April 2015

Heavy like a knot made of concrete is how my stomach felt as I drove around the corner and saw the people out of their cars with cell phones in hand. The person was lying face down on the hill with their twisted motorcycle in the ditch. My heart rate increased as I slowed down and pulled off to the side of the road. I checked my mirrors for traffic got out of the car and pulled my first aid kit from my climbing pack in the trunk. It was a hot summer day and I had just left work taking folks multi pitch climbing up at Table Rock North Carolina. I don’t know how I felt other than hopeful that they were alive and I could do something. I walked over and verified with the crowd that EMS had been contacted and I gloved up and approached the woman to do my initial assessment. Minutes passed as I provided some basic care, she was alive and somewhat verbal but mostly moaning. Help arrived and we placed her on a board and into an ambulance and the helicopter arrived moments later to take her away. As I was maintaining her head position at one point, a nurse who also happened to stop and help, reached over with a 4x4 gauze pad and wiped the sweat from my brow as we worked in the hot afternoon sun. That act of kindness is one I will never forget.

 I became a Wilderness First Responder sometime around 1999 or 2000. I wanted to start guiding rock and so I found a course and that’s how it all started.  In the years since, I have been honored to work with many people outdoors and the medical training I have received has helped me keep them safe or respond when unexpected accidents have occured. My experience with Landmark Learning has been one of the highlights of all those years. I have taken several Wilderness First Responder Recertification courses one with other company, but the rest with Landmark. I consider many of the folks who work there my friends and I keep up with their adventures ranging from climbing and river trips to parenting! Friendships aside, as a Professional Outdoor Educator and a School Psychologist I feel like I have some understanding of what good education looks like and I have experienced some of the best on my courses with Landmark.  When working with clients who are questioning what they should learn next or practice, one of the first things I ask is what type of medical training they have. Very few have ever even considered a wilderness medicine course. I tell them to go for the WFR or if that seems too much to start with a Wilderness First Aid class. The skills that lead to prevention and realistic confidence to respond to events are invaluable.  Landmark Learning and the Padgetts have shown me year after year that they are relentless in their efforts to provide students with the highest quality instructors and services possible. This is a reflection of the character of the leadership and their commitment to the community of outdoor recreationists as a whole. I am very thankful for the skills I have gained and maintained through Landmark. My clients are safer because of this experience and I think that they perceive that and as a result enjoy our trips more as a result. The ability to stop on my way home and help save a life is still amazing to me and I am grateful for that.

I just completed a WFR Recertification up at Camp Broadstone near Boone North Carolina. My instructors Kevin Williams and Patrick Wright were professional, prepared, and generally just great guys. The course was fantastic as all the others have been and they kept it fun and challenging. I am already looking forward to the next one.

So I ask you as you read this. What are your dreams? How do you interact with nature and wild places? Are you a climber, a boater, hiker, outdoorsperson? Wilderness Medicine training is a critical piece of preparation. So if you haven’t taken a course yet, stop putting it off and do it. You will not regret it. So check out the website for these folks and see what they have to offer.

I want to thank Landmark Learning and the Landmark Foundation.  Keep inspiring.


Adrian Hurst MA/SSP

Nationally Certified School Psychologist

Fox Mountain Guides Single Pitch Instructor

North Carolina Outward Bound Climbing Specialist/ Lead Instructor

(Proud!) WMI Wilderness First Responder

Leigha Pennington is a Beckwith Scholarship recipient from the Landmark Foundation. Leigha joined Landmark Learning recently in Cullowhee, to take her NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute WFR course:

"Receiving my WFR certification was an experience I’ll never forget. My time at Landmark Learning not only allowed me to receive the training and knowledge I needed to become a confident Wilderness First Responder, but also allowed me to build lasting relationships and memorable experiences with staff and fellow students.

The curriculum provided plenty of hands-on learning as well as classroom lectures. The staff was extremely knowledgeable through what they have studied as well as life experience.  With the experience and knowledge I gained, I can confidently say I will be comfortable in any emergency situation that should arise. With these skills and confidence I can now continue on my journey as a student trip leader, rock-climber, white water kayaker, mountain biker and backpacker as well as any future endeavors I take on. In my professional and private adventures I will use what I have learned for years to come.

The atmosphere was one of a supportive and lasting community. Everybody helped and supported each other with curriculum and any information they could provide on each other’s life pursuits. Fellow students took on and continue to take on, adventures together outside of the classroom by keeping in contact through social media. Through my experience at Landmark Learning I gained more than I could have ever expected. "

-Leigha Pennington