Trail Talk: PCT Expert Bob Woods On Washington's Iconic Trail
Each year, volunteers work on the PCT, which meanders along Washington's Cascadia spine from the Bridge of the Gods to Manning Park in Canada. And for years, Bob Woods has been WTA's main contact as the North Cascades Regional Representative for the iconic trail. Now, he's onto new adventures. We asked him to reflect on his time with Scenic Trails and let us know what's in store for the future.
WTA has a valuable partnership with the PCTA. Each year, volunteers work the length of the iconic trail, which meanders along Washington's Cascadia spine from the Bridge of the Gods to Manning Park in Canada. And for years, Bob Woods has been our main contact as the North Cascades Regional Representative for the iconic trail.
Regional Representatives are extremely knowledgeable about the section of the PCT they're charged with maintaining, protecting, and managing. They work closely with networks of seasonal staff, volunteers and partners (like WTA) in order to keep the beloved trail usable for thousands of hikers each year.
The work it takes to maintain, protect, and manage a scenic trail is extensive, and after 15 years of vigilance and dedication, Bob is ready for new adventures. We asked him to reflect on his time with the PCTA and let us know what's in store for him in the future.
Who introduced you to trails?
From as far back as I can remember, my dad took me on hiking adventures all over the country. Each summer, the family would pack up the VW camper and head out for another adventure visiting National Parks and Forests from coast to coast.
When did you start having a vested interest in maintaining trails?
After college I ended up at a desk job working with Nike in Portland, Oregon. My office had a spectacular view of Mount Hood and I remember staring out the window dreaming about my next backpacking adventure. Every Friday I would head up to the mountains, then drag myself back the office on Monday. After a particularly stressful week in the office, I thought to myself that maybe it was time for a change.
At age 28, I decided to quit my corporate job, sell everything that would not fit in the back of my Subaru, and took an unpaid internship working at a National Park. That opened the door and I’ve been working on trails and conservation issues ever since then.
What drew you to PCTA initially?
After my internship, I spent a few seasons as a ranger with Oregon State Parks in the Columbia River Gorge and continued to fall in love with the Pacific Northwest. I spent summers working in Oregon and winters working in Florida on the Florida National Scenic Trail. Eventually, I took a position working for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail as their Regional Representative for the state of New Mexico. I was always looking for a way to return to the Pacific Northwest and when the position with PCTA became available, it seemed like a good fit.
How has the partnership between WTA and PCTA benefited PCTA as well as the PCT?
The North Cascades Region was one of the last regions to get a PCTA representative, partially because of the strong partnership with WTA and all of the work they have done for the PCT. Every year WTA is doing more and more projects on the PCT. There is certainly plenty more to be done to get the PCT back up to standards and it takes a collaborative effort to make it happen. WTA has been critical in keeping the PCT in good shape.
Tell us about a particularly successful work party or a section of the PCT that has benefited from volunteer work.
One project that stands out is the reconstruction of the Goodwin Meadows Bridge deep within the William O. Douglas Wilderness. It was truly a collaborative effort with several volunteer groups working together.
The bridge was damaged over the winter and in desperate need of repairs. The Forest Service did not have the funds needed for new decking materials. So Back Country Horsemen stepped up with a grant from their organization that covered the cost of the materials. They also packed in all the materials, rigging equipment, and supplies. Volunteers from PCTA, WTA, and EarthCorps joined in to help build the bridge. The Forest Service could not have completed that project without the volunteers.
What is your favorite section of the PCT?
A tough question; there are so many wonderful sections of the PCT to enjoy in our area.
One of my favorites is in the Pasayten Wilderness. The trail travels high along a ridgeline, offering expansive views of the rugged peaks of North Cascades National Park.
Another favorite is the often overlooked Norse Peak Wilderness. The abundance of wildlife, colorful wildflower displays and scenic views of Mount Rainier always make a memorable experience.
What's next for you?
I have been working on our National Scenic Trails for more than 15 years and it is time for another change. While I still enjoy working on trails I am ready for the next challenge. I am looking to take the next step in my career and am excited about all the opportunities in the Seattle area to work on important conservation issues. After taking some time off, I hope to find a new position with a larger non-profit organization and continue to work on environmental conservation issues.