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So You Want To Be A Wilderness First Responder? Part 1: There Will Be Blood

The First Rule Of Wilderness First Responder Training Is That You Don’t Talk About Wilderness First Responder Training

That said, the rule is more about the “secrets” that make each individual program unique, like specifics about scenarios and whatnot. We’re not really going to get into that here, out of respect to the programs. But I want to give you a couple of tastes of what you might be biting off when you decide to take your Wilderness First Responder course.

And yes, there really is blood, and a good bit of it throughout the course.
It’s fake blood, but blood nonetheless!

I took the National Outdoor Leadership Schools (NOLS) curriculum at the Landmark Learning campus in the western North Carolina mountains. There are many other curricula and programs, but NOLS seems to float to the top as the industry standard based on what I’ve seen over the years. You do have other options out there, but just remember that different Wilderness First Responder certifications may carry different weight with potential employers. (Read: Do your research!)

More Articles In This Series:
Part 1:  There Will Be Blood
Part 2:  “I Just Got Chainsaw Certified”
Intermission:  Everybody Poops…
Part 3:  Enter…the Sneak E Squirrel
Part 4:  Testing the Mettle
Credits:  “Just Let Them Pass Out…”

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I’ve Been Wanting This Wilderness First Responder Certification For Over 10 Years

I’ve always thought it would be badass to have an extra level of knowledge and preparedness when in nature with family or friends…or even strangers for that fact. But lately with all of my interest in the seasonal industry I’ve noticed that a lot of companies are actually requiring Wilderness First Responder certification.

It makes sense, since each time you take a group of paid adventures on any trip outside of an urban setting you’re bound to be faced with a medical or injury issue. It’s pretty mandatory that you have someone on the trip that can handle that! I learned about NOLS over 10 years ago at an outdoor retailer conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, so that’s another reason they were my go-to.

Smokey Mountains

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7pm – The Night Before Leaving for Landmark Learning And My Wilderness First Responder Training

Oh Sh*t! Something Doesn’t Feel Right…

So there I was, 7pm the Friday night before heading 3+ hours west to the NC Smokey Mountains to consume some delicious knowledge cakes. I was dogsitting my buddy Theo, when the thought came over me; Something just doesn’t feel right. I was planning to drop the little spaz off back at his home at 8am and head west, getting to campus by noon and settling in, preparing for Wilderness First Responder class to start on Sunday.

So I head to the old interwebs and my email archives and start digging. Turns out there were a couple of errant dates and times depending on the correspondence I was looking at, but essentially what I found was that I was supposed to be in my seat and ready to learn at 8am Saturday…essentially 12 hours from that moment!

Yeah. I dropped a brick right about then.

So I made some calls, finished packing and getting my sh*t together by midnight and tried to sleep. No bueno on that one since I was ramped. The alarm went off at 3am and I was out the door, dropping off the canine cowlick by 4am and headed west.

foggy drive to western NC

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3am – Way Too Early…Charlotte to Cullowhee, NC

The Drive to Wilderness First Responder Training

So my parents used to tell me that they would put me in the car and drive me around the block a few times to put me to sleep. Gee, thanks for royally jacking the rest of my life sofar as long commutes go!

Regardless of childhood sleepytime trauma, the drive west, from Charlotte to the Smokies, couldn’t have been more welcome. The transition from “big” city buildings to foggy, two-lane roads and mountain sunrises is something I would wake up at 3am for any time! If it’s been a while since you saw the sun rise over a mountain range, you should do yourself a favor and make some plans.

The transition from “big” city buildings to foggy, two lane roads and mountain sunrises is something I would wake up at 3am for anyday!

Many loud songs later, 3-4 stops for bio breaks, caffeine, gas, or just to wake myself the funk up (sometimes by doing jumping jacks or pushups), and I was driving the long winding road to the Landmark Learning property. Finally time to start my Woofer course!

Landmark Learning downstream campus

8am – Made It In Time! Ready To Start Wilderness First Responder Training!

Man, the Landmark Learning campus is awesome! Just at the end of a residential two lane road (well, residential for mountain life), tucked into the mountainside with a stream running along the road, was the Landmark Learning facility. Seeing as there weren’t a lot of pictures online about the facility, I was really pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the property, classroom and amenities were.

They have what they call the “Downstream” or “Upstream” campus, the latter being the newest, which I, unfortunately, didn’t get to explore. But we were taking our Wilderness First Responder course at the downstream campus. It was an extremely well-maintained classroom with 2 bathrooms, 2 showers, a community refrigerator and food storage area, an outdoor cooking area with hammocks, and a large yard perfect for scenarios or 10 minute frisbee, soccer, and football breaks between class sections.

The first things I noticed as I drove up to the Landmark Learning campus were the vehicles. They included a few large, covered trucks or Expeditions, a live-in van a la the dog grooming van from Dumb and Dumber (without the fur of course), and a tricked-out truck with all the amenities and a pop-up tent on top. Yeah. I was already liking my new classmates. This is gonna be fun!

wilderness first responder video
Click to watch the video!

OK. On to Part 2!
“I Just Got Chainsaw Certified.” 

More Articles In This Series:
Part 1:  There Will Be Blood
Part 2:  “I Just Got Chainsaw Certified”
Intermission:  Everybody Poops…
Part 3:  Enter…the Sneak E Squirrel
Part 4:  Testing the Mettle
Credits:  “Just Let Them Pass Out…”

— Jason

Travel Planning Tips

Figure out where you are going & how are you getting there…
I suggest using at least 2 to 3 different travel search sites. Start with Skyscanner or Orbitz or Booking …or whatever aggregator site you prefer. Then when you see what airlines to use, check their respective sites for better deals or rewards flights.

Figure out where you’re going to stay…
If you’re interested in hostels, search Hostelworld or Hostelling International. For longer-term or more private digs, look at Airbnb, VRBO, or you can look for hotel rooms in the links from the search engines listed above. 

Get comprehensive travel insurance, or in the least, travel medical insurance if internationally…
Especially with Covid not going anywhere, get covered. Start with an insurance aggregator like Insure My Trip, or with SafetyWing, World Nomads, or another. Then decide what is important to you; trip cancellation, baggage coverage, medical, or all of the above. And get a yearly evacuation plan, since you’ll have to get home after your emergency! 

Need more resources? Click here!

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