Get to Know NOLS Mexico
NOLS Mexico Director Carolina Cortés knows anyone could find what they’re looking for at NOLS Mexico: “Baja offers something for all tastes. Baja is a place of extremes and contrasts. This part of the world should be a ‘must see’ on everybody’s bucket list, “ she recently wrote from the entirely off-the-grid facility in Baja California.
Cortés says, “Nobody leaves NOLS Mexico without saying, ‘One day I will come back,’” and she explained why in our recent Q&A:
If you had one sentence to describe your staff, you would say:
NOLS Mexico Staff is creative, experienced, inspiring, and passionate of what we do.
How long have you been NOLS Mexico branch director?
It has been five years but it feels like five months.
How did it all begin for you?
An internship at NOLS Mexico in 2003 opened the door for me. After volunteering for the school one season, I knew this was a good place for me to stick around. I worked in town for one year in Wyoming at NOLS Headquarters and at NOLS Yukon before I did a field instructors course in the Rocky Mountains. After that, I went back to NOLS Mexico to work as operations manager then assistant director and finally director.
During those years of switching positions and traveling from branch to branch, I met lots of people who had a big impact on my life and from whom I learned a ton.
What is your favorite aspect of running courses in your part of the world?
The people and the scenery. Baja is one of the most amazing parts of the world I have ever been to. The interaction between the desert, the sea, flora and fauna makes this place unique, and the combination of all that with the warmth of local people creates an environment you never want to leave.
What unique or particularly appealing aspect of NOLS Mexico do you think potential students should know about?
The opportunities of personal growth and lifelong learning that a contrasting environment like this offers cannot be missed; students come here and leave being transformed into leaders. They often send us messages after their courses about how the experience at NOLS Mexico has helped them to gain confidence and to be active leaders back at home. Moreover, Baja offers the nicest weather, cultural interaction with local fishermen for water courses and rancheros for mountain courses—a once in a lifetime experience! Also, students will find incredible snorkeling and will sail or kayak on waters that Jack Costeau considered the aquarium of the world and hike in stunning mountain ranges.
What would you say most surprises students when they arrive or during their course in that part of the world?
Students are always pleased with cultural interactions with locals, and they wish they had more of it. They are amazed by the natural beauty of the country, and many students want to come back here for personal trips.
Welcome, NOLS Fellows!
By Christina Sallis, Diversity and Inclusion Intern
With summer just around the corner, things are starting to pick up at all NOLS locations around the world. We are excited to introduce a new group of NOLS Fellows to help out during this busy time. The NOLS Fellowship program was started in 2012 to create a pathway for people of color in the United States to pursue a career in outdoor education and to offer Fellows the opportunity to inspire people within their own communities to connect with the outdoors.
Tracie Williams will be joining the NOLS Rocky Mountain community in May, bringing tons of enthusiasm and interesting experiences with her. Tracie swears she can cook any gourmet meal in the backcountry with a stove and a casserole dish, she hitch-hiked across the U.S. and Canada, and has lived out of her car with a bird for a summer. She can usually be found with her best friend and dog, Merlin, and we are excited to have both in Lander for the summer.
Floyd Gossett was intrigued by stories he heard from NOLS grads during his travels. He recently took a Baja Sea Kayaking course at NOLS Mexico, where he experienced firsthand what NOLS has to offer and decided he’d like to get more involved. Floyd will head to NOLS Teton Valley this summer to fulfill this goal, where his laughter, stories, and barbecue skills will surely be appreciated.
Elsie Freland hails from Lander, Wyoming and has been around NOLS most of her life. She took a NOLS course out of NOLS Rocky Mountain when she was just 17 and looks forward to returning to NOLS as the NOLS Southwest Fellow. Elsie graduated from college last May with an art history degree and a minor in religion. She can be found pursuing her passion for the arts at museums, plays, and painting in the studio.
NOLS Pacific Northwest is excited to have Michaela Cohen-Fuentes (Mica) join the community as a Fellow this summer. Mica did a Wind River Range expedition out of NOLS Rocky Mountain that sparked her passion for the outdoors. She has lived in Italy and Mexico and can speak French, Spanish, and Italian. She loves hiking, biking, reading, and exchanging travel stories.
Look out for these awesome Fellows and the work they will be doing with NOLS this summer. Welcome to NOLS, Fellows!
Imagine your 2014 summer
Summer is here!
Well, at least the 2014 summer NOLS course catalog is here, and that's even better, because you still have time to plan the perfect summer with NOLS.
We have boxes and boxes and boxes of the summer catalog here at NOLS Headquarters, so request one here. If you'd prefer a paperless version, we've got you covered, too. Download the iPad version of the 2014 summer catalog here.
Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Jan 16, 2014 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Amazon, Australia, Curriculum, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, On The Net, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, Yukon
The 12 Days of NOLS
We’ve found the perfect way to get you into the holiday spirit and fight the cold snap with a hearty laugh. Watch NOLS Creative’s newest (and possibly goofiest) release, “The 12 Days of NOLS,” a NOLS variation on the classic tune, to get a taste of the NOLS experience or reminisce about your course! Written with extensive input from the peanut gallery, shot and edited in less than 12 hours, and brought to you with only mild shame, we now ask you to watch the video and sing along.
On the first day of my course Paul Petzoldt gave to me ...
Windpants with a reinforced knee
Two trekking poles
Six dudes belaying
Seven miles a' shwackin’
Eight malt balls missing
Nine quickdraws clipping
Ten backpacks bulging
Eleven toasty hot drinks
Twelve students mapping
Happy Holidays from NOLS
Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Dec 10, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Alumni, Amazon, Australia, Books, Curriculum, India, Instructor News, Leadership, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, On The Net, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Yukon
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.
Drumroll, please ...
It has arrived. Thirty thousand copies of the shiny new course catalog have been unloaded and piled up at NOLS Headquarters, and another 30,000 will be shipped to potential students soon.
We thought we’d introduce you.
Like last year, the NOLS course catalog has a clean, square shape and inspiring personal accounts to make the NOLS experience relatable.
With this catalog, though, we have dedicated more pages to courses and NOLS locations, specifically for the upcoming season. In fact, it’s dedicated almost entirely to the winter and spring course offerings at NOLS because we are going to publish three seasonal catalogs a year from now on. This will allow us to tailor the information in each catalog to each season to give you more helpful information about our course offerings.
You can look forward to a summer course catalog in January and a fall course catalog in April. All three catalogs will be available iPad apps shortly after their publication.
If you haven’t already requested a catalog, do so here or keep an eye out for the app, to be released soon!
Permalink | Posted by Casey Adams on Aug 28, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Australia, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Professional Training, Rocky Mountain, Scandinavia, Southwest, Teton Valley, Wilderness Medicine Institute, Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus
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.
Sometimes half the battle is getting there …
A group of NOLS students encountered their first experience adversity and uncertainty before their course even started last week. As Hurricane Paul neared the Baja Peninsula, the Loreto airport, their destination, shut down.
The challenges of operating in remote areas are not unfamiliar to NOLS, however, and it took just a little time to get all 11 students to the NOLS location for their Baja Sea Kayaking course.
As the storm weakened, rain hammered the Baja Peninsula and students were advised to stay together and wait for a rescheduled flight from Los Angeles. Because there aren’t flights to Loreto daily, and upcoming flights had been booked, NOLS and the students worked together to get the group to Cabo, instead.
Regular emails and phone calls were exchanged between parents, NOLS Mexico, NOLS Headquarters, and students throughout. In addition to tolerance for adversity, the moment demanded strong communication. In fact, at the same time, NOLS Mexico and Headquarters staff were communicating with three courses in the field about the hurricane and updating parents about their location and well-being.
Five of the 11 Baja Sea Kayaking students spent the night in Los Angeles, then flew to Cabo. They spent another night waiting for a flight that had just been added to Loreto, rather than taking a bus to Loreto. This was a challenge in itself for NOLS: working with the small Mexican airline for the first time.
It was certainly a boon to this group that another student, traveling by himself, also found himself in Cabo at this time. He is Mexican and had a cell phone. NOLS Headquarters was able to facilitate his rendezvous with the five and put him in direct communication with the NOLS Mexico office for the rest of their journey.
The remaining five students had made it to Loreto earlier and hopped a shuttle bus to the NOLS location. Unfortunately, because information about roads proved to be virtually non-existent, this ride, which usually takes an hour, took nine due to washed out roads. The six from Cabo arrived at NOLS Mexico Friday afternoon, about 24 hours after the five who flew to Loreto.
Just 48 hours late, the entire course was safe and happy at the NOLS Mexico Branch in Coyote Bay, ready to begin the next adventure Mexico would provide them.
NOLS grad dines with strangers
NOLS holds both breakfast and communication in high regard. 1995 Semester in Mexico graduate Matt Webber is taking these two principles to a new level and across the U.S. this year.
Matt Webber and Courtney Dillard write on their website, www.breakfastwithstrangers.com, that they embarked on a breakfasting journey across the nation to remind readers that we are all part of the same community.
“America is polarized,” the website states. “We feel that part of this civic problem is the lack of strangers connecting with strangers. We want to change this—or at least challenge it in our own small way—by taking strangers out to breakfast across America. We’ll share local diner fare and conversation, learning what our new friends think about life’s big and little questions.”
They settled on breakfast in large part because that’s where they were when the idea struck. The setting has proved to be perfect for comfortable conversations: “breakfast is something that feels like home to most folks … which certainly helps when you’re asking a total stranger to breakfast,” Matt explained.
They share each conversation on the website with the intention of selecting 50 to compile in a book: Breakfast with Strangers: 50 Meals Across America.
“We’ll be reaching out to these strangers in a variety of different methods, from social media to want ads to community ads to just grabbing somebody as they’re about to sit down to their meal,” Matt explains in a video on the site.
One of those strangers was NOLS Alumni and Development Director Pip Coe.
“Pip, like many of these breakfasts we’re having, was by pure chance,” said Matt. “I always knew her name as I had seen her photo over the years in various NOLS catalogs, but we didn’t roll into town with the plan of taking her out to breakfast.”
After meeting her in the NOLS building and then running into her on the street in Lander, the two decided they had to take her out for breakfast.
“Someone like Pip who has so much experience not just in the field but also a deep history with NOLS seemed like a perfect person to represent Lander, Wyoming,” Matt concluded.
NOLS played a role in Matt being back in Lander on this occasion.
“I feel like my semester with NOLS has had some influence on most of all my decisions or passions I’ve pursued since then,” Matt said. “When it has come to travel, or loading my backpacking, planning with Courtney to leave our home and travel around in a van for five months to take strangers out to breakfast—well, my semester at NOLS had a role with that, too.”
Strike up a conversation with a stranger today or get in touch with Matt and Courtney and let them take you out for breakfast in your hometown at email@example.com, (304) 50-MEALS or 3519 NE 15th Ave (Box #300), Portland, OR 97212.
Must love long walks in the mountains …
NOLS is a diverse and fascinating community, something reality TV star and NOLS grad Ames Brown can attest to.
“It’s the people that make it exciting,” Brown said of NOLS after completing his second course.
Brown shares that enthusiastic energy, grinning from ear to ear fresh from the field on a Wilderness Horsepacking course.
His smile might be familiar, given his participation on The Bachelorette, season two, and Bachelor Pad, season two. Though he found enduring love on neither, Brown found a different love on his first NOLS course shortly thereafter.
“This is like the best organization. I never expected to fall so much in love with it,” he raved.
Brown first came to NOLS in March, signing up for a Himalaya Mountaineering course just five days before it started. Having never slept in a sleeping bag before, Brown knew he would be challenged.
“It’s such an ostensibly difficult thing, but it wasn’t difficult at all,” Brown said, which he credited his instructors for.
Even the truly tough moments Brown relishes.
“The low points are actually the high points on a NOLS course. Adversity’s the best part … the opportunity to be creative,” he noted.
He followed his mountaineering course with a horsepacking course this month, something else in which he’d had no prior experience. This is the same reason he selected a sailing course for his next NOLS experience.
“It’s fun to start new things later,” said the 32 year old."I realized NOLS has expertise in all these different areas, and you might as well try it."
In addition to all the outdoor skills he’s racking up, Brown has seen a distinct change in himself, calling NOLS “transformational.” The curriculum and experiential learning foster a sense of humor, boost self-confidence, and demand self-awareness.
“Both the Bachelorette and NOLS strip you of all your worldly, like your occupation and all that background, and it only matters who you are and that determines your success or failure,” Brown said.
“And, you can find love in both situations and I did not find love in either case,” he laughingly added.
You never know, there’s always Baja Coastal Sailing.