Reflecting on my challenge course professional experience (Part 1)

As I put the finishing touches on the ACCT pre-conference workshop , I went down memory lane on the path that I have taken through challenge courses and corporate teambuildings.   I was first introduced to a challenge course in 1991 when I was working for the Boy Scouts in a camp in Puerto Rico called Guajataca Scout Reservation.  Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience (COPE) is the name the Boy Scouts gave to the experience that consisted of cables hanging from trees with wooden ladders and other obstacles. Rudimentary beginnings…. But inspiring.  I worked there until 1997, facilitating mostly during the summers and some weekends. 

DSC_0085.JPGIn 1999, I joined the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School’s Sea Program. They had a challenge course with both dynamic and static elements next to the climbing site, an old quarry.  In every sailing expedition we will spend time at Hurricane Island, doing a half day in the challenge course and half day of rock-climbing among other activities. 

Look for 2 more blog posts (part 2 & 3) in the coming weeks.  Until then…

My WMI ITC Application letter

Some of my subscribers have asked me what did I write in my application letter for the Wilderness Medicine Institute at NOLS.  Below you can see some of the highlights of my cover letter.

I consider myself an eclectic outdoor educator.  As you can see in my resume I have demonstrate proficiency in different field skills including: rockclimbing, backpacking, mountain biking, snow shoeing, sea kayaking, sailing, SCUBA, canoeing and challenge course management.  My academic background is in Biology; which helps me understand and teach about human physiology as it related to wilderness medicine.  Also, I have a Masters degree in Outdoor Pursuits Recreation Administration, which helps me achieve the WMI-NOLS goals due to my understanding of the outdoor pursuits. My native language is Spanish, but also I feel very comfortable with articulating myself in English. I have a doctoral degree in Education, with a concentration in curriculum and instruction from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. Also, I have been teaching at the college level for the last ten years in the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico and at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.  Some of the courses I have taught are in outdoor recreation, wellness, health and the Education department’s Teacher Preparation program.

Because of my commitment and dedication to both education and outdoor experiences, I have held a variety of positions in well-renowned organizations and institutions. I have worked for different Outward Bound schools for the last several years, delivering adventure education programming and developing new courses like the Caribbean Semester course established in 2004. In addition, for the last three summers I have been working for Dartmouth College Outdoor Programs delivering experiential education programs to the undergraduate and graduate student population in their newly built challenge course.  Last year, I was invited to be part of the AEE National Standards review team.  This volunteer position allows me to serve AEE and to use my expertise in risk management in assessing other programs across the country.   Most recently, I conducted the Thompson Island Outward Bound Annual Safety Review for their environmental program following the Outward Bound USA Safety Standards.

My wilderness patient care experience extends to being the EMT for 80 teenagers at Sail Caribbean for 70 days, lead first responder for Mead Wilderness Base, and medical officer for all my Outward Bound expeditions. Please refer to my attached Expedition Resume for detailed responsibilities and duties.  Below, I will briefly describe chronologically my professional outdoor experiences, personal expeditions, one medical incident that I was involved as the first responder and my teaching experience in the outdoor and indoor classroom.

During the summers of 1989-92 I worked for Guajataka Scout Reservation doing canoeing, backpacking and rock climbing five days expeditions.  All the expeditions were self-supported.  Most of them took place in the rainforest and Guajataka Lake of Puerto Rico.  During the summers of 1993-95 I worked for Mead Wilderness Base located in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire.  At MWB I delivered backpacking expeditions in the Presidential Range of NH and rockclimbing experiences in Pawtuckaway, NH among other expedition elements(see resume).   During the summer of 1997 I conducted  scientific research on MonaIsland (  I was studying the population of the endemic Mona island iguana (see expedition resume).  During the spring of 1997, I joined Encantos Ecotour in which I taught marine science and lead tourism trip.  In addition I was in charge of running the southwest branch located in Copamarina Resort, Puerto Rico.  In 1999, I started working for the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School located in Maine. I worked for the Maine Sea program as well as the Florida Sea program as assitant instructor and instructor.  The summers of 2000 and 2002 I worked for Sail Caribbean (  in the BVI and the Leeward Islands.  I worked as a captain and assistant program director (see resume). Also I delivered their advanced leadership program in the Windward Islands sailing a 50 foot boat unsupported for 18 days and then double-handed the delivery of the boat from Grenada to Antigua.

In 2001, I taught for HIOBS during the spring and summer seasons as an instructor for the Florida and Maine sea program. In 2003, 2004 and 2005 I instructed for Thompson Island Outward Bound in their sea program and I was invited to do the watch officer training in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Other instructing opportunities that I have had have been with the HooverOutdoorEducationalCenter in Yorkville, Illinois (see resume for more details).  In addition, I developed and implemented a Leave No Trace workshop for Oak Brook Park District in Illinois as part of their Earth Day celebration.   Also as part of the graduate student population in AuroraUniversity, I taught orienteering skills to undergraduate students as part of a 3-credit class during the fall semester of 2000.  In 2003, I came back to my native land Puerto Rico and started an adventure based experiential education company.  Aire Libre ( is the name of the company and we have delivered more than 400 programs so far, ranging from corporate teambuilding’s to week long leadership programs for youth in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  We are committed to introducing Leave No Trace practices to the community of Puerto Rico as well as a new understanding and set of skills for the greater appreciation of the island.    Also in 2003, I started lecturing at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico.  One of the courses I enjoyed the most was HPER 2220 Outdoor Recreation because of the balance between theory and practice that course presents and an opportunity to shape & build a thorough curriculum in a developing field for Puerto Rico.

As far as personal expeditions, I did several extended land trips in the rain forest of Puerto Rico with my college friends during the years of 1992-1996.  Some of these trips include a 10-day backpacking trip from one end of the island to the other, several 3-day bush-whacking through the GuajatakaRiver and rafting with non-commercial watercraft in different shallow rivers of Puerto Rico.  I have also sailed an O’Day 25’ sailboat many times on my own as part of the maintenance and care of the boat during my days working for Encantos Ecotour.  I had a Hobbie 14 sailboat in which I took some solo overnight trips to different mangrove island in the south end of Puerto Rico.  Some of these trips included night sailing as well as overnight camping.  Also, I helped sail a Sabre 30’ sailboat from the Marathon, Fl, to the Bahamas and spent several days cruising with my friends in the Bahamas (see expedition resume).  I have done some more personal hiking, rock climbing and camping trips (see expedition resume).

Lessons learned: Working for Mead Wilderness Base on a 5-day biking trip, the first day I had an incident.  I briefed my students about safety and proper bike use before we all went down a steep hill.  The co-instructor was at the end of the group while I was leading the group.  Probably, five minutes after I started descending, I was hit by one of my students who had been hit by another one.  In just a couple of seconds the three of us crashed into the ground.  I called the student’s name that lost control first and he responded fine.  Then I called out the other student and he did not respond. I approached him and found him unconscious with his helmet broken in half.  I assessed the situation and offered the appropriate first aid.  The ambulance came shortly and we all ended up at the hospital.  I found out that I had a broken wrist at the hospital.

I hope this helps you create your own application letter for the WMI ITC!

Future Role of Outdoor Educators – Dan Garvey – 2012 NOLS Faculty Summit

This is an inspirational presentation given by Dan Garvey to the NOLS faculty in 2012.  I briefly met Dan Garvey at a Thesis defense at UNH in 2001.  Although I do not know him, I know his work in experiential education. This presentation applies not only to NOLS instructors, but to all of us in the field of Experiential Education.  I agree with Dan’s statement that we need to operate outside our silos in order to have a stronger impact and to continue changing people’s lives through experiential education.  The last 6minutes of his presentation are very powerful.  This is coming from someone who has worked for 12 years for Outward Bound.  When you watch his presentation you’ll know what I am referring to.

Dan, thanks for challenging us to be better outdoor educators and to stay in this field!

Endurance Staffing closes its doors

One of the first outdoor instructor staffing agencies has shut down after almost 3 years in operation.  Endurance Staffing’s main focus was to help outdoor education organizations find qualified staff for programs in areas such as rock climbing, ropes course facilitation, kayaking, and more.

The business model of ES was simple; companies would contact ES for their instructor needs and ES would offer pre-screened instructor candidates.  After the staff selection, companies would pay a mark-up on the instructor per diem.   This mark-up was based on the instructor qualifications and the number of days in the field.  As the principal administrator of ES, I felt that the industry was not ready for this type of business. However, I know that ES had an impact in the outdoor industry by provided a revolutionary approach to the never-ending cycle of  finding qualified outdoor instructors for their programs and sometimes last minute instructors.

In addition, ES had a video podcasting channel on iTunes with more than 20 educational videos and a wiki for instructor collaboration.  I am curious to see the direction of the outdoor industry in 10 years when it comes to recruiting, selecting, training and developing staff.  Don’t worry I’ll have a blog post before then.   I welcome your questions and comments, and I will keep blogging until the next time we meet.

For those in the field!

TIOBEC Sailing Expedition Training 2011

The Thompson Island Outward Bound Sailing expedition took place from June 26-July 3 of 2011.  I had the honor to be the trainer again this year, along side Captain Arista.  We delivered the new curriculum designed by Alex Chu that is currently in place at TIOBEC summer expedition programs.  The journey was from Boston harbor to Gloucester and back.  As you see in the pictures we did some rowing, but also we had great wind.  To those in the field!

Stand Up Paddleboarding Skills course – Aug 13-14 Squam Lake, NH

Stand Up Paddleboarding Skills course (Level 1 and 2) Aug 13-14 Squam Lake, NH

Course Overview: The Introduction to Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) L1 is designed to introduce and expose the participant to sufficient skills and knowledge, so that they can enjoy the sport or Stand Up Paddleboarding in a calm flat water setting. SUP L2 is designed to refine equipment knowledge and develop the skills needed to paddle effectively in conditions where wind, waves and current are present.

Cost: $300.00 with SUP board/paddle or $210.00 without.

Instructors: Jose Gonzalez is the Coordinator for Recreation Programs at Plymouth State University and senior consultant and trainer for Endurance Staffing.  He is a certified Lifeguard, Water Safety Instructor and teaches first aid and CPR for the American Red Cross.  Jose is also a certified ACA Stand Up Paddler instructor.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 23 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 86 posts.

The busiest day of the year was January 6th with 129 views. The most popular post that day was The Bond Cliff, NH.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for bond cliff, bondcliff nh, jose h gonzalez, jose h. gonzalez, and full value contract.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


The Bond Cliff, NH June 2009
1 comment


Surfing video – Wilderness beach, Aguadilla Puerto Rico January 2010


Norms and expectation or “Full Value Contract” April 2009


About December 2007


Outward Bound Odyssey March 2009