Instructor Alan Coulter demonstrates the strokes as students practice in their kayaks. Now that's hands-on learning. Conception Bay, Baja California
Photo: Abe Goodale
NOLS runs the longest course in the history of outdoor education, 135 days, or the equivalent of a year at college.
The Sonoran Year will take you far from the classroom and give you an education of practical and experiential learning. The Sonoran Desert spans 120,000 square miles from the American Southwest to the tip of Baja California, Mexico.
On your NOLS year you will explore both the desert and the sea. You’ll sea kayak, sail, climb, canoe, and hike in the unique Sonoran ecosystem, the most lush, diverse desert in North America, while also learning about the distinctive local cultures through Baja human and natural history.
Whether its through the culture of Mexican fishermen and rancheros, whales breaching within sight, or leading a group of your peers through the wild Southwest, you’ll leave NOLS with new skills, new motivation, and a year’s worth of college credit.
Backpacking will be the thread that runs through your entire year, learning the camping and travel skills that will set the foundation for your entire course. You’ll hone your backpacking proficiency in both the Southwest and Mexico, and if your skills are up to par, the end of your year will culminate in a student-led expedition—an opportunity to apply all of your accumulated knowledge, independent of your instructors.
Cochise Stronghold is a beautiful remote climbing area in the Dragoon Mountains of Arizona that provides excellent opportunities to cover a comprehensive technical curriculum, including climbing movement, anchor systems, and multi-pitch climbing.
Wilderness First Responder (WFR)
Presented by the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS, this 80-hour certification designed for outdoor professionals will give you the tools to make sound first aid and evacuation decisions in remote settings.
You’ll paddle down the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park, Texas, where water has carved out spectacular canyons in the Chihuahuan Desert. You’ll learn how to read whitewater, practice river rescue techniques, and identifying hazards while scouting rapids.
Leadership Education and Development Seminar (LEADS)
This seminar takes a closer look at the NOLS leadership curriculum and explores in greater depth your personal style of leadership and that of your coursemates.
Students paddle into the sunrise for another day exploring this unique coastline.
Photo: Ashley Wise
Paddling the desert coastline of the Baja Peninsula includes hands-on expedition planning, interpreting tides and currents, reading weather conditions, and exploring the underwater world by snorkeling, free diving, and, potentially, spear fishing.
Coastal Sailing, Baja Natural History, and Whale-Watching
Become master of the seas as you learn to navigate using nautical charts. Punta Rosa, Sea of Cortez
Photo: Nate Steele
While on our 22-foot Drascombe Longboat you’ll work toward mastering the mechanics of sailing this open boat, including sail and line handling, wind awareness, anchoring procedures, and capsize recovery. Then you will spend time with local naturalists, students, and fishermen observing endemic flora and fauna, global warming evidence, and the migration of gray whales.
Year in the Sonoran
18 and Over (Average age: 20)
September 27 , 2012-March 12, 2013 (Holiday Break: December 1, 2012-January 8, 2013)
Gila Backpacking, Rock Climbing, WFR, Canoeing, Leadership Seminar, Sea Kayaking, Sailing, Cultural Exchange, Student Expedition
“Out there on the ocean, I found that inner
champion inside of me that has no fear and refuses to quit. It
was transforming and I will never forget it. We became kayakers
there, but most of all, we became leaders.”
Baja Sea Kayaking, 2000
WHAT MAKES NOLS THE
NOLS attracts highly motivated
students who come to learn skills and further develop their leadership. Read more reasons...