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Volunteer Vacations - The Impact

Safety First isn’t just a saying here at WTA. We frame all the trail maintenance we do around the saying “Be Safe, Have Fun and Do Good Work” and most of our staff and volunteers are quick to point out that they go in that order, safety first, fun second, and work a “distant” third.

Upper Dungeness turnpike

Even so, it’s often quite astounding how much good work gets done. Especially on our week long Volunteer Vacations. Safety isn’t just an issue while working on trails; it’s also an issue while you’re out there hiking. Looking back on our 2009 week long projects, it is clear that improving trail safety was a significant result of our work.

Bridges get needed attention

Early in WTA's 2009 Volunteer Vacation season we worked on a project in Mt. Rainier National Park. Our volunteers constructed a 45’ bridge over Ipsut Creek, a place where two hikers tragically lost their lives while trying to cross the rain swollen creek in 2007. Because of our work there, hundreds of hikers are safer as they access the ever popular Carbon River/Ipsut Creek Campground, now accessible only by foot.

We also improved stream crossings on several other trails. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail saw one of our Advanced Backcountry Youth Vacations crews improving trail fords near Cliff Tree Basin. This same crew also worked on a “precarious spot” on the PCNST north of Deception Pass, helping shore up the trail in an attempt to make it safer for hikers and stock users. These kids did adult-quality work.

Old, dilapidated and dangerous puncheon bridges were removed and replaced on several of our week long Volunteer Vacations. Two crews replaced more than 75’ of rotted puncheon near Hyas Lake. We also had a crew working on the Upper Dungeness Trail where they removed 120’ of old puncheon and replaced it with a long lasting turnpike.

Hundreds of trees removed

Lake Chelan log out

Few hikers enjoy scrambling over, under and around downed trees. Removing trees from the trail is always something that our trail volunteers do, but there are a few places where a herculean effort was made to remove trees felled by recent fires.

Volunteers spent two weeks on the Boundary Trail in the Pasaytan clearing more than 400 trees splayed over four miles of trail by the Tatoosh Buttes fire of 2006. There is still work to be done, so we're back there again for another week this August.

Along Lake Chelan, three Volunteer Vacations focused on logging out trees felled by fire across the popular Chelan Lakeshore Trail. And at Sawtooth Ridge, the site of another fire years ago, volunteers tackled an enormous backlog of tree-strewn maintenance. We'll also be at these two locations again this year.

Volunteer Vacations improve 35 trails in 2009

In all, more than 330 volunteers joined a WTA Volunteer Vacation in 2009. These hard working souls contributed nearly 26,000 hours toward making some of your favorite trails more safe and enjoyable.

Hyas youth volunteers

Our Volunteer Vacation crews worked on more than 35 trails last year. These included Lake Valhalla, South Fork Skokomish Trail, Glacier Basin Trail, High Pass Trail, Bell Pass Trail, Flat Creek Trail, and Upper Railroad Creek Trail - just to name a few. In addition to building bridges and logging out trees, what did the volunteers do?

  • Brushing miles of trail;
  • Clearing of avalanche debris from several slide areas;
  • Rerouting around trail wash-outs;
  • Retreading trail, removing rocks and boulders, installing water drainage, and much, much more.

Having volunteers spend a week in the woods working on the same trail has an enormous impact. Without the work of these hard workers, some of these problem areas would remain problem areas for years as cash strapped agencies struggle to find a way to respond to hiker needs.

Maybe 2010 is the year that you can lend a hand. Take a look at our Volunteer Vacation schedule. If there is a project or favorite location that catches your fancy, consider signing up to help your fellow hikers be safer on trail. Also make sure to check out our Youth Volunteer Vacations and weekend Backcountry Response Team options.

Registration for our popular Volunteer Vacations opens on February 8th and we would love to have you join us for a little Safety, Fun and Work!