There’s an endless variety to the challenges we encounter in our lives.

Sometimes we choose our own challenges. We design them to shift us out of a rut, to help us make or break a habit, perhaps to help propel our life in a new direction.  We adopt a new eating style for 30 days, or we limit our wardrobe to a set number of pieces. In the past, amidst various challenges I’ve pursued, I’ve set goals for daily physical activity, I’ve tried to visit a new country every year, I’ve set goals for longer and longer ultramarathons, and nearly every year, including 2017, I sign up for reading challenges.

Other times, the challenges we face are external. We may have put ourselves in the path of the challenge – scaling a particular mountain, or participating in a race – but there is an external component, a thing that must be done, completed, or a point to reach before we can say we have succeeded.

One challenge that I’ve become aware of in the past year is the 52 Hike Challenge. Pretty much what it sounds like, this challenge asks the participant to hike once a week for a year. The movement has an incredible following of people hiking for the first time, experienced hikers, and I’ve been moved by the stories of people overcoming all sorts of personal obstacles by simply starting to walk. I first encountered the challenge via Whoa Mag, whose founder Hatie took on the challenge and wrote about her experience of redefining the word hike in the process.

So as I consider my summer, the next 14 weeks stretching out ahead of me, and I weigh the plans for travel and the reality of work and the ever-present desire to maximize these long days of light, I’ve decided to adopt a variation of the challenge for myself. One of my summer goals is to get out into the wilds and mountains of Montana in a deeper way then I ever have before. The truth of it is, I don’t need a challenge to get my body moving; I’m out running and hiking on trails most days of the week already. But I could definitely use a challenge to expand my reach and my breadth. To get out and explore new trails, to hike outside my comfort zone, and to start to fill in my mental map of the beautiful stretches of forest and mountain that are now within my reach.

Thus, I’m creating my own 14 Trails of Summer challenge. I’ll find a new-to-me trail each week, perhaps to hike, or perhaps to run. And as I map out my own little valley, I’ll document what I learn here and on my instagram page (I’ll use #14TrailsofSummer).  If you’re interested, I’d love if you’d join me, and share your own discoveries of trails, whether well-trodden or hidden gems. Together, we can all build confidence, awareness, health, and appreciation for this amazing natural world we live in!

 

 

 

Lone Pine State Park is a hidden gem. Maybe not so hidden, but to me, it was a new discovery. The trails wind up and down and around a bluff overlooking the beautiful valley and the peaks of Whitefish and Glacier. The trails are singletrack and occasionally wider, offering comfortable ground for everyone from runners to walkers to those with dogs and possibly, off-road strollers.

I checked out Lone Pine on a bit of a whim, seeking out some dirt in proximity to the yoga studio so I could fit a run in between classes. But what I found surpassed my expectations, and I’m confident that Lone Pine will be a constant feature on my weekly running schedule. The hills will challenge my legs as I start to increase my ratio of running to walking on the steeps, and the beautiful views and fresh air will reboot my spirit when I need a quick infusion of the wild without driving a long way.

Perhaps more importantly, Lone Pine brought State Parks back onto my radar. I’ve always been aware of, and biased to, National Parks and National Forests. These big, bountiful places of extreme wild and beauty can crowd out the more accessible and perhaps equally amazing State, County, and local spots that have great things to offer and their own stories to tell.

Have you discovered a State Park near you? If not — maybe you should!