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Path of least resistance
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This past August, I embarked on a journey encompassing 140 miles in 13 days all on foot. Yes, on foot. There were not many close to me that could appreciate my aspirations for chasing this “outward boundish” type charge, and rightfully so. There were hurdles to get over before ever reporting for my chosen wilderness course. There was the burden of leaving my family for 16 days which would prove to be an emotional feat like no other and a herculean effort logistically as well. Then there was the question of whether or not I would be physically and mentally prepared to complete such a path. Could I do this; could I really pull this off? And there was the question of whether I would be accepted to this unparalleled program with a dearth of wilderness experience.   

I assume that for most of us, there is a time in our lives when adversity knocks over and over causing us to doubt our strength, doubt what we’re made of.  At these moments, we may hear a voice from the past enlightening us on the fact that He will not give us more than we’re strong enough to handle. But even with this wisdom, we are compelled at times to pursue recharged strength. It was because of this essential that led me to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and its Rocky Mountain Lightweight Backpacking course this past August.

Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS leads individuals of all ages on wilderness expeditions all over the world. With a learn-by-doing approach, we learned the skills necessary to be proficient, responsible, wilderness travelers and leaders. Our course integrated four components: leadership, outdoor skills, environmental studies, and risk management. The lessons we learned within this framework were ones that would be transferred back to our everyday lives. 

Our trek began in Lander, Wyo., with the convergence of an eclectic group of course mates – three women and five men. This union began over libations at the local cowboy bar. Unbeknownst to the eight of us, our alliance would be like no other, one that would become impervious in a mere 14 days. As NOLS students, we would learn innovative lightweight techniques like cooking one-pot meals and staying warm and dry with minimal gear while honing conventional backpacking skills including navigation and Leave No Trace. With their innate sense of the backcountry, our intrepid leaders, Jamie and Ryan, led us into the remarkable glacier-carved granite cirques of the Wind River Range. Our group of 10 with an age bracket covering more than 45 years would travel 140 miles in the “Winds” for 13 days with a focus on light and fast backpacking. We would travel near or above tree-line at elevations of 8 to 12,000 feet. Each of us would be laden with packs weighing less than 25 pounds comprised of food, fuel, group and personal gear.  Let’s define “personal gear”  --  one pair of pants (the kind you can wear for 13 days without washing -- hmm?), one shirt, two pairs of socks, puffy jacket, wind jacket, rain jacket, one sports bra, sleeping bag and pad, warm hat, mug, spoon or the ever popular “spork,” head lamp, water container, and toiletries totaling less than 6 ounces.  I had to remind myself often of the word “lightweight.” The 6 ounces of toiletries would prove to be a challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with weights of typical grooming products, I’ll put you in the picture. A small bottle of contact solution comes in at 3 ounces; a toothbrush, 1 ounce unless you cut off the handle, then it’s about ¾ ounce; small deodorant weighs in at 1.5 ounces. So, you see my point. Six ounces adds up quickly. I failed to mention what appeared on our optional list -- underwear, shorts, and mosquito net. Underwear would quickly be moved to the required list for all in our group. 

The terrain in the Winds would be as varied as the unique sense of competence and character displayed by our instructors. Our passage carried us thru thick patches of vegetarian; barren meadows; rocky terrain; stately peaks; and trout-filled rivers.

With its incredible diversity, our team would resemble a gathering of the “Breakfast Club” and though owning different goals and perspectives, we would strip back the layers to merge as one. This union would attest to be the most important facet of our expedition as we followed the path of least resistance.

 (To be continued.)

This past August, I embarked on a journey encompassing 140 miles in 13 days all on foot. Yes, on foot. There were not many close to me that could appreciate my aspirations for chasing this “outward boundish” type charge, and rightfully so. There were hurdles to get over before ever reporting for my chosen wilderness course. There was the burden of leaving my family for 16 days which would prove to be an emotional feat like no other and a herculean effort logistically as well. Then there was the question of whether or not I would be physically and mentally prepared to complete such a path. Could I do this; could I really pull this off? And there was the question of whether I would be accepted to this unparalleled program with a dearth of wilderness experience.   

I assume that for most of us, there is a time in our lives when adversity knocks over and over causing us to doubt our strength, doubt what we’re made of.  At these moments, we may hear a voice from the past enlightening us on the fact that He will not give us more than we’re strong enough to handle. But even with this wisdom, we are compelled at times to pursue recharged strength. It was because of this essential that led me to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and its Rocky Mountain Lightweight Backpacking course this past August.

Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS leads individuals of all ages on wilderness expeditions all over the world. With a learn-by-doing approach, we learned the skills necessary to be proficient, responsible, wilderness travelers and leaders. Our course integrated four components: leadership, outdoor skills, environmental studies, and risk management. The lessons we learned within this framework were ones that would be transferred back to our everyday lives. 

Our trek began in Lander, Wyo., with the convergence of an eclectic group of course mates – three women and five men. This union began over libations at the local cowboy bar. Unbeknownst to the eight of us, our alliance would be like no other, one that would become impervious in a mere 14 days. As NOLS students, we would learn innovative lightweight techniques like cooking one-pot meals and staying warm and dry with minimal gear while honing conventional backpacking skills including navigation and Leave No Trace. With their innate sense of the backcountry, our intrepid leaders, Jamie and Ryan, led us into the remarkable glacier-carved granite cirques of the Wind River Range. Our group of 10 with an age bracket covering more than 45 years would travel 140 miles in the “Winds” for 13 days with a focus on light and fast backpacking. We would travel near or above tree-line at elevations of 8 to 12,000 feet. Each of us would be laden with packs weighing less than 25 pounds comprised of food, fuel, group and personal gear.  Let’s define “personal gear”  --  one pair of pants (the kind you can wear for 13 days without washing -- hmm?), one shirt, two pairs of socks, puffy jacket, wind jacket, rain jacket, one sports bra, sleeping bag and pad, warm hat, mug, spoon or the ever popular “spork,” head lamp, water container, and toiletries totaling less than 6 ounces.  I had to remind myself often of the word “lightweight.” The 6 ounces of toiletries would prove to be a challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with weights of typical grooming products, I’ll put you in the picture. A small bottle of contact solution comes in at 3 ounces; a toothbrush, 1 ounce unless you cut off the handle, then it’s about ¾ ounce; small deodorant weighs in at 1.5 ounces. So, you see my point. Six ounces adds up quickly. I failed to mention what appeared on our optional list -- underwear, shorts, and mosquito net. Underwear would quickly be moved to the required list for all in our group. 

The terrain in the Winds would be as varied as the unique sense of competence and character displayed by our instructors. Our passage carried us thru thick patches of vegetarian; barren meadows; rocky terrain; stately peaks; and trout-filled rivers.

This past August, I embarked on a journey encompassing 140 miles in 13 days all on foot. Yes, on foot. There were not many close to me that could appreciate my aspirations for chasing this “outward boundish” type charge, and rightfully so. There were hurdles to get over before ever reporting for my chosen wilderness course. There was the burden of leaving my family for 16 days which would prove to be an emotional feat like no other and a herculean effort logistically as well. Then there was the question of whether or not I would be physically and mentally prepared to complete such a path. Could I do this; could I really pull this off? And there was the question of whether I would be accepted to this unparalleled program with a dearth of wilderness experience.   

I assume that for most of us, there is a time in our lives when adversity knocks over and over causing us to doubt our strength, doubt what we’re made of.  At these moments, we may hear a voice from the past enlightening us on the fact that He will not give us more than we’re strong enough to handle. But even with this wisdom, we are compelled at times to pursue recharged strength. It was because of this essential that led me to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and its Rocky Mountain Lightweight Backpacking course this past August.

Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS leads individuals of all ages on wilderness expeditions all over the world. With a learn-by-doing approach, we learned the skills necessary to be proficient, responsible, wilderness travelers and leaders. Our course integrated four components: leadership, outdoor skills, environmental studies, and risk management. The lessons we learned within this framework were ones that would be transferred back to our everyday lives. 

Our trek began in Lander, Wyo., with the convergence of an eclectic group of course mates – three women and five men. This union began over libations at the local cowboy bar. Unbeknownst to the eight of us, our alliance would be like no other, one that would become impervious in a mere 14 days. As NOLS students, we would learn innovative lightweight techniques like cooking one-pot meals and staying warm and dry with minimal gear while honing conventional backpacking skills including navigation and Leave No Trace. With their innate sense of the backcountry, our intrepid leaders, Jamie and Ryan, led us into the remarkable glacier-carved granite cirques of the Wind River Range. Our group of 10 with an age bracket covering more than 45 years would travel 140 miles in the “Winds” for 13 days with a focus on light and fast backpacking. We would travel near or above tree-line at elevations of 8 to 12,000 feet. Each of us would be laden with packs weighing less than 25 pounds comprised of food, fuel, group and personal gear.  Let’s define “personal gear”  --  one pair of pants (the kind you can wear for 13 days without washing -- hmm?), one shirt, two pairs of socks, puffy jacket, wind jacket, rain jacket, one sports bra, sleeping bag and pad, warm hat, mug, spoon or the ever popular “spork,” head lamp, water container, and toiletries totaling less than 6 ounces.  I had to remind myself often of the word “lightweight.” The 6 ounces of toiletries would prove to be a challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with weights of typical grooming products, I’ll put you in the picture. A small bottle of contact solution comes in at 3 ounces; a toothbrush, 1 ounce unless you cut off the handle, then it’s about ¾ ounce; small deodorant weighs in at 1.5 ounces. So, you see my point. Six ounces adds up quickly. I failed to mention what appeared on our optional list -- underwear, shorts, and mosquito net. Underwear would quickly be moved to the required list for all in our group. 

The terrain in the Winds would be as varied as the unique sense of competence and character displayed by our instructors. Our passage carried us thru thick patches of vegetarian; barren meadows; rocky terrain; stately peaks; and trout-filled rivers.