NOLS Quotebook: Highlights from the Field

By: Benjamin Kilimnik | November 15, 2018
Topics: Life Skills, Wanderlust, Student Voices
“It was the last hour of the most grueling hike of my life. But singing Mamma Mia and relishing in old memories of McDonald’s McGriddles actually made the long, dark trek down the canyon really enjoyable.”

In mid-September, our Squad spent eight days and nights hiking through the desert, climbing canyons, and trudging through rivers in the Gila  National Forest, New Mexico.

Be it thoughts, mental images, or sensations, each of us has unique memories of our course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). In my case, the smell of our portable gas stove seems to have never escaped my nostrils…

In order to showcase our varied perspectives and experiences, I asked my fellow squad members to engage in a bit of self-reflection. The following collection of responses grants a glimpse into the thoughts of Squad 2 throughout our NOLS expedition.

What is your favorite memory from NOLS?

“My favorite memory from NOLS was when everyone arrived at camp at the same time on the fourth night. It had been a long and hard day, and along with the expedition of the tent pole retrieval there were a lot of doubts. To see everyone make it was amazing.” — Caedon

“My favourite memory was the river crossings in the canyon. It was a refreshing change from hiking through the more desert-like areas, and the scenery down there was worthy of postcards and desktop screensavers.” –Yeukai

“It was the last hour of the most grueling hike of my life. But singing Mamma Mia and relishing in old memories of McDonald’s McGriddles actually made the long, dark trek down the canyon really enjoyable.” — Sam

NOLS Canyon River Crossing | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik
Canyon River Crossing | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

“I am proud of myself for completing the trip. It felt like a very long week, and our squad went through a lot…Forgotten gear at previous campsites, and a lot of miles to travel. We all finished the journey and came out with a new respect for nature, and for the industrial revolution.” — Caedon

“I’m happy that I was able to complete the course and still be mesmerized by nature rather than get distracted by the tasks at hand” — Ben

“Completing an 8-mile hike in a single day. It was my longest hike, with my heaviest pack on and the fastest travel group. The final descent was in the dark and the trail was ridiculously steep but we were all determined to reach the X on the map. It was the first time that we made camp after dark, so that was a new experience.”Yeukai

“Getting down that giant canyon after 10 hours straight of just hiking. Seeing camp and everyone waiting for us with the tent pole and piping hot ramen was the best thing ever. I’ve never had better ramen in my life.” — Sam

Nature’s Best Bath | Video By: Noah Bestgen

What was most challenging for you?

“There was this phrase we had for having to go to the bathroom, called “Trowel Time”. Basically, you and a trowel ventured far off into the woods and you had to relieve yourself without the comfort of a seat or toilet paper. You would use water to clean yourself. It was horrible and I hope I never have to Trowel Time again.” — Caedon

“Being cold at night was really tough. Even though I was wearing multiple layers, thick socks, gloves, a buff, and a hat, I’d constantly wake up cold and have to try to curl up and hold my freezing knees, whilst inside my sleeping bag.” — Yeukai

“Getting up in the morning. Giving up my nice, warm sleeping bag to a cold, wet morning with a grueling day of hiking ahead was hard to psych myself up for.” — Sam

If you were to sum up your experiences at NOLS with a single word or phrase, what would it be?

“Loco” — Caedon

“Worth the hardship” — Ben

“Stay hydrated everyone” — Yeukai

“Fulfilling” — Sam


To learn more about our programs and hear from our students be sure to check out the rest of our blog. We upload new posts three times a week!


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