A layer of frost covers every surface on a mid-September morning in the Sawtooth National Forest of central Idaho. The rising sun hasn’t yet made its way above the ridgeline nearby and a patchy fog stretches across the meadow next to the campsite. It is day six and the final day on the road for Warrior Stewardship Team 004, a small group of military veterans participating in an outdoor adventure therapy program run by the Two Wolf Foundation. As the coffee brews, the team gathers around the campfire waiting for the morning sun to burn off the dew and frost from their rooftop tents before packing up camp and beginning the last leg of their adventure. 

The members of Team 004 have each traveled from across the country to embark on a 1,300 mile overland journey together from Two Wolf Foundation’s home base near Missoula, MT to the Heber-Kamas Ranger District of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The team’s mission: to conduct public land stewardship work alongside Tread Lightly! and the United States Forest Service. 

Two Wolf Foundation VehiclesWorking with Two Wolf Foundation

While in Utah, the team assisted in the construction and emplacement of trail signage and several large recreation information kiosks in the Soapstone Basin area of the forest. The group also helped with improvements to a USFS administrative campground that houses seasonal forest work crews. Upon arrival back in Montana thereby completing the seven day trip, Warrior Stewardship Team 004 explored and camped in three different national forests, fished for trout in campside streams and high alpine lakes, and most importantly, developed lifelong friendships that will support each of them as they navigate life after the military. 

Brian Flynn, a US Army Green Beret and leader of the Two Wolf Foundation mission, believes that spending time in nature is a vital component to improving the mental and physical wellness of veterans struggling with the effects of war, transition from military service, and PTS. “My job in the Army gave me an incredible sense of identity, purpose, and belonging. It also provided the opportunity to spend a lot of time outdoors. After separating from the military, there was a massive void that pushed me into a pretty dark place. After several tough years, I discovered a renewed self-confidence and appreciation for the world around me that all started with a single day hike at a local state park.” 

As Brian began to spend more time exploring public lands, he also saw more of the devastating effects of irresponsible recreation. “Trash…everywhere” says Flynn, “I would find myself immersed in some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces only to have the moment spoiled by trash left behind from others.” So one day he decided to do something about it. “I started going out on my own with the intention of simply leaving these places better than I found them. It gave me an additional reason to be outside, which already made me feel good, and provided a sense of accomplishment to my day.”

Packing away a Skycamp roof top tentTwo Wolf Foundation conversation

Soon, an idea would begin to materialize. If these stewardship activities were helping significantly improve Brian’s life, could it do the same for others? And just like that…sharing the therapeutic impact of the outdoors and committing to the conservation and sustainability of our public lands became Brian’s new mission. But hiking and backpacking into the wilderness to pick up trash isn’t for everyone. The physical challenge can be overwhelming and off putting for many. 

The Rise of Overland Travel 

To overcome the physical limitations of wounded veterans and reduce barriers to participation, Two Wolf Foundation set out to build a fleet of overland expedition vehicles that would serve as the transportation and lodging for Warrior Stewardship teams as they “deployed” to public lands across the western United States. 

According to Brian, “We found a group out of Montana called Expedition Overland on YouTube. They truly inspired what the Two Wolf Foundation is today. I saw the similarities of their expeditions to my time deployed overseas. They were working together as a small team, conducting multi-vehicle convoy operations, overcoming challenges, and pushing forward in unknown environments.” It is exactly what he believed would help revitalize a sense of community/belonging in the military veterans Two Wolf Foundation would serve. 

Two Wolf Foundation Cleanup EventRelaxing after a day at work

The three founding board members of TWF made an initial investment into the organization with the purchase of a 2021 Toyota Tacoma and a 2020 4Runner and began the daunting task of building a coalition of support behind the Warrior Stewardship mission, carefully planning out the truck builds with a focus on durability and ease of use. “We really wanted to outfit these trucks with equipment that anyone can handle. We attended public events like Overland Expo and got our hands on every RTT style on the market. After months of research, we concluded that the iKamper Skycamp line was exactly what we needed.” 

Two Wolf Foundation’s Tacoma is an extremely unique build featuring ‼️ TWO ‼️ iKamper Skycamp Mini RTTs. With this setup, each team member assigned to the Tacoma has their own space and privacy to retire at the end of each day. “It is the perfect build for the programming we conduct, participants might need a little solitude after a long day of stewardship work or a deep conversation around the campfire. A lot of consideration went into the truck builds to afford our participants with the best experience possible” says Flynn, who has ledlead the effort of outfitting theoutfitting of the trucks. 

Their Toyota 4Runner is equally impressive with its full-size Skycamp 2.0, which recently received an upgrade of a 3.0 conversion kit this year allowing compatibility with the Annex Plus providing another “bedroom” for the team. With two vehicles fully outfitted, Two Wolf Foundation currently borrows a third vehicle from Hatch Adventures - a 4WD adventure vehicle rental company in Bozeman, MT. Ready to roll with three trucks, Warrior Stewardship teams are made up of six participants, with a pilot and co-pilot assigned to each rig. They hope to add more vehicles to the TWF fleet in the future and increase the opportunities for veterans to participate in their stewardship and conservation efforts. 

Trail ProjectConversation at the job site

As of early May 2024, Two Wolf Foundation has completed four Warrior Stewardship projects since its inception in 2022, leading teams to conduct stewardship work across public lands of the western United States: 

  • WST.001 - Tonto National Forest and Four Peaks Wilderness, Arizona ● WST.002 - Kootenai National Forest, Montana 
  • WST.003 - Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho 
  • WST.004 - Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Utah. 

This year, TWF will complete four more trips including their first all-female military veteran and first responder team. 

  • WST.005 will serve in the Boise National Forest and Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness alongside the Idaho Trails Association. 
  • WST.006 is headed to the Inyo National Forest of California to help the USFS repair an out-of-commision Ranger cabin in the eastern Sierra Nevada. 
  • WST.007 and WST.008 will both head to Wyoming, completing stewardship projects to improve off-road vehicle access in the Bridger-Teton National Forest and Bighorn National Forest with partner, Tread Lightly!. Their work has been supported by grant funding programs such as the onX Maps Access + Stewardship initiative, Trail Trust by Fox Factory, and the Overland Expo Foundation

As awareness for their mission grows, TWF hopes that its impact on public lands will as well, with hopes to take a Warrior Stewardship team to Alaska for public land conservation work in 2025!