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Yukon Outdoor Educator and Saying Goodbye

A few days ago, our last long course was sent out into the field. The Yukon Outdoor Educator course, with 12 students and 3 instructors, embarked on a 26-day journey in the Pelly Mountains on Wednesday, where they’ll be hiking as well as canoeing the upper reaches of the Pelly River, wholly unsupported until their pickup downstream in Ross River.

Yukon_topo_27-07Yukon Outdoor Educator (COE) Course Location – July 2014

In the past week, we also bade farewell to the longtime NOLS Yukon Branch Director, Jaret Slipp, with a barbeque in his honour. He retired this June, and was replaced by Briana “Bri” Mackay, who’s been doing an excellent job as Program Manager this season.

IMG_1368Jaret and Bri giving speeches at the farewell barbeque – July 2014

It’s been a little quiet around the branch recently – we’re in the middle of a 8-day break between one course setting out and two others returning. Fortunately, this gives us some breathing room and plenty of time to prepare for a week of returning courses!

Permalink | Posted by Nick Baggaley on Jul 27, 2014 in the following categories: Yukon

Yukon Course Updates

Over the past week, we’ve welcomed back our first three courses from the field, including our first hiking/canoeing combo course, and both US Naval Academy Canoeing Expeditions, who were canoeing for 4 weeks in the central Yukon.

NACE B Hess RiverCanoeing the Hess River – June/July 2014

In addition to these three courses, we still have 4 in the field - I thought I’d go over some of their current locations.

Yukon_topo_18-07Circled: current active course areas - July 2014

Yukon Hiking and Canoeing (YHC)

Our second YHC course left 16 days ago. They’ve just transferred from the Coast Mountains southwest of Whitehorse to the Hyland River, where they’ll canoe until the 31st of July.

Yukon Summer Semester (YSS)

This course has been hiking for the past 28 days, also in the Coast Mountains. They’ve had two re-rations by now and left the mountains today to gather their equipment, shower and leave for the Hyland River and their paddling section.

Yukon Wilderness Hiking (CWY)

Two of these courses are in the field, both in the Coast Mountain range – one’s been out for 16 days, and one for 11 days.

For more photos of each course, see the NOLS Yukon Facebook page. Stay tuned for updates!

Permalink | Posted by Nick Baggaley on Jul 18, 2014 in the following categories: Yukon

Yukon Semester Re-Ration

The Yukon semester was re-supplied by floatplane about 4 days ago. They’re having a great time – highlights so far include the breathtaking terrain, surviving a 100mm rain event, and seeing tons of wildlife, including caribou, wolverines and grizzly bears!

Image (3)The Coast Mountains, on the flight in – July 2014

Image (1)Coming in for a landing – July 2014

Image (8)All 9 YSS students, still here! – July 2014

Image (5)Intrepid YSS instructors Sarah and Zand – July 2014


                 Image (4)                            YSS students having a great time - July 2014 

Image (6)

Permalink | Posted by Nick Baggaley on Jul 14, 2014 in the following categories: Yukon

Introduction to the new NOLS Yukon

Hello everyone, and welcome to the NOLS Yukon section of the NOLS blog! After a long hiatus, I’m finally going to be regularly updating this section for the remainder of the 2014 season. Here’s an overview of our new location, and I’ll be posting more shortly about our staff, our branch and, most importantly, the courses that have gone out. 

The NOLS Yukon branch has been located for the past 14 years in a warehouse near the Whitehorse airport. 

068The old NOLS Yukon warehouse - July 2013 

This past fall, however, the branch moved to a former retreat center about 30 minutes drive out of town. The new location is right next to the Takhini Hotsprings, and has facilities for the staff to live on-site. It’s located in a fantastic area, backing onto a hill that has a view across the entire Takhini valley.

IMG_0653Our new NOLS Yukon branch main building, before we started setting up - May 2014

Yukon_hill_panoramaThe view from the hill above the branch - June 2014

Starting in May, the 7 branch staff were all involved with making the branch ready for our first course, which arrived on June 16th. Though we’d never run a course out of this location, and three of our staff this year hadn’t worked for NOLS in the past, it went really smoothly, and the course (a hiking and canoeing combo) was able to leave by 6:00pm.

IMG_0966First course issue day - June 2014

Before the course, though, we had a visit from the NOLS Board of Trustees, who held one of their annual meetings up here in the Yukon for the first time in over a decade! 

Permalink | Posted by Nick Baggaley on Jul 10, 2014 in the following categories: Yukon

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

Three Peaks Ranch


Five pounds of cheese

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

NOLS' Newest Book is a Perfect Holiday Gift: Canoeing

Canoeing_300Effortlessly gliding through the crystal clear, smooth water, the canoes’ bow pierces the flat surface and sends ripples outward toward the shores. A single-bladed paddle silently dips into the water, propelling the watercraft further onward.

The simple, yet magnificent practicality of a canoe has been around for years. From the earliest cedar-ribbed and birch bark skinned hulls to the wood-and-canvas construction, and on to the modern-day myriad of ABS plastics, foam, and vinyl that are pressed together and known as Royalex. The materials, as well as the people using canoes, have changed drastically over time.

Nowadays canoes can be found splitting through Arctic waters bumping edges with mini icebergs, crossing the vast Pacific Ocean with help of sails and are still found on small lakes and ponds throughout the world. They are vessels for recreation, transportation, and scientific studies, among other things.

The new NOLS book, Canoeing, written by Alexander Martin and published by Stackpole Books, goes in-depth to explore and enhance the overall understanding of every aspect of canoeing—from planning an expedition and describing in detail the parts of a canoe to water science and river maneuvers and travel. Martin, a NOLS instructor since 2008, has a great understanding of a variety of canoe expeditions and was able to use past experiences and knowledge to create this all-encompassing canoeing book.

Nols_owned_image24_xxlRunning a section of whitewater on a river in the Yukon (Photo credit: Pascal Beauvais)

The book is the perfect gift for anyone with a passion for canoeing who would like to learn more regarding expedition canoeing, water travel and techniques, wilderness navigation, as well as advanced skills and other aspects that make up the world of canoeing. This book will serve as a great resource with colorful graphics and pictures to help demonstrate and teach skills and concepts. As everyone settles in for winter in the Northern Hemisphere, Canoeing will be a great companion. While the snow falls and the winds howl, read up on everything canoe related and gain more insight and excitement with each page. Then when winter finally loses its grip on the land and the waterways flow freely, unimpeded by ice, you can set off your own canoe expedition.

For those who wish to gain even more canoe experience and skills, a great avenue is a NOLS course. There are multiple courses with a canoeing component that will allow you to build a foundation and further your canoeing knowledge and experience. NOLS has taught canoe travel for the last four decades. Significant canoe components can be found at multiple NOLS operating locations including the Yukon, the Brazilian Amazon, Australia, American Southwest and Alaska. Any of these courses or locations would be greatly beneficial to anyone wishing to enhance their outdoor skills, leadership development, environmental studies and risk management techniques. 

Permalink | Posted by Mike Casella on Dec 2, 2013 in the following categories: Alaska, Amazon, Australia, Books, Curriculum, In The News, New Zealand, Northeast, Rocky Mountain, Southwest, Yukon

Campaign NOLS: Explaining Our Core Values, Part 4

NOLS’ core values are at the heart of our institution. Leadership, community, education, wilderness, safety, and excellence inspire everything we do. We share a commitment to these values; they define and direct who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

We define wilderness as a place where nature is dominant and consequences are real. Living in these conditions, away from the distractions of modern civilization, fosters self-reliance, judgment, respect, and a sense of responsibility for our actions. It can also be a profoundly moving experience that leads to inspiration, joy, and commitment to an environmental ethic.

William Bunnell on Wilderness

Valley Yukon
William Bunnell poses at the head of a large valley in Canada's Yukon.

As a biology major, I always had an interest in natural sciences. My appreciation for the outdoors made NOLS Yukon the perfect place for me to take my passion outside the classroom. I decided to take a Yukon backpacking course shortly after graduation.

With 80-pound packs, rugged terrain, temperatures ranging from 35-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and rain 85 percent of the time, my coursemates and I got used to ever-changing weather and wet gear. I became comfortable with discomfort.

River Crossing Yukon
William and his coursemates ford a river in the Yukon.

Throughout the course, we learned the necessary skills to adapt to uncertainty and thrive in nature. While I no longer require many of the specific skills in my everyday life, the overarching theme continues to be incredibly influential in every aspect it.

The wilderness taught me to face each challenge as it comes. Now that it has been a few years, I can look back on the experience and recognize the powerful connection to nature and its ability to teach us in ways that we don’t even realize.

Blue Sky Yukon
William enjoys a rare blue sky in the Yukon.

We are always surrounded by nature, whether we recognize it or not. When we realize our connection to something so much larger than ourselves, we are able to strive for a deeper, more pure connection in day-to-day life.

Spending time in the outdoors gives you a sense of responsibility to help protect nature however you can. My donations to NOLS help others to gain that same sense of responsibility, something that I hope they will carry throughout their entire lives.

Mayan Ruins Guatemala 

William's sense of adventure and respect for wilderness lead him to Guatamala and Belize, where he backpacked to see the Mayan ruins.


William Bunnel is a 2008 Yukon Backpacking graduate, scholarship recipient and a donor.

To learn more about Campaign NOLS: Endowing Our Core Values or to donate, visit


Permalink | Posted by Larkin Flora on Jul 17, 2013 in the following categories: Campaign NOLS, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Yukon

Tourism Groups Fight Mineral Development in Yukon’s Peel Watershed

The Peel Watershed in northeastern Yukon Territory has been the source of substantial controversy in recent years, the outcome of which holds great importance to oil and gas companies, First Nations, outfitters, and outdoor enthusiasts.

A 26,000 square mile expanse of undeveloped land, the Peel Watershed represents one of the last examples of an untouched North American boreal ecosystem. Feeding the Peel, Blackstone, Wind, and Ogilvie rivers, this area is home to grizzly bear, Dall sheep, and caribou. It serves as the wintering grounds for the Porcupine Caribou Herd, one of the largest herds of caribou on the continent. The Peel Watershed is also home to a number of different species of migratory birds, and provides nesting habitat that is crucial to their survival.

As is characteristic of any land use debate, Yukoners are in disagreement over the best way to manage the balance between environmental conservation and economic opportunity. The Yukon Party of the Territorial Government sees the region as a crucible for business beyond the realm of adventure tourism and sightseeing. The government seeks to protect less of the mineral-laced land, and plans to eventually open up surface access rights to the watershed for natural resource extraction companies.

Those in favor of protecting the Watershed include groups like the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon (WTAY) and Protect the Peel. These conservation minded organizations cite the region’s remoteness, lack of development and “unspoiled splendor” as reasons for conservation.  WTAY, which acts to “ensure that the integrity of the wilderness resource is maintained,” aims to protect the area within the context of “the sustainable future of the Yukon’s wilderness tourism industry.”


Ecosystems like this one would be impacted by development on the Peel Watershed.

Photo: Moe Witschard

Preservation of the Peel Watershed as a wilderness space would benefit NOLS.  NOLS Yukon, located in Whitehorse, YT, operates backpacking, mountaineering, and canoeing courses. A big part of the Yukon’s appeal as an effective outdoor classroom is its isolation. Opening the Peel Watershed to resource extraction would mean increased development in the Yukon’s wild regions, and encroachment on backcountry areas across the territory.

Support for maintaining the Peel as a wilderness space is not limited to environmental advocacy groups. A 2009 Datapath survey indicates that “85 percent of people in the Yukon say protecting areas like the Peel Watershed helps protect their way of life and the values they hold dear.”

Your input matters—if you have spent time in this region, please consider expressing your thoughts to the Yukon Territory government. 

Those interested in commenting to officials are invited to do so up until February 25, 2013.

Submit remarks to [email protected], or click here for a direct contact form.

Permalink | Posted by Jack Fisher on Feb 8, 2013 in the following categories: Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, Yukon

A Whitehorse Washout?


IMG_1529What a wonderful and fulfilling few weeks NOLS Yukon has had since our first set of instructors arrived 14 days ago! Since June 1st, the branch has welcomed and smoothly sent 33 psyched students and 8 excited instructors on their adventurous way. These numbers make up our 35-day Yukon Instructor Course, our 30-day Yukon Hiking and Canoeing Course, and our most recent departure, the 76-day Yukon Summer Semester, which began this past Sunday. 


Although it was “smooth sailing” inside the branch, there was going to be some actual sailing necessary in order to get out of Whitehorse. On June 7th, towns surrounding Whitehorse—such as Teslin, Carcross, Watson Lake, and Upper Liard, BC (close to one of our key paddling sections on the MacNeil River)—were receiving flood warnings. Due to a high snowpack and heavy rainfall of 30mm overnight, the South Canol Road, the South Klondike, the Rancheria Highway (Alaska to Whitehorse), and the Robert Campbell Highway were all washed out and closed for travel! Map

The washouts not only affected our Yukon Hiking and Canoeing Course trip starting location: it affected our ration supply and the rest of Whitehorse’s food stock, and the city had to arrange for groceries to be flown in.  Grocery stores and gas stations were not empty but they were operating sparingly. 

WashOut1Thankfully, just in time for our Instructor Course to return to the branch to switch their equipment over for their River Rescue section, roads began to reopen.  All said and done, our courses have been going out to make their own adventures and filling them with fun learning and great spirit!


To stick your hands into the river is to feel the cords that bind the earth together in one piece – Barry Lopez


Permalink | Posted by Leader 101 on Jun 18, 2012 in the following categories: Alaska, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, In The News, Yukon

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