Amidst the vast landscape of the Rio Grande River, learn to paddle and whitewater canoe through the canyons of Big Bend National Park. Throughout the course, the crew works as a cohesive unit, scouting and running rapids and exploring the rugged terrain of the Rio Grande. Fighting a head wind and navigating rapids to find the next campsite offers unique challenges where you and your crew will rely on each other to succeed. The evenings offer an opportunity to reflect, share life stories and sleep beneath a starlit sky with the camaraderie in the desert and canyons reminding us why we lead lives of purpose and service.
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Outward Bound Veterans expeditions focus on team camaraderie and the opportune challenges available in nature as tools to build connections and successes beyond military life. These expeditions encourage participants to explore their strengths and bond with fellow veterans in a safe, positive, goal-oriented environment that allows each veteran to apply their service skills in new ways. From carrying heavy packs, moving fatigued muscles and sleeping outside to exerting leadership, communication and decision-making skills, these courses help shape and support the self-confidence and sense of purpose many veterans need to continue serving as leaders in their families, communities and the nation.
Each veteran student returns home from their Outward Bound expedition having discovered more about themselves and what they want to achieve, how to overcome setbacks and, most importantly, how to move forward to reach important new milestones.
After learning basic whitewater paddling techniques, participants are ready to begin the expedition. Paddling together, your group heads down-river through sections of calm current and swift-moving whitewater rapids. The waters of the Rio Grande offer beginning paddlers a progressive challenge and a perfect place to learn and hone skills.
Instructors assist participants in mastering the skills of paddling, scouting, and running rapids. Participants learn all the skills they need to move safely and efficiently downriver including an introduction to whitewater rescue techniques. As there are only two people in a whitewater canoe, everyone has the opportunity to "captain their watercraft." Participants learn to adapt to the river and desert environments and reset their internal clock to rise with the sun and sleep with the moon.
Service is a cornerstone of every Outward Bound experience. From the seemingly small daily acts of service to the environment to the regular tasks of being part of an expeditionary team, participants have ample opportunities to experience the value of giving back to the larger community. On the expedition, participants are encouraged to practice environmental stewardship in the form of Leave No Trace ethics - leaving campsites, trails, and waterways in better condition than they found them. Participants also practice regular acts of service for their team including preparing and serving meals, helping others put on or take off packs, or setting up shelters for the entire team.
This solitude or “solo” experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives participants the opportunity to reflect on their time at Outward Bound. Many use this reflection time to journal, make decisions about their future, and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings unencumbered by the constant external stimulation of modern life. The duration of solo depends on the course length and type, as well as the competency and preparedness of the crew. Typically a half day long, with all the food, skills and supplies they need, participants are given a secluded spot to reflect alone and are monitored by staff throughout to maintain safety. Solo frequently provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period of time and often becomes one of the most memorable parts of the Outward Bound experience.
Big Bend State and National Park, Texas
This course area is one of the most remote and geologically interesting in the Outward Bound system. Along the US-Mexico border in southwestern Texas, the Rio Grande River carves a huge, sweeping bend where Big Bend National Park earns its name. This 750,000-square mile wilderness is the eighth largest national park in the lower 48 states and is home to the Chisos Mountains (the only mountain range totally contained within a single national park). It is a desert backpacking, canoeing, and rock climbing paradise. Paddling the Rio Grande takes you to the depths of 1,500 foot canyons where the sunlight may reach the bottom only briefly in winter months. Delicate desert flowers exist alongside fossilized trees millions of years old and mountain passes give way to steep-walled canyons and cliffs. Much of this rugged land has remained unchanged for centuries. Hundreds of species of birds and a healthy diversity of animal and plant communities thrive amid the splendid isolation of ancient limestone canyons, juniper and mesquite-covered mesas, and coal-black night skies.