To Prevent Lost Trails, Training Tomorrow's Backcountry Stewards
Trails get lost in a variety of ways and volunteers have the skills to find them. But how does a person actually learn to care for our treasured places?
Trails get lost in all kinds of ways. Maybe a storm or avalanche knocks down hundreds of trees. Maybe thick brush and brambles take over the surface of the trail. Maybe spring runoff knocks a critical bridge out. Fire, flood or lack of funding -- there are dozens more ways trails get lost to hikers. And each one requires a different set of skills to fix or find the trail again.
But how does someone actually learn the skills to care for our treasured places?
A long tradition in the art of trail work
In addition to our hundreds of volunteer day work parties, Washington Trails Association leads dozens of volunteer trail maintenance trips into our state's backcountry each year. Many of these 3-8 day trips, Backcountry Response Teams and Volunteer Vacations, care for hard-to-reach trails in danger of being lost.
Years of trail work have created a network of incredibly knowledgeable volunteers and crew leaders. But that experience could be lost if new volunteers don't learn from expert volunteers now.
Preventing lost trails ... and lost skills
"We welcome volunteers of all experience levels, but we rely on our crew leaders and assistant crew leaders to be the experts on how to care for trails that are most in need. We need the next generation of stewards to join us in the backcountry, so our leads can pass on that knowledge," says Rebecca Lavigne, trail program director at WTA.
Lavigne said it is critical new volunteers get this experience while today's experts can still mentor them.
"We have a lot of new volunteers who are somewhat experienced backpackers come on our trips, but it's a completely different experience to hike in and do trail work all on the same trip."
It's hard work, but incredibly rewarding.
"There were so many things I learned about myself and others while volunteering with WTA. I would recommend the experience to anyone willing to get their hands dirty," says youth volunteer Elizabeth Hopmann. "By far, the volunteers building trails are the most diverse, yet connected, group I have been around."
Volunteers will have plenty of opportunities to work on lost or endangered trails this year. Registration opened last month for backcountry trips, including for trails that are most in need.
This season's trips that will work on lost trails include:
- Reopening the ancient Klickitat Trail in southwest Washington
- Preventing the loss of the beloved Ingalls Creek Trail by clearing obstacles and repairing a bridge on our first all-women Volunteer Vacation
- Clearing the many downed trees that have blocked access to Angry Mountain trail in the Goat Rocks Wilderness
- Building a new bridge on the North Fork Sullivan Creek in Washington's lonely Salmo-Priest Wilderness
- Clearing logs from the Six Ridge Trail in Olympic National Park
- Clearing the remote Boundary Trail in the Pasayten Wilderness
Many of the incredible trips above, along with other trails in need still have open spaces and need your help. Spend a few days in the backcountry, and learn some of the skills that will help save tomorrow's trails.
Take two minutes to be a steward right now
You can be a steward for trails right now without even putting your boots on.
Will you lend your voice to trails today?
Sign the pledge to take four easy steps to speak for trails in 2016. We'll keep you updated on opportunities to contact decision makers and other ways you can support the future of Washington's trails.