Much to my enjoyment, my 7-year-old step-daughter, Gabby, is quite a joyful and inquisitive hiker. While she and I were tramping through the woods with friends early this spring, Gabby asked if we could plan an overnight hiking trip once the weather warms up. As we discussed her idea, we decided that it would be most fun if we could get some of our friends to join along.
I have two ladies backpacking trips lined up for this summer. One is the third annual trans-Bighorn Mountain trek with three extraordinary women. Each year we have taken a new trail and crossed the Bighorns from west to east. This summer will mark our longest adventure, both in distance and number of days off the grid. We have been planning our excursion since January and we all agree that our departure date can’t arrive soon enough.
Alternatively, the other outing is Gabby’s creation. The first (and hopefully annual) big and little girls expedition is still in the very fluid phases of planning. We have a weekend picked and an almost fully committed group of gals excited to participate. Otherwise, not many details have been nailed down. All in due time.
Spearheaded and housed by Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails, WY Outside is an autonomous collaboration of numerous organizations with the shared vison of engaging Wyoming’s youth in the outdoors. In 2015, the group rolled out the WY Outside Challenge for youth and families. Now in its third year of existence, the challenge is thoughtfully designed and engaging for children of all ages.
Gabby, and one of her brothers, William, have decided to complete the 2017 WY Outside Challenge. This will of course involve participation from myself, my husband, their older brother, their sitter, and likely various other friends and community members. Last night, as I sat down to write about the challenge, Gabby thought my time would be better spent helping her check one item off the list.
Although I am now well past my submission deadline, the time I spent with Gabby, helping her create a list of essentials for our impending trip, was priceless. She took such great pride in our process, in her own intuition and capacity to problem solve, and in her penmanship! Not only is she even more excited to lead our friends on an adventure, she is now fully invested in our list of things to bring.
Why do I enjoy outdoor pursuits as an adult? The list of reasons is long enough that I could write an entire article and not fully answer the question. However, one of the primary and perhaps most crucial factors in the development of my outdoor affinity is that my parents spent time outside with me as a girl.
There are so many things on everyone’s to-do lists these days that it is nearly impossible to fit everything in. Time for work, time for family, time for friends, time for self, time for community, all of these are vital. I would make the argument that spending time outdoors with children is fulfilling not only family time, but also service to community. How else will youth learn to value and advocate for our incredible Wyoming playground?
Visit www.wyoutside.com to download your 2017 WY Outside Challenge scorecard.
Julie Greer is a member of the Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources Commission.