Walking into an independent outdoor store in Yellowstone’s backyard, the hopeful adventurer expects the staff truly knows the Park they’re promoting as well as the gear they’re endorsing for its exploration.

When it comes to Sunlight Sports’ staff, they have not only all backpacked into this land of endless peaks and geysers, but have made a six-year-running summer tradition of doing it together.

“Our staff backpacking trips bring the realization that we try our hardest to understand the gear we’re selling to people and to understand the area we live in,” said Krystina Beatty, Footwear Buyer for Sunlight. “People think Yellowstone is a tourist trap, when really there is all the backcountry that is so different from the lodges and boardwalks. We as a staff get to bring our backpacking experience back to the store with us and get people excited about going deeper into Yellowstone – whether they’re tourists or locals.”

The Sunlight staff splits their Yellowstone backpacking explorations into two outings and destinations, ensuring not only that they as a group see more of Yellowstone, but that half their staff is left to man the store while the other enjoys the wilderness. This year, Ribbon Lake and Pebble Creek hosted the Sunlight staff.

The Trails

Ribbon Lake –

8 Sunlight employees hiked and camped here June 20-21, 2016

The details:

·      Parked at Artist’s Point on the south rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, just west of Yellowstone Falls.

·      Hiked in two miles on Ribbon Lake Trail to reach campsite.

·      Stayed at one of the two campsites near Ribbon Lake. Campsites are completely hidden and tree covered, though when campers break out of the trees, Canyon Falls is visible.

·      Hiked out around 5 miles on Wapiti Lake Trail (one can also hike in to Ribbon Lake on this trail).

·      Hiking out on Wapiti Lake Trail brought the group out at Clear Lake Trailhead parking area, several miles from Artist’s Point.


The experience:

“My favorite part was walking along the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We walked along it and got to see right down into the bottom and the colors on the side of the wall. It was an amazing experience.” – David Henrich, Sunlight Sales Associate

“You go right along the edge of the Grand Canyon – there’s no gate or fence, it’s just there. It’s beautiful.” – Sonya Graves, Sunlight Sales Associate

“When we were camped, all night long you could hear the roar of the river and the falls – that was really cool.” – Randi Hicks Sunlight Sales Associate and Merchandising

“Because Ribbon Lake is not moving water, there are very bad mosquitos. But this also means it’s a great catch and release fishing – it was full of fish biting and going crazy. We all got a lot of bug bites … we built a fire [in large part] for smoke.” – Sonya Graves, Sunlight Sales Associate




Pebble Creek

5 Sunlight employees & 1 Merrell Rep hiked and camped here June 23-24, 2016

The details:

·      Parked and began at Warm Creek Trailhead, located at the Northeast corner of the Park in Lamar Valley. This is one of the last trails before exiting into Cooke City.

·      Hiked in about 5.5 miles on Pebble Creek Trail to reach campsite.

·      Stayed at campsite 3P2, one of five backcountry sites within the Pebble Creek area. This campsite marked a good almost-halfway point for the Pebble Creek Loop Trail the group took.

·      The entirety of this loop trail is about 13 miles. Group came out at Pebble Creek Campground, about 8 miles from Warm Creek Trailhead. Hikers taking this loop should plan to shuttle or hitchhike between start and end points.

The experience:

“The first mile is all uphill, but gives gorgeous views looking at Abiathar peak. Once the climb is over, you drop down and open up into the wide, open valley that Pebble Creek runs through. The last [12] miles are a gentle, sloping downhill.” – Christian Baumeister, Sunlight Manager

“It’s a good overnight where you get some mileage through a not-very-used area. Pebble creek has a wolf pack this year, and we saw a lot of signs, but no wolves … The landscape of the hike goes down a creek valley where you’re paralleling Pebble Creek virtually the entire way through mixed meadows and forests, ducking in and out of the woods.” – Josh Fitzsimmons, Sunlight Sales Associate

“It was fun having the Merrell rep along and getting to know her in a wilderness environment … She was able to give almost our whole staff free shoes to try out for next season. We got them the Friday before we left. They impressed me – the new Merrells fit way different than any other shoe I put on. They have slip in the heel, which increases the amount of time it takes for the heel to hit the ground, reducing impact on the heel, knees, hips, and everything. They are really comfortable, and I didn’t have any blisters from wearing them even though they were brand new.” – Krystina Beatty, Sunlight Footwear Buyer


Why the annual Sunlight Staff Backpacking Trips make a difference


Trail sightings + Backcountry know-how

“It equips us with knowledge of the trails and how to better educate customers coming into our store about the process of backcountry site permits and how to navigate through the Park. We not only see where we backpack to, but also quick easy day hikes in the greater Yellowstone area and within Yellowstone. As we’re driving to our destination, we’re all pointing out hikes that are great – Elk Fork, Avalanche Peak … The whole experience gives us a better idea of how to help people get out. We want people to have fun and get away and experience way more than just what’s on the road and on the roadside.” – Christian Baumeister, Sunlight Manager

Gear testing

“It’s awesome to try out all the new gear we take along to demo. We got to see how a lot of the new stuff that just came out works … If you know how to use it, and have used it in the wilderness, you know what you’re talking about. That makes it a lot easier and makes you feel better about telling customers how to use it and what to do with it.” – David Henrich, Sunlight Sales Associate

Staff solidarity

“These trips make us closer. Maybe you don’t necessarily work with a person who’s in your group all the time, and you’re out of the store setting so you can relax and chat and get to know somebody better. The whole things just brings everybody closer and makes the team work better when we get back.”  – Randi Hicks Sunlight Sales Associate and Merchandising

Staying true to Sunlight’s identity

“These trips show our owners aren’t disconnected from what their employees want, and it shows the store as a whole has a fun side. Also, as a team we recognize we have to get out at some point instead of being stuck inside the store all the time. We need to test the new gear and find out what’s best for the customers … Plus to get out as a group and have fun together promotes camaraderie and is a huge part of who we are at Sunlight.”– Josh Fitzsimmons, Sunlight Sales Associate

“These staff backpacking trips say who Sunlight is as a company. It it separates them from the rest. Most people don’t get to do these kinds of things as a company, and with the store being so busy – open seven days a week from 9 am to 9 pm, we really don’t always get to spend time doing the things we like to do together. We all are friends – that’s really what this is about, and it’s so nice to be able to get out with everybody.” – Zayne Hebbler, Sunlight Sales Associate