Backpacking courses at NOLS often hike three out of every four days. You'll travel in small hiking groups so you have more opportunities to lead, make decisions, and map read as you move through beautiful wilderness.
The days begin early when you light your stove, cook and enjoy breakfast, and then organize and pack your pack. You're usually hiking by mid-morning. Lunch on the trail might be bread you baked the day before, or a trail mix of nuts and dried fruits. You may stop for a short class on natural history, or to learn how to cross a river, travel through boulders or snow, or move over a high pass. When you arrive at your new camp location, you'll first spend time choosing a Leave No Trace site, organizing camp, then preparing and enjoying dinner. If the day was long, a short evening meeting may wrap up the day. If the hike was short, there may be a class or discussion.
The difficulty of a hiking day is hard to predict. Long miles on trail may be physically easier than high mountain passes or a day hiking through boulders and fallen timber in a wilderness without trails. Your pack may be lighter than usual as you approach a food re-supply day, or you may be carrying extra gear to lighten the load of a course mate who is not feeling well. The wilderness has a knack for finding challenges for all.
You'll occasionally have a layover day to rest, enjoy a special location, have classes, or climb a peak. On these layover days, after breakfast and organizing camp, there may be a class or an excursion to go climbing or fishing. Lunch may be something cooked—layover days are great times to bake for the next day's travel. The evening plan may hold a class, a discussion, or an organizational meeting.
Expedition behavior and leadership are an integral part of our curriculum. You'll learn how to live and work closely with your course mates while you travel through the mountains. Bring a tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, respect for other members, and a willingness to work hard. As your group gains leadership skills and experience working together, you can expect your instructors to give you more responsibility for leading yourself and your peers.
You should expect ongoing verbal coaching and input throughout the expedition, with written performance evaluations at course end.
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