Common Ground

Red Lodge, running, public access, Bozeman

Common Ground

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Zach Altman

Running for public access. 

Across the United States, the public-lands debate continues to heat up. Despite strong public support for federally managed public lands, legislators and lobbyists are eagerly working to transfer public lands to private interests. Without public engagement and action, we risk losing access to the common spaces we know and love.

In light of that, the message is clear: we each have a voice and it’s our responsibility to use it. There are not many large tracts of relatively pristine public lands remaining in the United States, and as Bozemanites, we reside in the largest nearly intact ecosystem in the lower 48, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

In July of 2017, I and two other members of the Bozeman community will embark on a 250-mile, week-long traverse of the northern GYE, from Bozeman to Red Lodge. The goal is twofold: empower the community to act in defense of our public lands, and inspire adventure in our own back yard. There are few places where curiosity and creativity can generate a project of this nature—this is certainly one of them.

Running 250 miles, the lion’s share on singletrack, while climbing over 36,000 vertical feet in seven days, may seem daunting—if you view the tour as a whole. The key to accomplishing such an intimidating task is to break it down into manageable pieces, day-by-day, mile-by-mile. To preserve our bodies, we’ll run the flats and downhills whenever possible, power-hike the climbs with trekking poles to save the knees, and seek refuge in a crew-supported camp each night. With a start date less than a month after the solstice, we’ll be graced with roughly 15 hours of daylight; we aim to avoid running in the dark or through deep snow.

Our route across the GYE will take us from the heart of Bozeman, south into Hyalite, running the Devil’s Backbone through a Wilderness Study Area toward Tom Miner Basin. After a few days traversing the northern range of Yellowstone National Park, from Mammoth to Cache Creek, we’ll eventually cross Republic Pass into Cooke City. Journeying over the Beaten Path and the Beartooth Plateau, we’ll finish our journey down Main Street in Red Lodge.

This is more than a run. This is a celebration of the public spaces we share as a local, regional and national community. This is an exploration of the place we call home. Join us in the search for common ground. To learn more, visit commongroundmt.com.

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