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The Bucket List: Where to Hike Before You Die

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The pull of the road is strong, the desire to explore new and wild places is ever present in my mind. Yet before August of 2017 I’d never really left the northeast to explore. I’d seen cool places in books and videos, and of course I wanted to go to them, but I didn't really understand just how grand they where.

And then something dramatic happened.Backpacking in the Wind Rivers

The author picks his way across a boulder field in Wyoming's Wind River range. All images: Jacques Turcott

I took a NOLS course and spent three months off-trail backpacking in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. And then I did a little more. I went white water canoeing in Utah’s Desolation Canyon. Climbed in Idaho’s City of Rocks. Dropped into slot canyons in Utah.Continental Divide

Flying his flag on the Continental Divide.

To say I got the adventure bug is an understatement.

I realized how big and grand the world is and how much it has to offer. You could spend a lifetime just exploring California and never really see everything it has to offer. After talking to other people living the nomadic lifestyle, my list of prospective adventures was growing exponentially and my wanderlust was overwhelming.Rock climbing Idaho

Climbing at Idaho's City of Rocks.

Enter my bucket list. I began to write down the places I wanted to go and the things I wanted to experience. I also started planning so that my life could support my pursuit of the things on my list.Tetons

Room with a view.

There are hurdles you need to address before you start traveling and spending weeks on end backpacking, climbing, kayaking etc. First up: housing. Last year I bought an old mini school bus I named Gerdy and spent 5 months turning her into the ultimate off-grid home on wheels. Now I have a mobile home that I can take anywhere and is paid off and will allow me to live essentially, rent-free for as long as I choose.

The second major hurdle is having a stable income. Now there are options when it comes to this, but finding them takes research and patience. I played to my strengths and experience and got a job as an Outdoor Education Instructor for a school that allows me to have summers off along with a fall, winter, and spring break! Other options I considered included wildland firefighting, graphic/web design, photography, owning your own small business, music… really anything you can imagine that is seasonal or you can do remotely.

river view
Whether you pursue your bucket list year-round or here and there when you have time, you won't be disappointed when you get to the places you've dreamt about.

I just wrapped up my road trip to my (dream) job and took the opportunity to cross a few items off my bucket list. I’ve gone to Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, Badlands National Park, Custer National Forest, Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National forest, the Sawtooths, Yosemite, Kings Canyons and Sequoia National Parks. Ok. More than a few items. This was a bit of a whirlwind, and the trip served as an epic scouting mission to see the country and see where I want to go back to.

So after this trip here is what’s on my bucket list for the next few years!

  • Hike the Sierra High route/John Muir Trail
  • Just spend two weeks climbing anything and everything in Yosemite
  • Big backpacking/climbing trip in the Grand Tetons. Exploring all the Canyons and Jagged peaks
  • Do the 70 mile “lollipop” backpacking loop through the Lamar Valley and Absorkas in Yellowstone  
  • Thru hike the Wonderland Trail, a 93 mile long journey circumnavigating Mt. Rainer (I would also love to climb it!)
  • Thru Hike the Colorado Trail, 500 miles from Denver to Durango
  • Thru Hike the Pacific Northwest trail, 1,200 miles (Montana, Idaho, Washington)
  • Spend some time climbing in the Cirque de Towers in the Wind River Range
  • Go back to the Cheese box in Utah and spend more time doing technical Canyoneering
  • Explore the Colorado Plateau area (Especially in Utah, I LOVE Utah!)

This might seem excessive or scattershot. Trust me, it’s not. I hope my bucket list will serve as a guide and a road map. Best of all—it’s personalized to me.Photo Aug 23 11 33 26 AM

So—where should YOU go before you die? No idea. Here’s a bucket and a list. Time to start filling it.

Ambassador Jacques Turcotte posts updates on his other adventures at @livewildoutdoors on Instagram.

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