NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!







Tuesday, June 16, 2020

NOS Outside Guide: Elevation


One reason Nevada is such a spectacular state is because of the environmental variety that is housed within its 110,567 square miles.  Recognized as the Most Mountainous State, Nevada boasts 314 named mountain ranges and at least 100 more nameless desert cutting mounds.  With all that elevation change comes amazing flora and fauna (plant and animal) diversity and views that are legendary and vary depending on where you stand.  Elevation changes also mean variations in the availability of oxygen.

Interestingly however, despite all those mountain ranges, where people live in Nevada is predominately on a plateau (level high ground) with an average elevation of between 5,000 and 6,000 feet in the eastern part of the state.  Those of us who are residents do not think much of this elevation, but those who come to visit our spectacular mountain ranges may not feel the same when they reach our plateau.  The oxygen difference between sea level and our local elevation may be enough to make your most jovial family member feel a bit sluggish and ill.

Oxygen is a gas that is found in the Earth’s atmosphere and is critical for humans.  Why?  Because oxygen is what allows each and every one of the 37 trillion cells in a human body to generate energy through a process called cellular respiration.  Without the energy produced through cellular respiration, life here on earth stops.  There are a lot of factors, such as age, sex, weight, physical fitness level, and activity level, that affect how much oxygen a particular body needs.  When a human does not get enough oxygen, energy production is impacted and that feels like fatigue, poor concentration, confusion, and fainting. 

Being aware of the difference in elevation is important, because while you are out exploring the natural world, you may encounter visitors who are experiencing physical effects of our elevation and not understand why.  For example, it is not unusual while hiking in Lamoille Canyon to Island Lake to come upon a couple huffing and puffing and complaining of light headedness, only to learn that they are from Maryland (state average 350 feet elevation) and flew in yesterday.   It is also important to realize that as a local, you are not necessarily immune the effect of decreased oxygen.  For example, when you are climbing a mountain at a taxing pace you may also exhibit similar symptoms. 

Human bodies are highly adaptable and giving a body some time to acclimate to increasing elevation is a good idea.  Acclimation usually takes about 48 – 72 hours, and during that time there are some things we can do to help our low-lander friends adapt.  Encourage naps and a good night’s rest.  Sleep is when our bodies do a lot of work, like making new red blood cells and removing toxins.  Encourage visitors to drink plenty of fluids, in particular water, to help aid the molecular processes occurring for adaptation.  Encourage healthy meals with low salt and the avoidance of alcohol.  Salt and alcohol tend to dehydrate the body which will only slow down any acclimation efforts.  Finally, give them permission to be gentle on themselves.  They may be marathon champions back in Maryland, but here they need to slow it down and take on physical exertion slower than usual.  Rest frequently.     

While Nevada Outdoor School is not a big fan of plastic water bottles, we suggest you consider keeping a few in your pack when you are out on a leisurely hike at the local hiking hot spots so you can hand one off to visitor who is simply unaware of the impact elevation has on their body.  Get outside and enjoy the amazing outdoors, but be aware, elevation matters. 

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

NOS Outside Guide : Great Things to Do This Season - Camping!


Days are long and nights are pleasant so it must be time to go camping!  In Northeastern Nevada, camping can be an affordable way to be with friends and family enjoying the vistas and views.  From glamping (glamorous camping) to roughing it (the bare minimum), camping provides an opportunity for quality time with loved ones and an escape from the daily grind.   

One of the perks of camping in Northeastern Nevada is that in most places, not far off the paved road, cell services subsides, and you have no choice but to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature.  Tuning into the babbling brook, the quaking aspens, the howling coyotes and the starry nights will surely leave you well rested and re-energized.  Or, if you are in a more populated area, the sounds of families laughing, kids playing hide-and-seek, and the variety of smells from nearby camp sites will also rejuvenate your soul.

There really is no way to do camping wrong unless you are just simply unprepared for your desired level of comfort and personal needs.  Minimalists will survive with what is on their back, and the glampers will bring the kitchen sink (literally!), but it seems that everyone will agree that getting out of the house serves humans well.
Three of the must-haves-to-enjoy the camping experience, according to the staff at Nevada Outdoor School, are offered here.  This is not about survival requirements, but about simply enjoying the experience.   If you don’t plan to bring your California King bed with you, a good quality sleeping pad helps with the rocky ground and heat transfer.  From foam to inflatable sleeping pads, having one may be the difference between a good rest and a long night.  If space allows it, having your pillow with you is icing on the cake!

Speaking of food, having ample amount of yummy and nutritious food is also important.  Because you may be more active while camping, walking, hiking, swimming, and playing catch, you and your kiddos may be prone to eat more, so pack accordingly.  Be aware of food storage requirements and plan ahead for keeping cold foods cold by having a plan to replenish ice in coolers.  Utilizing dry ice may be a good option.   However, wearing gloves for safety and learning how much you need is a tricky endeavor.      

Having a portable light source, such as a head lamp, makes camping more enjoyable.   A head lamp frees up your hands for other important things, like making s’mores, as well as makes the midnight run to the restroom safer.  Reading in your tent or camper is also made possible when a head lamp is included in your camping gear. 

Given the current situation due to Covid-19, be sure to call ahead or look at the website of your desired location to learn about availability and regulations.  Get outside and enjoy the amazing outdoors in a camping style that fits your family. 

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Outside Guide: Spring Survival Series - Part 4


Remembering the classic Rule of Three, brings us to our final topic in our Spring Survival Series.  It is said that a human can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three hours without shelter and three minutes without oxygen.  Many find it hard to believe the ‘three hours without shelter’, perhaps because they have never been wet, standing in gale force winds, in freezing temperatures.

Maintaining a functional body temperature is critical for human survival.  While we have developed phenomenal clothing to help protect us from the elements, high energy and easily portable food to sustain our energy requirements, and effective water purifying and/or carrying strategies, we still may need to seek shelter from environmental elements such as wind, sun or precipitation. 

The wind is highly effective at robbing heat.  The wind chill factor is evidence of the role wind plays in how humans perceive temperature in the presence of wind.  Adding the factor of wetness, either from sweat or an unexpected dip in the lake, and you may quickly find yourself cold on a warm day.  Shelter from the wind in a form of a wind block may look like another human, a rock formation, or dense brush. 

Most of us have experienced the saving grace of shelter on a hot summer day when we go stand in the shade and immediately feel the relief from the sun’s radiation.  Thankfully in Northeastern Nevada where the relative humidity is low, the temperature between a sunny spot and a shady spot can vary greatly!  Finding shade not only lowers the ambient (surrounding air) temperature, it minimizes the physical effects of direct exposure to the sun, sunburn. 

While the shady side of your car or trailer is an obvious shelter, the landscape of Nevada may prove difficult for finding it elsewhere.  In some areas, the lack of vegetation taller than a foot is a real issue.  Carrying a small tarp and parachute cord in your backpack may help alleviate this.  Often we think shelters need to be tall but remember you can also lay under a shelter.  Depending on how long you need utilize your shelter, you may need to have an adaptable shelter.  Be sure to not use all your resources on one iteration as the shelter may need to be relocated or shifted to accommodate the location change of the sun or the direction of the wind.  

It is also important to remember that a shelter does not necessarily need to be a structure.  For example, wrapping yourself in your sleeping bag is a form of a shelter.  Being aware of how much warmth the ground draws from our bodies is also important.  The process of buffering your body from the ground by sitting on your backpack when resting on a cold day, is another form of seeking shelter.  Likewise, if conditions become desperate enough, your backpack may also be utilized as material from which to fashion a structure.  Being creative in the use of available materials is encouraged when shelter is required for survival.

Get outside and explore nature!  Enjoy the dynamic conditions of spring in the mountains and on your local streets.  It is wise to think about shelter alternatives and be prepared to create a shelter so you are not caught unprepared, your life may depend on it.