NCOAE Blog

The Benefit of Early Exposure to the Outdoors

By Julia Knight February 18, 2022

Inspiration

I grew up in the Midwest, and while some may claim the flatlands don’t have much to offer — I often found one way or another to get into trouble. I climbed trees in my front lawn, jumping off one branch, and climbing higher. While learning how to ride a bike, I often showed up to kindergarten the next day with bandages covering my knees.

On family ski trips, I was the one tumbling head over skis down the mountain rather than staying atop my skis like other people. I wanted to know how fast I could go, but nine times out of 10, I lost control and fell victim to power of the mountain. My mother was not a fan of my experiments as we watched her fearless seven-year-old tumble on down below.

There’s no question I have always had an adventurous heart, a thirst for more, and a passion for the world around me. I was fortunate to be able to spend more days outside than inside during my childhood.

That passion grew as I grew. While all my friends were putting on their prom dresses, I was stepping into a harness. One of my most cherished memories was checking my gear for about the 10th time, giving my spotter down below the “all clear” signal, and slowly making my way down. I was in Costa Rica, about to rappel down a waterfall at sunset, thinking “there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

While most of my senior class friends wrapped up their final year in high school with ceremonial “lasts,” I was surfing seven-foot waves, sea kayaking in bioluminescence waters, hiking through a cloud forest, and whitewater rafting Costa Rica’s Savegre River.

I could probably write a book about the personal lessons I learned during all of my travels, but the one that changed everything was the realization that (more…)

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NCOAE Celebrates Black History Month with NCCU’s Cheatham-White Program

By NCOAE Headquarters February 7, 2022

Custom Programs

It’s pouring rain, and some of North Carolina Central University’s custom outdoor education program participants slip into the knee-deep mud, briefly maintaining their balance, only to slide like baseball players down a short, navigable incline.

Stephen Mullaney, NCOAE’s director of school partnerships, quickly glances over to see how Christina is doing — just in time to see a huge grin from beneath her rain hood. That figures, he thinks.

Christina Garrett is a go-getter, no question about that. She is the Associate Director of University Scholars at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), one of about a hundred Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States.

As Christina, NCCU students, and some of NCOAE wilderness field instructors continue their trek in the rain, she tells Stephen about her own outdoor experiences, including fishing with her father, visiting state parks, and her accomplishment of heading what is likely the first required wilderness orientation experience for incoming freshmen and transfer students at a Historically Black College/University.

(NCCU student participants on an NCOAE custom program | image © Stephen Mullaney)

Christina’s program, which is named the Cheatham-White Scholarship Program, was established in 2018 and provides academic scholarships based on merit. Focusing on students attending NCCU, the program was designed for exceptional student scholars who possess a range of interests, proficiency in both the arts and sciences, and who demonstrate leadership potential and a commitment to service.

Admittance to the scholarship-supported program includes tuition and fees, housing, meals, textbooks, a laptop, travel, and personal expenses. The generous scholarship also means four summers of enrichment and networking. That means travel — maybe even international travel.

Where NCOAE comes into the picture is at the (more…)

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Adventures in Outdoor Cooking: Do it for Your Taste Buds

By Stephen Mullaney January 26, 2022

Wilderness Cooking

The instructor-in-training for the day reaches into her pack, shakes her head and swears softly.

“We left a bottle of fuel at basecamp. Who do we call for resupply?”

Liz, NCOAE’s course director walks over to the instructor and looks into the canvas bag. Then she shrugs her shoulders and says, “There’s no one to call. Looks like we’ve only got fuel for three out of eight nights.”

Scanning the forest, Liz points to a pile of rocks on the ground where previous groups have built fires and says, “Collect wood, build a fire, cook dinner.”

A few days earlier, this same group was packing for an Instructor Training Course. Participants are educators who have been in the outdoor education and adventure industry for a few years and have a firm grasp on technical skills. We use the course to familiarize these future instructors with our curriculum, educational practices and other components that are unique to NCOAE.

So, when an Instructor Course group forgets to pack an important piece of gear — in this case fuel — we like to see how problem solving, creativity and ingenuity unfold to keep an expedition moving forward.

Now, with a fire started and a meal selected for the evening, it’s time to start cooking. These NCOAE instructors in training begin by building a potholder out of rocks, stirring up the coals, and blending ingredients together for the meal.

There’s little confusion, no drama, and the meal comes together because these educators have been practicing outdoor skills at home in their backyards as well as in outdoor settings like the one mentioned here.

Practice makes perfect

The way these participants upped their backcountry skills and calmly slapped together a great evening meal was to practice their “seeking game.”

It was back in the late 1990s when a neurologist named Jaak Panksepp coined the term “seeking system” in regard to (more…)

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Six Tips on How Best to Respond to a Medical Emergency

By Kate Javes January 17, 2022

Medical Training

It’s pretty well known that we here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) are experts when it comes to training our students how to respond to medical emergencies in remote or wilderness settings. Less known is the fact that we also educate anyone interested in training that satisfies the eligibility requirements for the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.

As a result, we teach our students to recognize that medical emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. And it’s how we respond to those emergencies that makes all the difference in the world.

Assisting medical emergency

Below are tips in six categories — including safety, recognition, requesting help, patient communication, and being prepared — when handling a medical emergency.

Safety. Don’t be afraid to help, but don’t become part of the emergency. Use extreme caution near roadways or in hazardous environments. Take a few extra seconds to stop traffic or put on your life jacket.   

Recognize that an emergency is happening. Whether you’re dealing with a friend or a stranger, if something seems wrong, ask if they are OK. When is something an “emergency?” 

  • Breathing: When someone is having trouble breathing, always consider it an emergency.
  • Circulation: Many conditions, including heart attacks, can cause the heart to have difficulty pumping blood and can be rapidly fatal. Don’t wait, assume.
  • Significant traumatic injuries: Falling from high places or being hit by a car are obvious examples of events that can cause significant injury. However, even if the person involved seems OK at first, assume there are unseen internal injuries.
  • Neurologic problems: Any time the brain does not seem to be functioning correctly — even if it’s only mild confusion. Or if someone can’t use/feel one or more of their extremities. These are all emergency situations.

Call for help. This may be as simple as (more…)

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Eastern Divide Trail Promises Bikepacking Heaven for Enthusiasts

By Stephen Mullaney January 6, 2022

Bikepacking

Consider what it is you like best about the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, and then ask yourself this question, keeping in mind that, hypothetically, you were born decades earlier than you really were:

Benton MacKaye, the father of the Appalachian Trail — or perhaps Clinton Churchill Clarke, who conceived the notion of the Pacific Crest Trail — have asked you to scout the proposed routes to help with the writing of a guidebook.

Would you do it?

“Yes please,” would be my immediate response.

Granted, it’s a little late to do original onsite research for those two hike-thru heavens, but let’s move ahead to the 21st century and Logan Watts. A decade ago, from his home in the mountains of North Carolina, Logan launched a website called Pedaling Nowhere, which has since become BikePacking.com — a site has garnered an enormous following.

(If you’re unfamiliar with the term or activity, according to the editors of BackPacking.com. bikepacking is the “synthesis of all-terrain cycling and self-supported backpacking. It evokes the freedom of multi-day backcountry hiking and travel off the beaten path, but with the range and thrill of riding a nimble bicycle. It’s about venturing further into places less traveled, both near and far, via singletrack trails, gravel, and forgotten dirt roads, carrying the essential gear, and not much more.”)

Getting to Know Bikepacking.com

BackPacking.com started out as a place to share bikepacking stories, product review and profiles of people, their bikes and the routes they were riding, and by 2014, as more and more routes were catalogued, readers looked forward to everything from challenging and life-changing expeditions to day trips that, by the way, can also be life changing.

Bikepacking’s following grew to a point where a print journal — The Bikepacking Journalwas launched (which is now published in April and October of each year), and bikepacking “collective” was formed, which has grown to have enormous influence on the bike industry.

Many of the routes you can find on the website were originally published by (more…)

Continue Reading

Eastern Divide Trail Promises Bikepacking Heaven for Enthusiasts

By Stephen Mullaney

Bikepacking

Consider what it is you like best about the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, and then ask yourself this question, keeping in mind that, hypothetically, you were born decades earlier than you really were:

Benton MacKaye, the father of the Appalachian Trail — or perhaps Clinton Churchill Clarke, who conceived the notion of the Pacific Crest Trail — have asked you to scout the proposed routes to help with the writing of a guidebook.

Would you do it?

“Yes please,” would be my immediate response.

Granted, it’s a little late to do original onsite research for those two hike-thru heavens, but let’s move ahead to the 21st century and Logan Watts. A decade ago, from his home in the mountains of North Carolina, Logan launched a website called Pedaling Nowhere, which has since become BikePacking.com — a site has garnered an enormous following.

(If you’re unfamiliar with the term or activity, according to the editors of BackPacking.com. bikepacking is the “synthesis of all-terrain cycling and self-supported backpacking. It evokes the freedom of multi-day backcountry hiking and travel off the beaten path, but with the range and thrill of riding a nimble bicycle. It’s about venturing further into places less traveled, both near and far, via singletrack trails, gravel, and forgotten dirt roads, carrying the essential gear, and not much more.”)

Getting to Know Bikepacking.com

BackPacking.com started out as a place to share bikepacking stories, product review and profiles of people, their bikes and the routes they were riding, and by 2014, as more and more routes were catalogued, readers looked forward to everything from challenging and life-changing expeditions to day trips that, by the way, can also be life changing.

Bikepacking’s following grew to a point where a print journal — The Bikepacking Journal — was launched (which is now published in April and October of each year), and bikepacking “collective” was formed, which has grown to have enormous influence on the bike industry.

Many of the routes you can find on the website were originally published by

(more…)
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