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


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.






Bragging on our Volunteers


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!


Advanced Mountaineering Program


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

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.




Never happier being cold and tired



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.


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.


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."


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.


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."


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.

Highlights and the Hangout with Michael Brune


A couple weeks back Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and I, along with Sierra Club Foundation Board member and fellow National Geographic Adventurer and ambassador at The North Face, Juan Martinez, and I sat down for a thirty-minute conversation about Sierra Club Outdoors and the mission critical role to any healthy conservation movement that getting people outside plays.

You can see the full thirty minute hangout here


 A few highlighted quotes from Michael Brune speaking about the value of Sierra Club Outdoors (SCO) and the importance of getting outside:

 “Getting outdoors is a vital as an end to itself…no one looks back at the end of the year and says, ‘I wish I had sent more emails, I wish I had spent more time on conference calls…’”

 “We all come away from the power of the outdoors more centered…Reconnect to our roots, inspire our activists, fighting coal plants, or monuments; staff or volunteer, working in the chapters or groups, to find more ways to get more people outside including our friends and family.”

 “The real value of the outdoors is now, more important than ever…More efforts to bring conservatives, liberals, libertarians, Republicans and Democrats together outdoors and get to know one another.”

 “Outings fits into the vision of everything we’re doing, coal, oil, OWA (Our Wild America) to protect 5 million acres over the next couple of years and inspire the Administration to inspire use of the Antiquities Act.”

 “The work that we’re (Sierra Club Outdoors) doing is so important, and the fact that its lead by volunteers; is being driven and led and guided and shaped and powering this work is amazing.”

Thanks for the hangout Michael and Juan and for the many volunteers who joined in and asked questions! In the next few days we'll have longer answers out here in this space to many of the questions asked!

Sierra Club ICO Volunteer Wins White House “Champions of Change” Award


Ben Blonder


Resources and Organizations Getting Service Members, Veterans, and their Families Outdoors


IMG_0365A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine reached out on behalf of a few veterans he knew and asked if there was one place where someone could get information on all the various outdoor recreation opportunities that existed for folks. Part of the challenge of being a veteran today is that our country has really responded in a huge way to the needs of our service men and women, veterans, and their families and the support can be difficult to manage at times.

What follows is a list of organizations that provide outdoor opportunities for service members, veterans, and their families. While we have had a lot of positive experiences in many of these organizations, please do not use this list as an endorsement of different organizations over another. Each organization has many positives but may not be the right fit for an individual.

This list is meant as a starting point for individual research and decision-making and is certainly not exhaustive. Please list other resources in the comments section and we’ll update this as we learn about more organizations. All Military members and their dependants have free access to public lands. More information on the program, called The America the Beautiful pass can be found here.

A great place to start for sifting through the support providers and support wanted or needed can be found at Warrior Gateway: for a number of different resources.

Obviously, we at Sierra Club Outdoors are very proud of the many opportunities we provide for service members, veterans and their families, more information can always be found at this blog and the website here:

Additionally, all veterans and military family members receive 10% off our National Outings, which can be found here:

One of the neatest programs we’ve had the opportunity to partner with is the National Military Family Associations Operation Purple Program which sends military kids to summer camp:

A number of outdoor recreation and recreational therapy organizations have come together to form the R4 Alliance to try and minimize these challenges of finding the right opportunities and can be found here:

Includes links to Ride to Recovery, Project Sanctuary, Team River Runner, Higher Ground, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Northeast Passage, Terros, and Operation Game On are all current members along with the Sierra Club.

Again, this list is not complete, far from of it. Please tell us in the comments section who we’re missing and hopefully this can be a resource for other service members, veterans, and families who want to find resources to get outdoors.


Thanks to the Women


P9283875My Great Aunt Mildred who served in WW2, lived in Tokyo for four years following the end of the war, skied Hokkaido, and in her 80s began a travel schedule that included Egypt, Papua New Guinea, and China amongst others, is one of the heroes I have long looked up to and hoped to emulate in my own journey through this amazing world. She’s now a spry 95 and living alone on a farm in south central Minnesota where she still tends to her fields in a golf cart. She will wear you out with activity if you get the chance to visit.

In honor of Aunt Mildred and all the women in my life who have inspired me, challenged me, and pushed me forward in my own career and personal life, I wanted to share a big thank you during Women’s History Month to the just as many women as men, who have made a great impact on what otherwise might be viewed as a proto typical man’s career in the military, design and planning, and the great outdoors. As with any list of this sort, there will be unfortunate omissions and it by no means is the definitive list of women who have had a tremendous impact on my life.

Not withstanding the incredible impact of my amazing wife, my Mom (who raised two hellions), all my aunts and cousins, I have been surrounded by barrier breaking women as long as I’ve had a memory.

As a young Captain being asked to step up and lead an intelligence team in Bosnia in 2003, I was in turn led and mentored by now COL Karen Bridges. COL Bridges helped shaped my critical thinking and decision making skills, taught me how to stay calm under pressure and pushed me to maintain my integrity and honesty in the often morally ambiguous world of intelligence operations.

In graduate school after my time in Iraq, it was none other than Lucinda Sanders, the CEO and Partner of world-class design firm, Olin, who proved to be one of the most demanding, consistent and compassionate instructors I ever had. Not unlike COL Bridges, I’d gladly follow Cindy into battle. She forged me into a better person.

DSC_0152After graduate school I would have been lost out in the woods without Tamara Naumann, a biologist at Dinosaur National Monument. Under her own initiative, Tamara developed a program to support veterans in reintegration through service work in the Monument. Learning from Tamara as she wended our way safely down a raging river and led us in an incredible week of physical labor for the betterment of the Monument, helped solidify my personal and professional trajectory in 2010.

Also in 2010, Nick Watson and I had the bright idea to start Veterans Expeditions. It was Deanne Buck, then of the American Alpine Club, now the Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition, who was one of our strongest supporters and advocates inside the AAC and who has remained a mentor, friend, and connector. And on our first big climb, it was Vietnam Veteran Heidi Baruch who was the heart and soul of our expedition team.

There’s also the amazing team of Ann Krcik, Blaire Witte, and Brook Hopper at The North Face. Though Brook has moved on since we first met, these three women have been incredible advocates for supporting military service members, veterans, their families, youth, and everyone in general outdoors. Ann is an incredible leader in the outdoor industry and is more than generous with her time and wisdom in helping me forge my own path.

Speaking of getting outdoors, I’d be remiss without mentioning my great colleagues at the Sierra Club and those women I get to work with (or used to get to work with) closest on a daily or weekly basis at the Sierra Club: Mel Mac Innis, Debra Asher, Jackie Ostfeld, Jennifer Edwards, Stephanie Linder, Mary Nemerov, Gabrielle Rierra, Juana Torres, Allison Chin, Tiffany Saleh, Kristina Ortez de Jones and Kristi Rummel. I could list every woman at the Club; it is an incredible group of women making positive history every day! And have you met Rue Mapp? CEO of OutdoorAfro? A phenomenal partner and friend.

As I try and wrap up this thank you note to amazing women, I realize how many people I’ve left off the list, women like BriGette McCoy, Genevieve Chase, and Raven Bukowski; three great women I got to serve with or work with now in the veteran community. Women like my sophomore year English teacher, know just as Gerb, who I still visit when I go home to South Dakota or Judy Kroll and Sally Pies, my high school speech coaches and Annie Lett, my high school swim coach, the women at Blue Star Families, National Military Family Association, Military Spouse Magazine, the YMCA, and the list continues on…women rock!

Thanks Ladies for helping to point a direction into the wild and encourage me when the going got tough with your wisdom and energy. I couldn’t do it without y’all. None of us could.


 Heidi Baruch on a climb in Rocky Mountain National Park with veteran Ian Smith and myself showing her some love in 2010.

I Believe, a 5th grader speaks about the outdoors


Image"A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit friends the night before their fifth grade son, Johannes, participated in a speaking contest called 'I believe...' designed to help the fifth graders share something they were very passionate about.

Johannes spoke about the outdoors and I thought it was a pretty good speech, not just for a fifth grader, but for all of us. You can see him give his presentation here, or read the speech below:

"Have you ever been stressed or angry and you just want to go outside for as long as you want? Because I have.

That is why I believe in the power of Outdoors. The way outdoors suck you outside, like a vacuum sucking in dust.

I, Johannes Wiegand believe in the power of the outdoors. Whenever I go outside I feel happy, free, healthy, and confident. One day my dad said that we were going to a place we call Red Rocks in Boulder. Red Rocks is a rock-climbing place in Boulder. I had been going to Red Rocks since before I could even walk! My dad always said it was my playground.

We were going to help wounded veterans climb. I got super excited! Red Rocks is by far my most favorite place to climb and hike. My dad and I bring wounded veterans to the rocks to try to help them feel the same way I do about being in the outdoors.

After the thirty-minute drive, we finally got to red rocks. Once my dad parked the car, we literally jumped out of the car to start the mile hike up to the rocks.

Whenever I am actually on the rocks I feel as happy, free, and confident as any bird or fish.

Climbing helps me release all my sorrows or hardships. When I jump from rock to rock I feel weightless and energetic. When I am outside, the saddest part of my soul is released.

My point for this piece is go do something outside after you finish reading this, and remember to go always outside whenever you get the chance.  That is why I believe in outdoors.

This I believe."

Johannes - 10 years Old | Lafayette Elementary School- 5th Grade 

Johannes is also a pretty lucky kid, growing up in a great family that values the outdoors. You can learn more about his Dad's work here.


Hiking in Hollywood with Brooklyn Decker



By Stacy Bare, Sierra Club Outdoors Director

Last week I had the opportunity to go for a hike in the Hollywood Hills with a few Sierra Club friends and veterans, as well as Brooklyn Decker (above).

Img_8824Having never spent that much time in L.A., it was nice to drive off the freeway and up into the Hollywood Hills to Griffith Park, the 11th largest municipally-owned park in the United States, and where you go if you want to get up close and personal with the Hollywood Sign.

I had missed out on an opportunity to go to the Arctic with Brooklyn two years ago because we were finishing up a great trip in Glacier National Park with a group of veterans, but she’s stayed very engaged with our work and is a dedicated spokesperson for living a healthy, adventurous life outdoors.

Not unlike any other hike in the hills with new friends and old, the rhythm of the trail doesn’t take long to loosen up good conversation and as we meandered up the hill and ultimately down the wrong fork in the trail, we discovered that Brooklyn had been to a lot of the places a lot of our brothers and sisters in arms had been and still are (Kuwait and Brooke Army Medical Center). When I asked her why she cared about veterans, she replied simply that, “it’s the right thing to do.”

Winding our way back up to the top of the sign we were cheered on by power pup Betty and only occasionally would we get any sideways glances for getting to be on a hike with Men’s Health Magazine’s Perfect Woman!

You can read more on about the hike from Brooklyn’s perspective and what we heard on the trail as to why she spends her time on supporting veterans and encouraging all people to get outside more.

Remember though, hiking isn’t and the outdoors aren’t just for the stars, its for everyone and getting outside will give you the best chance to see the stars anyway!

Img_8859Griffith Park hike participants; Stacy Bare at far right. Photo courtesy of Saveria Tilden.

See you at the trailhead!

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