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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

Northern Absorption: Backpacking & Canoeing in the Yukon

By Katie Raymond on Mar 9, 2020
Photo by Ari Bruns

We rounded the last bend in the river and I could finally see our campsite. The sun had broken through the clouds and a bald eagle flew overhead, not more than 30 feet away. I looked at Sarah. Relief was in her eyes.

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Topics: canoeing, NOLS Yukon, backpacking, Yukon, whitewater canoeing, stories, location

Welcome to NOLS India: Expeditions in the Himalaya

By NOLS on Aug 12, 2019

Written by Annalise Grueter and Manohar D'silva.

Photo by Kirk Rasmussen

line of solemn, snow-capped giants stretches across the three northernmost states in India.

These soaring peaks belong to the world’s highest mountain chain: the Himalaya.

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Topics: Himalayas, study-abroad, Himalaya, skills, backpacking, mountaineering, NOLS India, cultural expedition, stories, location

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

There and Back Again, a Patagonia Tale: The Patagonia Cultural Expedition

By Jen Antocci on May 29, 2019
Photo courtesy of Alex Chang - Cornell Leadership Expedition

I was sitting in my doctor’s office, awkwardly fussing with my johnny gown and glancing down at the NOLS health form in my hands. My doctor comes in and after some formal chitchat I ask her to complete the health clearance for this month long hiking and cultural expedition in Patagonia.

“A month of hiking? Sleeping in tents? In South America? Are you being punished?” she half joked. “No, I’m paying to do this” I joked back. “Well good for you, I don’t even like going out in my backyard.” She signed the form and I left the office, mentally checking off the final item on my expedition to-do list.

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Topics: Patagonia, NOLS Patagonia, skills, backpacking, culture, cultural expedition, stories, student-stories

"There Is No Limit:" A Kenyan Mountain Guide Advances Her Wilderness Training

By Carol Wanjiru (Mimie) on Mar 13, 2019
On the right is Ol Doinyo Lengai Mountain, which we would attempt summit later that night. On the left is Lake Natron (on the Tanzania side of the border) and Shompole Mountain Conservancy (on the Kenya side). Photo by Carol Wanjiru.

Editor's note: NOLS began operating in East Africa in 1974, opening our first location in Narumoru, Kenya (1974-2003), which closed and later reopened as NOLS East Africa in Arusha, Tanzania in 2011.

In 1987, legendary instructor James Kagambi (KG), a native Kenyan, joined NOLS and launched NOEP, the NOLS Outdoor Educator Program. These courses are designed solely for East Africans and provide training in backcountry travel, leadership, and risk management.

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Topics: skills, backpacking, mountaineering, inspiring women, NOLS East Africa, women in leadership, stories, student-stories

My Semester in Baja, as Told in Food and Sunsets [Photo Essay]

By Claire Burgeson on Jan 22, 2019

On the seventh day of my Spring Semester in Baja, we bought a goat.

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Topics: sailing, skills, backpacking, kayaking, culture, photos, Semester in Baja, NOLS Expeditions, stories, student-stories

Best of NOLS Instagram in 2018

By Caleb Walker on Dec 21, 2018

Your favorite photos of wilderness, friendship, and leadership from NOLS Instagram.

Find a little inspiration as you start dreaming of your adventures for 2019...

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Topics: NOLS Patagonia, NOLS Rocky Mountain, events, NOLS Alaska, backpacking, NOLS Pacific Northwest, fun, river crossing, mountaineering, winter, tent, NOLS Three Peaks Ranch, photography

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

The Top 3 Leadership Lessons You Won’t Learn in an Office or Classroom

By Liz Townsend on Jul 10, 2018
My rope team heading back to base camp. Photo by Liz Townsend.

You might think that seven years of working in the business world would have taught me about leadership. Yet the best lessons I’ve learned have come while climbing rocks and mountains and hiking miles into the wilderness, where traveling with companions over steep snowy passes and through thick forested valleys has forced me to face leadership challenges in ways that I rarely encounter inside.

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Topics: leadership, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, skills, backpacking, MBAs, NOLS Custom Education, leader-skills

Snow in May: Leadership in the Face of Uncertainty

By Sarah Delany on Jun 18, 2018
Photo from Pixabay.

Postholing is a gamble at best; the unstable snow holds a person carrying a pack one step and collapses the next, leaving you up to your knees in snow when you least expect it.

When my Leadership Development class from Bates College rolled into the NOLS Northeast campus in Gabriels, New York this spring, the last thing I could have imagined was that I would find myself hip deep in rotten snow, moving slower than imaginable, and pondering whether or not I would have to set up my tent in the dark.

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Topics: leadership, backpacking, NOLS Northeast, NOLS Custom Education, Bates College, stories, student-stories

How to Pack Your Backpack

By Molly Herber on May 23, 2018
Photo by Nadine Lehner

The first time I tried to pack a backpack, it took me over an hour to get everything inside. The result was a chunky, clunky pile that rose at least six inches over my head. It wasn’t pretty, but everything was inside.

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Topics: gear, Expedition Prep, camping, skills, backpacking, backpacking, hiking, adventure, outdoor skills, food-gear

Lessons from the Alpine Pass: Columbia Business School Student Goes to Chile

By Sho Fujiwara on May 10, 2018
Classmate Oly looks at his feet and looks back on the alpine pass. Photo by Sho Fujiwara.

On the sixth day of our eight-day expedition in the Aysén Region of Chilean Patagonia, we traversed what we called the “alpine pass,” a rocky, snow-speckled valley a mile above sea level. The rain on the pass was cold, almost icy, and the wind blew it horizontally into our faces as we hiked. It was not unlike some winter storms I experienced growing up in Chicago, where the wind blows so cold and strong that a direct gust leaves you gasping for breath. My usual reaction to that kind of weather is to bundle up and steel myself to endure it until it mercifully goes away (or avoid it all together by moving away from Chicago).

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Topics: leadership, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, NOLS Patagonia, Columbia Business School, backpacking, NOLS Custom Education, stories, student-stories, leader-skills

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

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Why I Went Back to NOLS

By Elena Cabot Rodriguez on Apr 3, 2018
Photo courtesy of the NOLS Archives.

All my life my dad had preached the power of NOLS. The first summer he moved to the United States from Venezuela, he completed the four-week backpacking course in the Wind River Range.

Speaking little English, he cruised with his team through snowy mountain tops, only to be caught in a snowstorm at 8,000 feet with an instructor who had a leg injury.

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Topics: Semester in the Rockies, skills, backpacking, NOLS semester, Alaska backpacking, outdoor semester, women in leadership, stories, student-stories