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Meet WTA's Backcountry Pro Crew

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Jun 03, 2021 10:38 AM |

This summer, WTA is excited to welcome our first professional backcountry crew! The six-person crew will spend the next few months improving trails within three stunning wilderness areas on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. They'll be working on hard-to-reach areas that don't see regular maintenance.

Since 2017, our Lost Trails Found campaign has been working to keep remote trails on the map and ensure hikers can continue to enjoy our state's spectacular backcountry for generations to come. And this summer, we're excited to pilot our first professional, backcountry trail crew to work in some of those notoriously rough — yet stunning — backcountry locales! 

The WTA Pro Crew stands spaced out in a line while smiling at the camera.
From left to right: Zachary Toliver, Zachary Sklar, Blake Harmon, Kathryn Conley, Ginevra Moore and Anna Pree. Photo by Jen Gradisher.

Backcountry trails are a beloved feature of Washington's public lands, making it possible to enjoy wilderness and solitude for days or weeks at a time. But the remote nature of those backcountry trails comes at a price: These trails don't usually see as much maintenance as their close-in counterparts. The hikes to the worksites are long, and the often high-country locations of these trails means the work season is short. As the years go by, this lack of maintenance adds up to create lost trails — brushy overgrowth obscures the trail, tread fades away, fallen trees block the path and structures wash away.

The new six-person pro crew will spend the next few months addressing that lack of maintenance within three stunning wilderness areas of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest: the Pasayten, Glacier Peak and Lake Chelan/Sawtooth. They will focus on trails with a large backlog of work to be done, many of which have fallen victim to wildfires or storm damage over the years. The crew will also be working a mix of 4-day and 8-day trips to allow for more quality time in the deeper reaches of these wilderness areas.

Ginerva saws through a log during the crew's training week in the Teanaway.
The crew recently returned from the Teanaway where they practiced saw skills ahead of their first trip. Photo by Austin Easter.

As the name implies, the pro crew holds a wealth of trail maintenance skills and knowledge — many of the members have worked and volunteered with WTA before. Zachary Toliver, a crew member of WTA's first Leadership & Inclusion Crew, will lead the new backcountry crew alongside assistant crew leader and former youth volunteer vacation participant Kathryn Conley. Rounding out the crew are Blake Harmon (former youth volunteer vacation participant), Ginevra Moore, Anna Pree (former youth ambassador) and Zachary Sklar. 

The crew met up last week for training before the official start of their season. They spent a few days in the Teanaway to get to know each other and practice crosscut saw skills. And this week, they embarked on a 4-day trip to Emerald Park near Lake Chelan, where they will be restoring damaged trail tread through an old burn zone and logging out fallen trees from the trail.

Funding for this pro crew was made possible by the Region 6 Forest Service and the Great American Outdoors Act (which was passed by Congress last summer thanks to hiker advocacy!)

Crew leader Zachary saws through a log, with crew members Zach and Ginerva in the background.
Sawing will be a large part of the crew's work as they clear former burn zones. Photo by Austin Easter.


Rich T on Meet WTA's Backcountry Pro Crew

I love the practice of volunteers doing trail work: It helps both the trail AND the individuals!
BUT there are limits to: the number of people who will volunteer, the appropriate skills posessed by enough volunteers to optimaly perform the needed work and the number of bodies to accomplish everything needed. I hope WTA's strong volunteer involvement continues forever but paying some skilled people who perform this work day after day for several weeks will certainly further improve the quality of our trails and, accordingly, make them more enjoyable for more residents and visitors in our state.

Posted by:

Rich T on Jun 26, 2021 09:21 AM

Dingo Dad on Meet WTA's Backcountry Pro Crew

Back in my younger years I spent many a day doing trail work for the Whatcom County Parks and then later for the USFS. I know what it takes to do this work and cannot express my gratitude. At 64 I am now simply enjoying and most graciously appreciating the trails y'all work so hard to maintain. Tip of the hat to you all.
Grumpy Dingo

Posted by:

Grumpy Dingo on Jul 22, 2022 10:31 PM