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Student hiking Glacier to raise money for trip abroad.

June 23, 2016

Brunz is a 2013 Columbia Falls graduate and this fall will start her last year at University of Montana Western studying biology with an emphasis on marine ecology.

When she was three years old she went to see The Little Mermaid. It was her first movie theater experience and she fell in love with the ocean.

“I think I finally gave up wanting to be a mermaid in seventh grade,” she said last week. “I’ve never really let go of that desire to be in the ocean and around the ocean.”

Brunz is doing a School for Field Studies trip in order to get her marine ecology emphasis without going to an expensive out-of-state college. She will take four classes about marine ecology, resource management, environmental policy and socioeconomic values and a directed research project from Aug. 29 to Dec. 9. The program costs nearly $24,000 for tuition, room and board. She’ll snorkel as part of the classwork and has the opportunity to scuba dive. She hopes to get scuba diving certification before the semester starts.

To help pay for the program, she’s holding a hike-a-thon for 30 days starting Saturday. She’s asking individuals and businesses to pledge any amount per mile. She’ll hike the popular trails in Glacier Park such as the Highline, Avalanche and Hidden Lake trails and track her miles using a Fitbit, a Bluetooth device that one wears on a wrist.

She’s looking forward to hiking the Gunsight Pass Trail for the first time. It’s a 20-mile hike starting at Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side of the Park, and ends on the west side of the Continental Divide at Lake McDonald.

She estimates that she’ll go 100 miles in the next month, but it will depend on her energy level each day. On her days off she plans to hike 10-12 miles. Brunz works full-time at a Glacier National Park Conservancy bookstore in the Park.

Her parents, Andrea and Will Brunz, own Columbia Mountain Kennels. Those interested in sponsoring Brunz should call 407-5990 or email [email protected]. She has a Facebook page called “Hiking to the Turks and Caicos”.

One day she wants to live by the ocean — or even on the ocean.

“Forget living on land, let’s just get a houseboat,” Brunz said.

– Reprinted with permission from the Hungry Horse News –