Fun, Friends, and Fantastic Views: A Week on the Trail with WTA
By Anna Silver
Just a few hours into my fifth WTA youth volunteer vacation, I was huddled under the nylon walls of a tent in a meadow eleven miles from civilization as a thunderstorm closed in overhead, providing a soundtrack of thick gushes of rain hitting the ground and booming claps of thunder.
That morning, under an innocently sunny sky, I had surged straight into the wilderness with a group of willing teenagers and two awesome leaders. We were headed to White Pass for what would soon become one of the most enjoyable, and undoubtedly the most beautiful WTA work party I have been on.
The Calm After the Storm
After the dousing our first night, we awoke the following morning to placid weather and, as we emerged sleepy-eyed from our tents, took a good look around for the first time. We were camped in a small bowl just below the ridgeline of a mountain in a high alpine meadow. Green grass covered in purple and white wildflowers surrounded us, and a network of creeks laced their way through the campsite. Looking out, a wide expanse of the Cascades stretched out before us, tree-covered and snow-capped, their peaks fading from deep to light blue in the distance.
For work, we removed berm, or a raised section of dirt on the downhill side of the trail that prevents drainage, and tried not to get distracted by the view.
To entertain ourselves while we dug, we exchanged riddles and stories, and my personal favorite, sang. On one day, myself and another volunteer, Frida, spent the entire workday belting out the lyrics to every song we could think of in horribly off-key voices. Doing so, we had a ridiculously fun time hacking away at the mounds of dirt, rock, and roots with our grub hoes and pulaskis.
- On our day off, our group hiked to a glacier and an alpine lake. A few of us scrambled up the tallest ridge that was close by, where we encountered yet another incredible view and ate a lunch of delicious leftover curry while overlooking the valley and river below.
- There were marmots everywhere, and they are adorable. Marmots are fluffy, fat small mammals that scamper around, burrow underground, and whistle. Once, while walking to my tent with one of my leaders, a marmot only a few yards in front of us stood up on its hind legs, looked at us, and let out a piercing whistle-scream, sending us both jumping backwards and laughing in surprise.
- One of our leaders, Austin, forgot his sunscreen. So, in exchange for using some of mine, he let me and Frida braid his hair. We gave him several French braids, topped it off with a braided grass and flower garland, and made him skip through the meadow.
- The view from the latrine, which was stupendous. (see photo)
...And Making Friends
Throughout the week, I had an amazing time chatting with and getting to know the other volunteers. I love spending time with a group of people who are from all over Washington, both urban and rural, who go to different schools and have different stories to share. Each WTA group I find myself with is eclectic, goofy, and caring in its own way and getting to know each member is consistently one of my favorite parts of these trips (besides the delicious food, that is).
On our last night, we gathered in the meadow overlooking the mountains where Austin read us a Max Ehrmann prose poem called “Desiderata.” I sipped a cup of hot tea, listened to the musical trickle of the creek in the background, and felt the cool wind tousle my hair as it wound its way through the mountains.
In the serenity of that moment, I silently thanked WTA for giving me the opportunity to journey into the heart of the Cascades. It had been yet another week of rewarding work improving trails with others eager to trade their iPods for flowing creeks and hike into the wilderness.