Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections on 2015

After my 2014 PCT hike, I was inspired to live a life immersed in the natural world and to find a way to make a difference.
Sharing my excitement about the natural world. Photo by I. B.
In 2015, I challenged myself by doing things I’d never imagined I could do. I moved to Montana and taught conservation education programs to preK-12 kids at a state park. Here are some highlights:

Living with friends made this year possible.
At the beginning of the year, before I moved to Montana, generous friends welcomed me into their homes.  Even their pets made me feel like family. Not having rent allowed me to save money.  It also kept me flexible, and constantly moving and thinking about my next step. 

Arizona Trail
Hanging in my hammock amid cactus and cowpies.
Hiking part of the Arizona Trail this March stretched my backpacking skills with the long water carries and navigation challenges. But this trip made me feel like I have grown into the backpacker I want to be, with my own style. 

Giving back
The kids were my favorite!
Most of my year (eight months) was spent as a volunteer for AmeriCorps.  AmeriCorps is a national service program aimed at solving problems in America.  I taught school field trips at a state park, led interpretive hikes, organized trail work projects, and did whatever else needed to be done in the park.  This was the first time I’ve worked outside of academia or done anything besides being a biologist.

The AmeriCorps Budget
These shoes just need a little more superglue.
I tried my best to not to buy anything since the AmeriCorps "living stipend" was less than minimium wage. I fixed gear, patched clothes, and make do without. When it got frustrating, I focused on finding joy in making connections with people and being outdoors. Being resourceful and using what I have, and being happy with simplicity, all reminded me of being on the PCT.  It also helped that I still have savings from from back when I worked as a scientist.

Home in the forest
Waking up with a view of my beloved forest.
Living in a beautiful outdoors place meant I didn’t feel the urge to escape.  So it was OK that there were fewer nights in my hammock this year.  Trails began right outside the front door of my trailer. 
I never got tired of seeing the sunrise from my park.
Though I hiked the same trails around my park everyday, they were always changing.

Weekend hiking trips to Glacier National Park
Trails I hiked in Glacier National Park this year are highlighted.
On my days off, I drove to the mountains across the valley that I could see from my park-- to Glacier and the Swan Range.  It wasn’t about achieving miles or about getting anywhere.  It was about exploring and learning to love a place deeply... even the grizzlies.

The people
The people I met this year and the friends I was able to reconnect with were amazing.  I was so happy to see hiking buddies from the PCT, to spend time with my family, and to meet so many wonderful people through AmeriCorps and in Montana.
AmeriCorps friends.
Overall, living this far outside my comfort zone this year has been scary, but it makes me feel alive in ways that only long distance hiking ever did. 


  1. Whow what a legend. It is great to follow your adventures and see how you meet the challenges . Keep on keeping on ! . Have a great new year.

    1. Thanks so much Steve! Best wishes for a happy 2016 to you!

  2. You had an awesome year! I can't believe your PCT hike was already so long ago.

    1. I can't believe it's been so long since the PCT either. Funny how the long distance hiking experience sticks with you--I still think about it everyday, and the things I learned out on the trail permeate my life.

  3. One thing I've learned over the years is that the best life is a combo of what you make happen and the choices you make when opportunity presents. Trying to force a path seems to end in unhappiness, frustration and many times a lost soul. You have become a mentor in forging a path less traveled, one that works when you take the time to make it happen, sacrifices and all. Cheers to personal growth and plenty more adventures. Can't wait to follow your ebbs and flows of the new year. Hope our paths cross again at some point. I'm guessing they will since my plans include a visit to your beloved Montana and Glacier. Happy New Year!

    1. Jan- Love your life philosophy! It sure takes striking a balance between being open to opportunities and making things happen.

      Glad we got to have adventures together this year, and will see you in Montana! :) Happy New Year to you too!