Out in the Wild

Maryland native takes on Alaska wilderness

Every office in the United States hosts at least one reality show gab session per week.  Water-cooler debates on the issue of Brendan's idol lie or Heidi and Audrina's competing levels of skankiness are intensely heated, usually more so than discussions that actually take place in conference rooms.

As in the conference room, there's always that one person who seems to be silently judging everyone.  When it's her turn to talk, she loves to make a point of rolling her eyes and groaning, "Uugghh, I hate reality TV." 

What this person doesn't realize is that not all of the many shows in the genre are mindless goo and not all of the stars are vapid, glassy-eyed LCs and annoying, money-hungry Survivor contestants.

Just look at Jake Nodar, volunteer on The Discovery Channel's "Out of the Wild,"  who along with eight other complete strangers was dropped off in the Alaskan wilderness with the task of finding his way back to civilization.

A fast-talking horse trainer from Darnestown, Md., and the first openly gay personality to be featured on The Discovery Channel, Nodar is actually interesting.   He can form coherent sentences.  Good ones, for that matter.  And sometimes, they're clever.

Nodar stumbled upon an application for the series while searching online for expeditions to Mongolia. 

"I always wanted to go to Alaska and I thought the show would give me a free ride, so I might as well," he said.  

The experience, however, was a lot different than he thought it would be. 

"Everything I knew about Alaska, I gathered from watching these wildlife shows that I loved ... everything looked so lush and plentiful," Nodar said.  "But we didn't really get much of an opportunity to take in all the beauty ... we were just focused on surviving." 

Nodar said his biggest challenge was "the whole mental aspect" of getting through the trip.

"We signed on for eight to 12 weeks and had no idea when or how we would get back to civilization," he said.

Initially, Nodar cited his expectation that fellow travelers would have preconceived notions about his sexuality as another one of his challenges. 

"It was actually a non-issue,"  he said. "Everyone was treated equally."

But Nodar's openly gay status on the show was a big deal for both him and Discovery. 

"Being openly gay is a big part of who I am," he said.  "When I came out, I didn't know anyone who was openly gay, so i looked to people on television.  I hope that kids watching the show can look at me and think, 'We can do this as well as anyone else'."

Since the show wrapped, Nodar has gotten back to training horses full time, and works as a wildlife photographer on the side.

"I just got a new young stallion who is my new project,"  he said.  "It's a busy time of year, because everyone wants to ride during Springtime." 

Despite his full schedule, Nodar still manages to keep up with the show.  In next week's episode, the starved cast goes on its most difficult trek through the wild yet. 

"It was so difficult because our lack of food intake," Nodar said.  "I remember mentally walking myself through the physical task of walking. 'Put one foot in front of the other,' I'd tell myself."

You can catch the episode on Tuesday at 10 p.m. on The Discovery Channel.  Visit discovery.com  for more info on Nodar and the show.

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