Column: NOLS, nature and everything in between


Photo credit: Norah Adler

A scenic view of a boulder field in the Wyoming landscape. The 30-day backpacking trip in the Wind River Range was the first NOLS trip offered in 1965.

By Norah Adler, Columnist

Over the summer, I went on a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) trip, the first NOLS trip since quarantine started. My excursion started in July, at the Southern end of the Wind River Rang in Wyoming. After going on three Arrow Weeks, seven-day NOLS trips with Archer, I was ready and excited for something more.

I thought I had already learned all there was to know about different leadership styles. From communicating in a team to the natural curriculum of the hiking trail, grit, determination and hardship, I felt a little cocky as I took my first steps up the rugged landscape of Southern Wyoming. 

What I didn’t realize, however, was that there was so much more to learn. 

Somedays we would camp at 12,000 feet, with wind so powerful that our tents almost blew away. Other days, we would swim in glacial lakes, blocks of ice floating in the water, a constant reminder of the frigid temperatures. I would look to my left and see the tall, spiky mountains of the Continental Divide. Look to my right, I would see pristine lakes, bubbling with fish. 

I started to think: I gain so much from this place, it would be immoral to not give it the same respect it does to me.  

While in the vast landscape of Wyoming, I was reminded of this quote that hung on the wall of my fifth grade classroom: “Who you are when no one’s watching is who you are.” Now, when I walk around my neighborhood, I have started to pick up trash. I know, picking up one piece of trash doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but the practice of picking up trash is a part of a much bigger foundation of thinking. A mindset of understanding that I am not the only person in the world, that I need to better my community and respect the nature around me even if that means picking up trash that no one wants to touch. It’s my way of saying to my community, “I care about you, too.”

Coming home to my big city after my NOLS excursion, I can’t carry the trees, the people or the boulder fields back with me. The intangible things I can carry back, however, are in some ways more important.