The Life Effectiveness of Wilderness Adventure Leaders


  • Cory Maria Dack Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  • Whitney C. Ward Southern Illinois University Carbondale


The call of the wild has long been accepted as a true phenomenon by mankind. Throughout history countless scores of  women  and  men have written novels, poems, and symphonies inspired by the ubiquitous reach of nature. As Sigurd Olson once wrote, “Wilderness to the people… is a spiritual necessity, an antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium†(Olson & Backes, 2001, p. 61). Eventually, musings on the powerful effects of nature branched out from the realm of artistic expression and began to take root in the domain of science and research as well. As the academic world has begun to quantify the positive benefits nature has on those who immerse themselves in the wilderness, the populace has simultaneously looked to nature for an antidote to the ever increasing stressors of life. Wilderness adventure programs are one medium that exposes participants to the numerous benefits associated with nature, including an increase in overall life effectiveness and an increase in holistic well being.Wilderness adventure programs can be recreational, educational, developmental, or therapeutic in purpose  (Hans,  2000).  Programming can range from an afternoon of recreation in a city park, to a week-long stay at a summer camp, to a 45 day backpacking trip through the arctic. Whatever the level or duration of the program, participants are often attracted to wilderness adventure programming by the inherent benefits of adventure and personal growth. A vast array of nature based benefits research exists (see Brown, 1999; Ewert, 1985, 1989; Klint, 1999; Roggenbuck & Driver, 2000; Stein & Lee, 1995).  Literature  concerning these benefits often focuses on researching, testing, and measuring the benefits participants receive after completing a wilderness adventure program. While most of the research has shown that participating in a wilderness adventure program increases the self-confidence, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and overall life effectiveness of participants (see Caulkins, White, & Russell, 2006; Goldenberg, McAvoy, & Klenosky, 2005; and Hattie, Marsh, Neill, & Richards, 1997), there is  a deficit of research on the benefits and outcomes that occur to those who guide or lead wilderness adventure programs. To truly understand how wilderness adventure programming affects the human mind, body, and spirit, there needs to be more research that focuses specifically on the outcomes experienced by those who lead wilderness adventure programs.