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Outings Leader Training in the North Cascades

IMG_4722In August I traveled across the country from Washington, DC, to Washington State for our first Outings Leader Training workshop coordinated through Mission Outdoors’ Military Families and Veterans Initiative. It was my first time in the state and I was taken aback by the beauty of Seattle and the surrounding area. As we traveled north toward the Cascades I was only more impressed. The jagged peaks of the mountains quickly rose around us, inviting us to hike and climb. The fresh air and miles of trees reminded me of how much I love wild places. On we drove to the North Cascade’s Environmental Learning Center, which sits on the banks of Diablo Lake. It was an impressive facility and a wonderful place to call home for the weekend.

Participants filtered in throughout the evening and soon we started to get to know each other by playing a typical ice breaker. From there, trainings continued throughout the weekend and covered topics such as trip planning, group management, interpersonal leadership, and leave no trace ethics. Everyone shared their own insight and brought different experiences to the table. By the end of the weekend we all knew each other a lot better and had learned or brushed up on the cornerstones of leadership and the importance and challenge of planning a successful and safe outing. We practiced planning different trips and worked through difficult group management and medical scenarios.

Some of the most inspiring participants over the weekend were our veterans and military families. Betsy Reed Schultz’s son, Captain Joseph William Schultz, was killed in Afghanistan on May 29, 2011, after serving two tours in Iraq. After going through a hardship no mother should have to face, Betsy decided to make a difference in the lives of other families of the fallen. She established a non-profit named in honor of her son called the Captain Joseph House Foundation. The foundation will provide a respite/retreat opportunity for families to heal and rebuild, and will offer a scholarship program to assist children of the Fallen with post-high school educational expenses. Betsy and her friends, Special Forces, Green Beret Captain Joe Borden, who served in the Army for 20 years, and Alda Siebrands, who was a service member in the Army and Coast Guard, attended the training as preparation to lead hikes and other wilderness experiences for the family members that come and stay at the house as a retreat.

IMG_4744Betsy’s story opened my eyes to the brave sacrifice of the men and women in uniform, but also of those they leave behind at home as well. I am proud to be a part of the work the Sierra Club and Mission Outdoors does to support our service members and their families.

One of the other inspiring moments of the weekend occurred when everyone shared how they first got connected to the outdoors and why they wanted to lead trips. Many of us had vastly different stories. Some grew up with nature all around them and loved nature from a young age. Others were older when they discovered that the outdoors could be more than mosquitos, humidity, and some hard ground to call a bed. Still others had grown up in cities and only experienced nature on rare influential trips with family.

Our reasons for wanting to connect others to the outdoors were similarly varied: Some of us wanted to connect people to the outdoors to heal wounds from losing loved ones in war, others to inspire people to protect an important place from pollution and development. Some were interested in connecting kids to the outdoors and some wanted to lead international adventures. Still others just wanted to get out, do what they love and share a common adventure. The great opportunity I see in volunteering with the Club is that all of these activities are possible. Our outings programs are expanding. We want to be running more hiking trips, more climbing and mountaineering trips, more skiing and kayaking. The bottom line is that we want to get more people outside. Outings have been a part of the Sierra Club since 1901 and connecting people to the outdoors has inspired some great environmental victories for us in the past. I’m excited to see what this group of leaders will accomplish with their new skills.


Receiving my Certificate of Completion drove the experience home for me. I’ve been a guide for two years now, but haven’t guided in almost three months.  I’m ready and excited to start guiding trips for the Sierra Club. See our calendar for upcoming trainings in Colorado and North Carolina or find out when your local chapter is holding their next training. You won’t regret it.



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