November 2012

Jaime Dellinger, Supervisor or the Environmental Health section in Jackson County Health Department and Tonya Howell (WCU geology alumnae) wanted to coordinate a project that would beneficial to the community and support WCU student development. Landmark Learning agreed that the students could access creek frontage on Landmark property as well as Landmark septic systems to assess Cane Creek. Environmental Health specialists from the Health Department included Tonya Howell, Jonathan Fouts (WCU ENVH alumni), David Ammons and Russell Jenkins. Students broke up into groups to work with members of the health department to determine location of onsite wastewater systems, look for any instances of straight piping (sewage or gray water) directly into creek, and also to take water samples to assess chemical parameters. WCU students are in the process of analyzing results with report and presentations complete the first week of December 2012. Landmark Learning regularly shares it's 40 acre steward forest with science students as a resource in their educational programs. We are proud to support our external community of learners!

In ENVH 310/311, students were required to assess the health of surface water using physical, chemical and biological parameters. This requires them to assess data they collected from the real world and compare it to scholarly sources (integrate complex information) and synthesize the information to create recommendations for improvement (solves complex problems). From their analysis, they are required to create a technical lab report and presentation (artifacts/capture points) to the local community that is affected by the surface water (communicate effectively and responsibly) A rubric is used to evaluate the report and presentation. Since the project takes place in the community, they are forced to consider local customs/regulations that may impact water quality and discover how to best serve that community through their report and recommendations (practice civic engagement). In addition, students work in teams on this project – this requires them to work collaboratively, identify their own and others strengths and weaknesses, and become adaptable as project obstacles emerge. Students also complete peer evaluations to assess their ability to work on a team. Last, this experience helps them discover if they would like to pursue an internship or permanent employment in water quality.

*Photo Credit: WCU Office of Public Relations

November 3rd was a big day in kayak and trail racing with the Green Narrows Race and the Shut in Trail Race. I had the lucky opportunity this year to be one of the 209 racers selected to race the Shut In Trail Race and put my trail running abilities to the test. The race is the longest race I've ever been on; it's 19 miles with several thousand feet of elevation change as runners start at the NC Arboretum in Asheville and run to the Pisgah Inn parking area. Before the race, I met with my support crew so that they had the gear, food, and water to have a successful run. Support Crew Alpha had to be the best crew out there, I had Justin Doroshenko, a Landmark instructor, Jane Carter, a Landmark graduate, and Dan and Hayden, Asheville friends, on my side the whole race, and there in spirit, Doug Methvin, also a Landmark graduate and 2 time previous top 20 finisher at shut-in, who provided some valuable coaching. I had a goofy grin on my face at every aid station despite taking on the longest, steepest, most grueling trail run I have ever raced thanks to their cheering and quick energy gel hand offs.

The first miles were marked by flat to hilly terrain and the goal was to pace myself, since the brutal stuff was to come in the last half of the race. A lot of hills had me walking with pride rather than running, and pouring out a little quicker pace for the last half of the race was tough since my legs stopped working as they should. Nonetheless, I, along with many other racers still on the trail trudged on tackling the last burly mountain before the finish. The last mountain took me about 30 to 40 minutes to hobble, stretch, grab snow to cool off, and walk up: easily the hardest mountain stroll I've ever been on and I didn't even have a pack on. When I hit the downhill stretch, I picked up the pace from wounded animal hobbling along to a brisk trot down the technical, rocky trail and eventually hit the parkway with just over a mile to finish. I then sprinted (relatively speaking) into the finish, winding up with a time of 3 hours 30 minutes and 29 seconds, meeting my goal for the race and placing 55th!! It was one of the most brutal, yet breathtaking, amazing, and stunning runs of my life. I am so proud to run with some of the best-spirited racers out there, everyone was in it together and you never passed or were passed by a fellow racer without passing on a good word and yielding the trail to them. There's no other race like Shut-in. Thanks to Norm Blair of Jus Running for directing the race and countless runners, volunteers, and support crews of the racers!

On November 3rd the newest member of Landmark Learning, Chelsea Fraser-Lee, set out on her first ever half marathon, the Conquer the Mountain Half in Franklin NC. Having decided to run the race only 2 nights before, she approached the starting line with minimal training, cold feet (literally... it was a mere 28 degrees!) and great excitement to see what this race had in store for her, and the 80 other racers. With a 9:00am start, the first mile was spent unthawing her feet and feeding off of the adrenalin of the race. Mile 3 brought the first hill, a short and steep hill which really got the legs talking, but Chelsea recovered quickly and started to mentally prepare for the “mountain” in that the race was named after, which loomed at mile 6. The mountain was stretched out over about a mile, and they felt much better climbing it than the first hill. However after conquering the mountain and having 7 miles down, Chelsea’s legs did not bounce back quite as quickly as she hoped. At this point Chelsea focused on keeping her pace constant, and on the strength that was definitely not her own. The next few miles passed quickly, and as the finish line came into view she realized the clock read somewhere around 1:40 and knew that it couldn’t be the end. To finish she had to run right past the finish line for a 2.5 mile out and back. Talk about a mental challenge. She made it to the turn around point for a drink of water and with only just over a mile to go she was bound and determined to finish strong. With a goal to finish under 2:30, Chelsea crossed the finish line at 2:09.45, with a 9.54 pace, finishing 51st out of 83 runners. Chelsea wants to thank her racing partner Shane Roughton for the encouragement, and REACH of Macon County for a great race!!

Whitewater Kayaking Instructor Photo

 Landmark Learning and NOLS Wilderness Medicine Instructors Eli Helbert and Jon Lowrance stepped up and competed in the 17th Annual Green River Narrows Race on 3 November 2012. The pair were 2 of only 7 open boat canoeists in a field of 181 paddlers who finished what is considered the "greatest show in sports" and the most difficult steep creek race in the world. Both instructors teach the American Canoe Association's Swiftwater Rescue course as well as the full range of courses offered by NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute, in addition to other course work offered at Landmark Learning. Eli was happy to finally have some company for the race. He has been competing since the race's founding in 1996 and many years has been the only person brave enough to show up with a canoe. Up to this year, only four people had ever raced the Green in an open canoe so Saturday's race was monumental in that Eli was joined by six first-time racers in canoes. Jon estimates that Eli began racing the Green just a couple years after Jon's uncle took him down the Nantahala in a grumman canoe for his first-ever whitewater experience. "It's a pleasure to have been inspired and coached by Eli the last several years and now to finally join him in the Green Race. He taught me how to roll my canoe in 10-minutes in an eddy during in our ACA Swiftwater Rescue Instructor course just a couple years ago and I've gleaned so much from paddling with him over the years. It's been a big goal of mine to get the point where I feel comfortable (I use that term loosely) to race the Green," says Jon. Eli added, "Canoeing has been my life and I am elated that we fielded a full class of open boaters in the Green Narrows Race for the first time.  I love this race and I am psyched that I no longer have to compete alone!" Both instructors draw on their experience as whitewater paddlers while teaching for Landmark Learning and the Wilderness Medicine Institute. Each brings a passion to their courses for helping students learn the skills & knowledge necessary to paddle safely and to provide crucial rescue and medical interventions when bad things happen. Look for them in your next Landmark Learning course!

Instructors Rob Barham and Justin Padgett were joined by a group of physicians, paramedics, EMT's and our very own fresh out the gate EMT students that just completed the October EMT Intensive for a great WMI Wilderness Upgrade for Medical Professionals. We had some spectacular weather and beautiful scenery as fall hit Cullowhee Valley. Students were from all over North America, with most folks traveling from the east coast. As usual with these blended student populations, folks tend to be supportive and complimentary with their skills, knowledge and experience. However, on this course, the student population blended so well and seamlessly, it was difficult at times to discern medical backgrounds. Truly a sharing and low to no ego group. As instructors we always enjoy super attentive folks who generate comradery with one another. Thank you all for your energy, fun and focus on serving the mission! What a memorable bunch.

I just returned from teaching Swift Water Rescue in the Andes of Ecuador. We had two classes in the Mitad del Mundo. The first was in the Amazonia region of Tena, a hot jungle town in the foothills of the mountains about 3 ½ hours east of Quito. This was my third trip to Ecuador but the first since 2003. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the drive was almost 2 hours shorter (and much less bumpy!) than it was the last time I was there. We had 14 participants in the Tena course on the Rio Mishaulli. Most of the students were raft guides but we also had some members of the National Police Special Tactics group. One of my students was a local who I paddled with on both of my previous trips, so it was really cool to run into someone I had met there before! The second course was held near the mountain town of Banos, about 3 hours south of Quito. We taught on the Rio Estancia, a beautiful little tributary of the Rio Pastaza. The Banos area is one of the most visually striking places I’ve been. The surrounding mountains rise almost vertically and the town itself is right at the foot of a 16,000-something foot active volcano. The Banos course consisted of 12 raft guides and 2 local firefighters. We held class on the open deck of a small restaurant overlooking the Rio Estancia. It was just a 15 second walk from our amazing “tipico” lunch to our river site! The course was taught in Spanish (with a Southern accent) by myself and by Ecuadorian Esteban “TV” Barerra. Thanks to Felipe, Angelika and TV of Mingai for hosting two successful courses and for keeping this gringo full of delicious Ecuadorian food!

CPR Training Photo

Thanks to Governor Beverly Perdue, starting in 2015, students attending a North Carolina high school will be required to learn CPR and the Heimlich maneuver prior to receiving their diplomas. Credited as a way to save lives, Perdue also signed into law a bill that requires students to show proficiency in cardiopulmonary resuscitation before graduating.  And while CPR training has been required for graduation since 1997, it has never been enforced. The governor's office says North Carolina is one of only five states with the requirement. In addition to the high school requirements, the Governor also signed into law a bill that requires at least one automatic external defibrillator unit in every state building and that employees must receive training to be able to use them in the event of an emergency.