For many students, summer break is a chance to spend time outdoors. For Maggie Eastlack '19, it was an opportunity to live outdoors while completing the NOLS Wind River Service Expedition in Wyoming.
NOLS, which began as the National Outdoor Leadership School in 1965 as an outdoor skills school that has since evolved into a multifaceted wilderness school.
"My college counselor, Ms. Wicks, recommended I look into NOLS while discussing my potential summer plans and because I enjoyed the Outdoor Leadership Intensive I took last year," remembered Eastlack. "I chose this specific course because of the service component. I liked the idea of having another part of the trip other than backpacking."
A typical day for Eastlack and her fellow participants included cooking, rehabilitating or building trails and campsites alongside the U.S. Forest Service, and/or hiking through the Wind River Range mountains. Occasionally there would be a "layover day" at a campsite that included classes, hiking, fly fishing, and socializing. Each day would end with a small group meeting to review all that had taken place and plan for the following days.
"I learned skills ranging from communication to basic wilderness first aid," said Eastlack. "NOLS curriculum is based around teaching leadership roles and skills which aim to create a unique leadership style for each person. We learned a lot about risk management in the wilderness, emergency procedures, Leave No Trace principles, how to navigate using topographic maps, backcountry cooking, and identification of plants and animals. In addition to the basic NOLS curriculum, the service component of the trip taught me skills with tools, such as a pick axe, crosscut saw, Pulaski, and many more. My instructors also took the time to teach us an extra class on how to plan personal backpacking trips."
Eastlack returns to St. Anne's-Belfield School eager to share what she has learned.
"This experience will be something that I will remember for a long time down the road... the appreciation I've gained for nature and the impact it can have on people's lives won't leave me anytime soon," she said. "I was planning on reintroducing the Outdoor Club in the Upper School even before the trip, and now I'm even more excited to do so with all the new information and skills I have to share with people."