Two National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) instructors recently guided an international group of high school students on a 16-day custom outdoor education program in the Alaskan wilderness.
The teens, all of whom were enrolled in a youth leadership program in South Korea, got their first introduction to Alaska’s glaciers, jagged mountain ranges, coastal islands and mudflats as their flights neared the airport for Day One of their adventure. Stepping off the plane, the teens immediately grabbed their backpacks and headed out toward uninhabited remote wilderness.
NCOAE course director and lead field instructor Matt Seats said the students had mentally prepared themselves for 10 days of backpacking, route finding and living in the wild. Following a week of wilderness medicine training and some basic training in how to live and travel safely in the wilderness, the group was ready to start their adventure.
Though each of them had their own set of apprehensions, the students arrived at one of their first destinations by foot hours sooner than expected, which prompted these novice explorers to literally dance, jumping and shouting at the top of their lungs in joy about their accomplishment.
That evening they enjoyed the hypnotic effects of a sweetly scented campfire, fueled by the steady Alaskan wind in a dry riverbed. For some of these teens, it was the first campfire they had ever built.
The backdrop for this adventure — Wrangell-St. Elias National Park — is the least visited national park in the United States, and it’s where our group of teen adventurers found themselves 10 miles into the