Jessica Blount, Equipment Manager, National Outdoor Leadership School Patagonia, Coyhaique, Chile

The December before I graduated high school, I received a pamphlet about this hiking trip called First Ascent. I asked my Dad for the backpacking trip as my High School graduation gift. We went to REI to shop for all the gear I would need and all I wanted him to buy me was a backpack. He obviously said, “No,” seeing as I had never even set foot on a trail before. “What if you don’t like backpacking,” he retorted. Little did either of us know it would be the beginning of a life-long passion.

That was in 2002. I went on the backpacking trip and quickly fell head over heels in love with Outdoor Programs. I went by the office as much as I could, eating lunch there everyday with people who actually worked there. One Friday at their weekly meeting, Andrew Miller announced they would be hiring an Equipment Manager for the Land-Based Programs. I was sure this was my way in. I got the job and started what would be a career with Outdoor Programs.

I went into college a physics major, but quickly determined those study hours weren’t for me. I wanted to be outside and had ambitions to travel and see the world. Over the years, I changed majors numerous times, deciding eventually to major in Spanish, but the one consistent desire I had was to work at Outdoor Programs. I worked my way into the instructor apprenticeship program and would go on to work caving, hiking, backpacking, climbing, and sea kayaking courses. I took summer school every year just so I could keep working at Outdoor Programs. I attended Graduate School at Appalachian State University as well, and became one of their Graduate Assistants. I just couldn’t get enough. It was a sad day when my studies were over because I had to leave my home away from home that I had grown so fond of.

So, naturally I applied to work for the National Outdoor Leadership School, which to me had to be the next best thing. I took a National Outdoor Leadership School course for credit towards my Recreation Management minor.  The job I started combined my passions for the outdoors and renewable energy. I toured the country in a vegetable oil and solar powered bus, spreading the word of the National Outdoor Leadership School and their courses, at festivals and college campuses around the country. That job was coming to an end when a new door opened. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) needed an Equipment Manager for their branch in Patagonia in Coyhaique, Chile. My Spanish skills and my passion for the outdoors finally united. I recently took the Instructor Course to work for NOLS as an instructor in the field leading hiking trips. I can’t wait.  



A photo of Jessica