BYU student challenges Utahns to take a hike

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Andy Nielsen and Trevor Johnson complete a hike in Grand Teton National Park. (Andy Nielsen)

Utah is known for its hiking, outdoors, and “life elevated” mantra. And some BYU students are working to help people experience Utah’s beauty.

Hiking in Utah is both rejuvenating and a way to build relationships, according to BYU junior Andy Nielsen, who launched an adventure challenge called HikrLife for avid hikers and first timers alike.

The HikrLifeChallenge is a series of hikes located throughout Utah. Participants are challenged to complete at least 10 hikes by October 2016. Each time a hike is completed, participants post a photo on social media, tag @HikrLife and use the hashtag #HikrChallenge.

Both locals and newcomers can participate in the HikrLifeChallenge. Nielsen expressed a concern that those who visit or live in Utah don’t realize all there is to do. He hopes to enlighten others to the possibilities right outside their doors.

“HikrLife is a message to the world that hiking can be part of your life and to some people hiking is life,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen said he got caught up in the college scene and forgot to experience the outdoors after he moved to Provo. That changed after a summer working as a tour bus driver in Alaska. He discovered the Duff’s Challenge, a series of hikes in Alaska, which sparked the idea to implement a similar challenge in Utah.

Of the 12 hikes suggested on the HikrLife website, BYU senior Peyton Walbeck has completed eight. His favorite by far was Angels Landing. He hiked it near sunset when it was less crowded and said he loves the contrast between the red canyon and the green trees.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind place,” Walbeck said. “No wonder tourists travel from across the world to see it.”

BYU senior Eve Desmarais has completed the Donut Falls hike, located near Salt Lake City. She said it was a hike she always wanted to complete.

“You feel a sense of accomplishment,” Desmarais said. “We brought donuts and ate them overlooking the falls. It was an awesome experience.”

Even though there are many outdoor activities in Utah, Nelson decided to focus his challenge on hiking because he feels anyone can do it.

Eve Des completes the Donut Falls hike with donuts in hand. ( )
Eve Desmarais was able to complete the Donut Falls hike with donuts in hand. (Ashlynn Adair)

“Everyone can hike,” Nielsen said. “My mom isn’t much of a hiker, but when she saw the HikrLife Challenge she told me ‘I can do this. This would be really good for me.'”

Nielsen, Walbeck and Desmarais all have rooted beliefs that hiking is physically, mentally and spiritually healing.

“There is a lot of peace that comes from hiking. And being in God’s creations is a big stress reliever for me,” Desmarais said.

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