The Sunshine After the Storm

When Al and I quit our cushy government jobs to move to Laramie to write trail guides a lot of people thought we were completely crazy.

I guess it’s time to confess.

Yes, we are completely crazy.

Who else in their right mind would move to a little town like Laramie, Wyoming and try to write trail guides for a living?

Clearly a few people without the ability to think logically.

In the past four years, Just Trails has grown from a crazy handwritten idea in a notebook to something that we’re proud of…a real small business that hasn’t failed (yet).

We’ve hiked thousands of miles, we’ve written thousands of words, we’ve mapped hundreds of miles of trails, we’ve had our ‘ups’ and we’ve had our ‘downs.’

We’ve earned money, we’ve lost money, we’ve learned along the way.

We’ve developed relationships with big mega retailers, and then watched them fizzle and die.

We’ve gained fans and followers. We’ve lost fans and followers.

We’ve written terrible blog posts and done embarrassingly pathetic gear reviews.

We’ve learned every inch of our favorite local trails. We’ve (okay, me) gotten hiking groups lost and then found again.

We’ve made a lot of bad decisions and big mistakes.

90% of our ideas have turned out to be terrible ideas but throughout all of this, we’ve let our mantra guide our work.

Let Us Help You Explore. 

It seems so simple, right.

But we try to live and breathe by these 5 words in everything we do.

This spring we thought we had turned a corner with Just Trails.

We had a glimmer of hope that we’d be able to press on and keep doing what we love.

We had a plan to grow and expand, a plan to expand our outdoor education offerings and for the first time in years we were totally excited about the prospects of growth.

And then something happened.

Last Sunday afternoon we were psyched to be at the Elevation 8076′ Celebration in Centennial.

We set up our tent, pulled out our trail decks, t-shirts and other merchandise and sat waiting to talk to people about our local trails.

 

elevation celebrationBut we didn’t see a lot of foot traffic and eventually dark clouds caused us to throw our products in the truck as fast as we could just before a gust of wind sent our event tent flying over two cars and down a parking lot.

As Al & I were trying to recover what was left of our tent it started hailing.

Meanwhile, a few awesome people were helping us deal with our tent, which was like a parachute in the storm and stash rain-soaked products and tables in our truck.

After several minutes of chaos Al & I sat, soaked and chilled to the bone in the truck.

the storm

I was on the verge of tears.

Al looked at me and said, “Is all of this worth it?”

I didn’t reply out loud but in my head I thought…

“Maybe we should just shut it down, maybe the universe it trying to tell us that Just Trails never was a very good idea. Whenever we get ahead and start to make a buck or two something like this always happens.”

We were in a bad place.

We were just 16 hours away from setting up for Freedom Has A Birthday.

Our expensive tent had two broken legs and was completely inoperable and all of our booth set-up was either destroyed beyond repair or soaking wet.

Could the show go on?

Would the show go on?

Or should we just call it a day, shut down the website and remember it fondly?

We knew that we had to try to make an appearance at Freedom Has A Birthday, after all we had already paid the vendor fee.

So we rallied, changed out of our wet clothes, unloaded our wrecked set-up in the garage to dry, headed to Walmart and replaced our beloved expensive tent with the second-to-last tent in the store.

IMG_2776

The best Walmart experience on my life.

And just like that we were back in business.

Monday morning found is in better spirits at Washington Park setting up for Freedom Has A Birthday and something amazing happened.

— Just Trails (@JustTrails) July 3, 2016

 

People stopped by our booth to tell us that they like our Trail Deck.

They stopped by to tell us that they love our website.

They stopped by to chat about hiking.

Freedom Has A Birthday

They stopped by to ask about Little Laramie Hikers.

Some Hike Like A Woman fans even stopped by!

They stopped by to tell us that they loved taking our Map & Compass and GPS classes.

They stopped by just because they’ve been reading the blog and wanted to say “hi” to us in person.

It was an amazing day.

And these were the most amazing socks we saw all day (thanks DuG)!

IMG_2784

We didn’t sell a record number of Trail Deck’s.

We didn’t sell out of Medicine Bow Peak t-shirts, or #takeahike swag.

But somehow, those dark clouds that were following us around the day before disappeared.

We recovered from what was one of the worst days in the history of Just Trails and by doing so we realized that we’re not going anywhere.

We’re here to stay.

Because you know what?

At the end of the day it isn’t about being able to earn a living selling trail guides.

No, that’s what our other jobs are for.

We’re about helping, inspiring, encouraging and motivating others to find their trail.

To get outdoors,

And to explore.

If we help just one person do that then we are doing exactly the right thing.

So thank you, our loyal readers and customers for helping us turn it around and reminding us why we do what we do in the first place.

You have no idea what it means to us to hear you say that you love our products and our website.

It means a lot.

So thank you, we mean it. Thank you so much.

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

And if you’re one of the one’s who helped us recover from the fiasco in Centennial we’re totally hooking you up with a virtual hug. Thanks SO much! We promise to pay it forward.

Little Laramie Hikers: Come Hike With Us!!!

If you’re on our local trails on a Friday morning chances are that you’ve seen a gaggle of children stopping on the side of a trail to eat a snack, throw pinecones, or climb rocks.

Once a lady we saw on a hiking trip asked if our group was a daycare. Nope, just a bunch of kids and parents…

I’ll admit that one of the best parts of my week is our weekly hikes with our hiking group, the Little Laramie Hikers.

If you’re a parent with children who need to get outdoors.

Or a grandparent looking for something to do.

Or a childcare provider.

Or even if you don’t have kids but are looking to inspire a new generation to turn off the screen and get outdoors I’d like to invite you to come and join us on a hike!

We don’t hike far (most of the time). We don’t hike fast. And sometimes I think we spend more time stopping to play on the side of the trail than actually hiking down the trail.

But our goal is simple. To connect children (of all ages) with trails.

All of our hikes are free.

Most of our hikes are fun (every once in a while we enjoy an epic 2-year-old meltdown) 🙂

We typically publish our summer hiking schedule on our private group facebook page. But since facebook isn’t everyone’s jam I thought I’d publish our schedule right here for all to see.

Little Laramie Hikers

So here goes, the Little Laramie Hikers schedule for the summer of 2016.

***
  • June 3. Fairy Slippers Wildflower Hike with Seniors on the Go. Location TBA meet at the trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 10. Geocaching Hike. Meet at the Happy Jack trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 17. Lake Owen Hike + Playing in the Lake. Meet at the West Laramie Shell Station (2471 W Jackson St ) at 8 am or the Lake Owen Trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 24. Hike through Soapstone Natural Area in Colorado. Meet at the Barts Flee Market parking lot at 8 am or the trailhead at 9 am.
***
  • July 1. Safe Kids Hike. We’ll talk about hiking safety, practice getting lost and teach kids the Search and Rescue ‘hug-a-tree’ method during this hike. Have your children bring a whistle. Meet at the Chimney Park trailhead at 9 am.
  • July 8. Lone Pine State Wildlife Area in Colorado. Meet at the Barts Flee Market parking lot at 8 am or the trailhead at 9 am.
  • July 15. Libby Flats Hike. Meet at the Forest Service Visitors Center in Centennial (just up the hill past town) at 9 am. From there we’ll convoy to the point where we’ll start our hike.
  • July 22. Geocache Hike. Meet at the Vedauwoo Pay Kiosk outside the gate at 9 am.*
  • July 29. Saratoga Fish Hatchery & Hobo Pool Swim. Meet at the West Laramie Shell Station ( 2471 W Jackson St ) at 8 am or the Saratoga Fish Hatchery at 9:30. Bring a lunch & a swimming suit. This will probably be an all day adventure.
****
***
  • Sep 2. Raspberry Picking. Location TBA

A few notes about the group:

  • Sometimes we’ll change the location of a hike based on weather or trail conditions. This schedule is subject to change so come join us on facebook for the latest information and check out our calendar page for other local outdoor events throughout the summer.
  • I’d love to offer weekend hikes, but we’re busy teaching backcountry navigation courses on weekends…and I also work a pesky part-time job a few weekends/month. But often families will come up on our facebook page and invite others to join in on weekend hikes.
  • We try to be prompt with our schedule. Most hikes start at 9, we take a few minutes to load kids into carriers and get settled and we step off by 9:10.
  • Bring along snacks, water, appropriate footwear, hats and dress in layers.
  • Don’t forget your MBNF parking pass, WY State Parks pass or cash for a parking fee depending on where we are going.
  • We hike year round…well, we snowshoe and ski in the winter so come on out!

Questions? Let me know. 

Hope to see you on a hike this summer.

 

9 Things You Don’t Know About Just Trails

We’ve seen huge growth in our website traffic and Trail Deck sales the past few months so we thought it was a good time to let you in on a little behind-the-scenes stuff. So here goes…

9 things you don't know about

  • We’ll turn 4 this spring, maybe we should throw a birthday bash?
  • Al & I are both serial entrepreneurs. We have a million ideas but have to really narrow it down and focus on one or two projects at a time so we don’t get overwhelmed. It’s perhaps the hardest thing about owning a small business.
  • We currently operate out of our home office (ie guest bedroom) but we’re expanding and moving after the holidays. We’re looking forward to our new space, mostly because we’ll have room to maps out all over the floor and space for an intern or employee or two.
  • When we started Just Trails everyone thought we were crazy. They still think we are crazy, maybe we are. What do you think?
  • The mission of Just Trails is to help you explore. We hope we’re doing a good job with that. If you think we are (or aren’t) we’d love to have you tell us what we can do better, leave us a comment or shoot us a message. (rebecca@justtrails.com)
  • All of our focus right now is going to our Backcountry Navigation School, we’ve got big things coming this spring with the launch of our online navigation courses. We hope you’ll join us for a class.
  • We really are a family owned, operated and run small business. We hope to leave a legacy of hard work and stubbornness for our children and hope that Just Trails will be something that they can take over and manage and be proud of when it’s time for us to retire.
  • We still smile every time we sell a Trail Deck. We usually dance too, you should see our kitchen-floor break dancing moves 😉
  • We’re thankful for you, you have no idea how much it means to use that you download our maps, read our blog, take our classes and buy our products. Thank you so much!

History of the Medicine Bow National Forest {New FREE e-book}

When you’re wandering around the Medicine Bow National Forest do you ever stop for a few minutes to wonder what the forest looked like 100 years ago?

Do you think about who explored the high alpine terrain or pine forests before you?

Do you ever think about how the scenery has changed or how it has stayed the same?

We have some of our favorite stories about the history of the Medicine Bow National Forest. Especially the woman who once manned a fire lookout tower on Medicine Bow Peak, or a plane that once crashed into the mountain. 

History of the Medicine Bow National Forest

As avid hikers and huge history nerds we were so excited when our friends at the American Heritage Center here on the University of Wyoming campus helped us discover an amazing historical document which Al spent his holiday break compiling it into an e-book.

Here’s what Al has to say about it,

“I came across a report while going through the Medicine Bow National Forest Collection at the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center. It was a history and a description of the Medicine Bow National forest written in 1909. I couldn’t put it down, especially the history that was written by John H. Mullison. I was struck by the stories told and the general turn of the 1900s perspectives on the proper role of the forest, the future of the Laramie valley, Native Americans, and wildlife, among other things. I felt that more people should read this report. Republishing the information as a free ebook seemed like the best way to accomplish this.”

We are SO excited to offer this free e-book and hope you’ll be able to download it, read it and think about the unique and amazing history surrounding our local mountains.

You can download a pdf version for free here or get a copy on Google play, Google Books, the Apple iBookstore or Amazon here.

We’d love your feedback so if you do get a chance to check it out and read it chime in with the comments below and let us know what you think!

{ps you might notice that the book is free on our website, Google play, Google Books and the Apple iBookstore and $0.99 on Amazon, you can read why it’s $0.99 on Amazon. Since we couldn’t make the ebook free on Amazon all proceeds made from Amazon sales will be donated to the American Heritage Center.)