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!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Midnight Bandits and Poison Oak

I visited scenic Big Sur last week; along with weathering the storm and Highway 1 falling into the ocean, we battled midnight bandits and poison oak.

Note to self - throw trash
away before getting into tent

Apparently bear country isn’t the only place you want to secure your food – ice chest included. I woke to find food wrappers strewn about camp from dare devil squirrels that ripped into our hanging trash bag. Then there was the unpleasant discovery that they also managed to open my ice chest and contaminate my food with plague and/or rabies cooties. I’ll take the blame for the trash, but my ice chest?! Crafty little buggers… Let our mistake be your lesson, even when you think your food is safe from bears, another critter is lurking behind a bush waiting for you to let your guard down, so store it in your car or if there are storage boxes provided even better.

Poison Oak along the trail

Then there was the relentless poison oak – bordering campsites and encroaching on trails with its urushiol oil just begging to reach out and give you an itchy rash. I have a few tips based on my week of experience with this itchy-oilfest of a plant. 1) Long pants! I’d much rather deal with getting the poison oak oil off my pants than off my legs. 2)The leaves aren’t the only part of the plant that is poisonous – bare stems have oil as well. 3) If you come in contact with poison oak wash ASAP with COLD water; warm water opens your pours and allows the oils in. I’ve heard dish soap works well to break down the oil, but when I touched the plant with my hand I was happy to have Tecnu. Tecnu attaches to the oils and rinses off with cold water, to be on the safe side I treated my hand twice. 4) Another helpful hint that is relevant in all outdoor ethic situations - stay on the trail. You help protect nature and stay out of poison oak – win win! If you don’t have poison oak in your area, a lot of these tips are valid for other rash-inducing plants

McWay Falls

Even though we dealt with midnight bandits and poison oak I promise we did have fun. We had great views (when the clouds and fog lifted), rehydrated (pruney from the mass amounts of rain), crowd free (not many folks are as crazy as us), and tick free (I think…)!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Destination Recreation: Cathedral Gorge

For this installment of Destination Recreation we’re escaping the cold northern Nevada and heading south for a warmer climate.

A truly unique place in Nevada

Destination: Cathedral Gorge State Park
Adventurer: Sven Svenington
Chosen Activity: Hopping around in the cave-like formations

Allure: Cathedral Gorge is truly a hidden gem. The bentonite clay formations are awe-inspiring; their cathedral-like spires are what the park is named for. My favorite place to explore is the narrow slots between the formations called the “caves” area; it’s like entering a new world – plus the 10-degree temperature drop is an oasis from the scorching-summer sun. On top of that, the park is full of cryptobiotic soil – so many tiny micro-organisms hard at work! There’s a scenic overlook of the canyon with panoramic views; from there you can walk down the staircase into the canyon and explore the land formations close-up. If you doubt how enchanting this place is, just look at my smiling face!

Hoping around the
cave-like formations

Other Activities: hiking, photography, camping, nature study, not busting the crust, ranger programs, geocaching
Location: Eastern Nevada on US 93, two miles north of Panaca
Information: Nevada State Parks – Cathedral Gorge

Visit the Nevada Outdoor School website – Destination Recreation page to explore the rest of our favorite places to play in Nevada.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Adventure Essentials

I have been busy this week at a First Responder course, which will prepare me for medical emergencies on the trail during outdoor programs this summer. This got me thinking about what essentials are needed on an outdoor adventure to be prepared for the unexpected. These items are essential to your survival should your day hike turn into an unforeseen over-nighter (in no particular order):

Headlamp – You wait to see the sunset from the top of a mountain and then are stuck navigating the way back to your car in the fading light. Good thing you brought your trusty headlamp (with working batteries!).

What a pretty sunset.
Time to get out my headlamp!

First-aid kit – Your boot is rubbing your foot the wrong way - ultralight first-aid kit to the rescue! You should know how to treat wilderness injuries including blisters, sprained ankles, cuts, or whatever other misadventures you may get into. Contact your local outdoor organization or visit REI to find out about wilderness first aid courses in your area.

Sunblock – You’re hiking on an exposed ridge with the sun beating down on you, good thing you packed the sunscreen to stave off a nasty sunburn.

Food – You were just going on a two-mile hike, but accidently took a wrong turn and your hike turned into a five-mile trip; now your stomach is making noises that are scaring off the wildlife. No worries, you packed a couple of power bars. My personal favorite is Clif’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Mojo Bar.

Fire – That accidental five-mile hike actually turned into an overnighter and temperatures are dropping. It’s ok though, you brought a lighter and fire starter*, now if only you’d brought marshmallows…

Knife – So many scenarios…need to cut moleskin* from your first aid kit, open a can of chicken to add to your rice, turn your shirt sleeve into toilet paper, cut a length of cord, etc. A little multi-tool can be your new best friend.

Water – You packed a water reservoir* and bottle since it was going to be a hot day. Too bad your reservoir has been leaking since the start of the trail two-miles ago. You get out your water treatment system at the next water crossing and fill up; making sure the lid is secure this time. You can bring a water filter or treatment tablets just in case you’re in need of water and want to avoid giardia*.

Insulation – You’re ready for the high temperatures of the high desert, but you also remember that the nights can be cold, so you pack an insulation layer such as a puffy jacket or a fleece.

Navigation – You packed your GPS to guide you along the trial, but there are so many trees it can’t get a signal. Have no fear, you don’t rely on technology so you brought a map and compass – trek on!

Raingear – The day started off with blue skies and birds welcoming you into the mountains with their song. Clouds began appearing at midday and are now looming over the next ridge threatening to dump mass amounts of precipitation on you. Little does Mother Nature know you packed your waterproof jacket. If you don’t want to shell out the money for a rain jacket that is actually affective – a garbage bag makes an excellent poncho, just don’t forget to make the head hole before you put it on!

Now that your essentials are packed, visit Backpacker’s online skills section and get lost in the tutorials and expert advice. Think you’re a survival expert already? See how you would fair with their quiz - Would You Survive?


*Technical Vocabulary
Fire Starter – There are a lot of commercial fire starters out there, or you can saturate a cotton ball with petroleum jelly. Wash out a film canister and store your homemade fire starters in the canister. Good luck finding a film canister these days though…
Moleskin – Combine this artificial skin/band aid on steroids with duct tape and no blister stands a chance.
Water Reservoir – Think IV bag filled with water in your backpack; that’s actually how CamelBak, the leading maker of hydration solutions, got its start.
Giardia – Steer clear of this diarrhea-stomach-crampfest disguised as a water-borne pathogen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No Child Left on the Indoor Wood Couch

There is a wealth of programs and ideas - Last Child in the Woods, No Child Left Indoors, No Child Left on the Couch - aimed at inspiring today’s youth to get off the couch, away from video games, and into nature – and for good reason. Today’s average child spends 44 hours per week staring at some kind of electronic screen. These same children are less fit and have less stamina then children of past generations. Obesity is an enormous problem among Americans, including children. The rate of obesity in children aged 6 to 11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years, to 17 percent. For ages 12 to 19 the rate of clinical obesity has more than tripled to 17.6 percent. These statistics are from a 2009 National Wildlife Federation publication, Time Out: Using the Outdoors to Enhance Classroom Performance.

Exploring nature with NOS at the
Black Rock Rendezvous Kids Camp

Now let’s take a look at the numerous benefits of being outdoors. Children who play outside are more creative; they explore nature and use their imagination to come up with games and role-plays rather than let technology do the “work” for them. Being outdoors allows children to be more physically active, enhances their ability to learn and retain knowledge. In a nutshell, free play outdoors improves children’s mental and physical health.

Another added bonus is that spending time outdoors helps children develop conservation ethics. I grew up four-wheeling across the Sierra Nevada Mountains, swimming in alpine lakes, and climbing on granite boulders. These experiences shaped who I am today and sparked my passion for enjoying and conserving the great outdoors. Everyone needs that connection to nature for personal benefits and for Mother Nature’s benefits.

Here are a few ideas to help get you and your family off the couch and into the great outdoors:
  • Nevada Outdoor School – For those of you in northern Nevada, come explore nature with us during our exciting summer camps and programs.
  • REI’s Family Adventure Program – Start by downloading their free Kid’s Adventure Journal full of outdoor games and activities.
  • Children & Nature Network – Working to reconnect children with nature, look here to find a nature event near you or find a group to get involved with.
  • Be Out There – Lots of activities for your child’s Green Hour.
  • Visit Your Local Recreation Area – A lot of recreation areas have youth programs. For example, your child can become a Junior Ranger with a National Park.

Thursday, March 3, 2011