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Carolyn Highland

Carolyn Highland
Carolyn Highland is a teacher and writer living in Truckee, California. When not taking her fourth grade students at Tahoe Expedition Academy (www.tahoeexpeditionacademy.org/) into the field, she can be found skiing, trail running, climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, jumping into alpine lakes, and then writing about it. Carolyn is a graduate of the 2012 NOLS Semester in New Zealand and the 2019 Rocky Mountain Outdoor Educator Course. You can follow her on Instagram at @c_highland

Recent Posts

You Don’t Always Have to Know the Answer: Vulnerability in Leadership

By Carolyn Highland on Mar 25, 2020

Photo by Carolyn Highland.

The thunder rolled, the lightning cracked, and I knew I could never lead students in the backcountry on my own.

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Topics: Leadership Skills, Outdoor Educator, NOLS Expeditions, Covid-19

Pay It Forward: How My NOLS Semester Helped Me Lead My Own Backcountry Trips

By Carolyn Highland on Jun 27, 2018
Photo by Carolyn Highland

November 21, 2012 was one of my favorite days on this planet. Up until this point, the idea of identifying a favorite day had seemed impossible, like choosing your favorite drop of water in a rushing river. But this was a day that made you realize if you couldn’t identify days that made the shortlist, you hadn’t yet experienced the type of day worthy of it.

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Topics: Leadership Skills, Semester, Skiing, NOLS New Zealand, NOLS semester, outdoor semester, Stories, Student Stories, Leadership

A Letter to My Future Self

By Carolyn Highland on Nov 29, 2017

Editor’s Note: Carolyn wrote this letter to her future self on a one-night solo near the end of her Semester in New Zealand.

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Topics: Semester, NOLS New Zealand, inspiring women, Stories

Tolerance for Uncertainty & Adversity

By Carolyn Highland on Feb 22, 2017
Not every day can be sunshine and rainbows. Photo by Carolyn Highland.

It was four in the morning, it was sideways sleeting, and the tent pole cup was broken. I stood huddled in my rain gear, aiming my headlamp down at my tentmate and my instructor, who were lying sideways on the icy snow, trying to speedy-stitch the stirrup back to the tent body before they lost all dexterity in their hands.

It was four in the morning and I was supposed to be snuggled up in my sleeping bag inside the tent, but instead I was outside getting pelted with rain on the side of a snowy mountain, the blackness around me increasing the sense of being in the absolute middle of nowhere.

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Topics: Leadership Skills, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, Tolerance for Adversity, Study Abroad Stories, Semester, NOLS New Zealand, outdoor semester, Stories, Student Stories, Alumni Accomplishments, Leadership

How Can I Support You? The Power of Expedition Behavior

By Carolyn Highland on Dec 19, 2016

The sky was gray and the sea restless and we had just pulled up to a desolate beach somewhere in the Marlborough Sound. I sat on a piece of driftwood with my head between my knees, taking belabored breaths in and out of my mouth, relishing the stillness of my current position.

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Waking Up in the Wilderness

By Carolyn Highland on Oct 14, 2015

I woke in the middle of the night to cold on my nose and a black strip of sky smattered with stars in my vision. It was all I could see, my sleeping bag cinched up around my face, laid out on the bare ground. I lay there unmoving, every cell of my body awake and aware of itself. It felt as though I’d been tapped on the shoulder, as though some massive universal force had tugged at me, whispering “you need to see this.”

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Topics: Alumni, Sea Kayaking, NOLS New Zealand, Mountaineering, wilderness