I need to make a public service announcement and give some credit to a catalyst in my personal growth into an outdoor educator and leader. At about this time last year I was enrolled in Sierra Club’s Wilderness Travel Course. It is so much more than a 3 month long introduction to mountaineering. A well planned, outlined curriculum was the backbone to this course that built up the knowledge to implement and enjoy a snowy backpacking trip in Eastern Sierra’s Inyo National Forest.
Through weekly classroom, graded assignments/tests and multi-day leader-assessed outings, our amazing leaders helped us build the confidence needed to survive in the outdoors while still having fun. Our classroom topics included: expedition conditioning, proper clothing and equipment, 10 essentials, navigation (topo maps and compass), environmental awareness (leave no trace), snow travel (gear and snowshoes), wilderness first aid and safety and my favorite topic- FOOD (nutrition). After the class ends, it is up to us to seek out and participate in two “experience trips” that must be over-night and have an off-trail component. One of my trips was up Red Slate Mountain which they chose to feature in their monthly newsletter, available to download here. The other trip was through the back country of Joshua Tree and up Quail Mountain.
This course was so perfectly timed and integral to my personal development and plan to become an outdoor educator/interpretive park ranger. However, this path was started long ago in high school when I was in The Wilderness Club, lead by the inimitable John Ayres. Not to say I’ve been on a detour, rather walking parallel to this path all my life, meeting at crossings here and there. I’m so grateful to of found this course when I did. Sure I gained some useful knowledge but there is something much deeper that a person can get out of this course and it’s up to the individual. For me personally, I reinstated the belief I always had in myself.