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Volunteer Vacation FAQ

Frequently asked questions about Washington Trails Association's Volunteer Vacations.
Q. What is a Volunteer Vacation?

A. Volunteer Vacations are 8 day work parties that run Saturday to Saturday during the spring and summer time. The week-long nature of these trips allows us to tend to trails in more remote areas of the state. Projects range from rebuilding failing tread and installing drainage structures, to logouts using a crosscut saw. You'll meet and camp with other folks who care about keeping the trails we love to use looking their best for future generations.

East Crater Lake Volunteer Vacation 2010
Develop your trail skills with WTA on a weeklong Volunteer Vacation.
Q. The trip I really want to go on is full! Is there a waitlist?

A. Absolutely. If a trip is marked as "Full," please contact the office by e-mailing trail_teams@wta.org or by calling 206-965-8565, and we will add you to the waitlist.

Q Is there a cost for me to attend a Volunteer Vacation?
A.  Yes. Although you are a volunteer, there are costs associated with running this type of program. Your trip fee helps cover a portion of our field staffing, food, equipment and transportation. Grants, government agreements, and individual donations from WTA supporters provide the rest of the funding needed for each Volunteer Vacation.

In 2014, the trip fee for WTA members is $195 for the first trip and $145 for each additional trip during the season. There is a $30 cancellation fee for cancellations more than 30 days prior to the trip, and no refund for cancellations within 30 days of the trip.

Non-members pay $235 for the first trip. For cancellations more than 30 days prior to the trip, there is a $70 cancellation fee. There is no refund for cancellations less than 30 days prior to the trip. In both instances, the individual will retain a one-year membership to WTA. We hope you enjoy being a part of our member community. The non-member price for each additional trip during the season is $145.

Your fee is due within two weeks of signing up for a trip.

Evening at Lake Chelan
Volunteer Vacations aren't all about the work. They are about making new friends, relaxing in a beautiful location and connecting with the environment. This volunteer vacation crew enjoys a sunset along Lake Chelan.

Q. How can I sign up for a Volunteer Vacation?
A. There is an application and approval process for anyone interested in heading out on a Volunteer Vacation. Volunteers must submit an application and medical form. The application can be found in the link to your trip agenda, which you will receive in your e-mail from trail_teams@wta.org upon signing up. We keep these on file, so you only need to fill out one per season.

Once you have submitted your application and full payment, you will be confirmed for the trip. To secure a spot on your desired trip, be sure to turn your application in quickly. To this end, online applications are preferred!

Q. Must I commit to stay for the entire week?

A. Yes! If you cannot commit to an entire week, we have plenty of weekend overnight trips as well as Backcountry Response Team (BCRT) trips that we’d love for you to join. See if these are a good alternative for you on our Trail Maintenance Schedule.

Q. What is the difficulty of a weeklong trip?
A. We have a rating system based on the initial hike to the base camp:

Easy: 1-3 mile backpack to camp with little elevation gain

Moderate: 3-5 mile backpack to camp with 500 – 1,000 feet elevation gain
Difficult: 5-8 mile backpack to camp with 1-2,000 feet elevation gain
Strenuous: 4 – 6 mile or more backpack to camp with 2,000 feet or more elevation gain

A day's trail work can be strenuous if you are not accustomed to it. We encourage you to join us on a regular one-day work party to see if you would enjoy this type of work for a full week. We also encourage all volunteers to work at their own speed, pace themselves, take breaks, and change tasks frequently.

The crew leaders are there to help you understand what is required and how it can be accomplished in the easiest way. If you are suffering any type of health problems that might be aggravated by physical exertion and could not be controlled at a safe level while in the field, a weeklong vacation is probably not appropriate for you.

Q. What should I bring?
A. Please consult the suggested list of things to bring before you commit.  You MUST be properly prepared and “geared” up for a week in the backcountry.

Q. What is the menu like?
A. There is some variation based on the crew leader for the trip, but this gives you a pretty good idea of what you’ll have.  We like to think of it as “Comfort food meets Pacific Northwest cuisine”...

Volunteer Vacation birthday
Birthdays are always better on a Volunteer Vacation.

Breakfasts
Pancakes
Breakfast burritos
Egg scramble with toasted bagels
French toast
Each breakfast will have sides of sausage and/or bacon
Oatmeal and granola for those who like a lighter breakfast

Lunches
Build-your-own lunch with whole grain bread, fresh veggies, fresh fruit, GORP, chips and other snacks.

Dinners
NW Seafood Cuisine
Italian with lots of garlic
South ofthe Border Special
Taste of India
Flavors of Thai
Dutch oven Delight

Dessert
Cookies and more cookies. 
Fieldmade huckleberry cobbler, when in season

For more information about the great cuisine on Volunteer Vacations, check out our article from Washington Trails magazine.

Q. Can you accommodate food allergies and/or special requests?
A. Yes, but we need to know in advance.  When you apply, be sure to indicate your food allergies or dietary preferences in the space given to you in the application. We do most of our shopping in bulk, so please realize that we may not be able to make major menu adjustments, but we are almost always able to accommodate the menu for most dietary requirements.

Q. What is a typical day like?
A. Depending on the project or the weather (sometimes at “hot” locations, your crew may decide to start work early or end the day early), the hike to the worksite will vary and you should make sure to check the overall trip difficulty before you join.

Arrival: Saturday morning or afternoon, depending upon the agreed upon meeting   time as directed to you by your crew leader.  Hike to camp, set up camp, relax!

Sunday – Friday (excluding Wednesday, which is your day off):
6:30 to 7:00am – Rise n’ shine, make your lunch with the lunch goodies

7:00am – Breakfast is served, please be on time!

7:30 to 8:00am – Clean-up from breakfast (dishes, put food away, etc).

8:00 to 8:30am – Leave for the work site

8:30 to 9:00am – Begin work on the project

9:00 to noon – Continue work, stopping periodically for breaks.

Noon – Lunch – take at least a 30 min. lunch break, probably longer to recuperate and enjoy the fresh mountain air!

After lunch to 3:00ish.  Continue working, stopping periodically for breaks.  Depending on the difficulty of the project and the weather, the "end" time may vary from day to day.  Don't overwork!

3:00 to 4:00  Back to camp for salty snacks and Gatorade.

4:00 to 5:00 Unwind and freshen up - find a stream or lake to put your feet (or body) in, take quick snooze, find a tree to read under, go fishing, etc.

5:00 to 6:00  Social Hour, hang out, help with dinner, talk about the day or just continue with your nap.

6:00 to 7:00 Dinner time.  Enjoy a big plate of fresh, hot food.

After dinner – A few volunteers for clean-up and dishes.  After that, you’re free to go back to your tent (although you may be heckled if you try to turn in before 8pm!).

Q. What is expected of me? (after all, this is my vacation!)
A. Other than having a good attitude, adhering to a few simple rules, and helping out with the camp chores, you are free to relax and enjoy your surroundings after a hard day of work. You’ll be amazed at what you and your crew will have accomplished by the end of the week!

Q. What about that day off? 
A. Wednesday is your day to relax or explore your beautiful surroundings.

Q. What is the alcohol policy?
A. While the Volunteer Vacation is intended to be a meaningful social experience, it is not designed to be a party. Consumption of alcoholic beverages on Volunteer Vacations is discouraged to protect the health, well-being and experience of other volunteers. Any intake of alcoholic beverages requires moderation by the user, and anyone abusing this rule will be directed to leave if the conduct persists. Please be respectful of others.

Q. What else should I know?
A. Visit our general Trailwork FAQ’s for a day on trail – most of these still apply to our weeklong trips.  Our Guide to Trailwork is also a good reference for the technical side of things.

Most importantly, if you have a question that we haven’t answered, please e-mail or call! WTA’s main line is 206-625-1367.  E-mail questions to trail_teams@wta.org or julie@wta.org.

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