following categories: Alumni, Australia

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