Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute offers backpacking 101

Becky Campbell • Aug 11, 2019 at 4:10 PM

ERWIN — Stepping off the beaten path might sound like it would take a bit of effort, but there are plenty of places just a short drive away in Northeast Tennessee where you can feel the burdens of life fall off your shoulders.

One of those locations, along the Nolichucky River, is also a place where you can learn a few things about nature, how to enjoy it and how to keep it pristine. Last year, former Army Ranger Scott Fisher created NOLI — Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute —  the idea of an outdoor skills school had been rolling around in his head for a number of years. 

Fisher wasn’t sure the new venture would attract customers, but it took off and NOLI is now entering its second year with new classes and seminars. 

“It’s grown nicely,” Fisher said last week as he sat at a picnic table outside the NOLI shed on property owned by USA Raft. In addition to those two outdoor businesses is a campground.

 “This is my office,” he said.

NOLI has been a draw for people from all over the country. Some come specifically for training there, but often people from other areas are on vacation around the region and see NOLI pamphlets in tourism racks and decide to participate in some of the activities Fisher offers.

An example is a new class workshop for beginner backpackers. The four-hour class is more educational than hands-on, but Fisher said it will give new backpackers, and those looking to get into the sport, an idea of what they need to know to be successful.

Fisher said the workshop instructor, Joe Pyle, will provide a complete outline on how to get involved in backpacking, including information on gear, clothing, shelter, water treatment systems and more.

He said the goal is to “help people be confident and safely enjoy the outdoors.”

“We are the region's first comprehensive outdoor school offering courses and instruction for all ability levels in a variety of disciplines including kayak, canoe, water safety and rescue, wilderness medicine, survival, conservation and more,” Fisher said. “We also offer special events such as riverside talks and opportunities to explore artistic expression through mediums such as outdoor painting, photography and pottery. There's something for everyone at NOLI.”

The institute offers classes, seminars and training for flatwater kayaking; whitewater kayaking; canoeing; water safety and rescue; wilderness first aid and CPR; survival map and compass; conservation and stewardship; hiking and camping; outdoor art; and special classes, group team building and youth camps.

NOLI’s website, https://www.nolilearn.org, has more complete details about class and workshop offerings as well as costs. Fisher said he’s looking forward to help people learn more about outdoor activities and how to participate safely.


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