Essay: Education naturally – a variety of organizations offer a plethora of outdoor-learning opportunities

Photograph by Ali Kazal

By Maggie Nichols

As kids head back to school, it’s natural for our minds to meander toward education.

Outdoor education has gradually made its way into more and more classrooms across the nation—but what about adult learning? It can feel daunting to pick up a new hobby or new activity, but if you want to learn to, say, knit, you can watch some videos or sign up for a class.

Did you know you can do that to learn outdoor activities as well?

Opportunities abound to help you safely explore the varied and exciting outdoor playground in the High Sierra. If you’re unsure where to go or how to get the most out of your time in the wilderness, consider a guided hike. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association offers many guided hikes around the Tahoe area throughout the spring, summer and fall—many for free! Depending on what you’re interested in, you could join an outing to learn fall photography tips, enjoy spring flowers in the mountains, or visit a gushing waterfall in early summer.

The Tahoe Institute for Natural Science also offers specialty guided hikes that introduce people to topics like birding, native nocturnal creatures, local scientific research and even explorations of dragonflies. Nevada State Parks hosts a diverse range of events, from history hikes and meadow yoga, to ranger chats and hunting for scorpions after dark—armed with black lights! Are you interested in giving back while you get out? The Sugar Pine Foundation provides plenty of educational opportunities to replant trees in burn scars, and weed out both overgrown vegetation and water-sensitive new growth during drought years.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your outdoor adventures and learn some new skills, many local organizations can help you. Learn to backpack through a multiple-weekend-long guided backpacking workshop with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, where you learn the skills you need—and then practice them by backpacking with a skilled local guide. Dive deeper into specific skill sets, like map and compass navigation, through an REI workshop; or wilderness medicine, via Lake Tahoe Community College’s Connect Community Education programs.

Perhaps mountain biking piques your interest. Truckee-based Battle Born Prodigies offers personalized mountain-biking lessons in Tahoe. Whether you’ve never been on a mountain bike before, or you’re looking to improve your form, Battle Born Prodigies has customizable clinics to fit your needs. If you’re looking for a group to ride with and learn through osmosis, the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) often organizes mountain-bike day trips. They also frequently host bike tune-up days at Bijou Bike Park in South Lake Tahoe, where you can learn to maintain your bike before joining TAMBA members for a ride in the park.

Have you ever wondered how to get into climbing or bouldering? Numerous climbing gyms around Reno offer classes to help you learn to climb and belay, including BasecampMesa Rim and North Peak. And if you’re already familiar with the basics, there are opportunities to dive deeper still, with lead-climbing classes or crack-climbing workshops. While not always available, REI occasionally offers outdoor climbing trips and workshops as well. Check the schedules at other REI locations (such as in Folsom or Roseville) if you’re willing to travel a bit for an educational crusade.

While warm weather is still with us, why not get out on the water for a guided paddling excursion? Clearly Tahoe offers one of the most unique ways to see Lake Tahoe—from the comfort of spacious, clear kayaks. They lead trips all around the lake, including some that are pet-friendly; they even have after-hours glow tours to see the lake and enjoy the stars after sunset. The Tahoe City Public Utility District has night SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) paddles and evening sailing clinics on its roster. Learn how to confidently sail a boat with classes from Lake Tahoe Sail or Sail Tahoe Blue; you can even enroll in a four-day course leaving from Tahoe City with Cruisers Academy.

Photograph by Robson Hatsuka.

Right here in town, Sparks Marina Paddle can help you learn to SUP. Take it up a notch by registering for an exciting SUP class on the Truckee River with The River SUP Guy. Or find a new way to challenge yourself and relax by learning how to merge yoga with paddleboarding at Tahoe City Kayak. If motorized boats are your jam, check out the many boater-education courses offered by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Beyond boater education, the Nevada Department of Wildlife also has a plethora of other outdoor-education courses for adults. Learn about hunting, fishing and archery, or go out with a ranger to observe Nevada’s diverse wildlife firsthand.

Always wanted to try fly fishing? Matt Heron Fly Fishing in Truckee can take you out, teach you the basics, and help you improve your craft along the Truckee River. Recon Fly Fishing also has guided trips and personalized clinics for the aspiring fly fisher. Great Basin Guide Service offers fishing tours on Pyramid Lake, while Current Fly Fishing runs catch-and-release guided fly-fishing journeys as far south as Mammoth Lakes.

The dwindling summer is no reason to stop learning how to get outside, either! While fall hikes, rides and paddling trips are wonderful, with Tahoe on our doorstep, winter recreation opportunities abound! Most local ski resorts offer lessons, for beginners through advanced skiers and snowboarders. Get away from the crowds by learning to snowshoe at an REI clinic, or even by taking an overnight snow-camping course through the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

The internet is full of information to help you learn a new skill or better prepare you for your next outdoor adventure—yet for most of us, hands-on learning is hard to beat. There is no shortage of opportunities to get outside with an outdoor specialist in Reno-Tahoe. With often small group sizes and many personalized lessons available, why wouldn’t you want an expert to support, guide and teach you new skills?

Maggie Nichols is an avid outdoor adventurer and a dedicated nature enthusiast. She started leading canoeing and hiking expeditions in her teens and never stopped. 

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