While the rest of Lander is in a zombie-like trance, picking up stray firework casings from their lawns, having forgotten about the red, white and blue face paint they so proudly sported on the 4th, one group of weathered students emerges from the snow-capped Absarokas. Windswept and disheveled, the twelve students on our Rocky Mountain Semester course were welcomed back by the high spirited folks at the Rocky Mountain Branch and their researcher Cara Ocobock.
Researcher? Yes. Testing the metabolic rates of active NOLS students in hopes of correctly measuring and predicting human energy expenditure in a natural setting, Cara, from Washington University in St. Louis, has found herself a great set of guinea pigs. These students have been wearing heart-rate monitors, keeping track of their food in-take, and taking precise note of their daily activities, on top of figuring out how to live and travel in the wild…not an easy task!
Not only are they back in Lander to re-ration, possibly shower and to re-equip/familiarize themselves with their new rock climbing equipment, but to be weighed, measured, poked and prodded for the sake of science.
With cheers from onlookers, each student stepped onto an bioelectrical impedance scale. All smiles, the students could not wait to see how their muscle mass and percent body fat figures have changed over the first 24 days of their expedition. The results: overall loss of muscle mass and body fat! But the students weren't any worse for wear. They'll tweak their rations for the next section, more protein and a lot more water!
The next day, after more rounds of testing, including a 28-minute stand-walk-run drill on the treadmill, we sent the group on their way to City of Rocks, Idaho. Heart-rate monitors abreast and their own version of patriotic zinc oxide on their cheeks, the students piled into a NOLS van and took the back roads to their next location.
Cara and I will be checking in on the course and taking more measurements during their rock climbing section. We wish them all the best while hopin' and prayin' that none of the pricey equipment will be lost in the crags of Idaho.
More to come...