Sunday, September 13, 2015

Wilderness Education with NOLS Alaska - Poetry and Photography

light and clouds shift in the Skookum Valley
morning meetings in the mountains
      This summer season I had the good fortune of starting up work with the National Outdoor Leadership School, a dialed organization that teaches the art and practice of wilderness travel, leadership, and environmental awareness. We facilitate multi-week, often month long educational expeditions in the last wild and protected expanses on the planet, complete with college credit availability in topics such as Environmental Studies. NOLS is most commonly geared towards getting adolescents out, but also has many program options no matter the age, with adventure courses for ages 14-16 as well as courses for adults 23 + older. 

      As an instructor, the experience has been incredibly rewarding - not only living and working in the wildly beautiful landscape that is Alaska, but to be a part of forming a community that practices respect and authenticity; one that strives for excellence and teamwork, appreciation of simple joys, and environmental stewardship. The students' experience by the end was beyond words; breaking down walls, making lifelong friends, reinforcing our roots in the natural world, and in our own skin as the people we are, inspiring the people we were meant to become. 

Enjoy the photos and bits of poetry from my journal of more than two months in the wilderness with NOLS. 
- learn more about programs at

Instructor Ira getting eyes on the long journey ahead
Camp life at sunset

The Expedition

Down dirt roads, amid braided rivers, through thickets and forest, vast marshes. 
On game trails, under the woodland canopy. 
Over boulders, along ridgelines, beside mirror lakes.
Into limestone canyons, beside rolling hills of basalt. 
Up and over snowy peaks high, tumultuous.
Across glare glaciers and onto icefields empty, distant.

Through the fog, smattered by rain, buried by snow, battered by wind, and all the while under the sun. 
Wild and unadulterated, the earth here is alive and vibrant. Physically brutal and visually beautiful.

Mentally alone, but with friends; family. 
Through the thick, and the thin, and eventually back to that dirt road where we stood at the beginning of it all, when we pondered our future with curiosity and eagerness. 
A single month later, released from the shackles, we proceed onward, together, along our paths, winding.
Always yearning, forever learning: How to Live.

An exceptional group of people - every time.

The end to a beautiful day in the land of the midnight sun

Reflections in the Snow

A cold wind whips the face
blinding white focused by eye lenses, still nothing.

A long walk, memories fade in and out.
Red compass needles waver.

A pinch of blue, a beacon of hope
scattered away as quickly as it came,

Like a passing dream,
Reflections in the Snow.

Traversing the vast Nabesna Icefield

Our camp dwarfed by the Mt. Jarvis Massif

Getting ready to move in the mid morning light

Working heard through the wildflowers

In my place, in my palace. Stoked for more expeditions!