by Meredith Timpson
Jory Horner has climbed to the heights of Kalamazoo College’s LandSea orientation program. The new director brings a wealth of experience, and humility. The latter comes naturally and from nature and informs Horner’s knowledge of—and continual wonder at— the positive effect a program like LandSea can have on individuals.
After Horner earned a degree in outdoor leadership and recreation from Oregon State University (Bend) he set up a wilderness experience program that brought together incarcerated young adults from the across the state and interns and trainees from OSU to lead them. He’s also worked as a mountain climbing guide in the back country of Mt. Shasta (a 14,162-foot peak) and as a outdoor instructor in a private program in Southern California.
Horner’s outdoors roots stretch to his childhood in a camping family, and the job that most influenced him to make the outdoors a career was a stint (a very short one!) as a housekeeper at one of the lodges in Yellowstone National Park. He was so taken with the backpacking scene that he quit the job and set off to hike the Rockies.
He was soon living the goals of the LandSea program he would one day come to direct, among which are building relationships and learning strategies to overcome challenges. “There is nothing like the wilderness to show the importance of taking responsibility for your actions,” says Horner. “Real consequences! If you don’t hang your food up in the tree….all of it, you endanger yourself and the people around you. If you don’t pitch your tent in time, you end up cooking in the dark.”
Former LandSea participants claim similar life changing experiences. “They are our major public relations source,” says Horner. “They sell the program.”
Horner adds, “There are a number of places that administer a program like LandSea: Princeton, the University of New Hampshire, many schools in the East; but LandSea is unique for its length.” The two-week period consists of four to five days of backpacking, another four to five days of canoeing, two days of solo excursion, and a whitewater rafting experience that is handled by a separate outfitter and lasts for one day. “The course is fairly rigorous but it also leaves room for weather and unexpected conditions.”
Past attendance has been around 80 to 90 participants per season. Each group is comprised of seven students and two co-leaders who are usually past participants. Each group has a sister group, and they shadow each other through the journey.
New leaders begin training in wilderness safety and skills in the early summer, and th work includes a three-year certification that prepares participants for the arduous responsibility of being Wilderness First Responders (WFR) or “Woofers.” About a month and a half later all the leaders meet in a rustic environment for a “leader’s retreat” to learn canoeing techniques. Then this year’s group traveled to the Algonquin Provincial Park where
"The wilderness shows the importance of taking responsibility..."(for the first time since the program’s long tenure in Killarney Provincial Park) LandSea took place. At Algonquin the leaders did a run-through of the trip and at the completion of this training, the participants arrived and LandSea was off in its new location. As in past years, the program ran right up to start of fall term.
LandSea asks students to arrive in good health, but accommodations are made for conditions such as diabetes or asthma. It is wise to arrive in good shape. Students with foresight prepare themselves by exercising in the months before they come.
Effort has been made to improve the diet consumed on the journey with the addition of more dehydrated foods with a smattering of fresh veggies. Past programs have included climbing and sailing components, but the terrain at Algonquin Provincial Park offers different opportunities.
For many students, the trip to college is their first time away from home on their own. This wilderness experience is an opportunity to get to know and learn to trust a group of individuals whom they will be closely associated during their undergraduate years. Figuring out who gets to cook, who gets to dig the latrine, and who gets to pitch the tent is the beginning of an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful natural environment and make friendships that last a lifetime.
For more information go to https://reason.kzoo.edu/landsea/
Photo 1 - Jory Horner on the ice …
Photo 2 … and (at right) travelling in India