Tag Archives: nature

OREGON: Smith Rock Climbing for Veterans (free!)

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A free, six day rock climbing course for veterans on 11/9/2014 – 11/14/2014.  No previous experience necessary.  Sign up on their site. Transportation to and from is not included.

From Northwest Outward Bound website:

This is a six-day rock climbing course at world-renowned Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, Oregon. Veterans will receive individual instruction and test their skills against vertical cracks, steep faces and boulders. Whether you are new to rock climbing or already have experience this course will be an opportunity to learn further skills and practice in a positive and supportive environment.

The group will set up a basecamp in a campground near Smith Rock State Park among the multicolored cliffs and spires, in order to focus on building climbing skills and techniques, and to establish a comprehensive and safe climbing foundation. You will learn about basic climbing equipment, ropes, carabineers, harnesses, knots, belaying and rappelling techniques, and most importantly, how to move across the rock face efficiently and effectively using hand and foot holds.

Personal feedback from instructors helps you progress toward your climbing goals. Our staff to student ratio averages 1:3. You’ll not only build strong climbing skills and get a great taste of Smith Rock, but you’ll get all that Outward Bound and our incredible staff have to offer as well! Students who advance in the basic skills have the opportunity to do a multi-pitch climb or a spectacular Tyrolean Traverse put the newly gained skills to the test.

You do not need to have any previous experience. We will teach you the necessary skill sets for each activity.

UTAH: Cedar Mesa Military Expedition. Happening soon!

When:  Oct 3 – 9

Follow them on Facebook at Paradox Sports, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors.
Where: Meet in Salt Lake City, travel to Cedar Mesa. Travel to SLC is the responsiblity of the participant.
Who: Sierra Club Mission Outdoors, and Paradox Sports, leaders in veteran led and organized outdoor experiences
For more info: Go to the Sierra Club Mission Outdoors Website

From the Sierra Club Mission Outdoors website:

“Veterans and Service Members, join the Sierra Club Military Outdoors, the Bureau of Land Management, and Paradox Sports from OCT 3rd through the 9th in an epic cultural, spiritual, and adventurous expedition in one of the most enchanting wild places in our country. After a weekend of celebration and a traditional Navajo healing sweat lodge ceremony, our veterans will explore Grand Gulch and the other surrounding canyons of the Cedar Mesa area through a series of day and through hikes led by Sierra Club Veteran leaders and assisted by local rangers and experts who have a vast knowledge of how to live, explore, and enjoy these sacred natural and historical sites.

General Itinerary:
3 OCT: No later than noon arrive at SLC Airport and move to Cedar Mesa
4 OCTt: Trip Logistics, local historical and natural talk, celebration dinner
5 OCT: Traditional Navajo sweat lodge and welcome home ceremony
6 OCT – 8 OCT: Group 1 Day hikes from central camp, Group 2 Hike through of Grand Gulch
9 OCT: Re-consolidate and move to SLC

Travel to and from SLC is the responsibility of the participant. We will provide local lodging in SLC for those arriving on the 2nd or leaving on the 10th. All group gear and food will be provided, a light backpacking packing list will be provided upon acceptance.

If you are interested in applying for the trip, send an email with the subject line: ‘YOUR LAST NAME_FIRST NAME Cedar Mesa’ to military.outdoors@sierraclub.org that includes the following information:

  • Name
  • Branch of service, rank, when and where you served (or are serving)
  • Proof of service
  • Outdoor Experience (none is required) and other veteran / service member trips you’ve been on
  • Two sentences about why you want to go on the trip.
  • Where you will be coming from and if you need help getting to SLC
  • Any physical or mental concerns you might have about your participation on the trip (we will aim to make this trip 100% adaptable to your needs)

We will let everyone know about their participation no later than September 20th, 2014.”

NASHVILLE: Operation Purple Family Retreat OPEN

imagesCalling all veterans and active duty in the Nashville / Ft Campbell area. National Military Family Association is still taking registration for their upcoming Operation Purple Family Retreat October 3 – 6.  Other than getting you and your family there, it’s free.

From their site:  Coming back together after a deployment can be difficult. Operation Purple Family Retreats provide military families with the opportunity to reconnect as a family. We are using our popular ‘camp’ approach and bringing families to beautiful outdoor locations in order to provide fun family oriented activities, new memory making, and the ability to spend quality time together. Specially adapted communication activities developed by FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress ™) ensure families return home stronger. Families are able to connect in a “purple” environment that brings families from all ranks and services including National Guard and Reserve components together as a community. We are climbing, hiking, canoeing, bonding, eating s’mores, and more!

operation-purple-logoAbout the retreat and the camp:

Apply Now!

YMCA Camp Widjiwagan is located on the shores of Percy Priest Lake, in Nashville, Tennessee, just 20 minutes from downtown. Joe C. Davis YMCA Outdoor Center sits on 320 acres and 4 miles of shoreline. Water Activities include: swimming, Wet Willy Water slide, the Blob, sailing and many more. Land activities include: horseback riding, soccer, basketball, alpine tower, zip line, archery, arts & crafts and many more.
The camp sponsor is the wonderful USO.
Find Out More:  Visit www.campwidji.org for more information about our camp.

WarRetreat asks U.S. Army Veteran Dyan Ferguson: “What’s Love?”


For Valentine’s Day, we asked those who serve veterans after war through innovative programs, “What’s War?”

“What is LOVE? 

Love is what I feel when I take a moment to feel my breath and my sensations… to look at a bird or the clouds… to feel the sun on my skin… to smell or taste a warm cup of strong coffee… to notice people around me and to offer a smile… When I take a moment to really pay attention to my internal world and to what is happening around me, my mind goes silent for a few seconds.  Then I feel real, deep, endless love.  And that is always followed by the bubbling up of gratitude for everything life has given me — from my family and friends and everything they bring to me life, to the fact that I live in a democracy that cares about its citizens’ well-being, to the opportunities I have had to serve others, whether in the military or a nonprofit that supports veterans… And in those moments of feeling love and gratitude, I invariably re-commit to love and generosity and service to this world we share and each of its inhabitants.” -Dyan Ferguson, U.S. Army Veteran, Co-Founder, Honoring The Path of the Warrior
Honoring The Path’s founders, Chris Fortin & Dyan Ferguson at a veterans’ retreat.

Dyan is one of the founders of the organization, “Honoring The Path of The Warrior.” They take combat veterans into the great outdoors, introducing them to white water rafting, hiking, and teaching them stress reduction through yoga and meditation. These free retreats are in Northern California. “The intent is to provide Veterans with connection, community and tools that support them in using their own strengths and experiences to find a meaningful and productive path in civilian life.”

Find out more about Honoring The Path of The Warrior!

Study: Mental Health Gains for Veterans Assisted By Nature

6a00d83451b96069e2019aff6e8063970c-800wiPress Release:

Sierra Club, University of Michigan Study of Veterans finds link between outdoor activities and improved mental health

Thursday, July 25, 2013
Rebecca Silver, 646-461-9831, Rebecca.Silver@Sierraclub.org

SAN FRANCISCO – According to the results of a new study from the University of Michigan, commissioned by the Sierra Club, veterans participating in outdoor group recreation reported improvements in psychological well-being, social functioning and life outlook, suggesting a link between nature exposure and enhanced well-being.

Participants were surveyed before and after a multi-day wilderness recreation experience in groups of six to 12 participants. The excursions emphasized a variety of outdoor activities, from fly fishing and backpacking to kayaking, whitewater rafting and paddling, and generally did not include formal, structured psychological counseling or therapy.

The results suggest many positive impacts for veterans engaging in outdoor activities, including:

  • Participation in an extended group outdoor recreation experience may be associated with numerous benefits; compared to pre-outing levels, participants reported improvements in psychological well-being, social functioning and life outlook.
  • Participants also reported being more likely to engage in other activities that involved exploration and helping others.
  • Findings also suggest that veterans with serious health problems can benefit from group outdoor recreation experiences.

Researchers hypothesize that the benefits of outdoor experiences may be attributable to the fact that participants are involved in physical challenges, camaraderie, and achievement of an objective – all of which correlate with military experience and training.

“The Sierra Club knows anecdotally the mental, emotional and physical benefits that come from spending time in nature, particularly for returning service members for whom the outdoors can be integral to their reintegration,” said Stacy Bare, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors Director. “The results of the University of Michigan’s study reinforce these beliefs and support our efforts to make these types of experiences available to more people.”

“The findings suggest that extended group-based nature recreation can have significant positive impacts on veterans struggling with serious health problems,” said Jason Duvall, a research scientist at the U-M School of Natural Resources & Environment, and one of the study’s lead authors. “Although more research is needed and many questions remain, the use of extended group-based outdoor recreation programs to ease veterans’ transition back into civilian life seems to be a promising approach.”

Veterans were surveyed one week before, one week after, and about one month after participating. In addition to assessing demographic and background information, the survey measured changes in psychological well being, social functioning, life outlook, and activity engagement over time.

To view the complete report, please visit http://www.sierraclub.org/military/downloads/Michigan-Final-Research-Report.pdf.

For more information about the Sierra Club’s programs for military veterans and families, please visitwww.sierraclub.org/missionoutdoors.


About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.

About the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment:
The School of Natural Resources and Environment’s overarching objective is to contribute to the protection of the Earth’s resources and the achievement of a sustainable society. Through research, teaching, and outreach, faculty, staff and students are devoted to generating knowledge and developing policies, techniques and skills to help practitioners manage and conserve natural and environmental resources to meet the full range of human needs on a sustainable basis.http://www.snre.umich.edu


Sign Up Now for Free Veterans Retreat: Expedition Balance

Read about the Ropes Course
Read about the Ropes Course

Carl Salazar, US Navy Veteran and founder of Expedition Balance writes:

I got the call around 11:00. The number wasn’t familiar and I let it ring. A few minutes later, I listened to the message. Her words reminded me of the other callers – mothers, wives, and Vets. I could hear their voices. This time it was the wife of a Vet. Her husband served in Afghanistan and suffered from PTSD. Like most things, this condition varies by degree. On the mild side, you might have headaches and nightmares. At it’s worst, PTSD destroys lives. It inflicts through drug & alcohol abuse, homelessness, violence, suicide. For the kids who go out and fight our wars – and their families – their lives are the price of our freedom. They are never the same again.

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Click to sign up!

I’m urging you to go over and read the rest of his piece over on tumblr. Carl is in the good fight like the rest of us. Please tell people (or apply yourself) for one of the slots at the Expedition Balance retreat on May 16-19 for a few days of yoga, meditation, and the added physical challenges of hiking, a bit of horseback riding, archery, and an obstacle course that you have not seen since Boyscout bootcamp. Check out this post about one participant’s experience.

It’s fun, it’s building a small community, a chance to break beyond those four walls whether physical or mental, and be a part of something that will give you what you deserve –freedom from worry and fear, and most of all, a few days of fun. When you leave, you’ll have re-found your balance.

  1. What: Expedition Balance Veterans Retreat
  2. Where: Texas, about 2 hours outside of Houston
  3. Cost: Free
  4. Who: Expedition Balance (founded by a veteran, created by veterans for veterans)
  5. Sign up where: Right here
  6. If you haven’t done yoga: that’s okay. Most people in the world haven’t done it either. Go, have fun. Try it!
  7. If you can’t go, then consider donating to keep the organization going. If you want to find free yoga in your area, go to Yoga For Vets. Carl


Veterans: Unplug and Get Back To Nature

“The data across age groups —regular folks from age 18 into their 60s — showed an almost 50 percent increase in creativity.”

Remember: your yoga mat can double as a sleeping mat in the great outdoors.


This week, a great study published by the University of Kansas shows that a few days in the wilderness on outdoor adventures significantly increases creativity. The study was done in partnership with Outward Bound Colorado, and tested four backpacking groups that made up a study group of 120 participants. Some were tested prior to taking off, others were tested four days into the trip. The result showed a 50 percent increase in creativity, insight and problem solving.

While electronics have become second nature to us, all this plugging-in can also increase a sense of obligation to either maintain levels of connectedness, which can come at the expense of maintaining connections to our surroundings, and those around us. As much as I like practicing yoga on the mat, many people roll it up once class is done and get back to their smart phones. In other words, they go back to what they were doing before. Outdoor excursions though, especially ones that take a person away for a few days, allow them to completely decompress from the obligations of social networking and see their lives without (what I call) the static noise.

So unplug, move, breathe, get outside –even if it’s just a one hour walk each day. As one of the researchers stated:

“There’s growing advantage over time to being in nature,” said Ruth Ann Atchley. “We think that it peaks after about three days of really getting away, turning off the cell phone, not hauling the iPad and not looking for internet coverage. It’s when you have an extended period of time surrounded by that softly fascinating environment that you start seeing all kinds of positive effects in how your mind works.”

One outlet is the Outward Bound for Veterans program. Several of my friends have been on one, and friend Sebastian Junger is an active proponent for these experiences.

“I think the course I went on was very helpful and it allowed me to grow as a person. I was also allowed to talk about things in a calm, accepting environment with open-minded people. It felt good to let out some things I have held on to for a long time.”  -A veteran, Outward Bound for Veterans