Location Spotlight: NOLS Southwest

By: Anna Nickerson | August 15, 2018
Topics: Location Spotlight
After our students venture to Arizona for orientation next month, they will embark on their backpacking trip in New Mexico with our partner NOLS.

In the past, Winterline has done backpacking trips with NOLS in Colorado and Wyoming. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these areas, it gets cold in the fall. We are excited that our students will get the chance to hike in a warmer climate; the Southwest of the United States.

Our students will travel from the Sonoran desert in Tucson to the Gila National Forrest of New Mexico (approx. 5-hour drive), where they will begin their backpacking trip with their peers and NOLS instructors. This is a mountainous area with elevations ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 feet and plentiful with Ponderosa pine trees, beautiful plateaus and mesas, and 1,000-year old ruins.

During the trip, students and their leaders will hike on trail, but there will be some opportunities to walk off trail. One benefit of our Southwest NOLS trip is that the weather is more stable than other mountainous areas in the U.S.. This will allow more time for skill building, an emphasis on learning, and is also a great benefit to this shorter backpacking course. Of course, weather is unpredictable so we cannot promise that it’ll be great, but the weather should be better than years’ past.

Students will learn a variety of skills, such as camping, living in the backcountry, self-care in the outdoors, cooking, and navigation. NOLS also has a strong leadership curriculum, and this will be highly emphasized throughout the NOLS trip, as well as the duration of Winterline. As a former NOLS student, the leadership skills and learning opportunities were one of the highlights for me. NOLS really enables students to learn more about themselves and because it takes place in the beginning of the gap year, students are able to develop a sense of community together.

In the words of Ben Venter, Senior Field Instructor for NOLS, “the community that is developed on a NOLS course allows and encourages people to be better versions of themselves and that can then be applied to all realms of their lives… We are constantly thinking of how to make more positive experiences for our students.”

NOLS has plenty of opportunities for both teens and adults, including programs that offer college and continuing education credits. Check it out for yourself!


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