Throughout the semester, the cohort will embark on a variety of different backpacking trips in and around the Rocky Mountain West. During these trips, our focus will be on leadership training, team building, map and compass navigation, emergency preparedness, survival skills, wildlife safety, backcountry cooking, and outdoor education training.
These backpacking trips will take place in 4 different states: Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and Idaho. While it is still warmer in September, we will explore areas such as Gros Ventre Wilderness, Jedediah Smith Wilderness, Beartooth Wilderness, Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, and the Fitzpatrick Wilderness. As it becomes cooler, the cohort will move to Utah where it will backpack the Boulder Mail Trail. Each of these backpacking sections will offer unique challenges and rewards, as we hike our way to some of the most remote and beautiful areas in our country.
The sea kayaking portion will take place on Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. Fall in Yellowstone is a special time. The crowds have dispersed, the elk are bugling and the park is teeming with wildlife. During our time on Yellowstone Lake, the cohort will rise with the sun, paddle across calm waters in the morning, and then hunker down at a backcountry campsite (only accessible by boat) in the afternoons and evenings. The lake is a watering hole for many animals and surrounded by some of the most remote parts of Yellowstone National Park. Our sea kayaking portion will allow the group to spend time fine-tuning paddling techniques, perfecting map and compass navigation on water, and becoming a team as each student works with a partner to paddle a single boat.
The west offers some exceptional opportunities to hone your climbing skills. Whether you have climbed before or this is your first time, you will spend time learning all about this outdoor skill. Participants will get the chance to be coached on gear placement, anchor building, multi-pitch belay management, and will have the opportunity to do their own lead climb.
There is nothing like western whitewater. The landscape of the west is cut by water. A multi-day backcountry river adventure will be a core part of the fall course. Students will not only be along as passengers, but will learn the skills necessary to eventually row their own watercraft. Our group will take time to hone our paddling skills, becoming proficient on slow and fast moving water while also learning about how water has come to define the past, present and future of the west.
The group will have the opportunity to attend a two-day fly fishing seminar. During the first day of the fishing seminar, the group will learn about entomology, trout diet, fly selection, fly casting, and knot tying. In the afternoon the group will practice catch and release etiquette and have a casting competition. Our outdoor classroom is the perfect place to put the lessons learned immediately to good use. On the second day, the group will practice fly tying, continue the conversations from the day before, and start fishing.
For the remainder of the trip, students will have the option to hone their new found fly fishing skills in the other activities they will do. While backpacking and sea kayaking, there will be many opportunities to fly fish in these areas, and to practice the art of fly fishing throughout the adventure.
During this semester, the cohort will have the opportunity to work on several service projects in the outdoors. One example of these activities is working with the National Forest Service in the Bridger Teton National Forest.
Bridger Teton National Forest encompasses the Bridger Wilderness, the Gros Ventre Wilderness, and the Teton Wilderness. The land contained in the forest includes some of the most coveted mountaineering routes in the US, essential habitat for flora and fauna from grizzly bears and wolves to wildflowers and sedges, and amazing geologic features such as landslides and hot springs. During one of the group’s backcountry expeditions they will assist with trail improvement and trail building projects in the Gros Ventre Wilderness. It will be hard work, but the end goal will be more sustainable access to the wilderness for public users such as hikers, mountaineers, hunters, and fishermen. The group will see the impact of our work in the smiles that they receive along the trail.
Wilderness First Responder Certification (with CPR)
This 74-hour course will be conducted by Wilderness Medicine of Utah, a long-time partner of Wilderness Adventures. This course will be conducted over 6 days, and will cover a wide range of topics relating to medical emergencies in the wilderness and decision making, as well as practical simulations to prepare students to apply their new knowledge.
This course will take place in two parts. The first will be a “classroom” setting where the cohort gathers together to learn material and watch demonstrations by instructors. The second part of this course will take place during a backpacking section of the trip. Students will use this time to apply their skills, practice in simulated emergency scenarios, and work with the materials they would realistically have with them in the backcountry.
Upon completion of the course, and a satisfactory assessment, students will earn their Wilderness First Responder Certification and CPR certification, both valid for 2 years.
Core Outdoor Leadership Curriculum
During their time with WA, participants will also be engaged in active learning about outdoor education and its correlation to their own leadership capabilities. Topics of study will include group dynamics and facilitation, decision making skills, diversity equity and inclusion in outdoor settings, and expedition behavior. Yes, hard skills will be taught all throughout the course, advancing each person’s wilderness knowledge, but there will be a critical emphasis on the personal growth of the individual as a leader. Texts and curriculum will guide the journey, and students will actively participate in readings and studies as they build toward their own capstone project to be completed in the final stages of the course.