The Importance of Learning to Do What We're Already Doing

SPOILER ALERT! Reading this may only make your 2013 safer and way better!

Have you noticed our outdoor adventures are a bit insidious, or at least progressive? What started out as nice family walks have evolved into long hikes in the Whites. That quick paddle with a friend in their canoe has become paddling in your own kayak, a mile or two from help. This is what happens. It’s a great thing. But, when do we decide to seek training? In my opinion, everyone would have already benefited from training, even the ‘pros’ I see out there could use some more time learning from others. Actually, especially the ‘pros,’ but that’s a conversation for another day.

Outdoor schooling is surprisingly accessible and affordable. As popular as tearing around in New England has become, so has its related training, and for good reason. Many people consider themselves proficient in their chosen outdoor activity, but what’s their measure? Are they actually proficient, or have they just been lucky every time they hit the trail or waterway? Personally, I’d rather be professionally trained in what I’m doing, rather than just lucky or proficient.

Allow me, if you will, to illustrate a few examples of available courses that are out there for us. I think you’ll agree they all sound pretty awesome.

Building a Hypothermia Wrap in an Emergency Simulation.

How about First Aid? You may already know some of the basics, but would you REALLY be able to help in the back-country, far from cell reception and with the limited supplies in your pack? Does going out with your buddy really help, or are they perhaps an untrained liability to you? Consider a course in Wilderness First Aid. They’re wicked fun, mostly outdoors and provide a serious education in what the heck to do when something goes wrong. I invite you to check out my recent post about taking a WFA course, which was offered by SOLO.  It was a great time and I got to spend the entire weekend with friendly, like-minded people, who weren’t the macho gear heads I thought they’d be (I always hate that).

You can also consider some of the specialized courses and groups that are out there. Many are taught and led by true professionals and range in offerings from the very, very beginner to the advanced enthusiast. I recommend the following two:

A Sunrise Paddle on Lake Attitash


Maybe you’ve been paddling for years and you’ve never rolled your kayak. Good for you! Well, maybe not, rolling can be fun and you might be missing out. But, what would you do if you did accidentally roll one day? No big deal, right? You’d just get out and right yourself? Well, what if you rolled in moving water? Even if you figured it out, would your boat still be there for you? If so, would you be able to get back on it, or would it just roll around in the water, leaving you exhausted? Consider taking one of the paddling courses offered by EMS. They’d love to help you learn what to do. What could be better than spending the day with fellow paddlers who are also interested in being safe and having fun?

That’s Me, Climbing 3 Inches from the Ground. Don’t Worry, You Start Out Safe and Low!

Or, take a look at EMS Rock Climbing classes. In my experience, climbing classes are the ones that intimidates people the most. No you don’t need to be flush with experience to register. In fact, classes are the most popular method for people to try it in the first place. So why not give it a shot? It’s excellent exercise, it’s certainly something different to add to your spring and summer Facebook pics, plus it’s loads of fun!  Courses are offered for the super beginner, all the way to the those for advanced ice climbers. If you climb, or if you’d like to, I imagine they’ll be psyched to see your name pop up on the roster.

I could go on and on, sharing with you all the different types of classes that are out there, but I think you get the picture. Classes are a fun way to try something new, refresh techniques or training, or learn a little more about what you’re already doing.

There is also one more important thing I’d like to mention. I’ve been a professor for several years and there is some insight I’d like to share with you. First, please don’t be intimidated to take a class. You are not expected to know everything. In fact, it’s assumed you don’t. Second, almost everyone else is intimidated. Seriously. And finally, often times the people you think are the ‘best’, frequently aren’t. Don’t compare yourself to other people. That’s when we tend to get in trouble. Be proud of what you already do and know and take comfort in knowing you’re looking forward to a year of professional, fun instruction that will take your adventures well beyond what you thought possible.