Have you ever? ODAL students reflect on life lessons in and out of the field

By Eliza Demarest

 “We have been learning to take care of ourselves in places that really matter. Crazy kids on the loose, but on the loose in the wilderness. That makes all the difference.”  -Terry and Renny Russell

By the time an Outdoor Adventure Leadership (ODAL) major at Sierra Nevada College reaches his/her senior year, each one has learned and mastered a variety of leadership skills and experienced amazing outdoor adventures.


Corey Donohue guides a raft during an ODAL adventure.

Those adventures range from white-water rafting on the American River, to end-of-summer and mid-winter backpacking expeditions in Desolation Wilderness, to sea-kayaking in Tomales Bay, to rock climbing at Dinosaur Rock and an extended backpacking course in Utah’s Canyonlands.

Near the end of their Interdisciplinary Studies experience, all ODAL students are required to take Wilderness Ethics, ODAL’s capstone course. This semester, Rosie Hackett, ODAL program director, chose for her students, a “Have You Ever” prompt by Terry and Renny Russel from their book, “On the Loose.”

“It is important to give them the space to reflect on all those incredible experiences they have had,” said Hackett. “Every wild tale that they share gives them a better understanding of their personal relationship and connection with the land. All their unique ‘have you ever’ moments serve them as a personal guide for relating to wild places.”

Hackett said that students begin to question, “Is nature my friend? Is nature my gym? Is nature my teacher? Is nature my church? Is nature my bully? Or is nature my resource?”

The Wilderness Ethics course is about students, “figuring out what their unique “landfull” connections are, developing those connections into a land ethic and then implementing the land ethic into an action plan to serve and protect our wilderness for future generations,” said Hackett.

Landfullness connections entail that people move beyond first impressions – what their direct impact on the environment is – and experience the land from personal, historical, cultural, environmental and economical perspectives.

The following quotes are a collection of true and honest ‘have you ever’ experiences by ODAL students in the Wilderness Ethics course.


ODAL students spend three weeks in Utah’s Canyonlands as a final adventure which tests their abilities and stamina.

“Have you ever sat and been 100 percent and carefree because there is nothing else that mattered apart from the blue bird sky and inspiring peaks ahead?”
–  Rachael Blum, junior, Sustainability & ODAL minor

“Have you ever had to force yourself to drink water that tasted purely of liquid smoke, because you were miles from civilization in the desert and needed to hydrate, even though every sip was painful to swallow?”
–  Ashley Vander Meer, senior, ODAL & Environmental Science

 “Have you ever hiked in the Utah desert for 111 miles with the heat scorching down on you while you have a 60 pound pack on?”
–  Andrew Mavin, senior, ODAL & Environmental Science

  “Have you ever woken up to a bear sniffing your face?”
–  Megan Gorrell, senior, ODAL & Ski Business


Drew Fisher doing what he loves best.

 “Has your gaping smile ever been interrupted by powder snow vaulting into your windpipe?”
–  Drew Fisher, senior, ODAL & Journalism

“Have you ever gotten lost backcountry skiing and decided it was best to bushwhack home and you only got more lost?”
– Cody Wilkins, senior, ODAL & Entrepreneurship

 “Have you ever soared over a Puerto Rican gorge, tied to a zipline like superman, and watched a river rush 850 feet beneath you? Was your biggest fear not going fast enough to reach the other side?”
–  Corinne Brown, senior, ODAL & Entrepreneurship

Eliza Demarest is the news editor for the Eagle’s Eye student newspaper. This article was published in the Eagle’s Eye on Sept. 26, 2013.

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