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Help Your Friends Love NOLS Alumni Trips

By Kyle Courtaway on 11/29/18 5:02 PM


Photo courtesy of Kyle Courtaway.

I’m looking down the long dinner table at a rifugio (mountain hut) in the Dolomites with my childhood friends mixed with new NOLS friends. As I sit, I'm reflecting on what it took to get my friends here. We're happy, enjoying our time together in these Italian mountains. 

Contrast that with a moment earlier that day: Our hiking group took a break and I spied one of my childhood friends lying prone on his back, giving me two thumbs up. But I was worrying that he was questioning his decision to go on this trip.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, Alumni, Alumni Trip, Italy

From the Office to the Wild: How I Became a Naturalist

By Day Scott on 12/18/17 8:39 AM

On a recent camping trip, I saw a group of young boys using sticks as swords, throwing rocks, and flinging algae from the tiny creek that ran adjacent to the campground—not ideal Leave No Trace behavior. I went over to their trip leaders and introduced myself as a naturalist and expressed my discomfort with what the boys were doing. I wasn't sure how the leaders would react—would they ignore me, a black woman, and let “boys be boys”? Instead, one of the leaders called the boys over and told them to have a seat because they were about to learn a lesson on stewardship.

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Topics: wilderness medicine, Live the Dream, Wilderness First Responder, Alumni

Building and Rebuilding: What I Learned on an Alumni Service Trip

By Haley Cushing on 1/10/17 4:09 PM

On the first day of the 2016 Alumni Service Trip in the Adirondacks, I remember thinking that our motley crew of highly motivated yet enormously unskilled laborers had quite an impossible mission before us. It was our goal to revamp a bridge and, looking at the bridge spanning across Moose Creek, it looked like a daunting task.

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Topics: Behind the Scenes, Alumni

Big Agnes Co-Owner Len Zanni: Finding His Way in the Outdoor Industry

By Molly Herber on 9/13/16 11:59 AM

At last summer's Outdoor Retailer event, we were able to connect with Len Zanni, co-owner of Big Agnes, Inc. and a NOLS grad! Len talked with us about what he’s learned from NOLS and from his years of working in the outdoor industry.

Len Zanni first found the outdoors when he headed to Colorado for college. Finding himself in one of the West's best places for the outdoors just after finishing a Wind River Wilderness course in Wyoming, he drank in everything he could.

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Topics: Alumni, Behind the Scenes, education, leadership

Any Year Can Be a Gap Year

By Shelby Cranshaw on 9/9/16 6:49 AM

I am not entirely sure what I meant when I claimed to “hate nature” for the majority of my life.

But I said it. Often. My dad used to bribe me up mountains with M&Ms every 100 steps. He threatened to send me on NOLS courses during my high school summers when I complained of boredom.

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Topics: adventure, Alumni, education, Gap Year, Live the Dream, NOLS Patagonia, Semester, wilderness medicine

How to Create an Eye-Catching Resume by Talking about Your NOLS Course

By Kim Freitas on 9/1/16 9:33 AM


Photo by Aaron Burden.

It can be challenging to clearly and concisely articulate your school and work history on just one page. Not to mention when you have to explain something like a NOLS course!

Luckily for you, a NOLS course gives you a competitive edge—it's unique, valued across industries, and gives you an opportunity to set yourself apart on an application.

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Topics: adventure, Alumni, Behind the Scenes, education, leadership, college prep

Real Life Scenario: A Rescue at Ellison's Cave

By Allen Padgett on 8/26/16 8:00 AM

Four experienced cavers were traversing Ellison’s Cave (one of the deepest caves in the lower 48 States) when, in the middle of the mountain, one of the party slipped and fell about 30 to 40 feet down a hole. When his buddies got no response after calling down to their friend, one left to get help while the other two stayed behind.

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Topics: Alumni, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, wilderness medicine, Wilderness Medicine

My Playground, My Dad, My Leadership Voice

By Brette Brickel on 8/23/16 11:09 AM

I have always loved being outside, being in the mountains; however, my road since college had taken me from that lifestyle. In the past few years I made it a priority to bring it back to the forefront, which is why I was so excited to show my dad my New Hampshire playground.

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Topics: adventure, Alumni, leadership, Live the Dream

3 Months in the Rockies to 30 Countries in a Year: How a NOLS Alum Went Worldwide

By Erica Levine Weber on 8/18/16 9:46 AM

My choice of going on a NOLS Semester in the Rockies was as absurd as traveling to 30 countries with a baby before their first birthday. Apparently, I have a flare for the ridiculous!

I had never been canyoneering, kayaking, rock climbing, ridden a horse, or even camped before. Now, add to that dumbfounded look you're starting to picture, a 17 year old girl who was still mastering a command of her limbs (think a few clicks past klutzy), and not exactly an Olympic athlete. I'm pretty sure my parents cried when they dropped me off at the airport, not because they'd miss me, but because they weren't totally confident I'd survive.

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Topics: adventure, Alumni, education, Family, leadership, Live the Dream, travel

3 Tips to Improve Your Outdoor Photography Game

By Will Harrison on 8/12/16 8:00 AM

Taking photos in the wilderness is a great way to capture memories you will hold for a lifetime. There’s nothing better than coming home with a camera full of your favorite moments—laughing around the campsite with friends, the delicious pizza you managed to perfect (albeit the third attempt), and the breathtaking vistas of the alpenglow on Bastion Peak in the Wind River Range.

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Topics: adventure, Alumni, backcountry, Backpacking, Behind the Scenes, mountaineering, photography

Bee Prepared: WFR Training Applied in Real Life

By Luiz Antônio Gambá on 8/9/16 9:00 AM

“Bee stings cause more anaphylaxis than do the stings of any other insect. Multiple stings … can be life-threatening.” -NOLS Wilderness Medicine

My friend Pedro de Toledo Piza and I were riding on a trail access to Medicine Hill in Paraibuna, Brazil when we decided to leave our ATVs to hike up to a lookout.

On the walk back from the lookout, we were attacked by a large swarm of Africanized bees.

The buzz of the colony was deafening as we began to suffer stings all over our bodies. Knowing that Pedro was allergic to bees, I put myself in front of him in order to divert attention from the swarm—despite my efforts, the bees still seemed to have focused more on Pedro than me.

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Topics: Alumni, education, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, risk management, scenario, wilderness medicine, Wilderness Medicine

6 Reasons Wilderness First Aid Is for Everyone

By Sarah Buer on 7/29/16 1:35 PM

I refused to wear anything other than dresses until I was 7 …and even then it was only because my family moved to a small country town in northeast Wyoming and I wanted to fit in.

I’ve been a “girly girl” my entire life, and I had no interest in playing in the backcountry until about three years ago when I transferred to a university in the Black Hills of South Dakota and was lured out by their beauty and the exercise (plus, I got invited to go hiking with an attractive guy who has now been my partner in all adventures and in life for the past three years).

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Topics: Alumni, backcountry, education, leadership, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, snowboarding, wilderness medicine, Wilderness Medicine

Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph on Leadership and How to Learn It

By Marc Randolph on 7/28/16 8:06 AM

We caught up with Netflix co-founder, executive mentor, and Chair of the NOLS Board of Trustees Marc Randolph to hear his thoughts on how learning resilience in the wilderness helped him build the grit to be a business leader.

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Topics: Alumni, Behind the Scenes, education, leadership, NOLS

When Urban Environments Go Wild: Wilderness Medicine in the Aftermath of Disaster

By Sarah Buer on 7/5/16 9:41 AM

“Wilderness has no handrails, no telephones, and no simple solutions for complex emergency situations. It does have dangers. Some are obvious: rock fall, moving water, stormy weather, avalanches, crevasses, and wild animals. Others are subtle: impure water, dehydration, cold and damp weather, altitude illness, and human judgment.” -Tod Schimelpfenig, NOLS Wilderness Medicine

The importance of wilderness medicine knowledge and protocols in disaster zones is tenfold. When resources are depleted, emergency access is delayed, and safely functioning environments become austere, an urban setting ultimately transforms into a modern-day wilderness.

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Topics: Alumni, Behind the Scenes, education, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, risk management, wilderness, wilderness medicine

7 Musical Instruments to Take Backpacking

By Jacob Taswell on 6/27/16 9:55 AM

Of all the frontcountry comforts, music is one of the things I miss the most when I go into the wilderness. I can’t bring a piano out there, and even a guitar is pretty cumbersome.

Luckily, I don’t have to leave music behind altogether. 

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Topics: adventure, Alumni, Backpacking, Expedition Prep