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Leaving a Legacy for Trails

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Jan 19, 2022 11:33 AM |
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Jake Robinson’s family is honoring his memory and his love for trails by supporting WTA’s work.

By Adam Steinberg

Outdoor enthusiast Jake Robinson was introduced to the mountains as a very young boy. His parents, Karin Knight and Paul Robinson, grew up playing in the Olympic and Cascade ranges and had hopes their children would want to do the same. The trails of Mount Zion, the Dungeness River and Mount Townsend were early favorites and laid the foundation for many mountain activities. They had no idea just how much these mountains would come to mean to their boys. While they found years of joy exploring, climbing and backpacking in these ranges, these mountains also brought devastation to their family.

On Sept. 5, 2020, Jake was involved in a tragic accident on Kololo Peak in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Jake was taken from this world too soon, but the outdoor legacy he left behind was impressive. He was the youngest person to climb Washington’s 100 tallest peaks, and he logged more than 650 ascents in total, using trails across the state to reach Washington’s incredible wild places. 

Jake and family on a hike together, smiling at the camera in front of a beautiful valley.
Paul (from left), Charlie, Jake and Karin connected over their love of time outside. Photo by Naomi Von Ruden

In celebrating Jake’s legacy, Karin and Paul knew they wanted to share his love of mountains and trails with others, so they began working with WTA to support our trail maintenance and youth programs. Thanks in part to the generosity of the Robinson family, this summer WTA volunteer crews worked to restore trails in the Darrington Ranger District, one of the key gateways to the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Additionally, young people worked across the state to maintain trails, logging nearly 6,700 volunteer hours.

We talked with Karin and Paul to learn more about their son Jake, and why they wanted to remember him through supporting WTA.

How did you come to find WTA?

Washington is uniquely fortunate to have WTA. There’s no other state that provides the breadth and depth of resources for trails and hiking that WTA does. As a family, we looked to WTA for trail information. Jake, being beta driven, was always looking for good information on trails and routes used to access all the summits he climbed. We knew he used WTA’s website for this data, but as we learned more about WTA’s work, we were surprised by the scope and impact of WTA’s mission.

You recently participated in your first WTA trail work party. What was that experience like?

We were pleased to do our first work party this summer in honor of Jake’s memory. Our trip leader did a great job of organizing our 12-person group for our project on the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River Trail. We hauled wood to rebuild several puncheons. It was far more manual labor than I anticipated! I left impressed with how much it takes to make or maintain a trail.

How has Jake inspired you to give back?

The mountains have been an important part of our family for years. Jake was so at peace in the mountains. He loved to call, send a picture or text us from the summits he climbed that had cell signals. We loved his slide shows, pictures and stories he shared with us and that we got to participate with him at times. He was amazing with his skill at the “name that peak” game he played with his friends. Jake was rarely stumped. Of course that came with logging thousands of hiking miles in the Cascades on our trails and high routes.

The mountains shaped so much of Jake’s life — the beauty he found there, sharing countless experiences with his brother, and the friendships he made. Being in the mountains also taught Jake just how tough he was, both mentally and physically. To be able to help provide other young people with this opportunity is super important to us.

We also want to ensure Washington’s trails are well cared for and even recovered where needed so that more people can enjoy the harder-to-reach places that Jake loved so much. The Lost Trails Found campaign is working to save trails that are at risk of disappearing completely — preserving access to our stunning backcountry for generations to come. We are so excited about all the efforts WTA is advancing and are proud to give in the memory of our son.