The substance of a NOLS course has been astonishing. We’ve covered so many different topics, in such a dynamic environment. Our instructors have been amazing in their ability to tease lessons out of the day’s events, blending the day’s experience with education. And that, I believe, is the magic of experiential education. These are lessons we’re learning, in real time, with oversight from people who have the technical skills to impart knowledge, but who are pedagogically savvy enough to teach esoteric topics like leadership and communication against the backdrop of the outdoors. They are gifted educators, with different, complimentary styles.
We’ve covered technical courses like how to pack a backpack. We’ve learned what is expected of us as participants, and how active participation is just as much part of being a leader as being “Leader of the Day.” Yet we’ve also covered theoretical concepts like the normative values we want to adopt for our community, goal setting, communication filters, and feedback loops. And as an added bonus, I’ve been provided with with suggestions for more books to read about leadership than I’ll have time for!
The Rest Step – A Metaphor for Life
The hike today was more strenuous. We focused on the “Rest Step” – letting our skeletal systems absorb the load while allowing our muscular systems a brief respite on every step throughout the hike. This also gave us an opportunity to hike slower, and to absorb and truly appreciate the natural beauty around us. With a longer hike, we learned that a harder day helps to build confidence as we move outside of our comfort zones to challenge ourselves.
Ethics Versus Rules – Either Way, Leave No Trace
Our group moved a little slower today, and when we arrived at Buckskin Lake the other group had already set up camp. We settled in for the evening to learn about Leave No Trace Ethics, where we highlighted the differences between and ethic and a rule (gotta love having a philosopher as a NOLS instructor). Ethics, we learned, are something you do when no one else is looking. The quintessential example is pooping in the woods – Mother Nature is the only one watching – did you did that cat-hole 6 to 8 inches deep?
Buckskin – A Ridge and a Lake
We traveled through an evergreen forest and crested Buckskin Ridge, which provided breathtaking views of the North Cascades. During the descent I began to grapple with the fact that our trip was almost half over, and began to wonder what it would be like to go home. I began thinking about the future – my future – and what I want it to look like. With every step, my vision became progressively clearer. My love for being outside was cemented, and I realized that I found something I am passionate about. My vision of what I want the next few years of my life to look like was coming into focus, and the specifics of a plan were coming together.