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Volunteer to Explore Washington

Posted by Anna Roth at Mar 12, 2015 10:55 AM |
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Trying a new trail can be intimidating, but there's a way to do it without worrying about wasting the day. Take a day, a weekend, or a week and volunteer with WTA in a part of Washington you've never seen. You might find your new favorite trail, or a new hiking friend.

“I’ve always wanted to explore that area, but I can never seem to get there!”

Whether we’ve said it ourselves or heard it when chatting with other hikers, the lament is a familiar one. I find myself saying it more and more as I meet volunteers from across the state and we exchange stories about favorite trails.

It can be intimidating to try a new trail. Plus, going somewhere new can be a bit of a gamble. What if you make a long drive and the weather's bad? What if there’s no view at the end? Or what if it's just not what you're expecting—too steep, not challenging enough or simply not worth the extra effort it took you to get to the trailhead.

Luckily, there's a way to visit a new-to-you part of Washington without the risk of wasting the day: volunteering!

Whether you’ve always wanted to check out the Colville National Forest, the Dark Divide or the Olympic Coast, we've got plenty of work parties to help you explore Washington. And if you are a returning volunteer, you might even discover that trail maintenance in another part of the state is a totally different experience.

One trip, two goals

WTA’s Communication Director Kindra Ramos has visited many parts of Washington thanks to volunteer vacations and weekend work parties.

Bird Creek+Cape D collage
Work parties in places far from your home base allow you to explore Washington and also get a healthy dose of trail work. Photos by Kindra Ramos and Greg Friend.

Bird Creek Meadows near Mount Adams is a gorgeous area, but its remoteness makes it a little tricky for folks based in Puget Sound to access. After signing up for a volunteer vacation there, Kindra was pleased to be visiting with a purpose.

"I felt good heading down to Bird Creek Meadows because even if the weather wasn't perfect, I would be seeing a part of Washington that was new to me and the time I spent there fixing the trails would be well spent."

Kindra's weekend trip to Cape Disappointment went much the same; she used the opportunity to explore Southwest Washington's coast in between working on trails at the popular state park.

Different ecosystems, different trail building techniques

Sometimes volunteers who live on the drier side of the state cross the passes to see to lend hand on the west side. Holly Weiler, WTA’s Eastern Washington Regional Coordinator, came over for crew leader college last year and turned her trip home into an adventure.

"[The drive] made it really nice for a road trip including car camping and trail maintenance. On the way back to Spokane I camped for two nights. The first day I did a work party on White Chuck Bench and I finally got to see what everyone was talking about regarding the Western Washington duffit took a long time to get to mineral soil!"

Crosscutting vs roughing in trail
Volunteers from both sides of the state like to cross the passes to get their crosscutting fix, or to have an easier time roughing in trails. Photos by Kindra Ramos and Meagan Mackenzie.

If you’ve volunteered with us on the west side, you know the first step when in building new trail is to remove duff, the organic material that sits on top of the mineral soil that makes a good trail. Sometimes duff can be many inches thick, and removal can take quite a while.

Trails in the eastern and southern sections of Washington have less duff, which makes for much faster trail creation."You can complete about twice as many yards of good trail in a day in Spokane, compared with what you can get done on the west side," says Holly. "But the snails in Western Washington! Holy smokes."

Save money and gas, save the earth

Perhaps your biggest barrier to exploring those new places in Washington is the travel cost: gas prices, wear and tear on your car, not to mention the pollution factor, all to get just one person to a far flung trailhead. Fortunately, WTA offers a carpool list for volunteers for each work party, so you can cut your environmental impact in half (at least), while helping save a trail in an iconic part of Washington you've always wanted to see.

Carpool collage anna roth
Carpooling with your fellow volunteers saves you gas and takes you to incredible parts of the state. Photos by Anna Roth.

As for me, I've got several faraway work parties on my schedule this year, from Spokane to the South Cascades to the Olympics. I've gotten a little statewide exploration under my belt since starting to volunteer with WTA, but there's always somewhere new to go and another trail to care for.

See you out there!