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Teens give up phones, computers for 11 days

March 16, 2013

Can you imagine not having access to your phone, computer, television – or any electronic gear – for almost two weeks?  For that matter, could your teenage children survive?

Students at the Holderness School, just down the road from Waterville Valley, do just that every March when the junior class heads into the wilderness for Out Back – an 11-day outdoor education program that takes place in  New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest.  OB, as it’s called, involves challenges at both a group and individual level. Surrounded by caring and knowledgeable faculty instructors, students live in and explore the beautiful outdoors – including three days solo – learning powerful lessons about themselves in the process.

Both of my kids participated in the OB program.  As they prepared to depart on OB, both kids dreaded it.  Upon returning from OB, both kids said it was one of the best experiences of their lives.

Jenna Stearns Out Back

My daughter, Jenna, leaving for Out Back.’s Escape Outside Editor, Paula Tracy, wrote the following story about Out Back.  (Read the complete story with photos here.)

For most teenagers, going without a cellphone or computer for a weekend could be considered a life-altering event.

Try being 17 years old and going 11 days without a shelter in the woods of New Hampshire in March, bushwhacking miles a day on snowshoes with a 70-pound pack over mountain peaks and spending three days in the middle of that period solo with not even a tent or a watch to know what time it is.

For almost 40 years, students at the Holderness School have spent a big chunk of March hiking through the White Mountains on a journey of the soul.

Known as Out Back, which is loosely based on the Outward Bound experience, students snowshoe more than 25 miles over three or four 4,000 foot peaks, and make their classroom the 750,000 acre White Mountain National Forest.

They are out there now after starting their quest last Monday.

Pouring rain, whipping cold, subzero nights, wildlife, raging streams — and you would have thought that once in all those years, that maybe the Fish and Game Department had to go in for an Out Back rescue?

“No. Not ever,” said Col. Martin Garabedian.

>> Watch a short video from WMUR … It’s about 40 seconds in after the ski report!

Jenna by the fire during Holderness School's Out Back

Jenna (back row, left) and her classmates warm up by the fire during Out Back

Jenna Out Back

Jenna (back row, far left) in the wilderness during the 11-day Out Back


About Jan Stearns

I've been living in and loving New Hampshire's White Mountains for most of my life. I moved to Waterville Valley in 1981 and quickly realized why it was dubbed a Yankee Shangri-la. Once you’ve experienced Waterville Valley, you’ll want to call it yours. The great team of Realtors at Waterville Valley Realty can help you find a Waterville Valley home that fits your lifestyle and budget.

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