Hooked on hiking: Bismarck teacher finds new passion in the outdoors

Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 6:00 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Many people see the new year as a fresh start for breaking bad habits or starting new hobbies. According to some studies, less than 10% of people actually stick with their New Year’s resolutions.

One Bismarck woman not only beat the odds but surpassed her goal.

Jennifer Russell is hooked on hiking. It all started when she learned about the 12 Months, 12 Hikes challenge which led to an even bigger challenge.

”This past year, we wanted to... I wanted to, specifically, amp up my hiking and ended up doing a 52 hike challenge that I stumbled upon,” said Jennifer, a music teacher at Liberty Elementary.

The 12 Hikes, 12 Months challenge encourages people across the state to do one hike a month during the year and show off what North Dakota State Parks can offer. Park officials say hiking has become more popular since the pandemic kept everyone inside.

“If anything, if this pandemic has brought out, one of the good things is I think it helped people re-find the outdoors,” said Erik Dietrich, park manager at Abraham Lincoln State Park.

In 2022, Jennifer completed the 12 Hikes, 12 Months challenge, and an additional 52 hike challenge. In total, she finished 68 hikes. She went all over North Dakota and even into Canada. She says the scenery in Banff made that trip extra special.

“The turquoise blue waters, smelling the pine along the trail, it was just absolutely stunning,” said Jennifer.

Jennifer said she’s found support and wisdom through many online groups as she learned the ropes of hiking alone or with others.

“By the end of this challenge, I found a couple North Dakota women groups that hike, so it always leads to something new,” said Jennifer.

Jennifer’s husband and two dogs accompanied her on most of her hikes last year. She said they have finally hit every state park in North Dakota and look forward to hiking new trails in the state parks this year.

Jennifer hiked 212 miles last year. She hasn’t planned out all her hikes for 2023 but says she’s hopeful they can get a permit to hike Angels Landing in Zion National Park in Utah this year.