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Bryan Barnett
A Prairie Triathlon

I was fortunate to make my first visit to American Prairie Reserve this August as part of the annual Young Professionals Leadership Network (YPLN) trip. We spent our time hiking, biking, and canoeing across the landscape, using the PN Ranch as our basecamp. We had the pleasure of being some of the first guests to stay in the newly-installed yurts, and for someone whose prior camping experiences involved the typical Walmart tent on an undefined plot of land, the yurts and surrounding campgrounds were wonderful and inviting accommodations.

Our trip was meticulously planned and led by some of the best from the APR team and they, along with their partners at the local outdoors group, fittingly named Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures, made the trip truly remarkable. Our days started off early with a hearty breakfast and then a full day of exploring the Reserve. We hiked miles through prairie grasses and sage brush, saw original homesteads and learned about the brave families that once called this formidable land home, canoed down the Missouri River just as Lewis and Clark had years ago, and walked through a city of prairie dogs. Even more astonishing was that, beyond some cattle fencing and old tire tracks carved into the earth, there were few signs that mankind had made its mark here.

Canoeing the Missouri River. Photo by Lee Pedinoff. Above: A sunset view from the Founders Hut. Photo by Scott Siemens. At top: The YPLN crew at the Founders Hut overlook. Photo by Hill Hamrick.

One special moment for me that will last a lifetime, was stopping in my tracks and standing in the middle of the prairie, blanketed by sun, and seeing the grasslands stretch on and on in all directions. For someone who grew up in suburbia and now lives in New York, the perspective and reflection that second provided was worth the entire trip.

When we returned to camp after a long day of discovery, the silence of the prairie was replaced by stories and laughter as we recounted the incredible sights of that day. Whether it was a glimpse of the legendary bighorn sheep, bald eagles soaring overhead or simply acknowledging the natural beauty of the land, there were endless moments to revisit. Bonding over these shared experiences turned strangers into friends and created memories that cannot help but make you smile whenever they are recalled.

For those that appreciate the wonder of the natural world, visiting the American Prairie Reserve is an incredible opportunity. Not only will you gain an understanding of the vastness of the Reserve, but you will better understand the APR’s mission. You will see the potential for what the Reserve will be when it is finally completed and the great animals of the plains return, and hopefully you too will have a moment that makes you stop in your tracks.

- Bryan Barnett
YPLN Member since 2017

To learn more about becoming a member of the Young Professionals Leadership Network, contact mail@americanprairie.org

Read about the 2017 YPLN trip here.

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Bryan Barnett, author of this post, hiking along the prairie.

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An enjoyable evening after a full day of canoeing.

An enjoyable evening after a full day of canoeing. Above: Canoeing the Missouri River. Photo by Lindsay Rubin.