On this course you, along with other military personnel and veterans, will develop the skills necessary to develop into positive and ethical outdoor leaders that are aware of their impact on the environment and others. This course is funded by the Sierra Club Foundation and tuition is free to Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Once in the Gila Wilderness, your course will begin by covering the fundamentals of wilderness travel skills and how to live comfortably in the backcountry. You will travel on a daily basis; some days packing up and moving camp and others spent day hiking and exploring your camp surroundings. Map-reading and route-finding will be a big part of your travel. At times you will travel across ridges with spectacular views in all directions while at others, you'll wind your way through the forest and canyons of the Gila Wilderness. You also will learn how to minimize your impact when traveling and camping.
In addition to learning to live and travel in this environment, you will be exposed to the area’s natural history, geology, and culture. The human history of the Gila dates back thousands of years to the time when it was the home of the Mogollon civilization and evidence of these prehistoric cultures can be found while traveling through the area.
Group dynamics and leadership are important components of your course. You’ll learn how to live and work closely with other course members while you travel through the Gila Wilderness. Bringing tolerance for adversity and uncertainty, respect for other members, and willingness to work hard will be critical to the success of the expedition. As your group gains skills and experience working together, you will be given more and more responsibility for leading yourself and your peers; and you may also be given opportunities to be a leader of the day for the group and play a role in planning the day’s activities.
NOLS courses are challenging both physically and emotionally. You will have some long days carrying a backpack weighing 30-50 lbs. You will put up your own tent, cook your own meals with your peers, and learn to take care of yourself and your expedition mates. You will also have time to reflect, hang out with your new friends, learn to fly fish, catch glimpses of wildlife and enjoy spectacular sunsets.