On July 10th I wandered out my front door, laced up my shoes, and began jogging away from town and toward the mountains. At either side were two of my closest friends and traveling companions for the next week, Zach Altman and David Laufenberg. Along the horizon rose the Gallatin Range sweeping south toward Yellowstone. Over the next seven days, we’d celebrate miles of singletrack, public lands, and friendship as we journeyed from Bozeman to Red Lodge.
While much of this land is paradise, our public lands outside Yellowstone National Park are under the threat of development and resource extraction. Without engagement and action, our commons will disappear. This run was my call to action, a chance to speak out for these wild places that need protection. By running across this ecosystem, I hope to bring awareness to the landscape’s fight for continued protection.
While linking these wild spaces by foot, I gained a greater appreciation for their scale and their vulnerability to fragmentation. If our federal government begins to break apart our public lands, the Greater Yellowstone will lose its unique scale and diversity.
The magnitude of this trip pushed beyond my perceived boundaries. In seven days, we covered 236 miles of spectacular paths linking my front porch in Bozeman, to Mammoth, Cooke City, and Red Lodge: an immense swath of the 20 million acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In this short week, we journeyed past high alpine peaks, across vast sagebrush plains, and crossed countless free flowing rivers.
With each passing mile, I kept realizing how lucky we are in this country. In the west, we are surrounded by wild lands that are open to any who are willing to explore.
These paths don’t just belong to us. Throughout our trip, we linked historic migration routes, meandering bison trails, and glacial carved valleys. If I can run across this landscape in a week, what about a grizzly? A linx? A wolverine? They need these open, undeveloped spaces even more than the recreational community. As our backyard becomes more fragmented, they lose their potential to roam.
While wandering the trail for twelve plus hours a day, I found a lot of time to reflect. Often, at the edge of exhaustion, moments of awe would sweep over me. The light on a distant peak, the sound of moving water, and the dew on a huckleberry repeatedly brought up a distinct feeling of thankfulness for the spaces we have and the spaces we share.
After completing our traverse, I no longer consider just the Gallatin Range my backyard but now have a greater respect for the entire connectivity of the ecosystem and a new determination and drive to protect it. In the coming months, our public lands will continue to come under threat. I encourage the trail community to speak up, engage, and encourage accountability and action. Let’s keep the Greater Yellowstone wild and public while continuing to protect our common ground.
While we edit our forthcoming film, enjoy our trailer at commongroundmt.com. -Anthony Pavkovich