Crew Leader Mike Owens Retires
After 13 years of crew leading day trips in the Puget Sound area, Mike Owens is finally retiring from Washington Trails Association. What's next for this trail work legend? Volunteering on trail, of course.
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!