Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reflections on 2016

Life continued to follow a different path following my 2014 Pacific Crest Trail hike.
Highlights of the year— first job at a national monument, returning to Montana for a second AmeriCorps term at a state park, and returning to the PCT for a month-long section hike-- were all things I never though I'd be doing before the PCT.
Plus volunteering at this national mounument in Colorodo at the end of the year
After the PCT, I switched from doing scientific research to interpretation and outdoor education. This year I really appreciated living in beautiful locations, doing work that felt like it made a difference, and having the opportunity to learn new skills.
Planting trees in Montana
Teaching about the water cycle
What I loved about working in parks
Because I lived in parks while I was working, my daily walks through incredible scenery were as captivating to me as my weekend trips. Even if it was three months of the same two miles.
Evening stroll around the park I was at in New Mexico
My mornings in Montana often included watching the sunrise from the park's overlook
Because I lived in beautiful regions of the country, my weekend trips provided easy access to spectacular locations. In New Mexico, El Malpais National Monument and Petrified Forest National Park became new favorites. In Montana, I continued to volunteer on loon and mountain goat surveys for Glacier National Park’s citizen science program. Despite my initial fear of grizzlies, I came to love Montana.
Mountain goat survey in Glacier National Park
Another thing I finally did this year was take a 72 hour Wilderness First Responder course. A few experiences made me realize I need more background in how to respond to medical emergencies and accidents, so I’m really glad I’ve finally gotten more training.

But there were downsides to living the dream

A lot of moving meant the sadness of leaving friends. Will moving ever get easier?

The No New Gear experiment helped me not dip into my savings with the low AmeriCorps stipend. But I wish I could not be so nervous about my bank account and my future job prospects.

Things got pretty busy this year. Looking back over my photos, I realized just how many trips I didn’t have the energy to write up.
One hike in Glacier that never made the blog
 The line between work and play was often blurred. Many early mornings were spent taking wildflower photos for the wildflower identification posters and guide I made for my state park. This was a project I’ve been dreaming of doing for years (even before I got to Montana) and allowed me to learn more about a favorite topic (plants!). Sometimes I'd wonder, why am I doing this? And then I'd remember, because this is what makes my life seem meaningful and fulfilling-- especially seeing visitors come to the center to ask me about plants or show me photos they'd taken of what'd been blooming.

Backpacking on the CDT and PCT with friends
Even though I moved a lot, one great thing was that my hiking buddies came out to visit me (in Glacier and New Mexico) and met up with me (in Washington and Oregon on the PCT). Despite having my highest mile day ever this year (30 miles to Mt. Taylor), the majority of my trips this year prioritized exploring the natural world, being with friends, and lollygaging (i.e. swimming in lakes and just sitting and watching).
Me and Jan on the PCT in Washington
This approach allowed me to avoid injury and I feel like it was a good balance to the hectic pace of working in parks. What I really wanted to do was connect with friends and really have a sense of place.
On the PCT in Oregon with Renee
What’s next

I’m moving yet again next week to start at another park. Hopefully I'll be able to talk a few friends into visiting again and hiking with me (hint- this means you!).

Finally thanks to all of you for reading and commenting on the blog! Really appreciate your support.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks so much Misti! Happy 2017 to you!

  2. Thanks for sharing. Hope you have a great 2017.

    1. Appreciate the comments! Hope you have a wonderful New Year too.

  3. Can't break our traditions.

    1. Absolutely! Gotta be traditonal about something. Might as well be hiking!

  4. I love El Malpais! πŸ˜€

    1. El Malpais is awesome! I couldn't get over how variable the geology was, how rugged the hiking, and how spectacular the scenery. Really want to go back to see a bat flight someday.