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I dared myself to hike a 100 miles of trails in Yellowstone National Park.
In the span of a summer.
This was an actual challenge set by the Outdoor Enrichment Committee. A small menial amount of money was paid. Perhaps to make sure I was vested in this outdoor endeavor. I signed up immediately but felt very intimidated by this challenge.
I hadn’t hiked. Now, I was employed at the busiest park in the country and committing myself to a 100 miles of hiking. A stretch goal to say the least.
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, it was a nice boost for my professional ego.
Yellowstone is one of the many jewels of America’s public lands. 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 American patrons and international visitors. I had to learn all these trivia facts with a quickness. As a ranger stationed at the Albright Visitor Center, we were a high traffic facility where we could greet up to 2,000 visitors in a single day.
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. It’s cheaper than Disney World like by a lot. These nuggets are 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’s sky.
A Trail Buddy
When I accepted the hiking challenge, I was fortunate to have a hiking buddy. Better yet, she was in better shape than me.
She was a fellow ranger from Norris Geyser Basin and we were both Alumni of UW-Stevens Point. We were adamant about what the backcountry had to offer. Her fitness, experience, and patient personality were ideal for my
glacial pace. Basically, the best hiking buddy ever!
Caution: Being a Park Ranger Causes Weight Loss
Standing, walking, leaning, and a dash of running is apart of the daily duties as a Park Ranger. It’s the nature of the position which is one of the many reasons I love being a Park Ranger. Basically, I am being paid for exercising.
I took advantage of the free gym during my off time to increase my overall fitness. This helped to supercharge the many miles I traversed during the weekend and decreased my recovery time.
Good Gear for Good Tales
Good gear is what prevented my good time from turning into trouble.
The mountains are known for generating their own weather and at some point, my perfect hiking day that started at 60 degrees and sunny would turn to 40 degrees and rain.
My gear saved my bacon. I don’t need a lot because carrying a 50-pound pack is less than ideal. Just a 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. I avoid cotton like I avoid a grizzly bear trying to get into my personal space.
Planning: It Feels Like a Planet
Plans are a pain. A necessary pain.
For many of our hiking trips, our backcountry excursions were one-way trips. The trails rarely loop or the loop was longer than our limited 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 puzzle. All these little nuances get fleshed out during the planning process.
Also, having a plan eases any uncertainties about the area. It’s was a great way to build excitement for the weekend trek. Planning a weekend hiking trip makes Mondays more bearable.
Pass the Motivation, Please
With a buddy, fitness, good gear, and a plan, it was easy to accomplish 100 miles. It helped that there was always something to look forward to like a glorious waterfall, vibrant meadow, or an unfiltered night sky. Just a little reminder of why I was rolling the dice on blisters, bear encounters, and ticks.
If needed an extra kick in motivation, I told everyone what I was doing. It was a lot harder to back out of my boasted hiking plans.
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.
After receiving my shirt and certificate, I felt giddy as a visitor seeing a bison for the first time.
After my summer in Yellowstone, I moved to Sioux Falls and hiking adventures became nonexistent in the barren land of corn and soybeans.
As the tides of time changed, 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. I hike more than 100 miles of trails every summer but this time there is no fancy pin or sweet shirt waiting for me.
Still worth it!