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Dedicated Volunteers at Mount Rainier

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Jun 24, 2009 04:09 PM |

One really cool trail project WTA volunteers have been working on for two seasons is the Glacier Basin Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. This trail was severely damaged in storms of 2006, and since that time, dedicated volunteers have been working incredibly hard to rehabilitate this beautiful trail. This work has been made possible thanks in part to generous funding from The Boeing Company. Boeing is supporting WTA’s multi-year restoration efforts at Mount Rainier in coordination with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and the National Parks Conservation Association.

There are some truly dedicated volunteers who have made this project a very personal mission. One of those volunteers is Lynn Kittridge from Duvall. She and her family have been working out at Glacier Basin almost every weekend. Here are some of Lynn's thoughts on the trail...(it's a little long, but it's an inspiring read!)

"The Glacier Basin Trail is our family’s favorite.  We have been hiking it every summer since 1989.  Johanna, our now 12-year-old daughter, literally took her first steps on the trail in Glacier Basin in 1997.  We saw our first bear on that trail.  As the kids grew, they named many rocks, trees, creeks and forests:  the “blown up tank” rock, the infamous “resting log”, “frog heaven” creek, “get splashed” creek, the “Ewok forest” (also named “Sherwood forest” and “Spooky forest” depending on their moods) – you get the idea.

We knew the devastation from the 2006 storm was huge – but attempting to hike it in 2007 – seeing all the familiar landmarks dislodged, destroyed, or simply gone – was personally devastating.  I just stood there and cried.  It was almost impossible to comprehend the force that could change so completely what I thought was so permanent a landscape.

But by the end of the 2007 season, there was a glimmer of hope – pink flagging tape marked the newly surveyed re-route.  We knew we wanted to be part of this reconstruction project in whatever way we could.

In 2006 we had shared an Indian Bar campsite with Randy King – now acting park superintendant.  I e-mailed him and he put us in touch with Kevin Bacher, the park’s volunteer coordinator.  Kevin suggested our best opportunity to help on the new Glacier Basin Trail re-route was to sign on with WTA, which is what we did.  Neil (our oldest son) and I started volunteering every weekend in 2008 – signing on for other White River area trail work, waiting for the various permits to be put in place so work on the GB trail could begin.  And sure enough, on Saturday August 9, 2008, we were lucky enough to be on hand for the official “ribbon cutting” and start of work on the trail.

Since then, some member of our family has worked just about every WTA weekend on the trail. 

Work has been varied and exciting – from cutting the first duff, helping to “buck out” after the chain saw rangers moved through, digging out many rocks and stumps – and more rocks and more stumps. Hauling equipment and materials up and down.  Helping construct lots of different trail structures from drains to rock walls to turnpike.  Rigging high lines and come-alongs to move the more stubborn stumps and the bigger rocks.  And the best so far:  the boulder buster.  As a special treat for my birthday on Saturday, the ranger let me assist with the charge that blew a piece of the bedrock near the drain we were building!  Best birthday ever!

One pair of outstanding volunteers – and now our friends – are Jim and Carol Miltmore.  They make volunteering for the park and for WTA their avocation.  They have more experience working on trails in that side of the park than I think most of the rangers!  They also help with just about every WTA weekend work party – and come back on their own during to the week to put in additional time.  They quietly, humbly, with no fanfare or presumption, and usually on their own, accomplish the work of ten mere mortal volunteers.
There are many others I’ve worked with – really hard workers who come back again and again.

Equally fun to work with are the “one time only” – at least so far – volunteers.  There was a nuclear engineer last year who spent all of one lunch entertaining us with a story about the difficulty of of disposing a ball point pen that became contaminated with nuclear waste.  There was a group of young men, civil engineers, who put their engineering experience to work moving huge boulders with just a rock bar.  And the geologists who patiently answer all my questions – “what kind of rock is that?”  “How about that one?”

We’ve worked with some great crews from other organizations too, this year, the Washington Conservation Corps crew.  Last year, the SCA volunteers and Mount Rainier National Park Associates. And this year, getting to camp out with the WTA Volunteer Vacation crew in our own private national park campground!  Amazing experiences and great memories!

The two WTA crew leaders we’ve worked with on the trail – Ethan Hyland last year, and Yarrow Hinnant  this year --are equally phenomenal!  As strong as two men, patient, friendly, knowledgeable, unflappable, great teachers, and great role models for our kids -- we couldn’t ask for more from our “fearless leaders”

And our own children are pretty inspirational volunteers.  We always allow them to decide whether to come out with us.  More often than not,  they uncomplainingly get up at 5 a.m. on their weekends, ride 2 ½ hours one way to show up and work through rain or heat, mud and bugs – and still have time and energy to make the work fun -- and agree with us that there is no better way to spend a day!

There aren’t many opportunities for a teacher from Duvall to help construct new trail in our favorite national park.  It is truly an honor and a privilege to be part of this project.  We owe WTA a lot of thanks for letting us volunteer!"

WTA has many trips at Glacier Basin scheduled this summer. To join at trip or find more info, click here.