The Backpacking Blotskes

Making Memories, One Hike at a Time

May 1, 2019 | by Maria Weidich

photo courtesy of the Blotske family

For Jamie Blotske, growing up in the small town of Columbus, Montana meant a childhood of hiking, camping, white water rafting, and plenty of fishing. “I’ve known no other way of life. The outdoors have always been a huge part of who I am,” she recalls. So, it comes as no surprise when she and her husband Chet started a family, they wanted to share that same passion and respect for the outdoors with their children. 

To share this admiration, the Billings couple and their young boys (3-year-old Rowen and 1-year-old Bear) have embarked on an epic and ambitious outdoor adventure. As of January, they have set out to hike in all 50 states.  

Before the idea transpired, Jamie, a stay-at-home-mom, found herself at a fork in the road. While she is grateful for the freedom and opportunity to be at home with her children, something was missing. She described the daily monotony of housework, bills, dishes, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and endless laundry. “I was not content in that routine,” she confessed, “my wander-lusting heart needed more.”

It was on a family hike in the Beartooth Mountains last summer that Jamie dreamed up the idea of hiking in all 50 states as ‘The Backpacking Blotskes.' “I wanted to make memories as a family. I wanted to create a life that we can look back on when we’re 90 and be really proud of,” she said. Chet, who has the flexibility as a self-employed realtor, was immediately on board with the idea.

To assist in this endeavor, they welcomed another member to the family. Mav, short for Maverick, is the Blotske’s 24-foot motorhome. “He’s really the key to achieving our goal,” Jamie said. “We really had to look at a budget and figure out where we were going to cut costs in other areas to make this happen. Without him, it wouldn’t be possible, from a financial standpoint.”

Where the Blotskes plan to take their hiking adventures, and when, is based mostly on weather. “When it’s cold and snowy up north, we’ll head south,” Jamie said. “Then, we’ll take on the northern states in the summer.” 

High on their hiking list are California’s redwoods, the national parks of Utah, areas around Bend, Oregon, and when the boys are a bit older, Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast. Jamie added that she’s looking forward to exploring states that nobody mentions when you talk about hiking. “I’m kind of excited to hike states like Iowa and Kansas,” she said, “I feel like they’re going to pleasantly surprise us.”

This past winter, the Blotske’s maiden voyage included touring four states in the southwest corner of the country, and logging a whopping 2,700 road miles in the motorhome. With Jamie and Chet each toting one of their sons on their backs, the family hiked in California’s Death Valley, Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire, Arizona’s famed Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Horseshoe Bend; and New Mexico’s Angel Peak and Bisti Wilderness. “We loved Death Valley!” Jamie exclaimed. While three-year-old Rowen enjoyed running around barefoot in the sand, Jamie marveled its diverse terrain. “It was so cool that you can have the sand dunes and the mountains looming in the background.” Valley of Fire in Nevada was a highlight for the family, too. “The red rock was just stunning; we have nothing like it in Montana. It’s just a whole different world,” Jamie said.

Observing her boys experience this same wonder was just as gratifying. “Seeing their faces as they enjoy new scenery, watching their little noses breathe in the fresh air, and sun on their skin. Those are the things about the outdoors that make me feel alive, so watching those same things give them life, there’s just nothing else that compares to it.”

While they plan on exploring the well-traveled national parks, it’s important to Jamie to hike in lesser-known areas, too. “For us, an important part of the adventure is the unknown. We love the quiet and stillness of a place that has barely been touched,” she said. “So many places are made ‘Instagram famous.' We want to find those places that nobody’s really talking about, the hidden gems.”  

To get off the beaten path, the family wants to connect with people across the country for hiking recommendations. “All we have is Google,” Jamie joked, “and of course it’s going to give us the popular ones.” By networking with locals through their website and social media, Jamie hopes to meet new people, build lasting friendships, and cultivate a community of people who love the outdoors.

The Blotskes plan to hit the road every few months, having no interest in traveling full time. “We love to go and do, but we love coming home,” Jamie admits. “Home for us represents so many things: comfort, familiarity, safety, peace. It’s dependable. The walls within which we live hold so many memories, so coming home feels like a big hug from a loved one, it just feels right.” Both Jamie’s parents and grandparents live nearby and traveling for an extended length of time would mean missing out on life with them. “If we did this full time, even if it’s just for a year, that’s a year’s worth of things we’d miss out on with people that we love.” She candidly adds, “And let’s be honest, it gets exhausting; mentally, physically, emotionally. Our bodies need that time of rest to recover and prepare for the next big adventure!”

Their next big adventures will lead the Blotskes to North Dakota, Chet’s home state, and South Dakota, later this spring. Hikes in Idaho and Montana are planned this summer, Wyoming is on the calendar for the fall, and they’d like to go back to California this winter. Although they don’t want the pressure of a deadline, the Blotske family intends on hiking in all 50 states before the children are in school.  

It’s simple to understand how traveling with young children, let alone hiking, is no easy feat. For the Blotskes, hiking with the littles just means taking a bit more time and a bit more gear. Treks sometimes take them twice as long, and stopping for naptime might slow them down. When it comes to gear, obviously more food and water is needed, and for the Blotskes, diapers and wipes. “We learned the hard way,” Jamie laughed. "I don't care if it's a ten-minute hike; from now on we’re packing diapers and wipes!”

In spite of the challenges that come with this lifestyle, Jamie says the rewards are second to none. For her, hiking and the outdoors has always been rejuvenating. “It fills my tank, it gives me life. To do it as a family gives me a great sense of purpose. The goal is to instill this lifestyle into our children and raise a generation that will love and respect the outdoors. We want this love and passion for the outdoors to be their foundation on which they’ll always land.”

You can follow the Blotskes on all their hiking adventures at www.thebackpackingblotskes.com, or on Instagram at @thebackpackingblotskes.

Originally printed in the May 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

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