SHERIDAN — The Bighorn Mountains are a second home for Anthony and Jenny Aiello.
Once the snow thaws, the Sheridan couple hops in the car and spends the afternoons in the mountains any chance they get. They car camp, day hike or spend days backpacking in the wilderness. When they got married, the Bighorn Mountains served as the perfect location to say their vows.
Even as technology has begun to take over society, the Aiellos, both 31 years old, are a part of the next generation that has developed a love affair with the outdoors. More and more people in their 20s and early 30s have taken to nature as a primary choice for entertainment.
Anthony Aiello said it’s easy being an outdoor enthusiast when they live 30 minutes from some of the best out- door recreation opportunities in the country.
“The Bighorns really are a gem in Wyoming,” he said. “There are times when it’s the middle of the day or middle of the week and I’ll be the only person going up the mountain. If I was somewhere in Montana or somewhere in Colorado, I know there would just be a string of cars and people all over the place.”
According to the 2017 North American Camping Report, millennials account for 38 percent of the 75 million active camper households in the U.S., up from 34 percent in 2016. More than 50 percent of millennials say they plan to increase their camping this year.
The reasons for heading outdoors differ for each person. The report found that most younger people like to camp and spend time outside, be with friends and family and be physically active.
“There is definitely the more hardcore people, and then there are more of the weekend warriors who like to go out into the mountains and then you have the people who don’t care about it at all,” Aiello said.
Outdoor recreation has been a part of American culture for generations, but each generation has put its own spin on how they take to the mountains.
The biggest change from their parent’s generation, the Aiellos agreed, is the technology in outdoors equipment. Instead of just throwing blankets and a tent to stay warm, now there are specialized sleeping bags to combat every climate. Mapping has improved, and equipment has gotten lighter and easier to haul long distances.
Seth Ulvestad, program director with the Sheridan Recreation District, said more members of the younger generation are trying new outdoor recreation activities — rock climbing, kayaking, fat biking and other unique sports.
“I think outdoor recreation is getting more popular all over the country,” Ulvestad said. “ … I think the industry is getting a lot more attention, and it’s making it more accessible and easier for folks to get outside and try new things.”
But as recreation becomes more popular, more problems come with it. Energy and environment research firm Shelton Group found in a 2013 study that while millennials — born between 1980 and 2000 — say they are “green,” they don’t always act on those beliefs.
Both Anthony and Jenny Aiello hold preservation dear to their hearts — it pains them to see trash on the trails or people disrespecting the wilderness. Jenny Aiello said she believes that it’s up to the current generation to protect the environment for years to come.
“This is it,” she said. “This is all we have … We have to protect what we have or else our future generations won’t be able to experience the solitude, beautiful flowers and the wildlife.”
See more stories about local adventure seekers in Destination Sheridan, inserted in today’s edition of The Sheridan press and on racks around the region.