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200,000 Trip Reports: Hikers Give Back, Help Other Hikers

Hikers have been in the habit of filing trip reports with Washington Trails Association for decades, and those trip reports do a lot for the hiking community. | By Loren Drummond

On Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, Washington Trails Association marked a milestone: 200,000 trip reports have been filed on since trip reports went digital in 1996. It's a moment worth celebrating, a chance to honor how amazing the Washington hiking community is. Thank you trip reporters. Thank you, WTA members who support our work online and off.

Researching the latest info on trail and road conditions takes work. But, if you've ever tried to hike outside of Washington, you know that we've got it pretty good here. The late guidebook author, hiker and mountaineer Louise Marshall founded WTA as Signpost, a grassroots newsletter where trail lovers in the Northwest could share their backcountry adventures and trail conditions. Trip reports were a part of that newsletter from the beginning, rooted in the desire to help other hikers and advocate for the places they loved.

Hikers in Washington have been in the habit of filing trip reports with Washington Trails Association for decades, and those trip reports do a lot for the hiking community. More, maybe, than you might even realize.

5 ways that trip reports matter

1. Hikers helping hikers

There is no easier or greater way to help out another hiker — probably someone you don't personally know — than passing down some critical trail information and your experiences. From wildfires to potholes, wildflowers to mosquitos, trip reporters selflessly prepare those who follow in their footsteps.

This is especially true in the shoulder seasons, fall and spring, when weather gets wild and conditions can change quickly on trail. (Read: Help a hiker: write a trip report)

2. Stories of people being awesome

Trip reports are on the internet, and the internet is not always ... the best place to be. But week after week, we read stories of people overwhelmingly looking out for each other on trail. Finding and returning lost items. Putting out fires and fixing each other's tires. Picking up trash or sharing supplies. Getting engaged. Getting married! Sharing favorite places across generations.

Basically, trip reports remind us that hikers are rad. And that we have the ability to keep getting better at making trails a place where everyone feels safe and welcome. Whether you are writing a report or commenting on one, remember that while we all share a love of the outdoors, everyone experiences the outdoors differently. Respect those differences and be kind to each other.

3. Crowdsourcing critical information for land managers

Land managers in our state don't have the resources they need (something we're working to fix), so trip reports are one way to help fill the information gap and get the word out quickly when things change. Land managers rely on knowing what you see out there to help make the most of their resources.

That information also helps out the WTA trail crews who work in partnership with our land managers. Trip reporters act as scouts before a crew heads out, and a lot of trail work volunteers also file reports about the work that they've done to improve a particular section of trail.

4. Shaping the future of trails

This people-powered data is helping researchers and land managers invent a new way to monitor and predict recreation use across the trail systems. So yeah, pretty important stuff.

5. Getting us through the week

If your heart lives in nature, then a dose of the outdoors via trip reports might just be what gets you through the week. Maybe you're stuck in front of a computer all week, a caregiver who is always on duty or you're recovering from an injury. Our reasons are unique, but reading trip reports can be a lifeline and an inspiration, a portal to the beauty and wonder of our favorite places.

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Have an idea about how trip reports could be better? Take the survey to help improve trip reports. Tell us why you love 'em, what you hope to see in the future or what could make them easier to file.

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