When Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park launches its fourth annual 12-for-12 hiking challenge on Jan. 1, you can bet Berny Schuh will be there.
The 75-year-old Bismarck woman has completed the park’s hiking challenge all three years it’s been offered.
“I just enjoy it,” Schuh said. “I’m pretty darn proud of it.”
The state park south of Mandan offers a group hike at least once a month and rewards those who complete 12 hikes with an annual state park pass.
A goal of the program is to encourage people from the Bismarck-Mandan area to visit the park throughout the year, said Matt Schanandore, interpretive coordinator.
“A lot of people think Fort Lincoln is just a summertime destination, but we can also be a really nice winter, spring and fall destination,” Schanandore said.
The state park has seven miles of trails. The guided hikes are typically 1.5 to 2.5 miles long, ranging from moderately strenuous to stroller friendly.
Park manager Dan Schelske said participants enjoy seeing a different area of the park than they’ve experienced before.
“They’ve experienced these grand views of the river valleys and the upland prairie,” Schelske said. “Since I'm the boss, I can take them off trail a little bit. And take them in areas where there are no trails.”
Participants range in age from infants being carried by their parents to people in their senior years.
Miranda Klatt, of Mandan, completed 13 hikes in 2018 after coming up one hike short of meeting the challenge in 2017.
“This year I had determination,” Klatt said.
Her son, Easton, born in April, accompanied her for the hikes in a backpack.
“He’s a trouper,” Klatt said. “It’s something you can do with your family. We’ll be doing it again next year.”
The hikes attract about 4,000 people each year, with an average of 150 to 200 people participating in each event. A Mother’s Day hike last year drew 385 people.
“It’s becoming a tradition for a lot of these families,” Schelske said.
About 40 to 50 complete the 12-for-12 challenge each year. Annual passes are distributed at the December hike.
The hikes are free with a North Dakota state parks annual pass or $7 vehicle registration. The park offers four bonus hikes during summer months so people can make up for dates they missed.
The first hike of the year at 1 p.m. Jan. 1 is part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks. Registration is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the visitor center.
For more information, including other 2019 hike dates, visit the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park Facebook page.