Bringing your best self to our shared outdoor spaces
By Nell Gehrke, guest columnist for Bozeman Daily Chronicle
August 13, 2022
I recently hiked Hyalite Peak with my partner. It was a gorgeous day filled with paintbrush reds, biscuit root yellows, conifer greens, soft sky blues, and lupine purples. The soothing sounds of falling water and easy company made the hike one of my favorites of the summer.
While on the trail, we encountered many different recreationists from a variety of user groups including hikers, trail runners, motor bikers, horseback riders, sportsmen and women, and many a happy dog. The presence of other users on the trail only made our hike more enjoyable. Kindness truly is contagious, and our fellow outdoor enthusiasts shared joy in abundance. Seeing so many people enjoy an August Sunday on the lands of the Crow, Blackfoot, Flathead, Cheyenne, and Shoshone Bannock peoples reminded me of the importance of continued stewardship and care for these spaces.
Hyalite Canyon is the most visited Forest Service area in Montana. Beyond Hyalite, hundreds of trailheads in Gallatin Valley are being visited by record numbers of people. The founders of Outside Kind, which include groups such as One Montana and GVLT, recognized this period of robust growth and saw an opportunity to come together and share best practices.
This hike was a wonderful time to practice our Hike Kind and Wag Kind skills. We greeted fellow trail users with a smile and a quick hello. Our dog got to blissfully run off leash while we kept her under voice control with the help of some carrot tops. A little bribery never hurts. We also ended up pulling out our leash a few times, which kept both our pup and our friends on motorbikes and horses safe as we passed one another.
Until this hike, I had never encountered horses on a trail before as I too am relatively new to the area. We were running down the trail when we saw two horses ahead of us. We hit the brakes and made a quick plan, which included putting Fiasco’s leash on, slowly walking toward the horses, and greeting the riders when we got close enough. They heard us coming and had led their horses to the side of the trail. I asked, “Are you ready for us to pass?” They gave us the go ahead and we walked on by. After we were a safe distance away, about 200 feet, we let the dog off leash and continued our run.
Even though it is August, the trails up Hyalite still have some muddy spots. We happily hiked through the water and mud instead of going around the puddles. I have learned that going around contributes to trail widening. This action increases erosion, which harms the plants growing along the trail. Social trails, paths created by users cutting switchbacks or avoiding muddy spots, are incredibly difficult to repair and require hard physical labor to remedy. Having wet shoes is a small price to pay for sustainable trails.
If you would like to learn more and bring your best self to the trails check out www.outside kind.org. Outside Kind, which is led by One Montana, is an alliance of user groups sharing knowledge and resources via streamlined messaging. At outsidekind.org, there is information on how to Hike Kind, Ski Kind, Wag Kind, Fish Kind, Ride Kind, Hunt Kind, Run Kind, and Trot Kind and also how to support this campaign. The next time you’re on your neighborhood trail, at the fishing hole, or taking your dog for a run, remember how much joy you experience in the outdoors. Please, continue to be Outside Kind as you recreate in our beautiful, shared spaces.