Washington State Parks turn 100 this year, and they're showing their age. But you can help them.
Starting to see the impact of cuts
The legislature has cut general funding for State Parks by 79 million dollars since 2007. These devastating cuts have resulted in seasonal closures, reduced services and deferred maintenance. If we don't reverse this trend, we could see some of the crown jewels of our park system closed due to concerns for public safety and the environment.
This week, The Seattle Times released an informative article highlighting some of the problems facing our park system:
"Since 2000, the state has shed 12 of its parks, reduced hours at others, and shifted 66 of its 189 full-time rangers to seasonal jobs. Starting in 2009, the state parks have reduced staffing from 595 full-time permanent employees to 395."
"The situation has gotten so bad that Gov. Jay Inslee and key state lawmakers say they are considering restoring some state tax dollars to fund the parks."
Hikers and campers have likely already seen some of the effects in their favorite parks. The article details a few examples:
"At Lake Wenatchee State Park, storm damage downed so many trees that more than half of the campsites are unusable, with the recreation season fast approaching. Cleanup is slower, with fewer year-round staff to tackle the mess."
"Meanwhile, all over the state, portions of trails, scenic overlooks and campgrounds are cordoned off because there is no money to repair or maintain them."
The legislature is currently developing their 2013-2015 budget, so this is the time to speak up for parks.
How to help state parks
Call your state senator and tell him or her that we need to reinvest in our state parks. Share your experience enjoying these special places and urge the legislature to support $27 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!
Today, President Obama announced the establishment of five new national monuments, one of which encompasses 1,000 acres in the San Juan Islands National Monument. The new national treasures include more than 60 uninhabited islands, headlands and lighthouse properties. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the lands host an incredible variety of wildlife species, historic structures, dramatic views—and some great hiking trails.
The new monument is great news for a community, including Washington Trails Association partner San Juan Preservation Trust, that has been advocating for the designation for years.
Spot whales and hike the new national monument
This is the perfect time of year tofrom Iceberg Point trail, a 3-mile loop hike to rock cliffs, with fantastic views out towards the Olympic Peninsula, and back toward other parts of Lopez Island. It is suitable for children, dogs on leash, and folks of all ages.
Located in San Juan Island National Historic Park, Mount Finlayson is home to one of the last native prairie habitats in the San Juan Island Archipelago. It's also one of the few homes to the Island Marble Butterfly. Over six miles of shoreline and a variety of habitats including lagoons, fir and oak stands, and bluffs overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca fill this hike with wildlife viewing opportunities.
More news and national monument information from:
by Deanna Duff
Issaquah’s Village Theatre is renowned for its trailblazing work in musical theater. With the world premiere of their newest musical, Trails, they are yet again covering new ground—both literally and figuratively.
Trails follows the journey of two childhood friends who reconnect in their early thirties and undertake the adventure of hiking the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail, which spans 14 states along the East Coast. Both friends wrestle with life’s unexpected twists and tragedies—death of a parent, career changes, lost loves, getting older. The journey tests the endurance of mind, body and spirit.
“Trails, in a nutshell, is about the emotional miles—not just the physical—that you need to journey in order to genuinely recover when life throws you a curveball,” says Jeff Thomson, Trails’ composer.
A production inspired by a trail
Thomson is the original mastermind of Trails, and he was inspired by a similar proposal from a boyhood friend. While their reunion hike never occurred, it hooked his attention as an interesting musical concept, which he began formulating in 2009.
“I pitched the idea to my longtime collaborator, Jordan Mann (Trails’ lyricist). He immediately said, ‘Are you out of your mind? How do we sustain an evening of two characters walking around for six months?’” Thomson laughingly recalls.
For more information, visit villagetheatre.org or contact Village Theatre’s Box Office, 425.392.2202.
Performance times and prices vary. Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes (one intermission)
Trails runs at Issaquah’s Francis J. Gaudette theatre thru April 16, 2013
Performances at Everett’s Performing Arts Center: April 26 - May 19, 2013
Audience members may initially wonder the same thing. How can a stage capture a sense of the outdoors? The musical’s backdrop is an impressive mountain that looms over the action and serves as a blank canvas that represents settings from Georgia to Maine. The narrative also alternates between present-day and the past, which alleviates the characters always being “on the trail” and walking in circles. Writer Christy Hall shaped the narrative with an astute eye towards keeping the characters moving both in time and space.
Trails found its footing as part of Village Originals, the company’s program dedicated to developing new musicals. Each season, two of the five productions are new works. Some, such as Next to Normal and Million Dollar Quartet, became award-winning, Broadway hits after debuting in Issaquah. Trails launched as a reading during the 2011 Festival of New Musicals. The current run marks its world premiere staging.
“Village Theatre cares so much about their audiences and I feel we’re giving them a beautiful show (with Trails). This whole process has been absolutely extraordinary. I can only hope to experience something like this again in my career,” says Thomson.
Exploring the nature of relationships
Thomson is a hiker himself and his parents live in Massachusetts literally yards from the Appalachian Trail. For the musical, the Appalachian Trail is particularly evocative due to its fame—established in 1937, 2-3 million visitors annually hike part of the span. Upwards of 2,000 attempt the thru-hike, which requires approximately 5-7 months. However, the themes and appeal are universal. It speaks to the value of an experience that could occur anywhere—in the Northwest on the Pacific Crest Trail or during an outing at the local park.
“There is something about being in nature that strips everything away,” says Thomson. “In nature we emotionally can’t hide beyond anything like your job or relationship.”
Julie Cassata, Washington Trails Association’s Volunteer Coordinator, agrees. Before joining WTA, she thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. She hiked the Appalachian Trail in two parts during and after college, which was a needed “big adventure” during a time of transition.
“When you’re out there, it’s an opportunity to think about things and work through them,” says Cassata. “I experience a sense of freedom and peacefulness that I don’t seem able to get in my day-to-day life with the hustle and bustle.”
She befriended fellow hikers on the Appalachian Trail with whom she has remained in touch. After seeing Trails, the musical’s focus on relationships resonated with Cassata’s own experiences.
“An hour with somebody on the trail can have more of an impact than an hour talking to someone at a cocktail party,” she says. “You’re more of who you are when you’re hiking. You didn’t specially select your outfit that day or style your hair. That’s really freeing. People are closer to being a truer version of themselves.”
Audience response to Trails has been overwhelmingly positive. There are already discussions of eventually staging it to New York City. In the meantime, Thomson looks forward to catching his breath and hitting the local trails while he’s still in the Northwest. Shepherding Trails to the stage has been a long trek, but well worth the effort.
“I personally believe that nobody knows progress until they’ve stood at the top of a mountain—until they’ve climbed something whether it’s literally or figuratively,” he says.
If you are an REI co-op member, that means you'll be getting your REI dividend in the mail quite soon, if you haven't already.
Did you know that by shopping with your dividend on you can help trails? When you do, WTA earns a percentage of your total purchase that we'll put to great use in our trail programs, from maintaining wilderness trails to saving state lands from closing. (This link works all year long, and not just for members or when you use your dividend.) using
Thanks so much for your support of WTA and hiking trails!
Sale + dividend = a good time to buy big-ticket items
From trail work to hiking, WTA's staff puts a lot of wear and tear on our outdoor gear, so we think a lot about the best way to replace key items in our gear closets.
Tip: spend your dividend by April 7, and you can get a huge discount off of one full-priced item (the coupon code will come with your mailed dividend.) This is a terrific way to get a discount on a big-ticket purchase you might have been eyeing.
And if you know a new hiker who is just getting started, consider handing down your old gear to them. Share your gear, share the trail.
Editor's gear picks
Washington Trails magazine editor, Eli Boschetto offered these three items as REI gear picks for spring sale.
The REI Half Dome Tent is a classic that just keeps getting better every year. With two doors, stash pockets, air vents, large vestibules and ample leg- and headroom, the Half Dome is a portable backcountry (or front country) comfort cabin, ready to go anywhere you are. DAC Featherlite poles and welded construction help keep the weight down, and the price makes this award-winning tent a no-brainer. $189
- Jacket pick: Mountain Hardwear's Plasmic Jacket
- Pack pick: Osprey's Viva 50 Women's Pack
Staff shopping list: lightening our load, replacing beat up boots
What's on the shopping lists of WTA staff? Boots, fuel for trail runs and backpacking equipment are big on our lists this year. What's on yours?
Gear for trail work
- Arlen Bogaards, Northwest Regional Manager: "I'm going to spend my dividend on a new pair of boots! Trailwork and using your boot as a trail leveler/ grubbing tool sure is hard on them."
Trail running fuel
- Julie Cassata, Volunteer Coordinator (and avid trail runner): "I've already spent a portion of my dividend on Honey Stingers waffles and gel packets. They are delicious, quick energy when I'm moving quickly on trail."
- Susan Elderkin, Communications Director and Outreach Director (not to mention a pretty good family Trip Reporter): "A new family backpacking tent."
- Kindra Ramos, Engagement Manager: A water purifier and a backpacking stove.
- Loren Drummond, Digital Content Manager: "I'm combining a gift certificate with my dividend to get a new pack, since my current one dates back to the late 90's and weighs a ton. I've also got a goal to spend 36 nights under the stars this year, so I think it's worth the investment."
- Michael Stubblefield, Trail Programs Director: "I'm buying the Snow Peak Mini Solo Titanium Cookset. At a mere 5.5 ozs, it will lighten my pack load a bit and take considerably less room in my backpack."
What's on your list?
Tell us what gear you need to refresh this spring in the comments below. And don't forget to do any shopping with your dividend on to help support trails. using
After 13 years of crew leading for WTA, Mike Owens is finally hanging up his blue hat. He claims that this time, his retirement is for real.
If you've ever done a mid-week work party in the Seattle area, you've probably met MikeO. With 2,350 trail work days under his suspenders, Mike has spent more days on trail with WTA than anyone else. Since he started off as a volunteer in 1998, Mike has broken two shovels and two grub hoes in his utter enthusiasm for trail work.
But most of the time, Mike's enthusiasm for his job comes out in his interactions with volunteers. He is especially known for his collaborative approach to trail work, giving guidance rather than strict direction to volunteers.
"The thing I've always appreciated about Mike is his ability to give constructive criticism in a positive way and to make people feel good about it," says volunteer Greg Friend.
Making them laugh and getting trails built since 2000
When he first started as a paid crew leader in 2000, Mike remembers being really nervous about leading a group of people. But he realized that if he could make them laugh during the tool talk, everything would be all right. So he told the crew a joke about penguins and it worked--they laughed, and everything was all right. Feeling victorious, Mike memorized five more penguin jokes before his next work party. He has been making volunteers laugh ever since and needless to say, everything has always been all right.
Over the years, Mike has also gained the respect of land managers for the quality of work that his crews do. Mike has overseen the construction of seven miles of new trail at Grand Ridge and supervised crews in rebuilding the bottom two miles of trail at Mount Si.
He has worked on almost every trail at Cougar Mountain and Squak Mountain and Taylor Mountain, managing almost all of WTA's work on King County and significant portions of our work on the Darrington, Cle Elum, and Snoqualmie North Bend districts too. In fact, land managers have grown to trust Mike's leadership so much that they often let him make his own decisions about the trails he's working on.
From trail crew leader to ... trail volunteer
Mike leaves behind him a legacy of unbeatable trail technique, gentle instruction and a sense of humor that makes his work parties more about fun than work. Green hats and orange hats alike will miss Mike's staunch leadership, but they won't have to miss him for long.
What are Mike's plans for retirement? To volunteer on trail with WTA, of course! In the coming months, look for MikeO on trail, swinging a Pulaski and sporting a shiny new orange hat.
Share you memories of working with Mike
Do you have a great memory of working on trail with Mike? Tell us your story in the comments below!
Kayak Point Park, a little park north of Everett, has been a popular family outing for more than a hundred years.
With short beach strolls, evergreen forest, views of picturesque Port Susan and yurt camping, it's no wonder the park has attracted fun and families for more than a century.
Explore working and recreation scenes from the park in the early 1900's, and thento take part in shaping the modern day trails on Kayak Point.
Then: fishing, swimming and families in the early 1900's
Now: a great park in need of a few trail repairs
The bluff trail that descends from the campgrounds at Kayak Point to the shoreline below has recently suffered a wash out, and with your help, WTA aims to fix the problem.
If you live between Everett and Mount Vernon, this is a good distance for a day trip. This is the perfect opportunity to get involved on trails in Snohomish County.
Plus, when you volunteer, you won't need to pay the $7 day use parking.
Learn the basics of avalanche safety while meandering in the Commonwealth Basin at Snoqualmie Pass on one of two upcoming guided snowshoe walks. Snowshoes are provided, and the walks will be led by avalanche safety instructors from Friends of the Avalanche Center and the U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers.
Reserve a spot on the March 24 walks
The two walks on March 24 leave at 10:30 a.m and 12:30 p.m. Space is limited on the walks, so if you want in, you'll need to make a reservation.
To reserve a spot, call the Forest Service Visitor Information Center at 425-434-6111. A $15 per person donation is suggested to offset the cost of the program.
Dress to stay warm and dry
Wildflowers may be starting to bloom in the lowlands, but it is still winter in the mountains. Whether you you make one of the snowshoe walks or are planning a snowshoe adventure of your own, make sure to dress for cold winter weather.
Wear a waterproof outer layer, including a hat, and gloves. Dress in warm layers under your waterproof outer layer, and wear sturdy, waterproof boots.
More snowshoe and winter safety resources
Leaving on a summer Friday or Saturday for a weekend of car camping and day hiking can be a challenge. Washington is a state of hikers and campers; without a reservation, you may find that campgrounds are filled to capacity.
If you want to go camping from Memorial Day to Labor Day, you're wise to get your reservations soon. Here are a few tips to orient you, and some strategies for the types who don't mind taking their chances.
How to make your reservations for summer camping in Washington
Campsite reservation systems can be a bit of a puzzle. Reservations are not accepted everywhere, and agencies have varied rules about how far in advance you can plan your trip. Plus, there are extra fees associated with making an online reservation. The bottom line is that if you want to go camping the first weekend in August, you're wise to get your reservations soon. Here are a few tips to orient you.
Reserve a campsite, cabin or yurt at Washington State Parks
Most, but not all, Washington State Park campgrounds take reservations up to nine months in advance. That means that if you want a certain campsite for the Fourth of July, you should be on their system on October 4. Many campgrounds still have good summer availability. You can browse parks and availability, and there are photos of each site.> : (Note: an extra $6.50 is added for each booking, plus $5 if you are booking from out-of-state.)
Making a reservation in National Parks and National Forests using recreation.gov
Washington's three national parks have varying reservation policies.
- Mount Rainier National Park has two campgrounds on the reservation system. Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh accept reservations up to six months in advance; White River and Mowich Lake are on first-come, first-served basis.
- Only the Kalaloch Campground in Olympic National Park accepts reservations for the peak summer season. The rest are first come first served.
- North Cascades National Park accepts reservations at Loop "C" of Newhalem Creek Campground up to six months in advance as well as at their group campgrounds (Upper and Lower Goodell and also at Newhalem Creek) a year in advance.
National forests also having varying campground reservation policies. The cheat sheet below is only for car campgrounds, not group sites. If you are not familiar with the forests, it helps to pull out a map or to browse the Recreation.gov reservation map.
- Most campgrounds in Olympic National Forest do not accept reservations. You can make reservations in Coho Campground.
- Most, if not all, campgrounds on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest accept reservations.
- Most, if not all, campgrounds on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest accept reservations.
- On the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, only campgrounds within the Cle Elum and Naches Ranger Districts accept reservations, and a few in the Naches actually require them.
- The Colville and Umatilla National Forests are first-come, first-served.
If you're flexible, you can browse layouts of the campgrounds, availability windows and often view individual campsites online at recreation.gov.
> Recreation.gov: An extra $9 is added per booking.
> Reservation call center: An extra $10 is added per booking.
Try your luck: strategies for success at spontaneous camping
If you haven't made a reservation, then first-come, first-served campgrounds and dispersed camping areas are for you. Here are some tips for finding a great spot:
- If you have the flexibility, the best course of action is to arrive mid-week for campgrounds that do not accept reservations.
- Go farther afield and try out an area with lighter usage.
- Try dispersed camping on National Forest land, a great way to find a little solitude and practice your Leave No Trace ethics. Dispersed camping means there are no toilets, no picnic tables, no trash cans, no treated water, and no fire grates. Typically, dispersed camping is not allowed in the vicinity of developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, boat ramps, picnic areas or trailheads. (For the best information on dispersed camping opportunities, contact the ranger district offices.)
- Try your first backpack. Try packing a little lighter and consider converting your camping plans into a short backpack with an overnight.
Share your camping tips
We hope these tips are helpful. If you have strategies for stress-free camping in Washington, or a favorite campground to recommend, share them with us in the comments section below!
Volunteer on one of these featured work parties for a day or for a week's vacation!
- Cedar Creek, South King County: help build a new loop trail in a quaint little neighborhood park.
- Kayak Point Park, North of Everett: repair trail washout on a bluff trail in this water-side campground.
- Larrabee State Park, NW Washington: help build drainage and realign trails in this popular state park.
- Coyote Wall, SW Washington: build new trail amidst open meadows, spring wildflowers and dramatic vistas of the Columbia River Gorge.
- Peabody Creek, Olympic Peninsula: learn how to build a bridge over a rushing river in the Olympic National Park.
- White River, July 27-Aug 3, Wenatchee River Ranger District. Spend a week in the remote Glacier Peak Wilderness, brushing and repairing a PCT feeder trail.
- Packwood Lake, Aug 17-24, Cowlitz Ranger District. Accomplish some much-needed annual maintenance on trails around picturesque Packwood Lake.
- West Fork Humptulips, July 21-26, Olympic Peninsula. Camped amidst huge old-growth trees in the rainforest valley, you'll work on various construction projects, including replacing a puncheon.
- Cathedral Rock (ages 18-20), July 27-Aug 3, Cle Elum Ranger District. Work in the shadow of the spire of Cathedral Rock on this trail that has long needed work.
In great news for hikers, Whatcom County Council approved a new park for the county with a vote of 5-2 last night. Once approved by the state Board of Recreation, the new Lake Whatcom Forest Preserve Park, at 8,844 acres, will become one of the largest local parks in the nation. (Portland's Forest Park, as a point of comparison, is about 5,100 acres.)
Speaking up for new northwest recreation opportunities
WTA's Northwest Regional Manager Arlen Bogaards spoke at the meeting, highlighting the accomplishments of WTA's local trail volunteers and partnerships to create great trail systems, including recent trail work at nearby Larrabee State Park. Dozens of trail users that included families, hikers, mountain bikers and trail runners also spoke up on behalf of the new park.
Washington Trails Association and other groups, including Conservation Northwest, have all advocated strongly for the county creating the new park from lands previously held by the state for timber harvest.
The demand for outdoor recreation in and around Bellingham continues to grow, and the new park will provide hikers new recreation opportunities in a wild forest landscape while preserving a local ecological resource. As many as 55 miles of new trails are proposed in the coming years.
As the number of trail users and volunteers in the Northwest region of the state grows, WTA is eager to help Whatcom County land managers and elected officials plan for the future of this landscape.
What's involved in building a brand new trail?
While it may be a while before the new park trails are created, you can join WTA in building a brand new trail at Larrabee State Park from The Cyrus Gates Overlook at the top of Cleator Road to Lost Lake through some amazing cliff bands and previously uncharted territory in the Chuckanuts.