Trekking 400 Miles Of The Old Spanish Trail In Southern Utah

Finding new, creative ways of connecting with an increasingly diverse audience of land users online can be challenging for land management agencies like the BLM. On one hand, we understand the importance of engaging this often-overlooked audience of young public land users. And on the other, we often face the limited resources and flexibility needed to launch campaigns that help us establish deep and meaningful connections between young people and the great outdoors. As social media lead and webmaster for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Utah, and a millennial myself, I’m often faced with this conundrum.

Fortunately, I work for an agency that is up for new ideas and willing to instill trust in talented young people. That is why, when Gordo Wood, an American Conservation Experience (ACE) intern working under BLM mentorship, came to me with the idea of trekking 400 miles along the southern Utah section of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail (OST), I knew we had to share this incredibly unique experience, live online, through the eyes of a new generation. Together we formed the framework for our #OSTadventure.

“We know that when we connect young people to public lands, it changes them. It changes them for the better,” said U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to the Outdoor Industry Association last month in Salt Lake City, Utah. With that in mind, and poised to meet Interior Secretary Jewell’s recent challenge “…to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors,” a BLM videographer and I headed out on the trail, to document the experiences of three ACE interns from Salt Lake City, as they explored and shared in discovery along the historic route.

Joined by a BLM or trail association field expert at each juncture, we searched for traces of the past — sharing the adventure online, viewers experienced and engaged in the highs and lows of the trip. Each day our #OSTadventure crew connected the dots as we discovered Utah’s rich culture, history, and beauty. Whether on foot, bike, or horse, the crew worked with local field offices to highlight adjacent recreation resources as we visited cultural sites and landscapes associated with the historic trail.

“For me I found out that I love connecting people with the landscape around them and the public lands that we have in Utah. I love mountain biking. I love rock climbing. I love enjoying the scenery around me, but it’s that much more spectacular when you can connect history to these landscapes, also, and connect with the people that came before we were here.” – Gordo Wood, ACE Visual Resource Management Intern

“For me the thrill of being able to do this through the Bureau of Land Management and explore our public lands and our National Historic Trails, was truly an incredible experience – very eye opening. I learned a lot historically and a lot about myself as a person, working in the field…That was a huge highlight for me, of the entire experience!” – Hannah Cowen, ACE Paleontology Intern

“Getting the opportunity to travel along the Old Spanish Trail with seasoned BLMers was a life-changing experience that opened my eyes to all the fun that can be had on Utah’s public lands. I hope our story encourages everyone to get outside and start playing!” – Matt Martin ACE Planning Intern

I am proud of the creativity and youthful spirit infused in this project and look forward to working with others to develop more products that reach out to those in search of adventure in America’s great outdoors. Together, we can get people excited and out enjoying their public lands!

– Chad Douglas, New Media Lead for BLM-Utah

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