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Giving Back: Volunteering in the Outdoors

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Hello! I’m Kaci Stringer aka Wander Woman. I’m a small town chick from Kansas with a true passion for hiking and volunteering on the beloved trails across America. I choose to get out and give back because I don’t want to witness the disappearance of any trail in my lifetime.

A couple of years ago, I discovered the American Hiking Society, which offers volunteer vacations. I immediately decided to join the organization. American Hiking Society hosts volunteer trips across the US each year to help organizations maintain their trails. Kaci Main Boulder Valley

Kansas, meet Montana. All images: Kaci Stringer

I debated where to go for my first trip and ultimately settled on the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana.  I was nervous, yet excited to go on my first adventure to Big Sky Country and do my part to ensure these trails would be pristine for future visitors.

Big Sky Country

When I arrived in Montana, the magnitude of the adventure hit me. To get to our camping spot we had to drive down an old, washed out, dirt road along the Boulder River for over 50 miles. It took us nearly three hours. 

When we finally arrived, the view was very awe inspiring with towering mountains on each side of the river and lofty pines surrounding us. There was also a break in the tree line where you could gaze for miles right down the Main Boulder Valley. 

We camped at Box Canyon near the ghost town of Independence. Since we were in grizzly country, we stored all of our food in the old ranger cabin and set up our tents in the grassy meadow nearby.

Crew Life

There were 12 of us on this trip, and our daily assignments varied. We would either hike out from Box Canyon or carpool to other trailheads along the river. The trail work ended up being a lot harder than I expected. I never took into account how heavy the tools actually were in addition to our packs. I felt like I used all my energy hiking to the work spot sometimes because of this.Kaci Helping Remove an Old Bridge

Stronger than she realized! Kaci helps remove an old bridge.

We used a variety of tools including picks, crosscut saws, Pulaskis and more. We built new tread, took out a rotted bridge, performed lots of brushing and cut away down fall. It was very tiring and wore me out each day. The time on the trail was hot with the sun beating down on us. 

On a happy note, it only rained one day. 

Nights were very frigid. When you’re in the mountain valley, you only have a limited amount of sun each day, therefore the heat doesn’t last long. We got lucky and had no issue with the forest fires happening across Montana. However, there were fires around the area we were in. It was very hazy and smoky off in the distance. The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness actually sees the least amount of fires due it being one of the wettest areas in Montana.


Each morning we would cook a hot breakfast at the cabin on a propane stove and pack our lunches to eat on the trail. I fell in love with sipping my coffee every morning while watching the sun rise over the mountains and listening to the rushing Boulder River. Our lunches were sandwiches and lots of healthy snacks like nuts and fruit. 

We would start our work for the day by 8am and get off the trail around 3pm to head back and cook dinner. Everyone pitched in to help cook dinner and clean all the dishes afterward. It was a group effort. We had a variety of delicious foods the entire week from sausage and eggs for breakfast to rice and bean burritos for dinner. We even had a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner with stuffing and turkey.

Give Back

I believe everyone should participate on a volunteer trip at least once in their life. It’s such a wonderful experience. There are many to choose from. They’re all rated easy to extremely difficult so you can find one that fits you best. American Hiking Society hosts trips every year and you can sign up easily from their website.

Kaci Stringer is an adventure enthusiast seeking to positively promote the outdoors by sharing my experiences and creating inspiration. My mission is to find new ideas, theories, different views, perspectives and inspire others through outdoor adventures.

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