Human Journey

Biking With Fresh Air, the Open Road, and an Awful Lot of Roadkill

The act of stopping, getting off my bike, observing and photographing roadkill adds up to some sort of intimate interaction with the deceased. (Photo by Julie Hotz)
(Photo courtesy of Julie Hotz)
I was brought up being taught that we are to be good stewards of the land that is given to us for the time that we spend on this Earth. (Photo courtesy of Julie Hotz)

Meet Julie Hotz.

This summer she’ll be thru-hiking the 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, which runs from Glacier National Park, Montana, to Cape Alva, on Washington’s Olympic Coast. To get to the trailhead in Glacier, she’s walked out her front door in Los Angeles, climbed aboard her bike, and begun pedaling. 

Recently, she sent in this dispatch from the road about her work with the Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation’s roadkill project.

By Julie Hotz

The only tool I need is my smartphone, but part of the task includes photographing all the roadkill I come across. I’m not the sort that gets squeamish—you can talk about splintered bones at the dinner table or ask me to watch an open heart surgery and I won’t flinch.

So, my head handles the process of documenting roadkill well, but I didn’t realize how my heart would be affected by doing more than just passing by and shaking my head mournfully. The act of stopping, getting off my bike, observing and photographing all adds up to some sort of intimate interaction with the deceased.

I find myself saying, “Oh little buddy, I’m so sorry.” Or in the case of this owl, I just stood and admired its beauty even though there was no life left.

Though my sympathy pours out like a puddle onto the roadside next to these animals, I also find that it adds more gravity to the need to understand how we all affect wildlife via our speeding cars and trucks. Just today, I spoke to a highway patrol officer who had to put a freshly hit deer out of its misery. He said it happens all the time.

I hit a squirrel once, and a bird flew into my windshield this one time … I still think about it often. I don’t know what the current solution is, other than to drive less?

(Photo by Julie Hotz)
It doesn’t require electricity. This bike trip has power of its own. (Photo by Julie Hotz)

Maybe that’s why I’m on a bike this summer: to drive less, and to find more ways to simplify my life, not just for my own well-being, but for the well-being of the air, the water, the land, and the animals too.

I was brought up being taught that we are to be good stewards of the land that is given to us for the time that we spend on this Earth, and maybe being a good steward means not worrying about having the most convenient life possible, but instead, striking balances, making choices that have positive long-term effects.

I have a lot of time to think through this while riding my bike.

Before leaving home, Julie created a film about her adventure, and about her motivation to give back through ASC. Watch the film here:

Learn more about ASC on our website, the Field Notes blog, and by following us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Google+.

Read More by Gregg Treinish and His Correspondents


Gregg Treinish founded Adventure Scientists in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration. National Geographic named Gregg Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. He was included on the Christian Science Monitor's 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work with Adventure Scientists. In 2013, he was named a Backpacker Magazine "hero", in 2015, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and one of Men's Journal's "50 Most Adventurous Men." In 2017, he was named an Ashoka Fellow. Gregg holds a biology degree from Montana State University and a sociology degree from CU-Boulder. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. Read more updates from Gregg and others on the Adventure Scientists team at Follow Adventure Scientists on Instagram @adventurescientists, on Facebook @adventurescientists, and on Twitter @AdvScientists.
  • Robyn Aldridge

    A family member whose blog link appears below, has just ridden across from Perth to Sydney in 35 days, for charity. This was his second trip, a small one by comparison with the first, when he cycled from London, UK, to Mona Vale, Sydney, Australia. In his blog, he mentions the road kill and knowing what to expect by the smell as he approached each one.

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