“Life got in the way,” Suzanne Beaudelaire mused when ask why she hadn’t backpacked in the 45 years that had passed since she was a teen exploring the Angeles National Forest with her fellow Alta Sierra Girl Scouts north of L.A.

Being outdoors has always been essential for Suzanne. “I’ve been an outdoor girl all my life. That’s where I can breathe deeply, relax and fill all my scenes; that fills my soul, promoting gratitude and happiness,” she said.

Freshly retired from a 34-year CPA career, the self-described “outdoor girl” knew she wanted to get back to the backcountry and backpack deep into the beautiful Bighorns backyard she has called home for the past decade.

That was supposed to happen in the summer of 2021 as part of a trip organized by The Hub on Smith. But, “Two days before that trip, I put on my full pack for a short walk in the morning, then proceeded to have a particularly physical day,” Suzanne said, explaining, “By that afternoon, I had pulled a muscle in my calf.”

But Suzanne would not be deterred. After all, the Girl Scout motto is “Be prepared.”

“I was so disappointed,” she reflected. “That experience is what inspired me to train for this year’s trek.”

About five weeks before this year’s Hub backpacking trip to the Seven Brothers lakes in the Cloud Peak Wilderness, training began for Suzanne. She aimed for two to three hikes each week, at varying elevations and distances.

“I started out with just a day pack and loaded it up with binoculars, a book on local flora and fauna, and lots of water and snacks. After a couple weeks, I graduated to the backpack I’d be carrying, starting with about 10 pounds and increasing the weight until I had all my gear, clothing and food,” she said of her training regimen.

For nearly all her hikes, Suzanne relied on another Girl Scouts rule: use the buddy system. She tapped friends and contacts she’s made through Hub hikes and a Facebook Hikeristas group. They’d accompany her on hikes at Hidden Hoot Trail and Red Grade Trails. She said the new sections at Poverty Flat Trailhead were particularly enjoyable. Her only solo trip was Soldier Ridge Trail, where she was able to enjoy her time at the end bench before a sunset hike back.

Finally, the July trip was at hand, but a canceled flight returning from an L.A. wedding left her stuck inside of Billings with the Bighorn blues again. Thankfully, a quick call to the Hubby Taxi Service got her to Sheridan where she met the Hub group and made the trip.

Starting with little shade and extreme heat, she described the four-plus-mile hike to camp that gained more than 1,600 feet to reach an elevation of 9,585 feet “challenging” but training conditioned her muscles and lungs. That made for “a pleasant experience where I could enjoy the scenery in relative ease and comfort.”

About that scenery: “Unbeatable!” Suzanne asserted. “There are incredible boulder fields, breathtaking lake views and wildflowers galore! The company was unbelievable as well.” She even got to enjoy an afternoon at the beach – a striking, soft sandy surprise which awaits visitors at the end of the trail on Seven Brothers Lake #7.

For Suzanne, it was the little pleasures that made her time in the backcountry truly worthwhile. “I liked boulder hopping to the lake in the quiet of morning to sit and refill my water.”

Suzanne thanked Lisa Wells and Steve Stresky for organizing so many great Hub hikes and recommended anyone interested in getting outdoors sign up for a hike. She was also appreciative of the trails SCLT has built.

“I can’t imagine a world without SCLT trails!” she declared. “SCLT has done so much to increase local outdoor recreation access. I truly appreciate their vision and effectiveness,” and added, “If you use SCLT trails, I hope you are committed, like I am, to give them your continued support.”