“Raising my three daughters with the BTNF as their backyard has given them a great appreciation for what the vast outdoors has to offer and has taught them to be more independent and self-confident. When they come back from a hike, they feel like they’ve achieved something,” Cyndi says.
Cyndi Bardman spent her young adulthood exploring New York and New England’s Adirondack and White Mountains. Still, she says that public lands in the West are of a different type—and a type that she vastly prefers. “I’m an environmental scientist by trade and beautiful, natural, wide-open spaces with few people are something I yearn for,” she says. Of course, there are national forests on the East Coast, “but they’re just of a different scale and there are more people around.”
Cyndi first experienced the Bridger-Teton National Forest as an adult learner at the American Wilderness Leadership School (AWLS) campus on Granite Creek. The campus is private land, owned by the Safari Club, but surrounded by the BTNF. At every opportunity, Cyndi went hiking and fishing on the forest. “And we went out in the forest to learn as well,” she says.
It was in 2000, after her fourth time studying at the AWLS that Cyndi visited Bondurant, one of the small towns near the BTNF’s Big Piney Ranger District. “When I drove through Bondurant, I knew that was where I wanted to live for the rest of my life,” she says. In 2017 Cyndi moved there with her three daughters. “Now I look out of my windows every day and see the Bridger-Teton National Forest,” she says. “There is something to be said about not giving up on your dreams, but working hard to achieve them instead.”
Cyndi doesn’t just look at the forest, but also hikes, hunts, snowmobiles, and fishes on it. “I’m on it very frequently and in many different ways,” she says. “When I have visitors, I also love taking them out and helping them experience the forest.” Cyndi joined the Friends of the Bridger-Teton board because she sees the forest as an important resource. “I want to be involved in making a difference for the better on the forest. It is an incredible, important global treasure,” she says. “I think the BTNF, like many other lands in the West, is going to see more and more pressure and use. Friends of the Bridger-Teton is an opportunity to help the forest be more prepared for this than it otherwise might be.”
“I’m a strong believer that a guidebook is a great way to get to know an area—you can learn about what health and safety issues might be a problem, the wildlife and landscapes you’ll see, and about the geologic and cultural history,” Cyndi says. “Even if an area isn’t completely new to you, there’s always more to learn and guidebooks, especially those with maps, photos, and descriptions of trails are an easy way to do that.”Beyond the Tetons by Rebecca Woods Bloom and Susan Marsh (another Friends of the Bridger-Teton board member) includes a lot of hiking adventures on the BTNF; Joe Kelseyhas several books about hiking and climbing in and around the forest’s Pinedale Ranger District.