For vacation this year, my husband and I finally made the journey to Montana. We split our time between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. While there, we hiked over 100 miles and learned a lot about ourselves along the way (like how I really should have gone to the gym before we left for the trip). I also noticed how certain things in hiking align with architecture, but mostly the process that I see our clients go through. Below I give you 8 pieces of architectural advice from a novice hiker.

1. The highs and lows are what make the journey.

Some people like a flat easy path to hike on, but I can tell you that those were all super boring. The scenery never changed. If you want great views you’ll need to go high. Like hiking, you’ll be excited to start the design or construction process, full of energy and ready to tackle anything. Then you’ll trip over a rock, discover a major issue in the foundation, and you’ll swear the mosquitoes are in love with you. You round the corner and see your building taking shape and you remember why you started this in the first place. Other hurdles will surely be thrown your way in the process and you’ll feel like all your money is being squandered away. Don’t worry, one day the clouds will part and the angels will sing.

Left Photo: Just starting out on the longest hike we did. Middle photos: Progressing throughout the day and slightly hating myself. Right Photo: At the top and loving the view. Why yes, that’s four lakes and over 20 visible miles.

2. When you think you can’t go any further, keep going.

Every time I thought I couldn’t push to the next turn or make it up another hill, I kept going. And it was always worth it. When you can’t handle the design or construction process any longer, keep going.

One of the scariest hikes. Photos by Dustin Horst.

3. Know your limits.

While you should push yourself, know when you need to walk away from a trail, an architect, or a contractor.

4. It’s okay to shed a tear.

Not gonna lie. After our longest hike with our biggest elevation gains, I shed a couple tears because I was so happy to be done and simultaneously exhausted. I also held back tears of pain a few days later when I thought I could go uphill no longer.

5. Stay hydrated and use the pit toilets.

This is a self-care reminder. You’ll never complete the trail if you don’t drink water and you’ll hate yourself for not using the pit toilet when you had the chance. During the design and construction process take care not to burn yourself out. Lots of decisions will need to be made, but you can’t do that when you’re thirsty and need to use a restroom.

Pit toilets for the win!

6. Weird things are sometimes the best.

Nature produces weird things sometimes. Take the Grand Prismatic at Yellowstone – all that bacteria creating crazy colors. It’s gorgeously weird. When an architect or contractor suggests something weird, perhaps take a step back and consider it for a moment. You might find it to be beautiful.

Grand Prismatic Spring. Photos by Janelle Horst.

7. Don’t go alone.

Have a support system to help you through all the difficult moments.

Support systems like this make things way more fun! Left: Photo by Kelley Shradley-Horst. Right: Photo by Dustin Horst.

8. Carry bear spray.

Please don’t pepper spray your architect. But do be vigilant about your surroundings. Be cognizant of the process and don’t be afraid of it, just be prepared.

Left: Yellowstone National Park warning sign. Right: Glacier Nation Park bear warning sign. Photos by Janelle Horst.

 

Side note: Due to fires in recent years, certain historic structures have been destroyed. The Glacier National Park Conservancy works to provide funds for the restoration of the historic Sperry Chalet along with other environmental management and conservation, accessibility for all visitors, and educational opportunities. If you enjoy visiting places like this, consider aiding them in their work by checking out their website.