Kris Deason’s 12-hour walk

May 24, 2024

On a long drive back from North Dakota, Bozeman local Kris Deason was listening to a podcast that inspired her to do something special—spend 12 hours on local trails—walking, outside, unplugged, alone.

The podcast featured Colin O’Brady, a 10-time world record-breaking explorer and New York Times bestselling author. He told his story, beginning with a post-college trip to Thailand that was cut short by a terrible accident. He was severely burned and told he would never walk normally again. Instead, he learned lessons in the power of incremental goal setting, perseverance, grit, and positive thinking and went on to cross Antarctica solo and summit Mount Everest twice, among other equally impressive accomplishments.

When he found himself feeling down during the pandemic, he decided to go on a 12-hour walk that further changed his life. He wrote about the experience in “The 12-Hour Walk,” encouraging readers to “Invest one day, conquer your mind, and unlock your best life.” O’Brady asks walkers to use the distraction-free time to consider their challenges and determine which are true obstacles versus self-created problems that can be dismissed.

Colin’s story and the goals of the walk resonated with Kris, inspiring her to read the book. Just a few weeks later, on a beautiful bluebird day in September 2022, Kris set out on her own 12-hour journey.

Kris’ Route

As she prepared for her adventure, Kris examined maps of Bozeman’s Main Street to the Mountains trail system and planned the following route:

(See larger PDF version of the map)

Cherry River→Glen Lake Rotary Park Trail behind the Legends at Bridger Creek Subdivision→Paved path to the M trailhead and back to→Story Mill Community Park→Story Mill Spur→Front Street Connector→North Broadway Avenue (*the only non-trail, city sidewalk section)→Lindley Park→Burke Park/Peets Hill→Highland Glen Nature Preserve (hello cows!)→Painted Hills→Triple Tree trailhead and back!

In total, Kris walked about 33 miles.

O’Brady explains that you can take breaks as often as you’d like and for as long as you need. Kris estimates that her cumulative breaks were just 20 minutes. She brought plenty of water and snacks to fuel her along the way.

“The whole time, I thought to myself, ‘This is awesome. It’s beautiful. I am so lucky to have these 12 hours!’” shares Kris.

Despite being a 30-year resident who often walked small stretches of the trail system, Kris made many discoveries that day.

Kris’ Thoughts from the Trail

  • I hadn’t taken the paved path to the M before. Now I ride it on my bicycle frequently!
  • I hadn’t been to Story Mill in years. Some of those trails didn’t exist before.
  • I am a ‘train junky.’ I loved the Story Mill Spur that passes under I-90 and north of the former railroad depot.
  • As I was hiking through Highland Glen, I came upon some cows and thought, ‘I am going to move out of YOUR way.’
  • I never knew the Painted Hills Trail existed. It is so beautiful!
  • At the top of Burke Park, I sat on a bench, took in the view, and thought, ‘This is phenomenal.’

GVLT first learned of Kris’ walk in an unlikely setting. As Vice President and Escrow Manager at Security Title, Kris has long worked with GVLT and our landowner partners to close conservation easements. At the end of a closing shortly after her walk, Kris shared her story with members of GVLT’s Lands team, who were both moved and inspired. She later dropped off a copy of the book, which inspired one of GVLT’s former Big Sky Watershed Corps Service Members to go on a walk of her own.

An Enlightening Day

When asked how the day of introspection changed her mindset, she explains, “I used to be that person who got up, anticipated problems and created solutions. My heart would race. But it was a waste of energy.”

Her day on the trails also filled her with gratitude for access to an extensive connected in-town trail system.

“The fact that I was almost entirely on a trail system was phenomenal,” exclaims Kris. “People don’t know how grand our system is. We take for granted that someone created these trails and maintains them so we have the privilege to do this. “

When Kris saw her car at the end of her 12-hour journey, she said she started crying, “both from a sense of accomplishment and because I was so fortunate to do this.”

As we listened to Kris’ story, we, too, felt deeply grateful for GVLT Founder Chris Boyd’s original vision of a trail system that would connect Main Street to the mountains, and for the many, many people who have dedicated themselves to realizing that dream throughout the past 30 years.

Take the Summer Trails Challenge

Are you inspired by Kris’ story to explore the trails? June is the perfect time! GVLT’s annual Summer Trails Challenge is set for June 1-27. If you walk, bike, run, or roll on the trails, don’t forget to log your miles. Every mile logged unlocks $1 to support GVLT’s work to further expand and enhance the Main Street to the Mountains Trail system.