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Hiking Like a Girl

By Caroline Dooley on Mar 16, 2020
Photo by Caroline Dooley

Every day for years I wore the same outfit: baggy red basketball shorts and pink floral sandals.

For me, this is what it meant to be a girl. My love of floral print combined with a hatred of form-fitting clothing, creating a unique juxtaposition that made me me.

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Topics: leadership, Sea Kayaking, backpacking, kayaking, Alaska, Alaska backpacking, stories, student-stories

How Winning the Iditarod on Foot Started with NOLS

By Molly Herber on Mar 6, 2020

Editor's note: Pete Ripmaster is an ultrarunner, motivational speaker, parent, and graduate of a 1997 NOLS Alaska Mountaineering course. In 2018, he won the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 1,000-mile footrace from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. In this interview, he shares how building self-reliance and competence necessary to competing in this arduous race began with his NOLS expedition.

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Topics: Alumni, Alaska, ultrarunning, stories, alumni-stories

My Path to Outdoor Education from a Semester in Alaska

By Katiya Gombar on Jul 15, 2019

Editor's note: Katiya took a semester in Alaska in the summer of 2016 and became a NOLS instructor in May 2019.

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Topics: Semester, moutaineering, skills, NOLS Alaska, backpacking, kayaking, outdoor education, Alaska, stories, student-stories

I Don't Need to Be an Extrovert to Lead: Reflections on Backpacking in Alaska

By Natasha Gold on Jun 18, 2019
Photo by Natasha Gold

In January 2018, I was perusing the internet for outdoor schools on a whim that perhaps I would apply to a program. I stumbled onto the NOLS website; instantly, I wanted to go.

I found an 8-day women-only backpacking expedition in Alaska. I liked the idea of a women’s only trip and I have wanted to camp in Alaska since I was little.

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Topics: Live the Dream, Alaska, all-women, women in leadership, stories

USNA Midshipman Turned NOLS Instructor

By Mike Titzer on May 16, 2019
Photo by Nick Valentine

It was the second week of our course, and our hiking group of US Naval Academy Midshipmen sat on the side of an Alaskan mountain overlooking a giant herd of caribou.

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Topics: leadership, nols instructor, Alaska, military, service academy, US Naval Academy, stories, instructor-stories

How Climate Change Might Impact Your Next Backpacking Trip

By Brooke Ortel on Aug 13, 2018


Backpacking in New York. Photo by Kirk Rasmussen.

It’s a familiar scene: piles of food and gear, a trusted backpack unzipped, ready to be (carefully) stuffed full. You’re getting ready for your next backpacking adventure in the mountains.

As you run through your mental checklist, your friend casually asks, “So, you’re going to see those glaciers while they’re still there?” You pause, thinking for a moment. They’re only half kidding.

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Topics: Wyoming, backpacking, Environmental Stewardship, Alaska, education, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, climate change

NOLS Instructor Expeditions of 2017

By Molly Herber on Jun 6, 2018
Photo by Eric Page.

How do you become a better educator? There’s no one best answer, but continuing to be a learner yourself is certainly up there.

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Topics: canoeing, Himalaya, kayaking, mountaineering, Alaska, Instructor Development Fund (IDF), packrafting, Instructor expedition, stories, instructor-stories

5 Ways Expedition Behavior Helps You Raise Kids

By Alyssa Walker on May 3, 2018
Photo by Alyssa Walker

The most miserable and telling moment on my monthlong NOLS Alaska Outdoor Educator Course 13 years ago—descending a steep talus slope—taught me the value and beauty of expedition behavior, or EB. It also prepared me for an even bigger life adventure: parenthood.

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Topics: skills, Family, backpacking, expedition behavior, Alaska, Outdoor Educator, kids, parenting, stories, alumni-stories

Up Mountains and Down Rivers: Packrafting at NOLS

By Tim Kelley on Jan 16, 2018
Paddling with icebergs on the Nizina River.

I found packrafting in the summer of 2015 on a three-week trip in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness. While I was already an avid whitewater paddler and backcountry hiker, packrafting clarified my love for the backcountry into something more simple. It was not just about the feeling of traveling with a river’s current or across eddy lines. It was not just the feeling of lactic acid in my legs after a steep climb. Packrafting was a synthesis of all I loved about exploration—a celebration of traveling through the backcountry by any means. It begged me to look further and it opened doors to adventures that were otherwise impossible.

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Topics: skills, Alaska, packrafting, stories, rafting, instructor-stories

The Poetry of Experience

By Daniel Koepp on Nov 6, 2017

“What’s it good for?” Our pilot asked me that question as we flew deep into Alaska’s Brooks Range. A thermal rocked our Beaver bush plane and we lurched heavily. Below us, the tree line was falling away. From the rain-speckled cockpit it looked like a giant green circle where no brave spruce grew.

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Topics: backpacking, River, Live the Dream, Alaska, Brooks Range, stories

Climbing Denali, in Photos

By Stéphane Terrier on Oct 24, 2017

When I arrived at NOLS Alaska for my 2011 Brooks Range Backpacking and River course, I learned that the Denali expedition, a trip for NOLS alumni, had just returned from a successful ascent. It was easy to distinguish its members from all the other students, since they hadn’t had the chance to shower yet! That memory stayed with me not just because of the smell, but also because I was fascinated with Denali ever since I first saw the mountain during a visit to Denali National Park in 2004.

Covered with white glaciers, Denali towers incredibly high above all the other Alaska Range peaks and the surrounding green tundra. With its summit at 6,190 m/20,310 feet, it's the highest mountain of North America and one of the coldest mountains on Earth, notorious for its storms. I was instantly impressed by it.

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Topics: Live the Dream, mountaineering, Alaska, Denali, photos, stories

The Alaskan Tundra Jumpstarts New Adventures

By Jen Pontrelli on Sep 12, 2017

Editor’s note: Alum Dave’s NOLS course jumpstarted a new life of activity and adventure—at age 49. Read what led to his transformation and get some ideas for bringing more action to your life. Adapted from the summer 2017 issue of The Leader.

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Topics: NOLS Alaska, Live the Dream, Alaska, Prime, Adult courses, stories

Expedition Denali: Team in Training

By Casey Adams on Oct 8, 2012

After a summer of training hard in Washington's Cascade Range, British
Columbia's Waddington Range, and Alaska's Chugach Range, the Expedition
Denali
team is poised to embark on their journey to Denali in June 2013.

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Topics: NOLS, Behind the Scenes, Waddington Range, team, Expedition Denali, Mt. Baker, black, Cugach Range, African American, National Outdoor Leadership School, Cascade Range, Outdoors, British Columbia, Alaska, Denali, Washington