Senior explores Western mountain range for 30 days

Hikes with YMCA program, faces new experiences, challenges


Noah Stanukinas ’23 rests to journal at the top of the last mountain ridge climbed (photo courtesy of Stanukinas)

Jeanne Mardegan, News Editor

With his hands coated in bear spray while a torrential downpour acted as the soundtrack of their evening, Noah Stanukinas ‘23 and four of his other hiking-group members finally made it to the top of a mountain, after taking an off-route path to bring some spontaneity to their long day. 

“The relief of getting to the top [of the mountain] and finally sleeping made [the hike] worth it,” Stanukinas said.

For 30 days in July 2022, Stanukinas took part in an expedition with limited supplies starting in Montana, following a C-loop trail throughout Idaho, and ending back where the group began, he said. The total mileage of the trip was roughly 125 miles. Each day, he and his group mates, whom he didn’t know prior to the trip, would carry 80 pound bags on day-long walks before setting up camp for the night. The essentials he brought included a change of clothes, a tent, cooking supplies, and a first aid kit. 

“We went fishing a lot because that was the only other way to get food,” Stanukinas said. “We did have a lot of downtime [though], just because of the stress of going that distance [each day] on our bodies.”

The program was through YMCA, which offers loads of summer camps that Stanukinas had attended prior. He had done smaller versions of away-trips–such as kayaking throughout Lake Superior for three weeks during the previous summer–yet this was the first time he had done an excursion of this length, his mother Melissa Stanukinas said.

“I encouraged Noah to do this,” she said. “I would have loved an opportunity like this when I was younger [and] I was pretty confident that he would be able to handle the trip.”

During his time away, Stanukinas had no communication with friends and family back home. The group had a satellite phone, GPS, and a personal locator beacon, she said. Stanukinas felt somewhat nervous about her son being away with new people, but she knew it was a great experience for him and that all would be well when he came home.

“[I wasn’t worried] initially, but as the weeks went on, I kept worrying that he wasn’t enjoying it,” Stanukinas said. “This trip was life changing for him. The time away from phones and civilization provided a great opportunity for him to learn so much about himself and experience a lot of personal growth.”

This trip added to Stanukinas’ passion for the outdoors and he plans to continue trips like his Idaho one in the future.

“It’s an acquired thing, but the coolest part was the nature and just being out there in places people hadn’t been to in 10 to 15 years,” Stanukinas said. “I’d definitely like to go on my own hikes, and it’s something I’d love to do again.”