Building a Better Community Since 2007

Fresh Air Fridays

Wednesday Jun. 1st, 2016

We pressed ourselves against the bus windows, binoculars in hand, looking at the sleeping bear. Is it a grizzly we wondered- to which we have decided, yes it is- and marveled at how in just our first hour in Yellowstone National Park we had seen a plethora of bison and pronghorn, a red fox, and two bears! We then moved on to Lamar Valley where we met with wolf biologist and storyteller extraordinaire Rick McIntyre, and back towards Mammoth Hot Springs where geologists met us for a guided talk along the terraces. The ride back to Bozeman was quiet as the humming of the bus lulled us to sleep after the long day. As we pulled up to the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) office in Bozeman, we were filled with excitement as to what the summer would bring, and what places we could explore.

We know that getting outside presents numerous benefits to our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. But often times we first need to be introduced to that outside world and have a way to continue that exposure. The Sierra Club and HRDC have partnered for a series of outings with their Youth Development Program to facilitate just that. The HRDC Youth Development Program serves youth and young adults, ages 14-24, from low-income families and other barriers. As Economic Development Director Jackie Haines explained, “First and foremost, we are interested in developing programs that help empower youth to take control of their lives. We believe that connecting youth with nature adds an important dimension to this goal by helping them find healing and solace in nature.”

This year the National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating their 100th Anniversary. With over 300 million visitors to our National Parks in 2015, we can expect that 2016 will be even bigger. That is why we kicked off our 2016 Outings with a trip to Yellowstone. For a few of the participants, it was their first time visiting the National Park. It was a good reminder that just because our National Parks belong to all of us, not all people get to experience their wonders.

I can easily count off reasons why I love living in Bozeman- the countless breweries keep me full on beer, music venues get my awkward-self dancing, and the proximity to mountains fulfill my desire to be active and outside. But Bozeman is also an intimidating place filled with amazing people who have achieved stunning feats. We often have ideals in our mind of what the “outdoor experience” looks like, ranging from an epic mountain bike ride to a quiet long backpacking trip. We also envision a certain “look” that this outdoor enthusiast has.

But it is time to drop that image and rethink what an outdoor enthusiast looks like, and what that outdoor experience means. It could be a simple hike up to the M, or a multi-day backpacking trip. Either way, one experience can be just as valuable as the other.

We name our outings Fresh Air Fridays, to commemorate the end of the week- to reflect on the week’s past and to re-energize for the weeks ahead. It is a chance to connect with other individuals in similar circumstances, and to foster discussions that being in the outdoor facilitates.

And so, as the days warm up, we’ll see you out on the trail, for Fresh Air Fridays.