Pete Dewell Nears 1000 Days on the Trail
Of the 29,565 days (give or take a couple hundred) that he has been living, Pete Dewell has given 1000 of those days to trail work. On October 13th, at age 81, he will become the first WTA crew-leader to hit 1000 days of all-volunteer trail work with WTA.
Dewell started coming out on WTA work parties about 12 or 13 years ago when one of his “youngsters” gave him a WTA membership for Christmas. He was still working as a lawyer at a law firm in Everett back then, but he says, “As I began to slack off on my work at the office, I slacked on with WTA.”
He finally retired in 2000, though he has been either volunteering with WTA or taking on pro-bono law work ever since. At the prompting of various WTA figures, Dewell gradually ascended from green hat to orange hat to blue hat.
In 2008, with hundreds of days of experience under his hat already, Dewell wrote and compiled a manual on trail-maintenance called Tread and Retread the Trails. The book, which features sketches and diagrams that Dewell drew himself, is spiral-bound so that it will lie flat and small so that it can be easily carried in a backpack.
Dewell sees his two occupations—law and trail maintenance—as compatible with each other. In their own ways, he explains, they both seek to solve a particular problem. As a lawyer, Dewell solves his clients’ problems; as a trail constructor, he solves the trail’s problems.
“Once you’ve done trail work, you’re not going to hike as fast as you used to,” he says. When you have more experience identifying problems with the tread, he explains, “You go back on a trail that you worked on, and it takes you a long time to hike it.”
Dewell has been hiking his whole life. He was born in Texas, and as a teenager he remembers wandering around gravel pits there. Later, he would backpack in the Olympics and then hike in the Cascades with his son-in-law. Nowadays the hiking he does is almost always paired with work for WTA.
Dewell has passed on his love of the outdoors and his involvement with WTA to subsequent generations. One of his grandsons did an Eagle Scouts project with WTA, several of his granddaughters have gone on week-long trips and his granddaughter Emily worked as a WTA intern the last two summers.
Dewell attributes his dedication to WTA to the enjoyment that he gets from being out on the trails with other volunteers. He likes the exercise and the social outlet that it provides him, as well as the chance to get out in the woods. “The more I learn,” he says, “the more I can share with other people.”
As for how many more days he will volunteer now that he has made it to 1000, Dewell says that he’ll keep going out on the trail “as long as they’ll let me.”