The Journey Begins

Well, here we go. The last five months of turning abstract dreams from brainstorm sessions to these tangible products has been an absolute whirlwind. The idea was born on October 28th, 2018 in one of many long car rides home (if you want the abbreviated version of the birth of ST2S, be sure to read Our Story)


We hit the ground running with this idea, immediately filling all of our extra time with research on different grants available and phone calls that would excitedly turn into all of the possible routes we could cover on our trip. It took us less than two months to get into contact with Bobby, our inspiration for the project, and travel back up to Lone Pine to hear his story. Over the course of a short 36 hours, we made the 5 hour drive up to Lone Pine, filmed our interview with Bobby, and returned to San Diego in order to make it back for work and classes on Monday. (Make sure to check out “Lone Pine, CA” for Bobby’s original write up and click here to see his video!)


We did this first trip with no budget and in the middle of a very busy season for both of us – it is hard to imagine how our work will flourish with our entire lives being dedicated to this work for the duration of the trip. That first test run of the project led to an insane couple weeks of squeezing all of the extra minutes we could together in order to put together the writeup, our video, as well as a few extra things we needed for a few grant applications. Since we’ve made those original products, it’s been so much more difficult to keep our excitement for this project from bubbling over and telling the world – and certain individuals have already been so incredibly helpful. For example, we never would have thought to apply for IRB approval for this project, even though it does fall under the realm of legitimate social science. With the help of Dr. Fritsvold at USD, one of Katie’s professors, we received approval from the Institutional Review Board of USD to carry out this project under the umbrella of sociological research. As we’ve let more and more people in on what we’ve been up to, small towns to summits has unfolded before us in the most unexpected way. From lengthening our road trip timeline to help with graphic design (thanks Brad Booth!), this has been a community effort from the start.

Part of what makes our project so special for us is that it will necessarily involve all of you! Our time on the road would not be possible without support from our friends and family, and for all of the different donation options you can go to the Get Involved section on this website or click here to view our GoFundMe!


From postcards to stickers to being able to even sponsor one of our individual towns – your involvement in our project is not going to go unappreciated. Hearing our families’ and friends’ positive reactions to this idea as it has come to fruition has already given us the confidence to go after this with absolutely everything that we have, and we are so blessed to be able to continue to include everyone in our adventure of a lifetime.


In a nutshell (as you can see with our launch video) – Small Towns to Summits is a road trip throughh northern California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. In each of these states we will be hiking to the highest peaks and interviewing local people from the town as well as fellow travelers. After this trip of a lifetime is over, we will be making a documentary and writing a full length professional journal article to showcase our project and findings as a whole. Throughout our travels, we will be posting blogs and vlogs from every individual mountaineering expedition and from our time in the towns. There is so much wonderful content out there that highlights what talented and adventurous individuals are doing as they explore our nation’s most beautiful places, but we found that the voice of the locals is often missing. Because our time in the mountains is always made the most memorable by the friends that we make along the way, our work is all about weaving together those stories that we are going to be collecting along our journey.


This project for both of us truly seems to feel like a natural progression of our friendship. Since the first time we went camping together in Joshua Tree in summer of 2018, we’ve always been pushing each other to climb higher and dream bigger. That first car ride on our way back from Lone Pine didn’t feel like a “what if” discussion about an idea that most likely wouldn’t pan out; from it’s beginning, the conversations about Small Towns to Summits have all been about exactly how we will make it happen. It is almost surreal that we finally now get to share it with all of you, and we can’t wait to take you along as this crazy trip unfolds.


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