Thank you for all that you helped us accomplish this year, and for fighting for a future where our trails and outdoor adventures will always matter.
- If you filed a trip report, you did way more than hike this year. And you're in good company. All together, 2,800 hikers filed more than 7,300 trip reports just this year -- more than ever before.
- If you volunteered on trail, you helped build or improve 190 trails across the state -- with help from tons of hard-working volunteers, including 850 kids and teens. See the trails we worked on.
- If you spoke out for trails, then you helped us fight (and win!) for trail funding, road access to trailheads and sustainable trail systems.
- If you supported WTA as a member, participated in Hike-a-Thon, or gave a donation, then you did all of the above ... and so much more.
- If you took your first steps on Washington trails, introduced someone new to hiking or to our work here at WTA, thank you.
Why (our amazing) volunteers give back to trails
From their first work parties to their fiftieth, see why volunteers keep turning out to protect Washington's trails, year-after-year.
A special shout out to Trip Reporters
When you filed a trip report this year, you did more than just keep each other safe and informed. You contributed to a community of people who know, first-hand, how precious and important our trails are.
Below are just a few examples of trip reporters giving back to Washington's hiking community:
- Bob & Barb continue to inspire us by seeking out insane mushrooms, waterfalls and wonder all over the state. This couple in their 70's have filed an astounding 134 trip reports so far this year (and 490 total).
- The intrepid Joe Hendricks has shared his hikes in 57 trip reports so far this year, many of which contain super-useful video tours.
- MmeMazama and her boyfriend have been training for Kilimanjaro this year, and filing the trip reports to prove it. Good luck in February!
- Newcomers mbravenboer impressed us with their thorough reports, stunning photos and stand-out ambassadorship for dogs on trail.
- Daniel Y and newcomer Eastside Anne have joined Holly Weiler in shedding some light on Eastern trail conditions, from around Tri-Cities to the Kettle Crest.
- Sir-Hikes-a-Lot continues to string together some epic backpacking trips.
- The Surviving Urban team motivates Western city-dwellers to just get out there.
- MikeOnAHike shares the nuts, bolts and diaper blowouts of backpacking with his 8-month-old daughter around the Wonderland Trail.
- Not only does mytho-man share the latest and greatest intel from Central Washington, he is also a regional correspondent for Washington Trails magazine.
Your passion for Washington's wild places is why no other state in the country has a community like ours. In this season of gratitude, please accept the thanks of the whole crew here at WTA. Thank you for your support, for giving back, and for helping us improve wta.org.
Essential gift: Tribute to the Trails Calendar
If you only get one thing for the trail runner in your life, make it the 2014 Tribute to the Trails calendar. It features amazing photos of runners on local trails and dates for trail running events throughout the country. The proceeds from the sales benefit Washington Trails Association, and every calendar comes with the chance of winning a race entry.
The calendar project is the brainchild of WTA member, photographer and runner, Glenn Tachiyama, and WTA's board president, Wendy Wheeler-Jacobs. Together, they produce the awesome calendar to inspire the trail running community while also supporting the trails they run on.
Training tool: Timex Expedition Trail Mate watch
With a Timex Expedition Trail Mate Watch, they’ll not only be able to track their mileage and speed with the built-in accelerometer, they’ll also be able to set time and distance goals—perfect for determining when to break for a snack, head back or start looking for camp.
It also features 100-meter water resistance and an INDIGLO nightlight. $65
Stay in place tunes: Yurbuds Venture earbuds
There are strong feelings on both sides of the debate about listening to music on trail. But if you're runner is pro-music, this might just be the gift for them.
Do they enjoy listening to their favorite tunes on their hikes and workout runs, but always complain about their buds falling out? They'll complain no more with a pair of Yurbuds Venture Earbuds.
Specially designed for active outdoor enthusiasts, these ergonomic twist-lock buds stay in place while being water- and tangle-resistant. $80
Minimalist shoe: Merrell Trail Glove 2
There's nothing like the feel of a soft, duffy trail in a pair of minimalist shoes. Merrell's Trail Glove 2 is the perfect footwear to help the runner you know get that closer-to-nature feel on their trail outings, with only 9.5mm separating their foot from the ground. $100
Share your gift ideas
What does a trail runner want for the holidays, besides a pair of shoes and a trail to tackle?
Like the idea of holiday gifts that really matter? Make sure your outdoor friends and family are going out well-equipped by wrapping up a few essentials in a bow this holiday season.
Hiking basics: the ten essentials and winter extras
They're called the Ten Essentials, and all hikers should carry them year round, but they are even more essential as the weather becomes colder and more unpredictable.
The Ten Essentials include a topographic map, compass, extra food, extra clothing, firestarter, matches, sun protection, a pocket knife, first-aid kit, and a flashlight. (When it comes to fall and winter hiking, you may want to add a few extra items to your backpack as well.)
First aid kit
Encourage safety, even on day trips, with Adventure Medical’s .9 First Aid Kit. Weighing in at just more than 10 ounces, it contains all of the basic necessities—bandages, antibiotic wipes, basic medications and even duct tape—plus room for add-ins, all in a neat, waterproof casing. This is one of the Ten Essentials no hiker should be without. $36
Headlamp (or flashlight)
Whether starting pre-dawn or finishing after sundown, they’ll have no problem setting up or breaking down camp in the dark with Princeton Tec’s Vizz Headlamp.
The uber-bright 165-Lumen Maxbright LED turns night into day, and the waterproof design keeps it shining brightly, even in the soggy Northwest. $50
SOG Flashback Knife
Any pocketknife will do for your essentials list, but if you want to turn a practical gift a into something extra-special, this locally-made knife is one way to do it.
Survivalists (and armchair survivalists) talk about their knives with reverence because they can be life-saving tools in the wilderness.
At just 3.7 ounces, SOG’s Flashback Knife has a 3.5-inch blade, safety lock and reversible belt clip for easy carrying—and is made right here in Washington. $100
Whistle, compass and light, all in one
Coghlan’s Six Function Whistle packs a compass, thermometer, magnifying glass, mirror and an LED light—along with the whistle! An ideal accessory for young and old hikers alike. $12
Tip: it's better to whistle from one spot than to wander around.
The Olympic Forest Service and Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), a non-profit organization that partners hikers with scientific projects, have just a few more spots for volunteers to help monitor the Coastal Olympic Pine Marten in Olympic National Forest this winter.
Martens are small carnivores who have historically been found throughout the mountains of Pacific coastal states. Though they are related to otters, mink, and skunks, the elusive martens are most at home in trees. Martens maintain their dark coats year-round, so winter is the best time to try and spot them. (See last year's volunteers and some footage of martens in action below.)
Very few martens have been spotted in Olympic National Forest in recent years, and forest service biologists will use data collected by volunteers to better understand marten activity in the forest and to develop management policy for these "critically imperiled" animals.
Remote camera stations (and you) help monitor martens
Scientists will be setting up 20 remote wildlife cameras in high elevation drainages of Olympic National Forest to monitor marten activity. ASC and the Forest Service need volunteer help checking and maintaining the camera stations.
“If martens still exist in greater numbers on the Olympic Peninsula, then they may be doing so in higher, isolated pockets of habitat," says Betsy Howell, a U.S. Forest Service biologist with the Olympic National Forest. "Getting to these areas can be challenging, particularly during the winter months, which are the most ideal for carnivore surveys.”
What to expect and how to sign up
If you're interested in learning winter wildlife tracking techniques or just want to combine your outdoor adventures with a wildlife conservation project, then the pine martin project needs you. You don't need any tracking experience to sign up, but applicants should have basic winter camping skills and the ability/desire to walk, ski or snowshoe long distances over rugged terrain in the snow.
What's at stake? See last year's volunteers in action
More citizen science opportunities:
From butterflies to birds, several other organizations also have citizen science programs for hikers:
Anna Torrance of the NPS helps shovel river cobble on a bar during an exploration of the river’s movement during the gradual drawdown of both reservoirs prior to dam removal. Photo by Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times
Elwha: A River Reborn, a new exhibit from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture tells the story of the largest dam removal project in history. Based on the book by Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and photographer Steve Ringman, the exhibit brings together the people, places, and history of the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula.
The exhibit was developed by the Burke Museum in collaboration with The Seattle Times, Mountaineers Books, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. It opens Nov. 23, and runs through Mar. 9, 2014.
Sneak peek: photography, history, ecology
The exhibit is packed with stunning photographs from the book; cultural objects, and stories from the Klallam people; a time-lapse video of the dams coming down; and fish, plants, and other specimens from the Burke collections.
The ongoing Elwha project is more than just a dam removal, it’s one of the most ambitious ecological restoration projects ever undertaken—returning 70 miles of river to migrating fish and 800 acres of habitat to elk and other wildlife. With more than 500 dams slated for removal worldwide, the project has become a closely-watched model for other projects.
The dam removal and restoration does not open more land for hikers, but it will change the landscapes thousands of hikers explore every year in Washington.
Interactive exhibits: learn and then take a hike
If snow has you blocked from the high country, you can combine a museum visit with a walk in the Arboretum or climb all the stairs on the UW Campus.
Want to experience the subject of the exhibit in person? Explore a few of the hikes along the banks of the Elwha.
Also worth exploring: the Burke Museum has permanent exhibits on everything from Washington geology to birds to native plant life.
Special membership rates for WTA and Burke members
Member of WTA? Throughout the run of Elwha: A River Reborn, the Burke Museum is offering WTA members a special membership rate.
Member of the Burke? If you're already a member of the Burke, WTA is offering you a special membership rate so you can continue to experience the excitement of discovery on trail as well as off. Your generous membership gift supports trail maintenance, advocacy and education to protect the trails you love, this season and beyond. Members also receive great benefits, including a one-year subscription to Washington Trails magazine.
The Chinook Pass (SR 410) winter road closure to Cayuse Pass (SR 123 ) starts here at the northeast entry to Mount Rainier National Park. Photo by WSDOT.
Washington's high country is beginning to see some serious snow accumulation. About 20 inches of fresh snow fell on Mount Rainier passes over the weekend, increasing avalanche danger and prompting the Washington State Department of Transportation to close Cayuse (SR 123) and Chinook Passes (SR 410) to vehicles temporarily, though it won't be long before they are closed for the season.
- Chinook Pass, elevation 5,430 feet, is closed from Morse Creek ((MP 74.5), five miles east of the summit to Crystal Mountain Boulevard, about 12 miles northwest of the summit.
- Cayuse Pass is closed within Mount Rainier National Park from the 4,675-foot Cayuse Pass summit to Stevens Canyon Road.
Mount Rainier access in winter
The National Park has officially entered its winter season. As in past years, the road gate immediately above Longmire is closed nightly. For visitor and staff safety, rangers and snow plow operators evaluate road, weather, avalanche and staffing conditions every morning. Visitors planning a trip to Paradise should check for current road status and weather on the park's website or Twitter feed.
In general, the Longmire area will remain open seven days a week.
- Before December 21, the gate at Longmire will open Thursdays through Mondays, at 9:00 a.m. The road will close nightly at 5:00 p.m., with the uphill gate closing at 4:00 p.m. The gate will not open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during this period.
- Between December 21 and the end of March, the National Park aims to provide seven-days-a-week access to Paradise. The target open hours for the road above Longmire during this period will continue as 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., with the uphill gate closing at 4:00 p.m
Overnight camping. The entire park is open for visitor use throughout the winter season, including overnight winter camping with a valid permit seven days a week. Overnight campers should plan their travels with an understanding of nightly or scheduled gate closures. Visitors camping at Paradise between now and December 21 should not plan on driving out on Tuesday and Wednesday when the road is closed.
Carry chains. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when traveling in the park, including 4WD vehicles.
The status of other mountain passes
- For now, the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) remains open, though probably not for too much longer. Last year it closed November 20.
- The Mountain Loop Highway is currently open between Deer Creek Road and Barlow Pass, though it will likely close for winter soon as well. Check the Snohomish County road closure website for updates.
When will the passes open again?
When will the passes open again? Well, that's up to Mother Nature. But in the past, Cayuse & Chinook passes usually open in May. You can see the historical dates .
Mountain pass updates all winter
You can also follow the conditions on all major mountain passes throughout the winter at the Department of Washington's Department of Transportation website or Twitter feed.
How much snow and where?
When planning your winter hiking and snowshoeing adventures, one of the most important steps is to check the weather. Below are some great online resources for mountain weather and road conditions:
- Get detailed mountain forecasts at National Weather Service's Mountain Forecast
- Avalanche forecasts and comprehensive weather data Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center
- Gauge snow depth with the Washington snow map from the National Water and Climate Center.
- WSDOT has up-to-date mountain pass conditions, including cameras on five popular routes.
- It is also wise to call ahead to the ranger station where you plan to hike or snowshoe.
Sometimes in the winter, you just don't want to go outside. Maybe it's wet. Maybe it's cold. Maybe your bed is too perfectly warm to leave. But don't let that stop you from traveling to the North Cascades, the Pacific Crest Trail, or even Mount Everest!
Local favorites win National Outdoor Book Awards
This week, the National Outdoor Book Awards selected ten outstanding books that offer house-bound hikers a way to get outside, even if the elements have conspired to keep you in.
All ten are worth a look, but we are happy to see that three of the ten winners are published by our friends at Mountaineers Books. Take a look at I Promise Not to Suffer, Everest: The West Ridge, and Snow Travel for entertainment, thrills, and outdoor education.
And if you've got a soft spot for wildlife, don't miss Wolves in the Land of Salmon, featuring new information and beautiful photographs of one of the most elusive species in the Pacific Northwest.
Wolves in the Land of Salmon
Photographer, expert tracker and instructor at North Cascades Institute David Moskowitz crisscrosses the Pacific Northwest looking for and observing wolves. From each journey, he comes away with some new understanding that adds a wealth of information on their behavior, biology, and the controversy swirling about them.
By Mike Zawaski
Whether you're a hiker or climber, sooner or later, you’re bound to find yourself on snow slopes. Steep snow, of course, can be hazardous unless you are prepared.
This fully illustrated, comprehensive guide, by long-time outdoor instructor and trainer Mike Zawaski, is designed to help keep you safe. It covers pre-trip planning, self arrest, use of crampons, and advice on how to recognize and evaluate potential hazards.
- Read our spring interview with Mike Zawaski to learn more about safely crossing snow.
- Buy or download the book.
Everest: The West Ridge
By Thomas F. Hornbein
Everest: The West Ridge is a mountaineering classic; the story of the 1963 Everest ascent by a bold and entirely unknown route -- the West Ridge. After an exhausting final push, Hornbein and his climbing companion Willi Unsoeld, reach the summit, but it is so late in the day that they find themselves stranded at 28,000 feet. With no food, shelter, or water, they are well within the death zone.
Thanks to Mountaineers Books, The West Ridge has been re-issued in an impressive special 50th anniversary edition. It’s all here: the original text, the photographs, and a special addendum that follows-up with each member of the expedition fifty years later.
I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail
By Gail D. Storey
In the grand tradition of thru-hiker narratives, fifty-six year-old Gail Storey tells her story of tackling the Pacific Crest Trail with her husband. At first a reluctant thru-hiker, Storey endures the trek with grace and humor.
Can't get enough outdoors literature?
A sustainable road system is key for hikers and other trail users to reach trailheads. Photo by Aubrey.
Don't miss the last Mount Baker-Snoqualmie (MBS) National Forest public meeting to help shape the future of the roads system on the MBS. The meeting, the last in a series, will be held at 5 pm on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at Everett Community College.
Make your hiking preferences a part of the process
The forest is hosting a process to help the public provide feedback about how it manages public access to trails while balancing preserving the environment and stewarding scarce public funds.
This Sustainable Roads Analysis is your chance to provide feedback on where you recreate on National Forests and how you get there. Mount Baker-Snoqualmie staff and local recreation and conservation leaders will be on hand to answer your questions and provide their insights.
Why is access in the MBS so important?
Those of us who enjoy hikes from the 1-90 corridor to the Mountain Loop Highway will be affected by decisions that come out of this process. See the maps of the trails that could be affected.
The public's input will help the Sustainable Roads Cadre (an alliance of more than 20 organizations that Washington Trails Association and The Wilderness Society helped spearhead) make decisions that will manage public access to trails while balancing preserving the environment and allocating scarce public funds. This is your chance to provide feedback on where you recreate on National Forests and how you get there.
Two ways to let your voice be heard\
1. Attend the public meeting.
2. Can't make the meeting? Fill out the survey.
The deadline to fill out a short questionnaire has been extended to November 30 and we want you to weigh in with your feedback regarding road access.
Once you've taken the survey, ensure that your voice continues to be heard. Sign up for the Trail Action Network and receive periodic alerts about important issues that affect hikers, like road access, invites to advocacy-oriented events, and tips for activists.
She's with you through thick and thin, rain or shine, walking around the lake or tackling a vertical mile of trail, so say thank you this season with one of our gift ideas for your best bud and most reliable hiking companion. Below are three great gift ideas for hiking dogs, including some tips for choosing and acclimatizing your dog to a new pack.
Kurgo MAX Pack: a dog pack for all seasons
Our dog Madigan's first dog pack was a hand-me-down from his dog pal, Bodhi. It served him, and us, fine for a few years, but it was never ideal. It stuck out widely from his body, snagging on trees and bruising the back of our knees. It always slipped to one side or the other, throwing him off balance and requiring frequent readjustments. But it took that imperfect pack to help us appreciate the incredible fit of the Kurgo MAX Pack.
The Kurgo MAX Pack ($50) adjusts to a near perfect, no-slip fit on 50- to 110-pound pups, and is styled for comfort and safety. This pack features cushy built-in padding on the chest and back, reflective strips and rear orange fabric, which is great during hunting season. The four-pocket design balances good load capacity with a profile slim enough to prevent snagging. There are plenty of dog packs with larger pockets out there, but even on a 4-day backpacking trip, the pack's load capacity was sufficient, and the slimmer design kept him balanced better on narrow stretches of trail.
Bonus for humans: the rear-mounted leash hook (which we've used to hitch our younger puppy to him in a puppy pack string) doubles as a bottle opener.
Tips for selecting, fitting and packing a dog pack
While they are no means essential for hiking dogs, dog packs can be pretty handy. Packs help set the mood for good behavior and can be great for wearing out young, energetic dogs by giving them a job—to carry their own water, bowl, and snacks. We also know hikers who outfit their dogs with an empty pack and baggies for the sole purpose of packing out dog waste.
- When selecting a pack, a good, secure fit is the most important factor. If you choose one that's bright orange or red, it can do double-duty during hunting season.
- When fitting and getting your dog used to a pack, make sure the experience is a positive one. Hand out tons of their favorite treats as you adjust the straps, and let them practice wearing it (empty) around the house a few times before hitting the trail.
- How much should your dog carry? Check with your vet about the maximum amount of weight your dog should carry, and then work up to that over time. In general, a full-grown, healthy dog should carry no more than about 15 or 20 percent of their body weight (about 10 lbs for a 50lb dog). Scale that down if your dog is obese, still growing or approaching their senior years.
- The first few times out on trail, keep the pack weight down, and check frequently for hot spots or rubbing, especially under your dog's armpits.
More gifts that keep your pup safe and cool on trail
You don't need to spend a small fortune on gear for your dog, but when you're deciding to invest in (or give a gift of) gear, keep the health and safety of your pup forefront in mind.
Whether you're hiking around your neighborhood in the dawn hours, or snow camping off of Snoqualmie Pass, a collar light will make your pup easier to spot.
Adventure Lights’ Guardian Pet Lights are waterproof and so durable they’re used on search and rescue dogs. An excellent addition for four- legged hiking companions that can stand up to lake swimming and snow rolling. $17*
In cold, rainy or snowy hikers, your dog—depending on her coat, size and age—may need a jacket or booties as protection against hypothermia. And while it may seem far away, summer temperatures can be even more of a threat to dogs. Dog biology makes them more susceptible to overheating and dehydration than human hikers.
If you (or someone on your gift list) hikes with a hot dog, help cool her off with the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler coat. Then just soak it, wring it and clip it on and the Cooler will drop her temperature by 10 to 15 degrees and protect her from the sun. $55 >> Read the full review.
More from WTA's 2013 Gift Guide
We've gathered a list of amazing outdoor items that will appeal to every hiker, backpacker, camper or trailrunner on your shopping list. >> Shop our gear guide while giving back to trails.
Hike through military history on Veteran's Day fee-free weekend. The Admirality Lighthouse on Fort Casey. Photo by Bob and Barb.
This weekend, federal and state public lands agencies are honoring veterans and service members for Veteran's Day by waiving all fees from Nov. 9-11. So, when you head to the hills or the coast this weekend, you can park at trailheads or recreation facilities without hanging a Northwest Forest Pass or Discover Pass or paying an entrance fee.
It's the perfect excuse to extend your hiking season and get outside. Below are a few great ways to celebrate veterans and get outside.
Visit a State Park
It's a fee-free day in State Parks, so you won't need a pass to visit any number of great parks near you.
Hike through military history. What better way to honor veterans than on a stroll at Fort Casey State Park or Fort Flagler State Park. Fort Ebey or Fort Worden State Park also have their fair share of history and hiking to enjoy.
Wildlife watching. Bring you binoculars and a camera and go in search of elk, owls, eagles or mountain goats in any number of state parks around the state. Where wildlife are likely to be.
Weather-proof camping in a cabin. Many of the State Parks have cabins, yurts or platform tents to help extend your camping season.
- Combine wildlife watching and camping in a cabin at Dosewallips State Park, Copalis River Spit in Griffiths-Priday State Park and Potholes Wildlife Area.
Visit a National Park
Pack an extra fleece, grab your camera and a thermos of hot chocolate or spiced cider, and explore one of the three National Parks here in Washington.
Facilities open within Mount Rainier National Park during this holiday include the National Park Inn at Longmire (lodging and meals) and the Longmire General Store (gifts and food items). Visitor information is available at the Longmire Information Center. The Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise will be open on Saturday and Sunday only.
This time of year, there are some road closures and chain restrictions on some roads, so check their website and road conditions before you head out for a Rainier adventure.
If you want to combine a little camping with your hiking, Olympic National Park has some campgrounds open year-round. You can put the money you save on entrance fee toward your campsite fee and hike for two or three days in a row.
There's never an entrance fee to North Cascades National Park, but a three day weekend is still a great chance to get a glimpse of these dramatic peaks covered in snow. Most of the trails in North Cascades National Park have some snow on them, but Thunder Creek is a beautiful, low-elevation trail that is often snow free late in the season. And you don't mind braving some cold, you get a night away by car camping in one or two campgrounds in North Cascades, too.
Hike on National Forest Lands
From the snow-covered trails in the Colville National Forest to river hikes Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, there are no shortage of trails to explore, fee-free, this weekend.
Wherever your outdoor adventures take you, go prepared, stay safe and have a great time hiking!