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Pacific Northwest

"The Road Precipitates Beautiful Things"

NOLS PNW had the special honor of hosting a couple of runners in our camping loop a couple weekends ago. Ian Klepetar and Katie Visco are running from Seattle to Vancouver (Yes, Canada) with nothing but two backpacks and a bicycle and relying on the kindness of strangers for food and a place to sleep. "Running isn't just a form of exercise, it can also be a mode of transport", Katie said. "It's an excellent way to meet new people and build community.

They made a similar trip last year from Boston, MA to Portland, ME. It was such an empowering and life-changing experience that they decided they wanted to facilitate that experience for others. "We want to encourage people to move on their own two feet and take pride in their accomplishments", said Ian. So, they're making this trip to kick of their hospitality network, Adventure Foot - think couchsurfers for runners.

Things that NOLS, Katie, and Ian agree on: self-locomotion holds great personal benefit and mate is a life staple

You can join the network, be a host, be a runner or be both.

From the Katie and Ian Chronicles:

7/21 Seattle >Everett

7/22 Everett > Arlington 

HIGHLIGHT: Just South of Arlington, we ran into a group of teenagers hanging out on the side of the road with their bikes. We called out to them, "Hey, come run to Vancouver with us". They couldn't believe it "Are you for serious? You're really doing that?" We chatted with them for a while and they agreed to bike next to us to the nearest intersection. When we got there, one of the kids pulled out his cell phone and called his parents, "Hey, mom. Can we go to Vancouver?" He was sold. 

7/23 Arlington > Conway (NOLS)

7/24 Conway > ?

If you happen to be between Conway and Vancouver, you might recognize Ian and Katie by the NOLS stickers they are displaying on their backpacks, oh so proudly.

Good Luck, Footers. Drop us a line from Mapleland! 

Permalink | Posted by Eliza Scally on Aug 7, 2011 in the following categories: Leadership, Pacific Northwest


This North Cascades Wilderness course left on June 15th 2011 (NCW 6/15)

This is their "before" shot with instructors Lisa and Rachel:

They spent 30 days backpacking in the Pasayten Wilderness:






They returned last Friday, July 15th, and this is their "after" shot:

Lookin Good!

Permalink | Posted by Eliza Scally on Jul 18, 2011 in the following categories: Pacific Northwest

Finding Common Ground in the Field

Nothing brings people together like a tough situation and a common goal. The camaraderie of the PNW Trip Leader course (TLS 6/8) that returned last week can attest to that. Their instructors, Liz and Herb were very impressed with how well they worked together. “They were all across the board - from all walks of life” We had a girl who had never put on a pack before and another who was an outdoor educator herself. There were teenagers and parents, NOLS alums and rookies. It’s incredible how there can be such great diversity in a group of seven individuals. But even with such different backgrounds, this group bonded quickly.


“That’s the beauty of being in such a challenging environment” says Liz. Even though, the course was only out for a week, they dealt with an extraordinary amount of snow for this time of year. The weather was better than expected, but they spent most of the time cold and wet. They were united in the same struggle and “in the end nobody cares about the differences” - It’s no longer important. At the debrief, the students and their instructors could all agree on one thing: “It was a GREAT group”.

Best of luck to the graduates of TLS 6/8. We hope you have the opportunity to lead your own great adventures!


Permalink | Posted by Eliza Scally on Jun 24, 2011 in the following categories: Pacific Northwest

Power of the Positive Attitude

The PNW issue room assistant, Courtney, met the 5/25 North Cascades Mountaineering course for their re-supply on Friday. For the last couple weeks the students have been developing their mountaineering skills and will now put them to the test on more rigorous terrain. Courtney chatted with the students about their course so far and snapped a few pictures. She said that despite adverse weather conditions in the previous weeks and heavy packs, the group had a very positive outlook for what’s ahead of them. Way to be, guys!




Permalink | Posted by Eliza Scally on Jun 16, 2011 in the following categories: Pacific Northwest

Innovative Thinking

Sometimes-–well, most of the time--working as a NOLS instructor and teaching in the field means being able to think creatively. Ben Lester, an instructor on the Semester on the Borders course, is a prime example. Having struggled with explaining the physics of sailing to his students in the past, he decided to get creative. He took on the project of building scaled models of NOLS Pacific Northwest’s keelboats, Sol Quest and Luna Quest to more easily demonstrate how the keel “works as a pivot point--turning the boat into or away from the wind depending on how the sails are trimmed”.

Luna Sol and Luna Quest

 The green washer, indicates the hypothetical location of the “center of effort” produced by the direction and force of the wind. It can be moved aft or forward causing the boats to turn accordingly.  The models were very effective teaching tools, both for their intended purpose, and for the demonstration of other sailing skills. Typical of NOLS instructors, Ben went above and beyond for the benefit of his students. Nicely done, Ben!

In production


Permalink | Posted by Eliza Scally on Jun 10, 2011 in the following categories: Pacific Northwest

Max Belongs in the Mountains: The Waddington, to Be Precise

Max Owens, one of two overall winners of the NOLS Patagonia Dream Expedition Video Contest, wants to take the Waddington Range Mountaineering course this summer. His video, Power of the Peaks, won him a NOLS course, all the gear he needs for the course, travel, and a bunch of other goodies from Patagonia and NOLS. Here's his winning video:

We caught up with Max to find out more about him.

Q: We know nothing about you, other than that you make a mean backcountry salad. How old are you?

A: I am 17 years old.

Q: What are your favoriate outdoor acivities?

A: My favorite outdoor activity is definitely skiing. I also love camping, hiking, and mountain biking. Recently, I've gotten into rock climbing, but thus far have only rock climbed indoors.

Q: What do you love to do when you're not in school (or making movies)?

A: Spending time with friends, reading, the activities listed above, and volunteering at my local hospital

Q: Are you really planning on that tour of the US, hiking, climbing, skiing, and more? If so, when are you planning on doing that?

A: The trip was not a formal plan when I dreamed of it; however I do have a yearning for the West and want to spend some serious time. That being said, I've been playing with the idea of going on a road trip after my senior year of high school. Though I might not have enough time to do all the activities listed in my video on this road trip, I want to fit in as much as I can!

Q: Looks like you are in high school. Any college plans?

A:  I'm currently a junior in high school, so I'm not exactly sure where I will apply just yet. I've been visiting a lot of schools lately to figure out what kind of school I would get the most out of. At this point, I'm planning on a pre-medicine track in college then med school. Science has always been one of my favorite subjects, and I think medicine would be a great career area for me.

Q: You got your whole school involved in your video. Who are some of the teachers who think you "belong in the mountains?"

A:  The first teacher in the video is Christa Overbeck, who I had for English my freshman year. The male teacher was Erik Will, who I had for freshman world history. The last teacher was Molly Penrod, who I had last year for biology and this current year for AP Biology (my favorite class by far!!). All of these teachers are absolutely fantastic, and were very supportive about the video!

Permalink | Posted by Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin on Dec 6, 2010 in the following categories: In The News, Pacific Northwest

A White.. Thanksgiving?

The coastline of the Pacific Northwest got 2" of snow recently, and for a minute, students on the hiking section of the Semester in the Pacific Northwest convinced themselves that they were walking along a pristine white sand Caribbean beach. Snow castles, anyone? The Washington coast this time of year is typically in the low 40's and raining.

Back in "civilization" NOLS Pacific Northwest in Conway, Washington also got a dusting, making for a nice contrast to the warm and cozy branch-hosted Thanksgiving & graduation feast to end the Semester.

Thanksgiving Graduation Feast

P.S. The tree centerpiece is a chunk taken from the tree that fell on the staff housing unit last week.

Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Dec 1, 2010 in the following categories: Pacific Northwest

If a tree falls in the Pacific Northwest..

...but everyone is out mountaineering, does it still damage staff housing? The answer is, yes it does. But, we're in the process of taking care of it. Here are some pics from a recent windy day here at NOLS Pacific Northwest.


The big question is, why was it so windy?
And the answer to that must be that these Pacific Northwest Semester students just started the sailing portion of their semester, and are currently riding the same winds up in the Strait of Georgia.


Permalink | Posted by NOLS on Nov 22, 2010 in the following categories: Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest Updates

Well, July has been full of fun and festivities at the PNW so far, with Canada Day, the 4thof July, and loads of courses going in and out of the field.

Last week the folks on NCM 6-9 and NCW 6-9 returned to the branch after experiencing all kinds of weather and excitement. The two Sea Kayak-Sailing courses switched in the field, swapping boats and transitioning into the second skill section of their courses. On Wednesday, we also launched NCW 7-7, with instructors Doug Dalquist and Sarah Osberg into the field. Doug, interestingly enough, has been an instructor in all 6 decades of NOLS history—he began instructing in 1969 under Paul Petzoldt and has continued instructing ever since. They’re out in the Olympics, so hopefully some of the recent summery weather will hold out for their course!

WAD 6-30 received their helicopter resupply on Friday. I delivered the resupply to Tatla Lake, BC, and got to tag along for the helicopter ride and chat with the course on the Homathko Glacier while instructors Willie and Jake cached the course’s last ration. They were at the base camp preparing for a summit of Mount Grenville on Saturday and said they’ve had amazing sunny weather and a great course so far.

Two more courses will launch off tomorrow: the summer’s third Waddington course (WAD 7-14), led by Dilip, Mel, and Amanda, and a mountaineering course (NCM 7-14) led by Marcelo and Matt H. WAD 6-16 (with Ben V, Craig, and Jorn) and NCM 6-16 (with Pedro and Ben U) will be pulling into the branch Thursday evening, so we’re all looking forward to catching up with those guys at the end of the week.

On the home front, Laura from outfitting is out for three weeks in a sailing race from San Francisco to Hawaii. Our last in-town team member, Tom (and Trout the dog) returned to the branch after completing his NOLS backpacking course in India. The garden is coming along now that slug season is on the decline—we’ve got broccoli, spinach, cabbage, kale, parsley, chard, lettuce, and potatoes surviving so far, so keep your fingers crossed and pray for good weather!

Permalink | Posted by Sara Cottingham on Jul 13, 2010 in the following categories: Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest Updates

Happy (belated) Summer Solstice!

Last week on 6/21 the OEM 6-2 (Mountaineering Outdoor Educator) led by Roger and Dave stopped by the branch in transit to their Rock Camp in Squamish.  We also resupplied NCM 6-2 (North Cascades Mountaineering) led by Marcelo and Darren at Boulder Creek that day. The students were in high spirits and excited for the new ration. We’ll be seeing them at the branch on Thursday afternoon when they return from the field.

The NCW 5-26 (Pacific Northwest Backpacking) led by Matt and Iain returned on Thursday. Everybody came back with big smiles and big appetites, telling tales of an epic river crossing at the end of their course. The students were all excited for ice cream and hot showers, but several heads perked up to the idea of a NOLS Alumni course…

As for this week, on Monday we issued a NOLS Pro course from the US Naval Academy. On Wednesday (6/30) two more courses will be entering the field: a Waddington Mountaineering course and a backpacking course heading out to the Olympics. Then on Thursday our friends on the NCM 6-2 and OEM 6-2 courses will be pulling into the branch to de-issue.

On another note, our local CSA (community supported agriculture) has everyone at the PNW excited! Every Tuesday, we pick up our weekly produce for branch at Hedlin Family Farms in La Conner, WA. Last week we got boxes full of fresh organic strawberries, some of the best cherry tomatoes you’ve ever dreamed of, and loads of fresh veggies and herbs.

Permalink | Posted by Sara Cottingham on Jun 29, 2010 in the following categories: Pacific Northwest

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