The more time I spend outside the more I want to learn.
I want to be able to identify the plants that I'm looking at as I scamper down the trails. I want to know what kind of geologic wonders formed the mountains that I love to climb. I want to know how to use all the features of my GPS and how to safely remove a tick should one ever become embedded in my belly button.
Recently I took a NOLS Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. For 10 days my mind was enlightened as practical first-aid scenarios were combined with professional in-class instruction. The course culminated with a night exercise where my classmates and I put our newly learned skills to the test on the windy slope of a mountainside.
As I've been reflecting on my WFR experience and desire to hone my outdoor skills I've come up with a list of a few resources and places where we can find classes, clinics and trips to boost our outdoor knowledge.
1. Take advantage of clinics offered by outdoor shops.
When it comes to learning about gear chances are that your favorite local outdoor shop is the place to go. Many outdoor retailers offer special classes and clinics designed to help you chose a particular piece of gear like skis or a tent or a backpack. Then they'll go the extra mile to ensure that your gear fits properly and that you know how to use it. Clinics at local shops have the added advantage of being great chance to network and meet others in your community who may be interested in learning the same thing that you are. If you're fortunate enough to live near a Sierra Trading Post stay in touch via social media to find out about clinics going on in your area.
2. Look for free classes offered by organizations within your local community.
Another great way to enhance your outdoor knowledge is check out a Visitor's Center at your local National Forest, State Park or National Park. You can also call your city's local Park and Recreation department. Many of these agencies work really hard to host free classes. We've discovered everything from clinics on how to identify wildflowers and birds to historical interpretive hikes.
3. Take a class at your community college or university.
If you're fortunate enough to live in a town with a college vibe go ahead and take a class in a subject that you want to learn more about. Maybe it's geology, botany or even outdoor leadership. You'll have access to professional instructors, make a few new friends and you might even get a field trip or two out of the deal.
4. Join a hiking group or nature club. Or better yet, volunteer with a trail maintenance group or your community's search and rescue.
There are hundreds of groups all over the world where people come together on a regular basis to explore and learn together. The great thing about an outdoor club or group is that you'll meet new people and enhance your outdoor knowledge and learning through shared experience. If you have a unique outdoor skill that can benefit your community the volunteer opportunities are endless and always appreciated.
5. Read books, blogs and articles from writers who are experienced in the outdoors.
While it's fun to go to an actual clinic, class or to participate in an outdoor group, sometimes it's nice to just spend a few hours reading our favorite outdoor blogs or books. Outdoor writers want to share their knowledge and their experiences and most will take the time to chat with you on social media too. Find a few trusted outdoor blogs and let the learning begin!
What are some of your favorite ways to enhance your outdoor knowledge?