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55 and Climbing

By Liz Johnson on 12/11/17 7:31 AM

“You’re cruising, Alex. I can hardly keep up with you!” I called up to my climbing coursemate as I belayed her.

“I’m trying a new technique,” she yelled back. “It’s called ‘Keep Going!’”

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Topics: Live the Dream, rock climbing, leadership

A Letter to My Future Self

By Carolyn Highland on 11/29/17 8:39 AM

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, Live the Dream

Q&A with a NOLS Parent

By Shelli Johnson on 11/17/17 1:08 PM

Editor’s note: Shelli Johnson, a NOLS grad, writes about what it was like for her son Wolf to go on his own 30-day NOLS course in the summer of 2016.

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Topics: interviews, Wind River Range, Live the Dream

The Poetry of Experience

By Daniel Koepp on 11/6/17 8:30 AM

“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

Climbing Denali, in Photos

By Stéphane Terrier on 10/24/17 9:18 AM

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

Find Your Next Adventure in the City

By Molly Herber on 10/5/17 10:25 AM

Adventure isn’t only about going to the most remote wilderness area you can find—it’s about doing something that challenges or surprises you, and doing it with people you enjoy. Even at NOLS we don’t spend all of our time in big wilderness areas, as much as we love them.

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Topics: Live the Dream, microadventure

Learn Your Habits to Make Better Decisions

By Molly Herber on 9/20/17 8:56 AM

Humans’ ability to use patterns helps us make decisions faster, but can also lead us into what NOLS teaches in our leadership curriculum as decision-making traps.

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Topics: decision making, Live the Dream, leadership

The Alaskan Tundra Jumpstarts New Adventures

By Jen Pontrelli on 9/12/17 7:59 AM

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: Live the Dream, Prime, Adult courses

6 Lessons I Did Not Expect to Learn from NOLS

By Travis Burhart on 8/30/17 8:47 AM

Finally, I could breathe a sigh of relief. After hiking all morning, my NOLS expedition team and I finished ascending a peak in the McCall Gulch Cirque of the North Cascades Wilderness. I looked to the north, catching sight of Canada only miles away. Turning around, I observed the mountains to the south. Dense, snow-covered forests filled in the landscape, and I could not believe my team and I had traveled through that.

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Topics: NOLS Pacific Northwest, Live the Dream

Improve Your Appetite for Uncertainty

By Molly Herber on 5/15/17 8:36 AM

“Happy campers aren’t the ones with the fewest problems…They just have more positive attitudes and better coping strategies.”

NOLS Leadership Educator Notebook, 5th ed.

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Topics: leadership education, Live the Dream

Get Off the Grid for a Gap Year

By Molly Herber on 4/12/17 8:29 AM

Editor’s note: I asked staff around NOLS why they think it’s a good idea to get off the grid for a gap year. We do love our technology, but there’s also a whole lot of value in disconnecting for a while. Here’s why.

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Topics: Live the Dream, Gap Year

3 Ideas to Feed Your Inner Wild

By Will Harrison on 3/13/17 1:27 PM

As NOLS alumni and outdoor enthusiasts know, it’s a strange process returning to the frontcountry. From trying to suppress thoughts that not everywhere is a restroom, to resisting the urge to lock your phone away forever, there’s a little bit of wilderness that gets tangled with our inner selves and is constantly looking for a way out.

If you’re like me and living in a bigger city, going to school, or just looking to find a trail to feel back in the woods again, here are some tips you can use to survive in the city.

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Topics: Live the Dream

Tolerance for Uncertainty & Adversity

By Carolyn Highland on 2/22/17 10:31 AM

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: Semester, NOLS New Zealand, Live the Dream, Gap Year

Looking Within, Stepping Forward

By NOLS Blog on 2/15/17 11:56 AM

NOLS was born in a time of tumult in the United States. In 1965 the Vietnam War was expanding, the Selma March paved the way for the Voting Rights Act, the Watts riots raged and Malcolm X was assassinated. NOLS was not an accident. It was a response to a void that existed.

Fifty two years later in another time of considerable division, now is a good time to reflect on our values, our purpose and our place in the world.

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Topics: Live the Dream

The Big Picture: How I Found My Grit on a Semester in Baja

By Sarah Buer on 1/25/17 8:20 AM

Tell us a little about your NOLS course.

Three years ago as part of a gap year, I took part in a semester-long, eighty day NOLS course in Baja California.

This course consisted of fifteen students and four highly-trained instructors embarking on a 100-mile hike from San Juanico to Mulegé, a 120-nautical mile sail on the Sea of Cortez from Loreto to just about south of Puerto Agua Verde, and ending with a 250-mile sea kayaking journey from Puerto Agua Verde to a town called Tecalote. (I also received sixteen college credits for my course, ranging from wilderness first aid to Leave No Trace principles!)

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Topics: Semester, Baja, sea kayak, Baja Sea Kayaking, Live the Dream, NOLS semester, Gap Year, education, backcountry, NOLS Wilderness Medicine