I spent last night on the Wind River Indian Reservation,
at the edge of Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains,
attending the Shoshone Powwow. The Winds were heavily
blanketed with clouds and rain was threatening. This
traditional end of June powwow is usually conducted
under Wyoming’s consistently sunny summer skies,
but this year it was a constant battle for the dancers
to keep their colorful regalia free of mud and rain.
To avoid Saturday’s rain, hail, wind and lightning,
the dancers moved indoors — hardly the place
for a summer powwow in Wyoming.
After six years of drought in the West, this year’s
June rains are a welcome blessing. The rain is sustenance
to the mountain meadows, alpine wildflowers and trout
streams of the Winds. None-the-less, as the Shoshone
dancers gazed skyward, debating a move indoors, I
was well aware that the NOLS students in the Winds
were not able to make a similar choice. But the mountain
conditions those NOLS students were cursing would
be celebrated when they looked back at the end of
The cover story in this Leader is about a different
kind of water adventure. Written by NOLS graduate
and former instructor Annie Aggens, it is the story
of her canoe expedition down the Mississippi River. While the Mississippi is
certainly a different twist on a wilderness expedition, I am sure you will
enjoy the read. I grew up not far from Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi,
in Minnesota. Rock hopping across the river near its source remains a childhood
memory firmly planted in my brain. While growing up, we dreamed of expeditions
down the river and many friends eventually turned those dreams into reality.
Today in Wyoming, my children have an alternate view of Minnesota’s claim.
When they consider distance, watershed and our recent June rains, they are
convinced their backyard is the source of the Mississippi — there were
just a few naming problems with the Missouri, Big Horn and Wind River. Lewis
and Clark 200 years ago may have agreed with much of this analysis.
This Leader also continues our coverage of the 40th
Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. It includes
a profile of the Gila Wilderness, a NOLS classroom
and one of the first designated wilderness areas.
It also covers present day challenges to wilderness
and specifically a piece on the Owyhee River area.
Finally, our Trailblazer coverage in this issue
is about “Champions for Wildlands.” I
am pleased to recognize that we have hundreds of graduates who could have been
featured in this column. Narrowing that list became quite a challenge. One
of our featured champions is Dan Heilig, who will soon end over five years
as the Executive Director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. In 1980 I did my
NOLS Instructors course in the Wind River Mountains with Dan. He was a strong
and talented climber and outdoorsman. At the time, I never dreamed that Dan
would become a lawyer and a CEO of a conservation organization, but it was
obvious that he was passionate about wilderness and had exceptional leadership
skills that got refined during his time at NOLS. He is like so many talented
NOLS staff who go on to leadership positions with organizations that share
our values. I wish him well in his coming endeavors and hope he finds time
in the coming year to get out in the wilderness that he has worked so hard
Finally in this issue you will find a brief rundown
of new NOLS courses for ’05.
They provide perfect opportunities to return to NOLS and further refine your
wilderness and leadership skills. Take a look, dream a bit and give a call
to our admissions office. It would be great to have you back at NOLS.
I hope you have a wonderful summer and that you
take time to celebrate the Wilderness Act by
visiting a wilderness area near you.