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Exploring National Forests while living out of my car

Six years ago my husband and I lived out of our car. Furthermore, we spent the summer after grad school backpacking and climbing around the Western U.S. Summer of 2013 was hot and dry. In an effort to avoid wildfires, we crisscrossed Colorado and aimed to explore higher elevations. We poured over maps from a remote campsite. Certainly, we’d find the perfect route. Eventually, we spotted the Four Pass Loop on the White River National Forest outside of Aspen. Our decision was made. We’d complete the loop and detour into nearby lake basins.

Our Adventure

We wanted high, cool elevations and stumbled on one of the most stunning backpacking loops. My first experience in the White River National Forest was incredible. As a result, years later I’m humbled that my work benefits an amazing place like the White River National Forest.

That backpacking trip wasn’t my first experience in a National Forest. My  “first” is really a collection of memories of picnics, day hikes, fishing trips. Plus river days on the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri where I grew up. Those days in my ‘backyard’ – although they didn’t involve snow-capped peaks or miles of trail, shaped my passions.

They showed me that I’m happiest and feel most alive when I’m outdoors. As a result, I realized it was possible to care for these places and have a career. The rest is history. 

Each day, someone experiences a national forest for the first time. Whether via an epic backpacking trip or a low-key day on a riverbank, forests are memorable. National forests provide powerful experiences and a reason to care for them. Similarly, powerful experiences in national forests shaped who I am and hope to be; both in my career and in life.  

Why National Forests? 

Colorful Colorado – our state is highly regarded for its beautiful landscapes, high-elevation peaks, and outdoor lifestyle. These places – many of which are located on the 14.5 million acres of National Forests across the state – lure thousands to Colorado. Visitors and locals love to ski, hike, fish, hunt, enjoy the iconic landscapes and high-elevation vistas. 

As we drive west on Interstate 70 through the overpass portal at Lookout Mountain, our national forests that greet us with heart-stopping views of the snow-capped backbone of America. On a personal level, our national forests provide a welcome escape from the Front Range hustle. National forests help us experience the exhilaration of a warm fall day, with blazing-yellow aspens all aglow, and the excitement of a native cutthroat trout rising to meet a well-tied fly.

Want to experience your National Forests? 

Need a quick way to experience your national forests? En route to Breckenridge, stop by Sapphire Point on Swan Mountain Road. This scenic overlook sits at 9,500 feet between Keystone and Breckenridge. The overlook offers stunning views of Dillon Reservoir, tucked in between the Gore and Tenmile mountain ranges. Stroll down the trail to stretch your legs and breathe the fresh mountain air. 

How can you help?

Sapphire Point is a world-class point of interest. The point is located amongst one of the largest and most scenic forests in the country. Consequently, the White River National Forest sees hoards of tourists. The forest is hammered year-round. Seems like even a 2.3 million-acre backyard is not a big enough playground.

Because recreation use is growing, the NFF works with key partners like Gravity Haus to balance tremendous outdoor experiences and the protection of fragile ecosystems.

Here are a few simple steps that you can take to help us care for National Forests:

  • Follow posted rules and guidelines about how, when, and where to use forests
  • Respect wildlife (and stay safe!). Keep your distance
  • Stay on the trail. Stepping off-trail can negatively impact the landscape
  • Pack out your trash. Pick up pieces of trash that you may find along the trail
  • Use the restroom before enjoying your national forests. If you do go while on the trail, follow Leave No Trace guidelines. There isn’t always going to be a restroom at the trailhead, and toilet paper is not a pretty site OR fun to clean up

Looking to make an even bigger impact? Consider volunteering for a weekend or donate to care for national forests. 

What is the National Forest Foundation?

Chartered by Congress, the National Forest Foundation was created in 1993 with a simple mission: bring people together to restore and enhance our National Forests and Grasslands.

The National Forest Foundation is the leading organization inspiring personal and meaningful connections to America’s national forests and public lands. Working on behalf of the American public, the NFF spearheads forest conservation efforts and promotes responsible recreation. Why? Because we believe national forests and public lands are vital to the health of our communities and country. Through our direct fieldwork, grant programs and promotion of responsible recreation, the National Forest Foundation is committed to spearheading measurable, long-term positive impacts on America’s 193 million acres of national forests and public lands.

Our programs strive to:

  • Unite the power of diverse interests and communities in collaborative stewardship
  • Restore ecosystems to their natural resiliency and functions through on-the-ground conservation
  • Engage Americans, young and old, in recognizing the gifts of our National Forests and Grasslands and in caring for them
  • Sustain the commitment and ability of communities to serve as stewards by building the capacity of collaborative organizations
  • Add value where action would not otherwise be taken

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