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!

Friday, December 14, 2012

The New NOS Blog

Hello Everyone and Happy Holidays,

Thanks to all of you who have been tuning in to this blog regularly to get opinions, tips or inspiration to get out and recreate responsibly.  I certainly hope you've enjoyed the posts.  NOS is still very committed to providing great Outdoor Ethics programming, however, we have decided to expand the blog, offer a bit more variety, and hopefully inspire even more people to play outside.  So we now have, simply, the Nevada Outdoor School blog.  We will be sharing stories, highlights, hot tips, fun ideas and all sorts of writings about all of our programs.  Please take note that the url for the blog has also changed to '' in case you had us bookmarked.  That link is always available from our website:, as well as, "What's New at NOS" which is the place to go for all the latest news and going-ons at NOS.

Have fun out there!

NOS Staff - November 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Trail Log

Second Lake in the Palisades, CA
"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." - Aldo Leopold

Thursday, November 15, 2012

To Shock or Not to Shock

As a Leave No Trace Master Educator it was a bit embarrassing having an impact monster for a dog – particularly her wildlife chasing habit. People have different opinions on dogs and leashes. My personal opinion is if it is permitted, your dog is legitimately under voice control, and you are respectful of other people - a leash is not necessary.

I tried using a “stay close” command, where my dog, Aspen was in front of me, but close enough I could call her back. This just ended with me yelling at her constantly, frustrating me, disrupting other visitors, and wildlife running for the hills.

I tried having her on leash. Between watching my step, her step, making her heel, and trying to enjoy the scenery it’s a miracle I didn’t fall on my face or off a cliff.

The next idea was having Aspen walk behind me and using a “back” command. This worked extremely well, until she spotted a bogie (what I call wildlife) before me. My lab/whippet mix would be gone before I could think of grabbing the handle on her pack – apparently whippets are the fastest sprinters in the dog kingdom, lucky me. I still use this method, but with the addition of a shock collar.

Impact monster no more!
I used to be adamantly against shock collars, until I watched in horror as Aspen chased a chipmunk through a bolder field just waiting for her to break a leg. Which got me thinking, what if she chases a deer in front of a car? While historically she has always come back from her romps in the forest, she can’t come running back with a broken limb or internal bleeding or worse.

Some of you may be wondering about my thoughts on wildlife’s health and safety? That is a concern as well – they’re expending energy that needs to be conserved to escape wild predators and survive winter’s cold.

The collar I got her has a few key features. For one, the radio reaches the collar up to 400 yards, for my sprinter that was critical. It does no good if I’m calling her and she is out of range. It has three settings: a tone, a zap, and a continuous zap. The idea being I call Aspen (always with the same, “Aspen, come here”) > no response > tone > call again > no response > zap > call again > no response >continuous zap (which really only needs to be about two seconds). With this series of events she has learned to associate the tone with the action she needs to do; now more than half the time a zap isn’t needed. The zap has eight intensity settings; Aspen is rather sensitive so hers only needs to be set at two. I even put the collar on my arm to see how it felt, while it’s not pleasant, it didn’t hurt, but definitely got my attention.

When talking to other dog owners about shock collars, I continuously hear that once the shock collar comes out or the dog sees a remote they are on their best behavior or cower in fear. That’s not what I’m after. The idea is for her to learn not to chase wildlife in general, not to associate pain with the shock collar. I have avoided Aspen associating the desired behavior with the shock collar by putting it on her when we go outside for her morning constitutional and taking it off after her last trip out at night. In between those times if she’s in the house or her kennel I’ll loosen the collar so it’s more comfortable for her, but it’s still on so she is used to the collar being there all the time.

We’ve been on a few day-trips and one backpacking trip since Aspen got her collar and the difference is amazing! Sure she still tailgates a bit when hiking on the trail and lies on my sleeping bag instead of her blanket, but the wildlife chasing is under control. Every dog is different, but if the situation calls for it and it is used correctly, I would recommend a shock collar to train those impact monsters.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vandalism Doesn't Pay

This is the door on a historic cabin turned back-country
ranger station that people have been using as a carving post.
Your tax dollars wasted on vandalism...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Treading Lightly at Sand Mountain

Halloween weekend is one of the busiest times at Sand Mountain Recreation Area (SMRA), seeing thousands of visitors.  Located about 25 miles East of Fallon on Highway 50 in Nevada, Sand Mountain is a popular spot for ORV (Off-road vehicle) enthusiasts.  This past weekend, Nevada Outdoor School partnered with the Bureau of Land Management to provide Tread Lightly! information and ATV Rider Course possibilities to the public. 
This was my first visit to Sand Mountain and I was amazed with what I saw.  Staying along Vendor Row gave me an up-front view to the wild fun and craziness of the weekend.  It was extremely impressive to see how many safe riding practices were being followed: Whip flags, helmets, speed limits, SIPDE (a riding strategy to reduce and manage risk –ASI).  However, the most impressive and encouraging thing I encountered by far was the support for Tread Lightly!

We had an information booth set up with handouts about Sand Mountain, invasive species in Nevada and Tread Lightly!  Many people came over to get information and share their riding experiences and thoughts.  One such conversation that sticks out in my mind was with a 12 year-old girl and her grandfather.  They have been coming to SMRA for years and are ORV enthusiasts.  The young girl told us about riding with her grandfather around the dunes and seeing other ORVs riding in restricted areas.  As she happily took another Tread Lightly! Lightfoot tattoo, she told us that her grandfather said actions like that are what’s going to get OHV use possibly banned from this area in the future.  In truth, her grandfather might be on to something. 

Sand Mountain Recreation Area is home to many unique plant and animal species.  Some of these species, like the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly only live in this small area of Nevada.  Unfortunately, loss of critical habitat due to OHV use is threatening these species.  The BLM has tried to minimize this impact by closing and restricting access to certain trails and areas within SMRA but unfortunately, not all recreationalists follow these posted signs and closures.  This is causing groups such as Xerces to call for the Sand Mountain Blue to be put on the Endangered Species list and therefore get protection under the Endangered Species Act. 
I think we can all take a lesson from the little girl and grandfather that I met this weekend.  OHV enthusiasts will benefit more in the future by Treading Lightly and following posted signs and closures to ensure the continued access to great OHV recreation sites such as Sand Mountain.

Have a blast out there and remember to Tread Lightly!


Jessie and Brenna getting ready to check out Sand Mountain

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beyond the Sagebrush

Fall colors and Granite Peak
Santa Rosa Ranger District
Near Paradise Valley, NV

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Moving a downed-log to block an
unofficial bypass
With heavy land use and light budgets, adopt-a-trail programs are essential to protecting our natural resources and keeping recreation areas open. Last weekend I joined the Joaquin Jeepers for their clean-up run of their adopted trail, Slick Rock, on the Stanislaus National Forest’s Highway 4 corridor.

When the snow melts in the spring, the club goes for an inaugural trail ride to repair any damage that happened over the winter – clearing trees and repairing bypasses. In early fall the club makes another trip along the length of the trail – picking up garbage, repairing bypasses, creating water bars to prevent erosion, and more. All of these stewardship projects help protect the resources, maintain the integrity of four-wheeling, and keep our public access open.

No matter what type of outdoor enthusiast you are, there are trails to be adopted. If you have an organization that is willing to take on the responsibility of adopting a trail, talk to your local land managers for more information. If you are just one person wanting to make a difference, sign up as a volunteer to pick up trash or look for stewardship events to get involved in. Every person can make a difference, even if it’s one piece of trash at a time.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Enjoy the Fall Colors

With your eyes, not a carving knife! I encourage folks to get outdoors and enjoy the fall colors, but also take a moment to appreciate nature and all the hard work that was put in to growing those trees you're gaping at.

M. Lewis 2010 - I'm calling you out!
A tree's bark is its protective layer, but just beneath the surface there is a lot going on! Water, food, and nutrients are moving up and down the tree in the phloem and cambium layers just under the bark. When a thoughtless person carves in a tree it could damage these layers or open the tree up to harmful insects and disease.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Volunteering for Public Lands

Have you ever volunteered for a community event? If so, you’re aware that this means you might be fulfilling any number of roles including pouring punch, stacking chairs, serving food, welcoming participants, tutoring, and many other things. The list goes on and on.

Over the past eight months, I’ve been fortunate enough to jump into volunteering through stewardship on our public lands. These stewardship events have provided me a chance to demonstrate my passion and appreciation of the land many of us utilize and enjoy. Some of the projects I’ve been on include spring monitoring, barbed wire fence removal, fence building, micro-debris pick up, campsite cleanup, picnic table painting, clearing overgrown brush, trail maintenance, and planting native species in fire damaged areas.

There are many reasons why I appreciate being a part of these projects. Here a few:

1.) Stewardship projects have allowed me to meet great people from all across northern Nevada who care just as much for their public lands as I do. We all understand that the work we are invested in is mutually beneficial for the survival and improvement of habitat for wildlife and for public land users, just like you and me. This develops a sense of pride in the area of the project and a sense of camaraderie with fellow volunteers.

2.) Volunteers (including me) get to go out in new areas and explore gorgeous places they have never been to before!

3.) Working to improve and conserve natural areas allows the opportunity for exploration and enjoyment of that land for future generations.

Through my involvement with these projects over the past field season, I have developed a strong appreciation of these lands. I have learned and seen first-hand the positive difference just a few volunteers can make. Volunteering in any capacity always helps to strengthen a community, whatever your role may be. So whether it’s making meals at your local soup kitchen, or planting bitterbrush on burned land, keep up the great work!

- Seafoam

Friday, September 28, 2012

Trails's Guide: Tip #3

You've finally made it to the amazing look out!
Now you want to take a photo to remember the moment, but...
There is someone taking a nap in your photo opp. 
My tip for you, be respectful of other visitors and don't hog the choice photo locations. It's like going to Disneyland and hanging on to Mickey Mouse so the other visitors can't get their picture with the star!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Trail Log

View from Hinkey Summit, Nevada
"Optimism is a good characteristic, but if carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of these resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so." - Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, September 17, 2012

How Fun is Safe?

Panic, fear, agonizing pain…. Fun?  Most likely, not.  Goofing around and taking risks can seem fun and exciting, but especially when you’re dealing with large machines such as ATVs, it only takes a second for things to go terribly wrong. 
     Recently, I was out riding at the Sand Dunes.  After about an hour of riding around, I went back to the parking lot to rest and get some training course materials.  While in the parking area, another car pulled up and two people got out and started unloading their vehicles.  As an ASI Instructor, I was pleased to see the first person get out in her proper riding gear and put on gloves and a helmet before getting on her bike.  However, I was surprised to see the other walk out to his quad wearing a tee-shirt and start it up.  Thinking maybe he would put on his PPE after unloading the quad (which still is not recommended), I kept about my business.  It wasn’t until I heard the engine gun that I looked up in time to see him peel out in the parking area and roll his ATV.  It was a scary sight and for those crazy few seconds all I could think about was the need to call 911 and provide First Aid.  Luckily, the man was able to roll out of the way of his ATV and came up without any major injuries.  After checking his ATV and getting it to start again, the two rode off into the Dunes without another word.  After they left, I couldn’t help but think…. Is it worth it? 
    Risky tricks and showing off can seem fun and sometimes it can be harmless, but is it worth your health or even your life?  The man I saw was lucky.  According to in 2009 there was an estimated total of 781 ATV related deaths and 115,000 estimated ATV related emergency-room treated injuries in 2010.  Not all of these deaths and injuries are the results of risky riding or not wearing proper safety gear, but a high percentage of them probably are. 
    ATV riding is fun and can be a great experience, especially if you don’t wind up in the emergency room.  There is tons of space to explore and many trails to ride on.  However, injury or death while riding is not a good experience and hopefully one that you never have.  Safe riding is fun. 
A Properly Outfitted Rider Having a Blast!
    Remember, Nevada Outdoor School offers multiple avenues to ATV safety.  For more information, check our website or call us at 775-623-5656.

story by Jive

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lace Up Your Boots: Disperse Camp

During your next outdoor adventure head to a Forest Service (FS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area. These public lands are open to you for camping! For the most part that is - it’s called dispersed camping. In a tiny nutshell, this is when you drive down a FS or BLM road and find an area you want to call home for a few days and set up camp.

There is a little bit of fine print to this:

Dispersed camping in Lamoille Canyon
- Make sure you are on public lands that allow dispersed camping; I recommend getting a map of the area you plan to travel.

- Some areas within FS and BLM do not allow dispersed camping, such as day-use areas and areas with heavy use – check with the local land management offices if you are unsure.

- Some states require campfire permits to have any type of open flame, which includes a campfire, charcoal grill, propane stove and lantern, candle, etc. Nevada and California are two of these states. Also note if there are any current fire restrictions in the area you are traveling to – at the moment that’s pretty much, if not all, of the western United States.

- Be sure to plan ahead and prepare! When you disperse camp you get the benefits of quiet, solitude, and the reasonably low price of free! However, you don’t get any of the usual amenities of a developed campground, so bring your own water and bathroom supplies; plus, be sure to pack out everything you packed in.

- Camp on durable surfaces – as in chose an existing site rather than the middle of a meadow.

Leave it better than you found it,

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Trails's Guide: Tip #2

Hunting season is upon us! Don't forget to wear bright colors when
venturing outdoors to avoid being mistaken for something with antlers!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tunes for the Trail

When hiking on a trail there is usually some time for your mind to wander off. During these times Squirrel and I enjoy adapting song lyrics into outdoorsy lyrics. For your trail enjoyment, we present Hikin' on a Trail - sung to the tune of Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. Enjoy!

Hikin' on a Trail
by Trails and Squirrel

On a mountain top, not so long ago

Hikers like to bag lots of peaks
Packed a map and compass, taking switchbacks ‘cause
It’s steep, so steep

Hand fulls of trail mix all day
Gotta get the carbs to go all the way
to summit, mmm, to summit

Guide says drink the water we’ve got
It doesn’t matter if we’re tired or not
We’ve got good views and that’s a lot
Keep climbin’, to reach the top!

Oh, we’re half way there
Oh oh, hikin’ on a trail
Grab your pack, we’re almost there
Oh oh, hikin’ on a trail

Heard some rustling in a bush
Now it’s getting’ closer, look what it is
A bear, mmm, and its cubs

Hikers want to run away
We’re full of fright, the guide whispers
“it’s ok, slowly back away-aayy”

We've gotta hold on to the food we’ve got
It doesn’t matter if the bear is hungry or not
It’s got its berries and that’s enough
For wildlife, we’ll use a bear box!

Oh, we’re half way there
Oh oh, hikin’ on a trail
Grab your pack, we’re almost there
Oh oh, hikin’ on a trail
Hikin’ on a trail!

Lace up your boots ready or not
You live for the hike when you want to reach the top

Oh, we’re half way there
Oh oh, hikin’ on a trail
Grab your pack, we’re almost there
Oh oh, hikin’ on a trail
(repeat two more times)

Rock on!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Adventure Resolutions: Fine Dinning and More

I have been working on my adventure resolutions since March and have made some good mileage! Squirrel and I just got off our 60ish mile stretch of the John Muir Trail last weekend - hike farther check! I recommend weekend warriors take a few extra days off work and try an extended back-country stay. It's a whole different experience and worth the extra miles! Plus, oddly enough I was less sore after a week on the trail than I normally am from a weekend trip.

As for getting out more, the John Muir backpacking trip takes my summer total up to four trips! I am a big fan of taking advantage of exploring the awesome places I live while I'm there. If I had to move tomorrow, I could confidently say I took full advantage of living in such an amazing place.
Mac and cheese plus extras = new fav
Plus! In addition to pizza, I've added a new dish to my fine dinning recipe book - mac and cheese plus extras. Take your pick of macaroni and cheese (I opted for the Trader Joe's variety) and cook with water - no need for milk or butter. Then add your pick of extras. I've had dry salami/avocado and bell pepper/avocado - both amazing after a day of hiking.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Be Careful with Fire

The other day as I was driving through Reno, I noticed the guy in the car in front of me flick a cigarette out the window.  Unfortunately, this is something I see quite common, but with the current state of wildfires in the Western United States, this particular incident made me growl more than usual.  Then I noticed the license plate, Illinois.  We’ll skip over the fact that this guy is a litter bug, that’s a topic for another post, but he might also be ignorant of the fire dangers posed by a hot, drier than average summer in the driest state in the country.  The statistics go back and forth a bit, but humans are responsible for about four times* as many wildfires each year as lightning.  Looking out the window of my office today, the horizon is once again hazy with smoke, so I thought we might as well look at some of the ways that we can be careful with fire while recreating.

1.       Know the regulations where you are going.  Most state and federally managed lands post fire restrictions at certain times of year.  Right now, there are campfire bans across the board throughout the west.  I know many of us look forward to the campfire when camping or backpacking, but please think about the potential consequences of a mishap.

2.       Minimize campfire impacts.  At times and in areas where you can have a fire, keep them small and easily managed.  Use existing fire rings and make sure flammable vegetation is cleared from around the area.  Do not leave fires unattended and make sure your fires are dead-out before turning in for the night.

3.       Dispose of waste properly.  I’m talking about cigarettes here.  If you are planning to do more outdoor adventuring, sounds like a good time to quit to me.  However, if you must, make sure to extinguish your butts appropriately and please pack them out.

4.       Be careful where you park.  The first thing we all want to do after a long drive out to our favorite recreation destination is get out and explore, right?  That’s great, but first be careful about where you leave your vehicle.  Every year many fires are started when someone parks their truck, car, ATV, etc… in some dry grass or weeds.  Those exhaust pipes and catalytic converters get very hot and you could lose your ride home plus a whole lot more.  Another tip, even if you find a nice un-vegetated spot to stop, if you’ve driven through any tall grass or weeds on the way to your destination, check under your car for anything that may have gotten hung up underneath.

These are just a few tips.  There are many additional, creative ways that people have discovered to start wildfires, so be careful, use your head and we can all still have fun out there.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Packing for the John Muir Trail

Squirrel and I are doing our final prep for our week-long backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail. After forgetting some key items (my hiking pants!) on my last trip I decided I needed a packing list - and I'm checking it twice. Feel free to use this list or check it against your own and adapt as necessary.

Group Gear:
- wilderness permit
- tent and tarp
- water filter
- stove
- 8oz fuel canister
- lighter and back up lighter
- bear canisters (make sure all scented items fit pre-trip!)
- sleeping pad patch kit
- cards
- first aid kit (which has a compass and water treatment tablets)
- map
- toilet paper
- biodegradable soap
- food

Resupply Box:
- 4 oz fuel canister
- yet another backup lighter
- food
- homemade cookies

Personal Gear:
- sleeping bag
- sleeping pad
- cook set (pot and lid/plate)
- headlamp
- pocket knife
- camera
- wallet w/cash to cover any fees
- phone
- medications
- plastic bag to pack out toilet paper
- wet wipes
- tooth brush and paste
- feminine hygiene products (just in case!)
- camel pack
- water canteen
- sunscreen
- bug spray

Clothing items - NO COTTON ALLOWED!
- hiking pants!
- t-shirt
- long sleeve
- sun shirt
- puffy jacket
- rain jacket
- rain pants?
- underwear
- sports bra
- socks
- bandanna
- knit cap
- hiking boots
- camp shoes
- long johns
- gloves

What did I miss?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lace Up Your Boots: Explore New Territory

Driving along 108 toward Sonora Pass, a few miles west of the actual pass there is a pull out on the south side of the road and you can look out at Night Cap Peak on your left and Granite Dome beyond it. If you’re anything like me you’d probably say to yourself, “I want to go there – how can I make that happen?”
Well last weekend I did just that! It was quite the adventure and so worth the sweaty uphill trek - gorgeous lakes surrounded by a granitefest.

Your challenge this month is to explore new territory! Whether it be hiking, four-wheeling, biking, geocaching, land sailing, or whatever your favorite outdoor past time is - discover a new place to recreate.

Happy hunting,

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Plan Ahead and Prepare: Lightning Safety

While getting ready for my next backpacking adventure this weekend I took a look at NOAA’s weather forecast for the area. Not ideal…

I figured I should brush up on what to do if caught in a thunderstorm in the middle of the wilderness. I took a look at NOLS Backcountry Lightning Safety Guidelines by John Gookin, a NOLS Curriculum Manager. In an effort to finally retain some lightning safety, I’ve just picked out a few highlights. Take a closer look at Gookin’s full paper for some great information about how lightning strikes, reasoning behind safety suggestions, and more.

- Lightning tends to hit elevated objects: mountain tops, trees, a boat in water; so get low!
- Lone trees are especially dangerous. Also stay away from all tree trunks, they may send out surface arcs.
- If you feel your hair standing on end a lightning strike is imminent, spread out and assume the lightning position.
- Lightning position: squat with your feet together and your arms wrapped around your legs. It’s been debated whether squatting on your sleeping pad provides any additional protection, but I think the important part is to assume the position and get away from metal objects - like that metal rod in my backpack!
- If you’re in a group, spread out at 50 foot intervals – decreasing the likelihood that one strike will take out multiple people.
- A note for night time thunderstorms: if your tent is in “safer terrain” at least assume the lightning position, if it is in an exposed location get out and find a safer location until the storm passes.

“There are things you can do to reduce risk during a thunderstorm, but you can never get as safe as you could be in town,” says Gookin.

But what’s the fun in that?

-Happy (and safe!),

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Respecting Others: Visiting the Most Heavily Used Wilderness Area

Desolation Wilderness – ha! Clearly the origin of this name did not come from a lack of visitors. Last weekend I visited the most heavily used wilderness area per acre in the United States, according to Backpacker Magazine, and they weren’t kidding. With such heavy visitation, the Leave No Trace principle – Be Considerate of Other Visitors – becomes even more essential. Here are a few tips:

DON’T: Take breaks on the trail. At one point I literally had to step over someone’s feet because they were sitting on a rock next to the trail with their feet in the trail.
DO: Take breaks and camp out of sight of the trail. This allows for the feeling of solitude.

DON’T: Come charging up the trail, taking up the entire width with your pack of dogs.
DO: Yield to other users on the trail. Step to the side for others to easily pass.

Respecting Others on the Trail
DON’T: Let your dog run amuck in the wilderness chasing wildlife and harassing other visitors.
DO: Control your dog verbally or with a leash. While you may think your dog is cute, cuddly, and incredibly well-behaved – others may not be dog people, or had a bad experience with dogs, or have their own dog that doesn’t like to be overwhelmed by your pack of dogs. Aspen has learned a new trick of walking behind me on the trail, this way when I see wildlife or people coming I can grab the handle on her pack and make sure she stays right next to me.

DON’T: Dig a cathole right next to the trail and bury your toilet paper with it.
DO: Find a secluded spot with a nice view 200 feet from a water source to dig a cathole. More people = more poop and toilet paper in the ground. Pack out your toilet paper safely in a zip lock bag hiding in another bag – no one will be the wiser and wildlife won’t come dig it up before it can decompose. Oh, and if you think you found a nice spot to answer Mother Nature’s call it is likely that someone had that same thought before – look for signs of recent catholes and dig with caution. Or if you’re feeling extra adventurous use a RestStop 2, Wag Bag, or other portable toilet system to pack out your solid human waste.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beyond the Sagebrush

Red, whiteish, and blue!
Hope you're having an outdoor adventure this July 4th!
Red Rock NCA, Nevada

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Trails's Guide: Tip #1

Explore your National Forests - same amazing scenery as a neighboring
National Park, but with a fraction of the crowd. Plus dogs are allowed!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Guided Recreation

Let’s be honest, guided recreation isn’t for everyone.  Some people just like to explore the outdoors on their own terms.  Plus, there are certainly people who just don’t like having to be at a certain place at a certain time to experience nature.  However, there are many benefits to guided recreation.  Meeting people with similar interests is just one.  Exploring unknown places and learning new and exciting information are others.  Take for example, Nevada Outdoor School’s summer Water Canyon series.   These events give you opportunities to learn about the history and culture of Water Canyon on the Interpretive Trail, go birding, learn nature photography and even bike the Bloody Shins Trail with fellow bike enthusiasts.  It doesn’t matter if you show up by yourself or bring your friends, everyone is sure to have a great time and take away a meaningful experience.  Guided recreation encourages every one of all ability levels to work together, get involved and accomplish a goal, whether that’s to identify a bird or summit a peak.  So, if you are looking for some fantastic, exciting ways to learn about and experience nature this summer, there’s no excuse not to – come up to Water Canyon and recreate with NOS!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lady Products in the Backcountry

Warning: This blog may cause men to squirm or blush.

Back in 2006 I worked at a ranger station that issued wilderness permits. A young couple came in one day to get a permit to go into Emigrant Wilderness. After I gave them the usual run down and handed over their paperwork they headed back to the parking lot. I can only guess the excuse this girl gave her boyfriend, but she came running back into the station and quietly told me she was on her period and asked me what she needed to do with her feminine products. I made an I am so sorry face and informed her used products need to be treated like the rest of your trash and have to go up the tree in the bear bag with all of the other scented items. But hey, you don’t have to worry about getting eaten by a bear. There is no evidence suggesting bears are attracted to menstruating women – they’re much more likely to sniff out your trail mix.

It’s not ideal to have Aunt Flow along for a backpacking trip, but hey all of those tampon commercials show women taking on the world even though they’re on their period, why not a summit or two?! Here are a few things to keep in mind though:

- There’s a bit of personal preference here, but backpacking with a pad sounds awful, I vote tampons. Be sure to pack these out – never bury paper products, especially used tampons. A) They will take a long time to decompose. B) A wild animal may dig it up before A happens. C) If B does happen, that is not something I want to stumble upon while out in the wilderness - gross.
- Plan ahead and prepare for storage – zip lock bags do wonders in this department. I even have a little green nylon sack to allow for a bit of discretion.
- Hygiene is essential – wet wipes and hand sanitizer are a must to keep fresh and sanitary. 
- Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. You ladies don’t need me to tell you physical or emotional stresses can trigger your period unexpectedly. In the backcountry you’re not going to find tampon dispensers or a prepared/kind soul in the stall next to you – pack a few feminine products just in case.

I’m not sure if any guys actually made it to the end of this post, but feel free to pass this information on to the ladies in your life. They’ll appreciate the tips and tricks.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Leave it as you found it.

Ranchers have their cattle out grazing on public lands. Here's your friendly reminder to leave gates as you found them - whether that be closed or open. Ranchers may have gates closed to keep cattle in or open to let them get to water on the other side. I'll let you think of other potential reason. There is the argument of, well what if the last person didn't close the gate behind them? That's when the ranchers that don't want to take any chances post signs such as the one above; as you can see it doesn't have to be anything fancy, it just has to get the point across.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Adventure Resolutions: Fine Dinning

Back in March I set a few Adventure Resolutions. Well I have my first update for you! The resolution I worked on last week was fine dinning.

I tried out a couple different non-dehydrated dinners while at Strawberry Music Festival. I know it wasn't a backpacking trip, but I liked the comfort of having a number of food vendors should my experiments go awry. However, they were not needed!

My favorite new backcountry dinner is pizza! The Backpacker recipe I was inspired by called for ready-made dough, but I was in a hurry during prep so I purchased already-made pizza crusts at the store. I was using my backpacking stove, which is really just ideal for boiling water making things a bit tricky.

At home: Packaged pizza crust in tin foil, cut up green bell peppers, and repackaged pepperoni and pizza sauce. To be honest, I don't remember what kind of cheese I used but it was a harder cheese so it would last longer out of the refrigerator. If I was backpacking I would repackage all toppings to minimize bulk.

At camp: Sprayed the frying pan with Pam (while backpacking I'll use olive oil - packs smaller), place pizza crust in, spread desired amount of sauce on, sprinkle cheese on top, add pepperoni and bell pepper. I used the tin foil the crust was wrapped in to make a lid. Now here's the important part if you're on a backpacking stove - set the burner very low and rotate the pan regularly, cooking your pizza for about 10 minutes or until the cheese melts.

This is what happens if you don't rotate the pan!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

To Build a Yurt, Dome... Thingy.

It was mentioned recently in this blog that is it always a good idea to do a gear shake-down before a new season, point well taken.  I would like to reiterate that this is particularly important when using a new piece of equipment for the first time.  It could then be said that it is even more important when this new piece of equipment is a 30’ diameter yurt dome, and doubly important again when you are now expecting to use it for the first time in wind, rain and near-freezing temperatures.  Well, due to the generous folks at Winnemucca Grammar School, we were able to try out the new NOS yurt dome in the warm, dry and wind-free environment of their gymnasium.  After a bit of head-scratching and elbow grease, we did manage to get the dome up and down in about 3 hours and we certainly confirmed that it would not have been the place to be working out all of the kinks in less than ideal conditions.  It will be interesting to see if the practice run pays off at Black Rock Rendezvous this weekend, but I am guessing it will.  Whatever you are up to this holiday weekend, be sure to have fun out there.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

No More Picnic Baskets For Yogi

Try those puppy eyes on someone else chipmunk, cause you aren't getting any of my sandwich; and let me tell you why:

1. Cheetos and Skittles are not part of a natural diet for wildlife, their stomachs just aren't made to digest our food and they may get sick.
2. If people feed wildlife they may forget how to find their own food that they need to stay healthy.
3. Wildlife may associate people with food, which can become dangerous for them and us.

So remember, next time that chipmunk is giving you puppy eyes with a little drool coming out of the side of his mouth tell him to go for a hike and find some natural food!

A chipmunk in serious need of his natural diet.
-Trail's Mix

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kids in a Cave

This month, local fourth graders will have a unique opportunity to see a historic place in northern Nevada. Nevada Outdoor School (NOS), in partnership with the BLM and other groups, will accompany students to Lovelock, Nevada where they will visit the famous Lovelock Cave. For anyone unfamiliar with Lovelock Cave, it is on the National Register of Historic Places, making it one of many sites in the United States that are essential to the interpretation of our nation’s past and present. Many thousands of artifacts have been recovered from Lovelock Cave over the years, from elaborate mats and bags made of tule and cattail leaves to the remarkable cache of duck decoys; at over 2000 years old they are the oldest in the world!  In addition to visiting Lovelock Cave, students will tour the Marzen House museum, which will give them a taste of what life was like way before they were born!  Equally exciting, are the variety of presentations and hands-on events led by Paiute Tribe members, representatives from the Emigrant Trail Center in Elko, and many others!
To prepare for this amazing trip, NOS visited classrooms to talk about context and why it is important, especially in archeology. Students played a game where they were challenged to guess a room, when only given a few objects that might be in that room. After each round of guessing, an object was removed so that students would eventually have to guess the room when only given a single object contained in that room! This helped them to understand how crucial context can be. Naturalists spoke about why the Leave No Trace principle of Leave What You Find, is important to follow when exploring the outdoors. NOS Naturalists relay an event that happened a few years ago at Lovelock Cave when an inquisitive student removed a piece of a basket artifact from the cave that an archeologist left out for field trip participants to observe. As a result, everyone didn’t get a chance to see the artifact, and the basket piece is sitting on a shelf, under a bed, or maybe even in landfill where no one can learn from or see it. Students are reminded to take only pictures and leave only footprints.
by: Merre - NOS Naturalist

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lace Up Your Boots: Gear Shake Down

Last weekend I went on my first camping trip of the year. It was only for one night, but it was a great opportunity to get back in the camping mindset and a great time to do a gear shake down.

Thankfully I remembered the essentials (tent, sleeping bag, etc), but forgot my morning tea and my face wash wipes. Not too shabby for the first trip of the season. The trip also gave me a chance to break in my new hiking boots, for Aspen to try out her doggie backpack, and to test out my new camp stove.

A note on the camp stove, I purchased propane on the way to the campground, which didn’t give me a chance to test it beforehand. NEVER TAKE UNTESTED GEAR INTO THE FIELD. At least not the essentials – stove, water filter, etc. To compensate for this I took my tried and true backpacking stove as a backup.

Your challenge – do a gear shake down: you can just set up your equipment in your yard, take a short camping trip, or venture in the wilderness for a night or two. Let us know how it goes!

Aspen is ready for this summer!

Friday, April 27, 2012

200 Years of Public Lands Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the largest, by acreage, of the federal land management agencies, is currently celebrating the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the General Land Office.  The General Land Office was merged with the Grazing Service in 1946 to become the BLM we know today.  Also currently being celebrated is the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act.  Both of these events were hugely significant in the western migration of Americans through the years and the establishment of modern public lands management practices.  Students of western American history will know that much has changed in 200 years and it hasn’t always been the smoothest run.  Federal land management agencies have had their share of mistakes, as well as successes; but one thing I can say is that the vast majority of land managers I have had the opportunity to work with have been dedicated public servants with a strong will to do what is best for a general public of diverse needs and interests.  Another great movement we are seeing today is a pronounced emphasis on partnerships and community involvement in stewardship and promotion of public lands, something Nevada Outdoor School is proud to be a part of.  You can learn more about the history of public lands management and the BLM at:
Partnership is Key at Lovelock Cave, Nevada
Here’s to many more years to come of community partnership in successful public lands management along with plenty of opportunities to have fun out there!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Visit Your National Parks for Free!

Tomorrow is the beginning of National Park Week! Starting Saturday, April 21 through Sunday, April 29 National Parks are waiving their entrance fees. Here's a bonus idea - as a thank you, pick up a bag of trash during your visit and dispose of it properly!

Aspen and me at one of the many National Parks

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What did nature ever do to you?

Southern California's Cucamonga Canyon is in need of some serious TLC. See one visitor's account on her blog Manure du Jour: Twenty Years of Hiking and I’ve Never Been So Disgusted.

Please respect nature.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Don't Move Firewood

An introduction on why you should buy your firewood where you burn it - for us visual people from

Thursday, March 29, 2012

True Story

I remember the only time I actually felt panic while in the wilderness. While reading Backpacker (shocking, I know) I got some inspiration from a segment they have where true stories are told and they point out good and not so good things the individual did to get themselves into a situation and hopefully get themselves out. I’m going to give this story telling a try.

During the summer of 2006 I worked on the Summit Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest. One day after work in late June I decided to go on a quick hike to Sword and Lost Lakes (1). I threw together a pack of the essentials (2) and left a voicemail for my mom telling her where I was going (3). I hiked to Lost Lake and then on to Sword Lake. There was an overlook to Spicer Meadow Reservoir on the north side of Sword Lake so naturally I went to explore what I could see. The sun was getting close to going down so I decided to watch the sunset from the overlook and have a snack (4).

After watching nature’s light show I started heading back to the trailhead. I passed Sword Lake and then onto the trail around Lost Lake. Once I got a little ways down the trail there was a big rock face that was on my right – that wasn’t there when I came in (5)…I turned around and back tracked a bit. Then I found myself on the trail toward Sword Lake again, oh good grief. It was getting darker by the second and the panicky feeling was starting to rise in my throat; I turned around and started running (6) along the trail toward where this supposed cutoff to the trailhead was, and found myself next to that dang rock face again. I stopped, stood in one place for a minute, took a breath (7), got out my headlamp, and started walking slowly back around Lost Lake in search of the illusive cutoff. Bingo – found the trail.

By that point I was done being in the woods by myself. The trail was well defined and I knew where I was, but I was done. The cloud of mosquitoes I walked into was the last straw and I started sprinting down the trail (8). Thankfully I made it to my car in one piece and safely home (9).

About an hour after I got home my phone rang - a call from my mother wondering where the heck I was (10).

(1) When hiking alone I tend to stick to more popular trails in case of an emergency.
(2) Water, sweater, headlamp, snacks – should have included a few more things.
(3) Always tell someone where you’re going, what your plan is, and what they should do if they don’t hear from you. At the very least put a note under your windshield wiper.
(4) Once the sun goes down it tends to take the light with it – glad I packed that headlamp!
(5) Take notice of your surroundings and significant natural features, they are good reference points.
(6) Chill out! I should have followed this next note sooner.
(7) As soon as you think you’re lost, STOP, take a breath and assess the situation. Don’t make matters worse by making panicked decisions.
(8) Nothing like sprinting by yourself at dusk to say, “Come and get it mountain lions!” or twist an ankle or a number of other regrettable things.
(9) Come to find out, my supervisor at the time had spent an unexpected night on the very same trail after watching the sunset and then getting turned around on the way out. Oh…good to know.
(10) Whoops! Don’t forget to call your just-in-case-person to let them know you’ve returned safely!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring is here?

East Range from the NOS Office 3-19-2012

Did you spring outside this week?  Monday was the vernal equinox, making this the first week of the new season.  While some parts of the country enjoyed unseasonably warm weather, here in Winnemucca we looked like this photo, taken from the front of the Nevada Outdoor School office on Monday morning.  Regardless of the weather, people are certainly out and about; little league teams are practicing and bicycles are rolling around town.  On Sunday, we woke up to a couple of inches of fresh snow.  By afternoon the sun came out and the snow had all melted.  I went outside and took advantage of the sunshine for a little jog, then later that evening we got a brand new three inches of the fluffy white stuff.  Spring in the high desert it seems, as usual, is marked by rapidly changing weather conditions.  It is easy to forget, on a mild day like today, that snow, ice and freezing conditions may be with us for another few months still.  So, plan ahead and be prepared, get outside and enjoy whatever weather Spring serves up.  Plan ahead and be prepared; did I say that last time I posted?  Hmm… I guess there is a good reason it is the first principle of Leave No Trace.
Have fun out there,