Washington Outdoor Task Force Summit Meeting

06/12/2014

  On the approach

As a member of Governor Inslee's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation, I had the privilege to work with some of the best people and organizations in Washington State. Last week was no exception. Sierra Club Military Outdoors partner Outdoor Research generously hosted rrepresentatives of the climbing community from across the state to discuss issues ranging from access and permitting to climbing management and diversifying the climbing community in Washington. Doug Walker (Sierra Club Foundation and American Alpine Club Director), Dan Nordstrom (fellow task force member and President of  Outdoor research), and I joined with representatives from the Mountaineers, Sierra Club, American Alpine Club, Access Fund, Washington Climber's Coalition, Outdoor Alliance, AMGA, and professional climbers to formulate recommendations from the climbing community to the task force to include in its final report this Fall. This report, ultimately written by leaders from across Washington State's outdoor community based upon the input from private citizens, nonprofits, industry, and land managers, will advise Governor Inslee on how to leverage the power of the outdoors in Washington State.

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The outdoor industry or community as a whole includes a wide spectrum of members that make it a critical factor to the public health, economy, and recreation of any state. Think about everything that goes into a Seattlite's weekend backpacking trip. The hiker enjoys public lands managed by local, state, or federal agencies. These lands are also promoted and protected by non-profits and NGOs whose missions range from access and recreation to conservation. The hiker may have hired a local commercial guide or attended a local outdoor school for technical or medical training, and she is wearing a clothes and using gear that was designed, sold, and even possibly manufactured in Washington. After the hike is over, she stops at a small town gas station and restaurant on the park boundaries, a town fully sustaining itself on recreation since the decline of the logging industry. Finally, the hike is part of her summer adventure series, which makes her healthier, happier, and an advocate of her wild places. That summer hike was not just a great summer adventure for our hiker. Its also the just one part of a multifaceted spectrum that benefits the states citizens, economy, and public lands. 

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White Water Rafting for the Veteran and Military Community!

06/10/2014

DSC_0393White Water Rafting in Dinosaur National Monument for Veterans, Service Members, and their Partners or Spouses!

From September 12th to the 15th, O.A.R.S. Canyonlands, Sierra Club Outdoors, and The University of Utah are teaming up to provide 25 veterans, service members, and their partners or spouses an opportunity to explore the wild, amazing Green River out of Dinosaur National Monument from September 12th-15th free of charge as the perfect lead up to the Sierra Club and University of Utah’s, “This Land is Your Land: Toward a Better Understanding of Nature’s Resiliency-Building and Restorative Power for Armed Forces Personnel, Veterans, and their families,” symposium September 17-20th at the University of Utah. This is also a great way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act!

Participants will need to arrive on their own in Vernal, Utah the evening of September 11th by 7 pm and arrange their own lodging for the evening of the 11th and the 15th. At least one van will leave Salt Lake City by 3 pm on the 11th to take participants to Vernal, Utah. This same shuttle will return to Salt Lake City early in the morning of the 16th.

DSC_0280Campsites and lodging are available in and near Vernal. If there is enough interest, we may try and reserve a group campsite.

You will be responsible for whatever gear is needed on the trip. On a limited basis, the Sierra Club or the University of Utah may be able to loan some gear (tents and sleeping bags) for your use.

 More information on this amazing trip can be found below, or here.

If you are interested in applying for the trip, send an email with the subject line: ‘YOUR LAST NAME_FIRST NAME White Water’ to military.outdoors@sierraclub.org that includes the following information:

  • Name
  • Branch of service, rank, when and where you served (or are serving)
  • Who, if anyone will be accompanying you and his or her relation to you
  • Proof of service
  • Outdoor Experience (none is required) and other veteran / service member trips you’ve been on
  • Two sentences about why you want to go on the trip.
  • Where you will be coming from and if you need help getting to Vernal
  • Any physical or mental concerns you might have about your participation on the trip (we will aim to make this trip 100% adaptable to your needs)

We will let everyone know about their participation no later than August 10th, 2014.

Green River Rafting in Colorado: 
Gates of Lodore – Overview

Set aside as an American treasure in 1938 under the National Park Service, Dinosaur National Monument is an open-air archive of ancient Native American sites and far-out fossils unearthed by wind, water and time.  Within the monument, the Green River rafting trip winds its way through three distinct canyons: Lodore, Whirlpool and Split Mountain all of which contain geological curiosities and rich human history. Lodore was the first major canyon encountered by John Wesley Powell and his men on their 1869 expedition. At its start, the river twists through a catacomb of scarlet slot canyons, yawning valleys and lush ledges of emerald evergreen and brush. Exploration is the mission of the day as the Green promises dozens of side hikes, relaxing nights on the beach and moderate whitewater perfect for young families and laid-back vacationers.

DSC_0420Green River Rafting: Itinerary at a Glance

  • Scenic ride from Vernal, Utah to Dinosaur National Monument
  • Raft through the towering Gates of Lodore
  • Challenge some of the river’s most exciting and famous rapids like Upper and Lower Disaster Falls
  • Hike up Winnie’s Grotto to beautiful oases and side canyons
  • Sit back and soak in the remote splendor of Lodore – its soaring red rock cliffs sprinkled with deep green junipers and piñon pines
  • Feast on delicious meals, relax on sandy beaches
  • Charge rapids like Harp Falls, Triplet Falls, and Hells Half Mile
  • Hike to Rippling Brook -- the perfect place for a cooling shower
  • View petroglyphs at the confluence with the Yampa River
  • We pick up speed as we enter Split Mountain Canyon and the river’s gradient becomes considerably steeper. Four or five major rapids deliver plenty of whitewater excitement during our last day on the river

Shuttle from Split Mountain to Vernal

North Carolina Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors

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Our adventure began with a barrage of challenges from our Sierra Club coordinator being detained, and the death of my (fully packed) van’s fuel pump 90 miles into the 200+ mile trip to Camp Lejeune. In classic Sierra Club style, these challenges were overcome, with me experiencing a much needed six hour break in a lovely piney wood along highway 74. This theme carried though during the battle of the wind on lovely Onslow Beach Friday night. Our group made up of Tom, Nancy, Kelly, Hollis, William and I, finally conceded to the wind and agreed to attempt this task again in the morning when our troop numbers would be increased three fold. The morning came with light winds, and cooler temperature for a quick and successful rally to be ready for the children and families to arrive. 

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The Mission to Explore the Outdoors challenge was received and met by over 250 participants. The children checked in and were given their mission, which they readily choose to accept, and sent to explore. Each exhibitor had a stamp for the children to earn higher levels of exploration. 

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Sturgeon City came with the great flounder petting tank and information about outdoor activities and their fabulous environmental education programming. Squeals of laughter and delight were heard as the children and family explored the opportunities to be outdoors. Next was the Sea Turtle Exhibit which included the nest beach protection, a skeleton, and a cool bag along with a great snake poster for the kids. Many families thought the display was live turtles that were just very still. 

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Thrifty Adventures was next, coming all the way from Charlotte, to share the love of climbing and some super cool knots for our explorers to tie. The North Carolina Sierra Club Outings leader set up camp, literally with tents and gear. The kids got to explore inside to see what camping would be like. They also participated in a game using a compass that was theirs to keep. The club also raffled off a family tent to one lucky family. Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary came with Diana the coolest non-releasable marsupial around, along with a hawk, an owl, and wildlife information. 

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The North Carolina Zoos’ own education director drove down to share great fossils found in the state the kids were fascinated by a huge sharks tooth. Camp Corral came to tell the families about their great programs that provide free camps for military children. USMC MCCS Outdoor Adventures brought the rock wall and personnel to have the explorers conquer the climb. Happily, they provided gear so even the older kids (adults) could attempt the wall.

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This event was only made possible with the labor and perseverance of my E-Corps Crew of Wendy & Drew Foster, William, Hollis E. Parks, Mariah, and Andre and the North Carolina Sierra Club Outings Chair Kelly Mieszkalski, Nancy Card, and fellow veteran Tom Williams the Outings Chair for the NC Cypress Group. Onslow Beach Recreation area staff treated us as if we were family – providing lodging, labor and a fantastic site. Dion & Lloyd you are trulyappreciated.

- Karan Barber

Sierra Club Inner City Outings and Military Outdoors Volunteer Leader

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Kick Nature-Deficit Disorder to the Curb: Celebrating Great Outdoors Month

06/09/2014

Just for kicks, I googled fear of outside this morning. My search turned up 187 million results. For comparison's sake, I then googled fear of death and fear of the unknown, fears I thought were fairly common. To my surprise, there were only 84.7 and 73.5 million hits, respectively, and when combined, still fewer results than my first search. While the findings of my quick internet inquiry will probably never hit the annals of any reputable science journal, there is a growing body of evidence that America is becoming increasingly sedentary and spending a lot of time indoors (you can find the facts on the Children & Nature Network's site).

via sierraclub.typepad.com

Thanks for reminding us how awesome Great Outdoors Month is Jackie!

Train the Trainer

06/06/2014

On the weekend of May 17th, 12 Sierra Club Outdoors volunteers and partners met in Hampton, GA for our inaugural Outing Leadership Training-For-Trainers. This T4T was our first step towards reaching a new Sierra Club Outdoors goal of training 600 new volunteer trip leaders who will connect 3000 participants to the outdoors by the end of 2015.

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Volunteer representing local Sierra Club Chapters, Inner City Outings, Military Outdoors program and partners from GirlTrek (a national organization that inspires and supports African American women and girls to live their healthiest, most fulfilled lives - simply by walking) came together to practice teaching core Outing Leadership Training 201 training sessions to their peers. Each trainer commited to facilitating two workshops this year: one for their own group and one for another group. Not only will more people get the training they want, but a larger community of leaders will grow.

The trainers in training hailed from Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Maryland and Washington, DC. Each  brought their breadth and depth of personal trip leadership and group facilitation experience to create a powerful weekend of learning for all!

 

  • “I really enjoyed learning about how to tell my own personal story in order to help inspire trip participants to enjoy the outdoors.”
  • “Getting feedback from our peers - especially the areas needing improvement – was most important and valuable to me.”
  • “I enjoyed building relationships with folks I hope to teach with in the next year.”

 

-- Sascha Paris, Sierra Club Outdoors

Sierra Club Outdoors Receives Project Excellence Award

05/30/2014

545341_10151056224433086_631953017_nCongratulations to the Sierra Club Outdoors team for being recognized by the Society for Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) for a Project Excellence Award. Thanks also to Higher Ground, Wilderness Inquiry, Women's Wilderness Institute, and Wasatch Adaptive Sports, as well as the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment for making this research happen!

Since 1983, SORP has been serving the outdoor recreation profession. It is the Nation’s leading association of outdoor recreation and related professionals who strive to protect  our natural and cultural resources while providing sustainable recreation access.

The Project Excellence Award is presented annually to exemplary outdoor recreation projects. The award is presented to the collaborating agencies and organizations key to the success of the planning effort.  Selection criteria will include (a) unique or special circumstances, (b) problem-solving, (c) level of innovation and creativity, (e) impact or effect of project, and (f) collaborative team effort. The award may be presented to communities, special districts, public agencies, citizen groups (e.g., civic, church, youth groups, teams), private industry, non-profit organizations, cooperatives, land trusts, and other organizations who have contributed to an exemplary outdoor recreation project.

The write up for the award is below:

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment and Sierra Club Outdoors: Exploring the Benefits of Outdoor Experiences on Veterans.


Dr. Rachel Kaplan, Dr. Jason Duvall, and Mr. Stacy Bare

“Exploring the Benefit of Outdoor Experiences on Veterans” is the first major research project for the current period of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan community that analyzed the value of outdoor recreation on the veteran and military community. The purpose of the project was to analyze short and long-term benefits on social and mental health for veterans who participated in at least four days of outdoor recreation. Four organizations in different parts of the country led 12 trips impacting 98 veterans from various conflicts. Results of this project show strong support for outdoor recreation, even without a deliberate, therapeutic component, providing significant improvements in social functioning and increased positive life outlook and point to the strong need for increased and more broadly based, as well as specific, research to take place.

The photo is courtesy of Wasatch Adaptive Sports!

The full research report is here:  Download Michigan Final Research Report

Recap: War, Sports, and the Healing Power of Nature

05/29/2014

P5204572On May 20th, Sierra Club Outdoors, in partnership with the New York Stock Exchange, The North Face, and Keen, held War, Sports, and the Healing Power of Nature at the New York Stock Exchange Euronext. The panel was an opportunity to share the similarities and differences in life after uniform for service members, veterans, and professional athletes, and how time outdoors makes a difference.

Pulitzer Prize winner, and ESPN columnist Steve Fainaru, who hosted the panel, has covered the Iraq War as well as the concussion issue in the NFL and, along with his brother, co-authored the book League of Denial.

Harry Carson, New York Giants legend and American Football Hall of Famer; Mike Richter, Olympian, Stanley Cup Champion, and The Sierra Club Foundation board member; former NFL player and international triathlon competitor and Iron Man Don Davey; US Army veteran and military sexual trauma survivor, BriGette McCoy; Active Duty Maj. DJ Skelton, and myself (Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran Stacy Bare) all participated on the panel.

P5204579The parallels in the experience after combat / deployment / service and athletic competition were incredible. Both veterans and athletes discussed the stigma surrounding brain injury, trauma, and admitting, that as a once strong warrior, it is hard to admit you might be depressed, damaged, or hurting.

The biggest challenge discussed however, may be that no matter the resources available, the individual veteran or athlete ultimately has to make a decision at some point that they want to keep on going. As Harry said, “[You’re] the CEO of [your] body. You have to do everything you can to do stay healthy and compensate for the loss of yourself following injury or after life of uniform.

Don Davey commented that upon taking off the uniform the last time that, “What hit me between the eyes was the loss of competitiveness, the loss of the core of who you were.”

Maj. Skelton followed up from Don that in the outdoors, “…you can redefine purpose, you can still dream, you can still aspire to be as big as life, and you’re not alone.” Mike reminded us all that in the outdoors, “…the challenge is as much or as little as you want it to be—buy you’ll never conquer [nature].”

BriGette was quick to go beyond the parallels seen between athletes and veterans to remind us that we needed to move beyond, when possible titles and brands of individuals to speak with an open dialogue about our challenges, regardless of gender or background and try and focus on those things that can bind us together and build community—like the outdoors.

P5204577Maj. Skelton and Steve reminded us that not all athletes or veterans have an injury, let alone a traumatic brain injury (TBI) pr post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that in fact the majority of TBI, PTSD, even amputees and folks who have lost an eye are the general public, not professional athletes or veterans.

It was an incredible evening and could not have been possible without the fantastic support of so many people like Rehana Farrell at Guggenheim Investors, Duncan Niederauer at the New York Stock Exchange, Zach Iscol at Hire Purpose, Zack Bazzi, our Foundation Board members, the fantastic volunteers and participants at New York City ICO, The North Face, Keen Shoes, and of course, our panelists and moderator, and of course the 200+ individuals who came out to hear our stories.

To sum it all up, the outdoors is a benefit to all people, all the time, and as Maj Skelton closed with, “Life is hard, but the outdoors can help us experience post-traumatic growth."

For additional media from the event please click on the links below.

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Bragging on our Volunteers

05/19/2014

Shawnte 2At Sierra Club Outdoors, we have a lean staff who supports, through an extensive network of amazing volunteers, about 5,000 volunteer leaders spread out through three programs that connect 250,000 people outdoors each year.

Our volunteers are EVERYTHING to the way we do work at the Sierra Club. We received this beautiful testimony from Shawnte about one of our leaders in the Wilderness Travel Course (WTC) and wanted to share it with y'all, the Sierra Club Outdoor Nation about Shawnte getting into another WTC course:

Yeah, I'm kinda full-on excited about all of this - honestly, a year ago I had no idea the Sierra Club did so many outings and that it was all volunteer-run…and that it was so much fun. I do so much hiking / backpacking / adventuring on my own, but truth be told, I've always stuck to the same things I know, with the same people I know, and I'm so excited to branch out and try a bunch of new things with new people! Honestly, having the Carey's Castle trip be my first experience trip outside of WTC was AWESOME - you are a fantastic leader and a fun person to be around, the trip was just the right amount of exertion vs relaxation, and the rest of the group was really great - it really gave me a good perspective on what it could be like to take a leadership role and offer other people those kinds of experiences (hopefully!) As much as I take my friends hiking and encourage them to try new things, I'm excited to kind of formalize that a bit more :)

This experience, this kind of joy and love for the outdoors is yours for the taking whether your young or old, live near parks or not, are a military family or veteran or not, and all across our beautiful country--thanks to our volunteers!

We'd love to see you outside soon!

Castle

Advanced Mountaineering Program

05/15/2014

AMP 1Today we have a guest blog from one of our outstanding volunteers, Saveria Tilden. You can follow Saveria on her blog: http://theadventurus.com/

This past weekend in Joshua Tree, the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s popular Advanced Mountaineering Program (AMP) came to a close. 22 students graduated, having completed 36 hours of advanced knots, belaying, rappelling, climbing and anchor work. AMP teaches current rock climbing techniques based on the AMGA SPI standards in real-life settings at iconic California climbing crags such as Stoney Point and Joshua Tree. Over the course of the program 55 leaders and helpers have returned to volunteer, many of them AMP alumni. Friendships are made, good times are had, but most importantly safer climbers are developed. Since the first AMP in 2009, 184 students have graduated the program. Due to its popularity AMP is now held every spring and fall… each course is filled with a waitlist well in advance. This fall will be AMP’s 5th anniversary and with the completion of AMP10, over 200 students will have gone through the program. An exciting milestone for AMP! Climb on!

More information can be found here

And more photos here.

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AMP 3

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Never happier being cold and tired

04/10/2014

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From March 3rd to the 7th, Sierra Club Military Outdoors partnered with Veterans Expeditions on our annual veteran ice climbing trip to Hyalite Canyon, outside of Bozeman Montana. It is this week of natural beauty, camaraderie, and mental and physical challenge that makes this one of the best weeks of the year for me in the SCMO program. I personally left refreshed and committed to exploring the outdoors with my fellow warriors, having accomplished my first lead ice climb under the watchful eye of Conrad Anker, all the while basking in the glory of one of our great wild places. Far more satisfying was that I witnessed veterans and active duty service members achieve far more than they thought they could on steep pitches of ice. I watched their spirits rise and their demeanor change as they developed close bonds with their fellow climbers and were transformed by the beautiful canyon around them.

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Navy Captain Bruce Black: "A common theme I have heard from all of my fellow service members that have retired is that it is very difficult to find that sense of camaraderie in the civilian world that you find so readily in the military.  The ice climbing trip in Hyalite Canyon was a chance to see that camaraderie still exists, you just have to know where to look for it.  As I get close to completing my 30 years of active duty service and look at that transition to post military life I know that I want to surround myself with those veterans that have served their country.

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Whatever branch we served in we have a common bond and a common ethos that will stay with us through our active duty journey and post service lives.  The five days of ice climbing allowed me to spend quality time with people that have the same common bond but have gone in different directions after the military and it showed me that I am going to be all right as I head off to my next career.  I never thought that I would find a sense of resilience and peace with a group of 14 people I had never met before, in an area of the country I had never been to before doing a sport that I had very little experience with but I did.  Ironically, as I look back on my active duty service, this one week will be one of the memories that I hold closest."

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Army First Sergeant Mike Pickerel: "Sierra Club Military Outdoors is simple and brilliant.  Ice climbing for my first time with this group was everything I could ask for. The contracted guide service was more than helpful, knowledgeable and safe.  We were even fortunate enough to have one of America’s greatest climbers of Conrad Anker to not only give motivation and climb with us, but coaching and assisting in improving climbing techniques. The selected group of veterans was of different back grounds and experiences.  We had a great common denominator throughout us and that was we all were people of strong resilience, military background, a passion for the outdoors and a drive to excel in the path that lay ahead.

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Using outdoors as your sanctuary is not anything new, throughout the ages this has been a place people of all types have come to relax, think and just find themselves.  The fact that Sierra Club is reaching out to the Military as an audience for this is quite awesome. Hyalite Canyon was a beautiful piece of land with great ice climbing and views to be lost in as you gained the elevation on each pitch. I wish to give a thanks to SCMO for such an opportunity to learn a new skill, enjoy and meet new and other veterans who enjoy nature, and a chance for me to get back to nature in it’s rare beauty."

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Read more about the trip in the following articles by Chris Kassar and Stacy Bare.

Stacy Bare Finds Camaraderie on the Ice

Return to Hyalite Canyon

A special thanks to the North Face, Black Diamond, Petzl, and Outdoor Research for their support on this trip. I'd also like to thank Sam Magro from Montana Mountain Guides and Conrad Anker for their professionalism, great spirits, and good company.

We have a great year ahead of us with trips to Cedar Mesa Utah, the Veteran Film School in the North Cascades, the Birth of Rivers trek with Paradox Sports, and the Ptarmigan Traverse in the Pickets. Check out the SCMO site for more information.


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