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Lessons from Escalante's Desert Canyons

By Erin Phillips on 2/13/18 8:33 AM

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

—David Wagoner

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Topics: Semester, Semester in the Rockies, Live the Dream

Sea Kayaking the Great Bear Rainforest

By Jonathan Brooks on 2/6/18 12:31 PM


Jonathan with bonsai island. Photo by Julie Bremner.

“This place is full of life on life on life!”

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Topics: Sea Kayaking, British Columbia, Live the Dream

Learning the Meaning of Teamwork in the Wilderness

By Wolf Johnson on 1/22/18 7:44 AM

I crested the top of the small mountain, ahead of the rest, for a brief moment of celebration on the top, all by myself. The view took my breath away, literally, but also emotionally. I could feel a tenderness and had a few tears in my eyes. These were happy tears. As the others, my coursemates, arrived on the mountain’s top, the sun was at an angle and beginning to set. We all celebrated, and we were also exhausted and laughing. In this moment I felt immense joy and pride, and, realizing we were now about one-fourth of the way through our 30 days in the wilderness, I thought to myself, I think I’m going to make it, and I think this is going to be amazing.

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Topics: Wind River Wilderness, Wyoming, Backpacking, Live the Dream

Your Favorite Stories from 2017

By Molly Herber on 12/20/17 2:31 PM

The stories we tell reveal a piece of ourselves. This year, the stories you loved told of people changed by the mountains and steps to achieve goals; that busted myths and shared ways to care for each other in the wilderness, both in mind and body.

Looking at the stories you loved reading, you can see where this community’s values are: in people and the environment. We hope you enjoy taking a look back at the seven most-read stories from 2017.

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Topics: leadership, tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, first aid, Live the Dream

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

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