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On the Run: Catching Up with Alyssa Hartson

If you want to talk to Alyssa Hartson, you literally have to wait for her to stop moving. She runs, climbs, bikes, renovates houses, teaches yoga, travels, and knits. She’s worked as a glacier guide in Norway, New Zealand, and Alaska and has played with penguins in Antarctica. Currently, Alyssa is training for her third ultramarathon. I caught up with her after she finished a “light” 5K run on the trail system near her Butte, Montana, house. 

Did you really run the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin?

Yes. It’s a beautiful 50-mile race and a great first ultramarathon. The Ice Age Trail is built 100% by volunteers. I was teaching near Madison at the time and my students and I helped to build some of the trails. What better way to build connections?

What’s your next cycle trip?

My brother is in Bellingham, Washington. It would be fun to cycle from his house to my house. There are also singletrack rides in Idaho where you cycle from hot spring to hot spring. I’d love to do that. 

How did you decide that you’re not a city person?

It took me a while to figure it out. Once I got into the backcountry realized how much happier I was. Milwaukee, where I went to college, is big city to me. I felt kind of lost. After college, I was lucky enough to become an intern at a glacier guiding company in Alaska. I lived in tents with 12-15 others and thrived. After that, the biggest community I lived in was 150 people. I recognized that I was most successful in small communities. 

What was your favorite experience in the outdoor adventure industry?

In Alaska, I had fun leading 3-day ice climbing camps for teenagers. Up there, the day becomes slightly mundane but all of a sudden you have 15-20 teenagers who are full of energy and have really cool skills. They are always so excited to climb. This is where I learned I like working with teenagers. 

You worked as a communications operator for Lockheed Martin in Antarctica. What skills did you need for that?

My job at McMurdo Station was to work on VHF and HMF radio and track people moving around off base on sea ice or up glaciers. I also would do check-ins with remote camps. We needed to know that everyone was safe because Antarctica is super unpredictable. As an emergency center, information came through our department and we would send it off. I developed safety and detail-oriented skills as a guide which I used to keep people safe in Antarctica. 

After so many challenging outdoor jobs, was teaching easy for you?

Nothing in your life can prepare you for your first year as a teacher. It is so hard. (Laughs.) I thought I’ve worked in Alaska and on a glacier but when I had to stand in front of my first class I’ll never forget how scared I was. (Laughs.) It was so anxiety-producing and so stressful because you have a responsibility to these young adults but they also have minds of their own. 

How did you decide to transition from teaching science to teaching yoga?

After practicing yoga for 7-8 years, there was an opportunity for my school to pay for my teaching certification so I could bring it into my school. I was incredibly lucky to be certified by a program geared for educators. This allowed me to teach yoga to my students and it complemented what our school was doing with restorative justice in a really cool way. 

What’s in Butte?

My husband, Matt, and I wanted to live in the mountains. We were ready to buy a house but in Montana there are certain cities outside of our price range, like Boseman and Missoula. Matt said I should check out Butte. After the first few days, I was hooked. It’s super blue collar, has an incredible history, is kind of run down, and has so much personality and culture. I love it. A lot of cities feel the same. but there is nowhere in the world like Butte, Montana. The best-kept secret is that there are mountains and trails and nobody’s out there. 

You are known to sit on your front porch drinking strong coffee and knitting. What inspirational quote is on your mug?

“Let that shit go” with an image of Buddha meditating. 

You’ve been around the world. How does Montana rate?

It’s beautiful. It’s like we’ve barely had a chance to explore it. Last summer we went up to an alpine lake and thought “wow, we live here.” It was just an hour from our house. 

Why bees?

As a teacher, I created a class called citizen science. Students got to pick topics that meant something to them. One group of students really wanted to learn about bees. We thought, “OK kids, have fun with that.” By chance, that year at a conference in Wisconsin Dells we met Brad (James) at the Beepods booth. Back at school, the students helped write a grant to get the Beepods system. It wasn’t on my radar before that. I will never forget the day the Beepod arrived. There were like ten students outside and there was this moment of harmony in our outdoor classroom. Bees were coming into their new home and students were captivated. 

How did you end up working for Beepods?

Last April I jokingly told Brad to give me a call. He called in November and said he was expanding and wanted me to be a sales rep. They have a mission I can get behind as an educator and environmentalist. 

Pick up a copy of Beepods’ Recipes and Remedies Collection e-book featuring a foreword by Alyssa Hartson. 

 

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Bill@ccmediagroup.co'

Bill Polacheck

Bill is a teacher, environmentalist, and freelance writer. If he's not out in nature, he's happy to be writing about it.
Bill@ccmediagroup.co'
Bill Polacheck
Bill is a teacher, environmentalist, and freelance writer. If he's not out in nature, he's happy to be writing about it.

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