September 2014

The dream of revitalizing downtown Cullowhee just got one step closer. For over 5 years now, a group of committed volunteers have been making strides towards a project that would bring enjoyment and economic reward to Jackson Country. The committe calls itself "CuRve", which stands for Cullowhee Revitalization Endeavor and their vision is to add a river park to downtown Cullowhee that is connected to the greenway. And thanks to a grant from the Blue Ridge Natural Heritage Partners last year that allowed for an economic impact study to be completed on the project, it is estimated that the river park would bring $1.2 million in new spending to Jackson County every year. 

Justin Padgett, director of Landmark Learning is thrilled with the project and what it means for the residents and visitors of Jackson County, "This is actually coming together. I have been on the board for the river park for about 2 years now. This will be awesome for our coursework and for students to recreate after class." 

To read the entire article, "Ahead of the CuRvE: Cullowhee group look to river park for downtown revitalization", published in Smokey Mountain News- click here.


The Carolina Wilderness EMS externs returned to Landmark Learning again this year to see an insider’s view of wilderness medicine education. Ryan Circh is a fourth year emergency medicine resident from Johns Hopkins Hospital. David Amsalem is a fourth year medical student from Vanderbilt University. The externship is a month long rotation for senior medical students or residents with interests in wilderness medicine and EMS-related activities. The rotation is run out of Burke County under the guidance of Dr. Seth Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins is the Burke County EMS and Burke County Search & Rescue medical director as well as medical director for Landmark Learning. The externs work with Burke County EMS paramedics in the field and respond to EMS calls and rescue operations in the Linville Gorge Wilderness, Pisgah National Forest, Lake James, and South Mountains State Park.

The motto of the externship is “esse quam videri”, the state motto, meaning “to be rather than to seem”. All of the learning during the externship takes place outside the classroom. This year’s visit to Landmark Learning continued that tradition.  The externs had the opportunity to have an enlightening chat with the founder of Landmark Learning, Justin Padgett, about the history of the school and where he sees wilderness medicine education heading. They then followed a WFR course out to the beautiful forest surrounding the school for a nighttime scenario. The eager students quickly located their “victims”, with moulage in place and some victims stuck in the overflowing stream, the students got to work. Not more than a few moments into the scenario, reality hit hard. The group found themselves in a yellow jackets nest. Everyone had to quickly break roles and exit the area. At that point, after receiving 5-6 stings each themselves, the externs were put to work. Esse quam videri. One student had a history of anaphylaxis and was stung twice.  The externs took director medical oversight of the situation and helped the student back to the classroom. After several doses of Benadryl and close monitoring, the student remained stable and symptoms improved. Although the externs went home licking their wounds, it was certainly an evening they will not soon forget!

Hey Landmark! 

I just wanted to let you guys know that I had a cool opportunity to use my WFR skills that I learned from you guys last spring.

I was doing a long cross biking race in the murphy/Andrews/Robbinsville area when I came up on a man who had gone down on his bike riding fast on a pretty gnarly section of trail.  I was the first to respond.  When I got there he was already sitting up and fully conscious (A/Ox4) but in shock.  He said he was experiencing the worst pain in his hip that he’d ever experienced.  As I looked at his left hip I could tell that it had a significant bulging hematoma (maybe softball sized).  When I checked it out there was a puncture wound so not a significant amount of blood but I suspected that he might have a fracture.  I did the best I could to keep him hydrated and out of shock while we waited for EMS.  I was pretty amazed with how fast all of the acronyms came back: ABCs, Head-to-toe, Sample History  (sorry, no soap notes… didn’t have paper and pencil, but I was able to relate a MOI and Sample History to paramedics when they got there.)

I kind of hate to admit this, but I walked away thinking, “that was so cool!”  haha!  Side note: stopped in to see him at the hospital the next day.  He had fractured his hip in several places (doctors described it as a bunch of small radiating fractures from the point that he hit) and he had to have surgery to debride the puncture wound.  I’ve talked to him since and the doctors say he is off of it for 4 months, but is doing well. 

So for all that I just wanted to say thank you!  Specific thanks to Rob and Dan who were awesome instructors! I felt prepared for handling that as best as I could.  J


*The photo is from the course, not one that Jessie took from the accident*

Over the past nine days, my fellow Young Harris College students and I have had the opportunity of taking a Wilderness First Responder course through Landmark Learning. We strengthened our bond as a class embarking on the very challenging endeavor of our “Discovery” semester in our Outdoor Leadership major. We also had the incredible opportunity to form new connections, which turned into genuine friendships with other likeminded outdoor professionals. Rob, Dan, and Justin made the abundance of material concise and easily retainable. Most of all they made learning effective, and efficient wilderness medicine, and wilderness first responder techniques fun. Their dedication to teaching even the minute details of everything from recognizing signs and symptoms of dehydration, to building a viable fixation splint for a mid-shaft femoral fracture out of contents found in a basic hiker’s backpack enhanced the overall academic experience. The different scenarios, and simulations were carefully constructed to test proper multitasking, and problem solving techniques when faced with wilderness or backcountry injuries, and serious traumatic situations. I am truly grateful for the passion in which our WFR instructors delivered the material to us, and the lengths they went to not only inform us about the invaluable skills required to help save lives in wilderness settings, but also entertain, and accommodate us during the class hours as well as after. I can say this about being a certified wilderness first responder, though I may never want a chance to put my newly acquired skills into action, it brings me such confidence and solace knowing that I can be that one intervention between life or serious injury and possible death for someone in need of help in the wilds, or anywhere, and at anytime. 


What happens when instructors Justin Doroshenko and Kevin Williams travel to Dahlonega, Georgia to teach wilderness medicine to a great group of people at a hostel near the Appalachian Trail? Magic, humor, and learning -- that's what. We had a fantastic group of students from all walks of life, and they're now prepared to prevent and treat people from "deceasing" in the wilderness!


Having engaged, cooperative, and funny students makes our courses thrive. It also helps that the first time course sponsors, The Hiker Hostel, made our stay so enjoyable. Wonderful accommodations and friendly staff are the norm at Hiker Hostel, so many thanks to Shannon, Josh, and Derek! if you're in need of hospitality and comfort (and a break from the trail life), check them out!


From splinting extravaganzas to night time (mock) disasters, our students absolutely rocked out the WFR curriculum. A thousand thanks to them for keeping things entertaining! We're proud of each of you, and we look forward to seeing you again and hearing about all your adventures!

Once again the September 11th rolls around and our memories fade of this horrible event.  It's human, and seems the American way to put harsh events behind you and focus on the present.  Socially it makes sense that we don't  want to cycle negative energy or harbor anxiety about possible similar events.  At the same time, history seems to repeat itself often, due to our short term memories (selective memories).  It is important that we learn from all disasters, natural and human made by mapping solutions, prevention and management strategies. 


The Community Relief Medic program is designed to train First Responders currently associated with state and county systems to have advanced decision and patient care, and follow up responsibilties.  It's a numbers game. In each state, EMT and First Responder numbers are an average of 10:1 with advanced life support paramedics.  These are volunteers that live in their response districts, know their neighbors (good and bad, sick and well), know the local resources and are intrinsicially motivated to leave their warm bed in austere conditions and help a neighbor.  We need to equip these folks with decision making that will limit uneeded ALS responses, and difficult transports to overcrowded and understaffed medical facilities during times of disaster.  


The foundation of our country was built on neighbor helping neighbor, not dependence on the federal government.  Let's step back in time and remember our roots.   Let's equip the "Bucket Brigaders" to be successful!  

Possible fracking in Western North Carolina has been one the biggest environmental hot topics this year among residents, environmentalists and those living in the surrounding communities of the potential drilling zone.  Environmentalist believe that drilling for shell gas deposits could potentially contaminate drinking-water supplies.

This week, the state has announced that they are retreating from their plan to collect rock samples in Jackson and other far-western counties to test for shale gas deposits. Landmark Learning is very proud of this decision. Read the full article, “Fracking off table in WNC; DENR cancels regional test”, posted in The Sylva Herald here.

Patrick and I got to spend 9 days in beautiful Brevard to hang out with a great group of WFR students!  We had a break from the typically rainy Brevard weather and had sunny days to learn about wilderness medicine.  We also had some adventures off campus at the local Bracken Preserve.  A number of students came far and wide to bolster their trip leading and outdoor skillset, and students from Brevard College were kicking off their Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Learning immersion semester.  Patrick and I wish you well on your adventures!