Local News

Outward Bound Program Develops Human-Nature Bond

Posted July 16, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— North Carolinians are no strangers to the wilderness. Every year hundreds of people go through outward bound courses where they learn to cope in the great outdoors. These courses do not create hard-core survivalists, but rather, people who can co-exist peacefully with nature.

For years, Ryan Gwyther has been taking part in, and leading, outward bound programs. He's worked at the North Carolina Outward Bound School in the mountains where 1,400 students learn outdoor skills every year. One big test is the "solo" where students spend several days alone in the woods.

"People who are experienced outdoorsman say with proper equipment, food and water you can survive indefinitely in the wilderness," says Gwyther. "But being alone is one of the biggest challenges.

"Some of the students I've had on courses, that's the hardest part, being by themselves for three days," says Gwyther.

But he points out that for most students the wilderness experience is a peaceful time of reflection. He suspects Eric Rudolph is experiencing something entirely different.

"It sounds like he's been lucky to last as long as he has," says Gwyther. "Hiding in the woods is short-lived. I can't imagine that it's going to go on much longer."

Many people hope that is the case.

Outward bound schools want to make it clear that they do not teach extreme survival skills. They make sure their students have a shelter and enough food and water to get through the "solo" portion of the course.