Cultivating Outdoor Leadership with Missoula’s AWOL Institute


There are many things I love and admire about Missoula, especially our people and our great outdoors.

The recently-founded AWOL (All Women’s Outdoor Leadership) Institute combines both. Jennifer and Sarah combine their professionalism and passion for education, children, and outdoors. They provide young women ages 10 -18 the experience of overnight backpacking trips and unique learning opportunities.

As a strong believer in the value of outdoor education for children and experiencing nature firsthand, I sent our two youngest daughters to the AWOL Institute.

Equipped with all their gear, they took off for four days and came back happy, cheerful, and ready to take a long hot shower.

On the drive home, they couldn’t wait to share their experiences and happily tried to talk over each other.

Jennifer and Sarah, founders of the AWOL Institute.

Jennifer and Sarah, founders of the AWOL Institute.

They loved cooking meals at the camp stove. They shared stories of scary noises at night outside their tents. How much courage it took to plunge in the ice cold water of Rock Creek. The fun they had with their new friends. How much they liked the day hikes they took. How they hung up their food in a bear-hang at night. How they shared the different chores at camp, the fun they had fun playing new games.

They had to walk to get water (and it takes a long time to filter it). They ate lots of healthy food. They really liked Jennifer and Sarah and really appreciated their helpfulness, kindness, and all the cool things they learned.

I find it inspiring how these women in Missoula turned their vision into reality and continue to enrich our community. I sincerely hope their vision of outdoor education for young women prospers in the years to come. Many thanks to Jennifer and Sarah from the AWOL Institute.

Curious? Their next camp is scheduled from August 13 – 17, 2012 for young women for ages 15 – 18. Check the AWOL website for more info.

Send your daughters, they will love it and come back with set of new skills and a new appreciation for our great Montana outdoors.

Happy Trails,



Before you lace up those hiking boots, check out Silke’s other posts about walks and hikes in and around Missoula or visit the Make it Missoula hiking page. Read more about the AWOL Institute in Make It Missoula’s non-profit spotlight post.


Silke Jauck is a German native and Missoulian by choice. She and her family have packed and unpacked their suitcases and moving boxes in four continents and have finally settled in Missoula and called it home.

She lives with her husband, three daughters, and a dwarf rabbit in the Target Range neighborhood. Silke is the publisher of Friendship Book, a made-in-Montana keepsake and activity book for children ages 6-12. She also has a blog about life hacks at Silke Good Ideas, and you can visit her Make it Missoula blog archive.