Classmate Oly looks at his feet and looks back on the alpine pass. Photo by Sho Fujiwara.
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.Read More
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. He still loves to talk about carrying the instructor up to a clearing and snuggling with him at night to prevent hypothermia.
“I’ve never done anything like it,” my dad told me.
“Cool, Papa,” I said for the thousandth time, tired of hearing about Wind River epics that seemed so foreign to me.Read More
Photo by Craig Muderlak
When I heard from NOLS’ staffing office that I’d been accepted on the River Instructor Course, I was beyond stoked. I ran to tell my boss the great news. Expecting her to be happy, instead she said, “We can’t afford to lose you this time of year.”Read More
Photo by Betsy Winston.
Imagine this: You’re trying to figure out the best way to cross a river with your group of four friends. Even though you’ve crossed rivers on your own before, you’ve never led a group while doing it.
You’re wracking your brain trying to remember any acronyms that might help you, scrambling around the riverbank trying to guess the river’s speed, and weighing the equally strong temptations of “just going for it” and staying put, making camp, and coming back to the decision in the morning.
When you’re on the verge of total frustration, your friend shouts, “Hey, I found a log! Let’s use it to cross the river!”Read More
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 WagonerRead More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
“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.Read More
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.Read More