Budget Life List


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I dare you to hike a 100 miles of trails in Yellowstone National Park. In the span of a summer. Just kidding, BuLL Crew! However, that was an actual challenge set by the Outdoor Enrichment Committee. A price was paid, a small menial amount of money. Perhaps to make sure you were vested in this outdoor endeavor. I signed up immediately but felt excessively intimidated by this challenge. I hadn’t hiked much until this point. Now, I was employed at the busiest park in the country and I just committed myself to a 100 miles of hiking. A stretch goal to say the least. How did I go from zero to over a hundred by the end of September?

Grab your hiking boots and some water, BuLL Crew, we are heading to the backcountry!

Destination Location: Yellowstone

Being vetted for summer employment at Yellowstone is a highly competitive process. I didn’t know it when I applied but I was competing with over 700 applicants. I was one of the few who survived. After I found out about this highly vetted process, it was a nice boost for my professional ego. Yellowstone is one of the many jewels of America’s public land legacy. It was America’s first national park before there was a branch in the federal government to serve it. Initially, the Army had to guard its natural goods. It was loved by many and continues to be loved by many domestic patrons and international visitors. I had to learn all this fun stuff with a quickness at the Albright Visitor Center and greeting the 2,000 patrons who came for a visit.

Exploring All the Trails

As I told the many visitors who visited Mammoth Hot Springs, there is something for everyone. Love geology? Check out the Old Faithful area and the plethora of hot springs, geysers, and mud pots. Need more wildlife in your life? Lamar Valley can help with that. Want a scenic view to take your breath away? Visit the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the view will steal your breath and your heart. Yellowstone is a one-stop shop for culture and nature. Pro Tip: it’s cheaper than Disney World like by a lot. That is just the highlights from the front country. There is plenty more to see and explore in Yellowstone’s backcountry where the trails are almost as limitless as the big Montana sky.

Great things never came from comfort zones.

– llive, llaugh, llove like a llama (llove this book!)

Find a Trail Buddy

If you find yourself accepting a hiking challenge, I recommend finding a hiking buddy. Better yet, find one that is in better shape than you. I found my hiking partner at the Norris Geyser Basin, she was a Park Ranger for the summer too. We were both Alumni of UW-Stevens Point and had a burning desire to see what the park had to offer. She was in way better shape, had more experience, and was exceedingly patient with my glacial pace. Basically, the best hiking buddy ever!

Warning: Being a Park Ranger Causes Weight Loss

There is a lot of standing, walking, leaning, and a dash of running as a Park Ranger. It’s the nature of the position which is one of the many reasons I love being a Park Ranger. Bonus: On the job exercise. I would also take advantage of the free gym during my off time to increase my overall fitness. This helped to supercharge the many miles traversed during the weekend and decreased my recovery time. If you’re looking to increase your weekend hiking excursions, see if you can fit in workouts during the week. Sharing is caring, BuLL Crew, and I care about your fitness.

Good Gear for Good Times

Good gear is what prevents a good time from turning into trouble. The mountains are known for generating their own weather and at some point, your perfect hiking day that started at 60 degrees and sunny will turn to 40 degrees and rain. It’s your gear that saves your bacon. You don’t need a lot because carrying a 50-pound pack is less than ideal. Just one layer of good stuff like a thermal layer and rain layer. I have a “sweat” layer too, which includes thin polyester that wicks sweat and dries quickly. Cotton is never an option. Cotton holds water and takes a long time to dry. Pro Tip: Avoid cotton like you would avoid a bison getting into your personal space.

Planning It Sometimes Feels Like a Planet

Plans are a pain. I know but a necessary pain. For many of our hiking trips, these excursions were one-way trips. The trails rarely loop or the loop was longer than our limited window of time. We had to plan how to shuttle our cars, to and from. Plus, food had to be taken into account. Would it be a day trip or weekend camping trip? Bear activity is always a thing in Yellowstone which is another piece of the planning puzzle. All these little nuances get fleshed out during the planning process. Also, having a plan helps to ease any uncertainties about the area. It’s a great way to build excitement for the weekend trek. Planning a weekend hiking trip makes Mondays more bearable.

Pass the Motivation, Please

It’s easier to accomplish 100 miles of trials when you have a buddy, your fit, good gear, and a plan. It’s all set and you just need the boots on the ground to move the story forward. It helps if there is something you are looking forward to like a glorious waterfall, vibrant meadow, or an unfiltered night sky. Just a little reminder of why you are rolling the dice on blisters, bear encounters, and ticks. If that isn’t enough motivation, tell everyone you know what you plan on doing. Then it’s a lot harder to back out of said plans. I may or may not know anything about this!

100 Miles or Bust

Turns out these stumbled upon actions were a great formula for success. Not only did I achieve 100 miles, I accomplished more than that. I felt giddy as a new Yellowstone visitor seeing a bison for the first time. I had faithfully earned my shirt and certificate that I paid for. After my summer at Yellowstone, I moved to Sioux Falls and hiking adventures became nonexistent in the barren land of corn and soybeans.

Recently, Mr. BuLL and I moved to Montana. Guess who got to dust off her boots and get ready for more weekend hiking excursions? This excessively enthusiastic nature girl! Now, a 10-mile weekend in the backcountry is something I don’t think twice about. It’s been rinsed and repeated so much that it’s apart of our frequent weekend adventures.

How have your stretch goals influenced your life?

Keep exploring!

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2 thoughts on “The Tale of 100 Miles of Trails in Yellowstone

  1. My wife and I are in our sixties but we are distance runners and can hike 20 miles of steep stuff in a day, though we usually prefer 10-15. We’ve found that the short hikes, 1-3 miles are invariably crowded at national parks but the long trails 5 miles and longer are much more lightly traveled, mostly by the fitter folk. We spent the last ten years bushwhacking and hiking to all 120 waterfalls in our home state in addition to hiking out west. I agree, travel light, have layers, good boots or trail runners, trekking poles, gps phone trail app and one person should have an emergency satellite panic beacon. Once you have a little experience its just pure joy after that, great post!

    1. I want to be like you, Steveark, when I grow up! That is incredible how active you and your wife continue to be! Thanks for the kudos and visit! See you out on the trail!

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