With such a great selection of trails to volunteer on with WTA this summer, don't let that glaring red "Full" on our sign-ups page deter you.
For Volunteer Vacations and Youth Vacations, we usually limit our trip sizes to 12 people (especially on trails in wilderness areas) so that you can have a more personalized experience and get to know your small crew. Smaller groups also help preserve the tranquility and solitude of the backcountry.
So when you visit our website with intentions of signing up to volunteer on your very favorite trail and you see that the trip is labeled "Full," you might feel like smacking your forehead and calling yourself names for not signing up earlier.
Don't despair. The good news is that you can always sign up for a waitlist. You're certainly not guaranteed a spot on the trip, but the odd cancellation could make you one happy volunteer. For a chance at a meaningful adventure in a stunning natural setting, signing up for a waitlist is definitely worth a shot.
Sign up for a work party waitlist in 3 simple steps
- Call the WTA office at (206) 625-1367. Tell us your name, email and the trip you would like to be waitlisted for.
- When you receive an email from us telling you that you're on the waitlist, follow the link to fill out your Volunteer Vacation or BCRT application.
- Wait for a phone call or email from us telling you if a spot opens up.
The avalanche tragedies near Snoqulamie Pass last weekend were a tough reminder that springtime in the Northwest is a tricky season for hikers and snowshoers. Because temperatures fluctuate so dramatically, dangers from avalanches can increase quickly around this time. But that doesn't mean you can't find a great, safe hike.
Below are strategies for navigating the hazards of springtime hiking and some examples of the type of trails best avoided this time of year.
Research conditions and go prepared
- Call ahead to ranger stations and check WTA trip reports for current conditions, remembering that trip reports are hiker-generated, and all hikers have different skills and experience.
- Check the National Weather Service's mountains forecast page and the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center avalanche forecasts. If you're not sure how to read the snow levels along Snoqualmie or other destinations, just pick a hike that's sure to be snow-free.
- Rapidly-changing weather, lingering snow, rain, rising rivers, mud, blown-down trees and bad roads are all potential spring hiking hazards. Learn how to handle them.
- When trails are obscured by snow, it's easy to lose your way. Unless you're adept with off-trail travel with map and compass, it's usually a good idea to turn back at snow line.
- Every hiking party should carry the Ten Essentials, including maps, a compass and a refreshed First Aid kit. Throw in some extra clothing (especially rain gear) and extra food and water.
Trails to save for summer: avoid avalanche dangers
If you're not an expert at reading avalanche risk factors or snowfield conditions, call or visit a local ranger station to find out if the trail or route you want to take is prone to avalanches or other kinds of hazards. Many trails that are easy day hikes in summer can be deadly in winter or spring, including the following trails:
- Granite Mountain: This snowshoe can be a tempting choice because it's so close to Seattle, but the trail crosses a known avalanche chute, so it's best avoided this time of year.
- Big Four Ice Caves: Winter, summer, spring or fall, it is never safe to enter an ice cave, no matter how stable they might seem. In addition to spontaneous collapse, there is high risk in winter from avalanches off the mountain that feeds these caves.
- Lake 22: A great day hike in summer, it can be avalanche prone in winter. It's best to wait until the snow is melted on this popular Mountain Loop Highway trail.
- Mount Dickerman: The steep, sheer cliffs at the top of this trail offer stunning views in summer, but can pose dangers to hikers punching through features like cornices and thawing ice bridges in winter and spring.
- Snow Lake and Source Lake are both Snoqualmie corridor snowshoes with the potential for considerable avalanche dangers depending on conditions.
- Mount Pilchuck: Snow lingers later than you might think (into June) on this popular trail, leading to injuries every season, most often from hikers punching through snow and ice bridges covering large boulders near the top. If you want to beat the crowds on this popular hike, don't feel like you need to rush the season. Just tackle it on an early summer morning in July or August.
- Iron Goat Trail: A rail trail close to Stevens Pass, this trail is lined with avalanche chutes. Take a walk along this one only once the avalanche danger is low or the snow is gone completely.
These trails are just examples what to beware of this time of year. When in doubt, ask a ranger or choose from one of the great snow-free hikes below.
Hike these snow-free hikes instead
Is there still snow on trail? In Washington state, hikers may be asking that question well into July.
While you wait for the high country to melt, explore the many other wonders, from waterfalls to wildflowers, of Washington hiking.
- Follow the wildflowers. Head towards Yakima or south to Coyote Wall and Horsethief Butte in Columbia Hills State Park along the Columbia River Gorge.
- Try one of these seasonal suggestions.
- Check trip reports for more great hike ideas and file your own trip reports. We're safer when we work together.
After several weeks of clearing snow, rock slides, and releasing avalanche chutes, Washington State Department of Transportation crews opened the North Cascade Highway (SR 20) today, which will make it easier for hikers to explore the Methow Valley.
Conditions helped the clearing crews finish 3 1/2 weeks earlier than last year's May 10 opening. That makes it all the easier to hike the Saw Teekh Wa Trail before heading to the Old Schoolhouse Brewery or the Twisp River Pub for a bite to eat. Need a place to crash before the Chewuch Campground opens? Try the Chewuch Inn and Cabins.
You can follow the conditions on all major mountain passes throughout the winter and spring at the Department of Washington's Department of Transportation website or on its Twitter feed.
— Washington State DOT (@wsdot) April 16, 2013
Yesterday in Olympia the Washington State House released its operating budget. A line item that WTA has been awaiting with anticipation was the funding level it would provide for Washington State Parks. The Washington Senate's budget came out last week, and it is not surprising that the amount designated for State Parks differs in the two proposals.
State Parks fares much better in the House version than in the Senate. Here's the breakdown:
- House: State Parks will receive $23.7 million for the 2013-2015 biennium, which is a $2.5 million increase over the current 2011-2013 funding period.
- Senate: Allocates $16.5 million to State Parks for the next biennium, which constitutes a nearly $5 million cut from the current amount.
The House budget is very similar to the one that Governor Inslee released earlier this year and represents a relatively stable funding amount compared to what State Parks currently is receiving. With this level of funding, the system will continue to limp along as State Parks advocates work to build pressure for better budget outcomes in coming sessions to address serious maintenance and facility backlogs and ranger staffing levels.
The Senate budget, however, will continue the sharp decline in park facilities that we've seen over the past several years and could result in the full or partial closure of many state parks. That Washington State Parks might be faced with closing facilities in the midst of its centennial year is disheartening. We should be reinvesting in parks rather than turning our backs on them.
How to help state parks
Please take a moment to call your Senator and Representatives. Let them know that you appreciate the hard budget decisions that must be made this session but make sure that they understand the value and importance of our state public lands to your family, to our state's economy and to Washington's overall quality of life. Share your experience enjoying these special places and urge the legislature to support the House of Representative's request of $23.7 million in general funding for State Parks.
Here are some tips for calling elected officials:
- Call the legislative hotline: 1.800.562.6000 and ask for your senator's office.
- Identify yourself (tell them if you are a constituent) and why you are calling: "I believe that Washington needs a budget that invests in our state parks. Please support $27 million in General Fund appropriations for Parks."
- Keep your call short and courteous.
- Remember to thank the staff member for his or her time.
Thank you for speaking out for trails!
When Daniel Penner sent us his video of a February bike camping adventure from central Seattle to Bainbridge Island, we knew we wanted to share it with you. From views of a distant Mount Rainier to closeups of some of the small wonders found in suburban wilderness, you can't help but want to get outside when you watch this. And as Penner and his buddies show you, you can do this adventure by bike, even in the colder, wetter months.
Camping at Fay Bainbridge Park
The Fay Bainbridge Park is a small camping park (and former State Park) on the northwest corner of the island with 1,420 feet of saltwater shoreline. On clear days, Mount Rainier and Mount Baker are visible from a sandy beach.The park has 10 tent sites, 26 utility sites and (in the summer months) two restroom facilities, one with showers.
All camping is first-come, first-served, so make sure to have a back-up plan if you decide to make the journey by bike, especially on weekends or in summer months.
Hike Gazzam Lake and Close Beach via ferry and bike
Whether you try to stay the night on the island or not, this little hike is just the right length after a 5-mile bike trip from the Bainbridge Ferry terminal.
Pack a picnic to eat on the cedar and maple-lined shores of Gazzam Lake or the secluded sands of Close Beach on this sweet 3.4 mile hike on the southwestern corner of the island. Watch for birds as you hike through this preserve managed by Bainbridge Island Parks Department.
Remember to leave yourself enough time to bike back to the ferry on tired legs at the end of your hike.
Share your car-free hiking, camping and backpacking adventures
Have you done a favorite hike using transit or your bicycle? Tell us about it in a Trip Report or in the comments below.
Although Zachary McBride worked as a WTA crew leader last summer in the Skykomish District, today marks his first day as a blue hat in the Seattle area. Zachary will crew lead most of the day trips in the Puget Sound area year-round, so if you ever venture out on a work party close to Seattle during the week, you'll probably meet Zachary.
"Building trails is more fun"
When you talk to him on trail, you might notice that Zachary knows an awful lot about forest ecology, native plants and invasive species. (Hint: ask him about bushes). That's because his professional background is in outdoor conservation and recreation. Before working for WTA, Zachary did a stint restoring backcountry lands in the Mojave Desert and Great Basin areas with the Student Conservation Association and then leading volunteer restoration crews in the Puget Sound area with EarthCorps.
Now that he has landed in the world of trail maintenance, Zachary concludes, "Building trails is more fun. Opening up responsible access rather than trying to limit people's access is more appealing to people because it allows them to recreate."
And Zachary appreciates that WTA does just that. Working for other environmental organizations, he had always heard about WTA's work and was excited to be part of it.
"It has always been a dream of mine to work with the organization. I think WTA has an excellent model for trail work and volunteer management."
Learning from each other: airplanes, elevators and trail work
Zachary especially enjoys the strong sense of community he feels working with WTA volunteers on trail. "Being outside has a way of equalizing people," he says. "On trail, you talk to people you wouldn't normally get to talk to."
Zachary likes to take advantage of the fact that he meets such a wide variety of volunteers on trail who he might not otherwise meet. He explains that he always has a constant stream of questions popping into his head about things he comes into contact with on a regular basis, and on trail these questions are sometimes answered. If, for example, he finds out that the volunteer working next to him is an elevator repair-person, he'll ask that volunteer all of the questions that he's always wondered about elevators. Since he began crew leading for WTA, Zachary says, he has learned a lot about airplanes.
As a crew leader, Zachary sees his main responsibility as ensuring that every volunteer has a fulfilling experience. "People are there to do trail work," he says, "but they're also there for other reasons as well. Whether they're there to talk to each other or to get some exercise or to impress their girlfriend, it's important for me to find out why they're there and to customize their experiences so they get what they want out of it."
A creaky knee hiker and champion crew leader
When he isn't working on trails, Zachary enjoys hiking them. He claims that he tends to go on "creaky knee hikes," taking it easy and enjoying the surrounding plants and scenery. His favorite hike in Washington is Sahale Arm in the North Cascades.
In Zachary, WTA has found a champion crew leader. His explanation for why he loves doing rock work says it all. "You can show someone a giant rock and they will say, 'I can't move that,'" Zachary says. "And then you show them how to move it very slowly with a rock carrier, and they can do it."
Sign up for an upcoming trip with Zachary today
Zachary will be working at Cougar Mountain for the rest of this week and next week. Sign up for one of these work parties to meet him in person!
Abundant wildflowers, hidden waterfalls and marshes full of birdsong. Sweeping vistas of mountains and rolling hills. Intimate canyons with steep basalt cliffs. Golden woodlands and lush forests.
You can find all of these hiking the lands of Eastern Washington, something that will be a lot easier to do with the long-awaited release of a new guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington.
In the latest edition of the excellent Day Hiking series from The Mountaineers books, guidebook authors Rich Landers and Craig Romano have paired up to deliver great day hikes from Spokane to the Tri-Cities, from the Blue Mountains to the Colville National Forest.
What you'll find inside
The guidebook includes:
- 125 hikes with topographical trail maps and detailed route descriptions
- Quick reference info about bird watching, wildflowers, waterfalls, old-growth, and fishing
- Notes about historical interest, kid-friendly, or dog-friendly hikes
- Hike extension ideas for anyone who wants a longer outing
- Info on flora and fauna, natural and human history, and more
"The area is wild, remote, and a window to our past."
Landers and Romano want you to fall in love with hiking in Eastern Washington the same way they have.
"Promoting day hiking is our way of exposing Eastern Washington’s outdoor treasures to the widest base of people, young and old, whether they’re trail veterans or taking their first steps out of town," writes Landers in the preface of the new book.
"Eastern Washington, in particular the Kettle River Range near Republic is very special to me and my wife, Heather," Romano, who has a long history and many fond memories of hiking the area. "We did our first camping trip together in the Kettles and were married 10 years later at Curlew Lake State Park (hike no 15). We made the wedding party hike around Swan Lake (hike no. 13) afterward before having the reception back in Republic. The following day, I took my two brothers on a long hike along the Kettle Crest. The area is wild, remote, and a window to our past."
Meet the authors at upcoming events
Romano, who ranks Washington as one of the most beautiful places on the planet, is a contributing columnist for Washington Trails magazine, Northwest Runner and Outdoors NW and the author of nine books, among them Backpacking Washington, Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula, Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge, and Columbia Highlands: Exploring Washington’s Last Frontier, which was recognized in 2010 as a Washington Reads book for its contribution to the state’s cultural heritage. When not out hiking, he lives in Skagit County.
Find him online at www.craigromano.com or meet him in person when he talks about hiking Eastern Washington at one of the following events.
Landers has been the Outdoors editor for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane since 1977, covering hiking, conservation, hunting, fishing, climbing, bicycling, public lands, and other outdoor pursuits. He is a contributing writer for Field and Stream magazine and author of 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest and Paddling Washington.
Share your Eastern Washington hiking experiences
When you take the new book out hiking, make sure to share you experiences with the rest of the hiking community. Follow in the footsteps of mytho-man and Holly Weiler and file trip reports on hike highlights, trail conditions or road closures. Give back to your fellow hikers by letting them know when wildflowers are peaking, mosquitoes are biting or if they can expect to see any great wildlife.
Under blue skies on the Olympic Peninsula, a full Washington Trails volunteer crew of 12 are halfway through rebuilding a trail on Second Beach.The week-long trip marks the very first Volunteer Vacation of the season, one which volunteers scrambled to be a part of (spaces sold out in 20 seconds).
The Second Beach volunteers range in experience from WTA's crew leader, Janice O'Connor, who has worked more than 440 days on trail, to a first-time volunteer who has never done trail work before.
The crew has been repairing a section of damaged trail where water drainage had badly eroded a series of steps down to the beach. By the end of this week, the water will go where it's supposed to, and hikers will have a safe way down to the beach.
O'Connor reports from the field that the work is coming along well, and that all the hikers who've been passing them on the way to the beach during this gorgeous stretch of weather have been thanking the crew.
"I've been blown away by the incredible beauty here at Second Beach," she says, "where skunk cabbage and sitka spruce rule the domain."
The Second Beach crew have been enjoying more than blue skies and beach views though: part of what makes up a Volunteer Vacation a vacation is the catered food. The Second Beach crew has been fueling up on elk stew, steamed clams, and salmon. The vegetarians on crew have been eating just as well, chowing down on grilled portabella mushrooms, pasta, soup and sandwiches.
Sign up for a featured volunteer vacation trip
If a catered week working on trail in spectacular locations around the state sounds right up your alley, then check out one of the featured Volunteer Vacations that still have spaces open. The fee for a week of catered fun on trail is $235 fee ($195 for WTA members). Sign up with a friend or come along on your own: you'll make friends on the trail.
Know a high school student who would love nothing better than to spend a week in the wilderness this summer? > Check out the youth volunteer vacations.
White River Trail: Jul 27-Aug 3
You'll start this trip with a moderate 6.5 mile backpack into camp (we've got all the food, so your pack will be pretty darn light for a week in the wilderness).
You’ll spend a week brushing, fixing drainage and restoring tread on a scenic trail that feeds into the iconic Pacific Crest Trail in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
On your day off, chill in camp or hike up to the aptly named Kodak Peak for 360-degree views of pure alpine bliss. Snap a few photos of the surrounding White Mountains, Mount David and Glacier Peak before you head back down to camp.
Cathedral Rock Trail: Aug 3-10
Work in the shadow of the hallowed spire of Cathedral Rock on this trail that has long needed work.
You’ll camp at Squaw Lake, a justifiably popular day hike where you’ll be able to take a mountain-lake dip or fish for trout at the end of your work day.
You and your crew will work towards Cathedral Pass, digging out iceberg rocks, repairing drainage, evening out tread and filling turnpikes.
Go explore the big rock up close on your day off, and just beyond the pass push on to Peggy’s Pond—a likely home for fairies if ever there was one. Get details and sign up.
Gypsy Meadows Trails: Jul 20-27
Hidden away in the northeastern corner between Idaho and Canada, experience the remote allure of the Colville National Forest combined with the comfort of car camping. Your crew will camp in Gypsy Meadows and work on nearby trails.
The Salmo Wilderness is home to a number of rare and endangered species, including Mountain Caribou, lynx and wolverines.
On your day off, hike up to the glorious views on the Shedroof Divide. Get details and sign up.
The dates don't work for you or your family? See all the Volunteer Vacations with open spaces.
Twenty-three year-old hiker Mary Owen was rescued from the slopes of Mount Hood over the weekend, after having been stranded on the mountain for six days. Owen's rescue is a good reminder: every level of hiker needs to get in the habit of filing a detailed trip itinerary before setting out—and a new iPhone app developed by local hikers may just make that easier to do.
"You need to let somebody know where you are going..."
Owen, a hiker who thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, got into trouble when whiteout conditions below the summit forced her to turn around. After injuring her leg in a fall, she knew she needed to stay put. She built a snow cave and waited for her overdue return to trigger a rescue. Even though Owen had taken the prudent steps of registering her trip and emailing her friends about her plans, limited information about her location was one reason it took several days for a rescue effort to get underway.
"It doesn't matter if you're climbing Mount Everest or Mount Hood or on a day hike in Washington Park." Steve Rollins, the rescue leader for Portland Mountain Rescue told The Oregonian, "You need to let somebody know where you are going and when you will return."
File an itinerary before hiking
Filing a detailed trip itinerary with family and friends and signing in a trailhead registers (or filing the proper permits) before setting out on a hike or climb is one of the most important ways to stay safe in the backcountry. A good trip itinerary also includes your backup plan for any trails you may hike if you change your mind at the trailhead.
New app sends automatic alerts if you don't check in on time
Thanks to two Seattle-based hikers, there is a new tool to augment your hiking precautions: a free mobile app that sends personalized, automated notifications to your emergency contacts if you don't check in on time from a hike or other outdoor activity.
The app sends your contacts details about your activity, your profile information, and instructions on what action they should take to ensure you are safe.
For now, the app is only available for iPhone users. It was created by Inti, Inc., a Seattle-based company co-founded by Steve Grind and Matt Witcher, two outdoor enthusiasts who solicited input from Search and Rescue professionals, guides and outdoor instructors.
“We’re outside or traveling all the time,” says Grind. “We always found ourselves wishing we had an easy way to tell people about our plans. It's a terrible feeling to find yourself out hiking after dark and to suddenly realize that nobody knows where you are or when they should start looking for you if you got lost or hurt. We created this as much for ourselves as we did for you.”
Learn more www.GoBugle.com or download the app now.
Share your favorite hiking apps and itinerary tips
- Try out the Bugle app and let us know what you think.
- Have another app you can't do without while hiking? Tell us about it.
- Share your experience about when you were glad you filed an itinerary.
by Tami Asars
Northwest forests are teeming with life—much of which may go overlooked or unseen. On your next hike, look out for the little things and discover something new on your favorite trails.
Bird: Cliff swallows make a trip to Dry Falls Lake worth a visit
You’ve likely heard of the swallows’ annual return to Capistrano. Well, we have our own return of the cliff swallows right here in the Northwest! The high basalt cliffs of central Washington come alive with them after they make their way back to their breeding grounds in early April.
As the temperatures warm, the graceful flyers dip and swirl through the air, eating a variety of insects. Observers with good binoculars might see little heads popping out of feather-lined mud-ball nests, built by rolling tiny balls of mud piece by piece in their beaks, then securing them onto sheltered cliff walls.
There are many good places to see cliff swallows; Dry Falls Lake in Sun Lakes State Park offers excellent viewing opportunities.
Beast: Find black-tailed deer on trail or in your backyard
If you live on the west side of the Cascade crest and deer wander through your yard, it’s likely your four-legged friends are black-tailed deer. These casual grazers feed on just about anything they can find, including native grasses, salal, salmonberry, pearly everlasting, huckleberry and, yes, your prized petunias.
Look for newborn fawns from late May into June after a gestation period of six to seven months from the fall rut. Fawns have no scent for approximately the first week or so, giving the mother an opportunity to leave the youngster hidden as she hunts for nourishment to recover from its birth.
Look for black-tailed deer during dawn and dusk in wooded areas or grassy meadows.
Bloom: The sword fern saves you from stinging nettle
Most of us know the sword fern from the moist coniferous forest floors of the rainy Northwest. The rain provides a perfect climate of consistent moisture for these plants, which serve as natural ground cover happily growing in the acidic soils at the feet of evergreens.
Look for fiddleheads unrolling in mid- to late spring, looking at times like seahorses as they uncurl. Not only do sword ferns make for nice landscaping, these tough plants are fire resistant and even somewhat drought tolerant in hot summers.
Also, they have one other interesting use.The next time you get stung by a stinging nettle, grab a sword fern leaf and rub its underside against the affected area. It helps alleviate the burning sensation!
This article originally appeared in the Mar+Apr issue of Washington Trails magazine.