WTA's Crew Leaders
WTA's experienced crew leaders represent our values of stewardship and volunteerism; cooperation and partnership, community and inclusion on trail. And they sure do like to have fun!
The crew leader for your work party may be a WTA employee or volunteer, but there’s one thing every crew leader has in common: a love of trails and a passion for teaching others.
WTA offers ongoing training to help crew leaders keep their trail skills up-to-date, maintain certification for Wilderness First Aid and CPR, and hone their leadership and risk management techniques.
On your work party, you may hear other volunteers refer to the crew leader as the "blue hat," after the color of their hard hat. Crew members in orange hard hats are the assistant crew leaders. They're volunteers eager to pass on their love for building and maintaining trails to you.
Bob joined his first work party in 1998. It was a rainy bust. But the importance of trails kept him coming back. Bob likes being a crew leader to pass on that experience and have fun doing it. He thinks volunteers are the 'salt of the earth' and have the best intentions to give their time to a most worthy cause. Bob is continuously learning from the people he works with about finding joy in one's life. As a Chicago boy, that was an enormous lesson to learn. Bob tries to pass on the joy with fun and smiles.
James was born on a big island in Asia and raised in Texas. He retired from the United States Army in 2020 from active duty service, and moved to Southwest Washington. His career has given him an opportunity to live in Europe, and all across the continental United States, taking full advantage of the military life while visiting 21 countries, and 28 states. James started volunteering with WTA in the fall of 2020 and was immediately hooked on maintaining trails, working with the friendly volunteers, and the culture of the organization. James encourages people from all walks of life to enjoy the outdoors, and wants to inspire those in the veteran community, and marginalized groups to use their individual strengths as volunteers.
rza ALLEN (They/Them)
rza's love for the outdoors was sparked during their childhood in rural Kentucky. They worked on trail crews in Oregon, California and Arizona before moving to Washington to teach at an outdoor school. They are passionate about queer community, making medicine, sit spots, bicycling, and dismantling the white supremacist cis-hetero capitalist patriarchy! They're a plant nerd who thinks that nurse logs are just the absolute coolest, so their favorite hikes meander through forests on their way to... anywhere, really! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane adopted Spokane as home in 1984, migrating from the Midwest: "a great place to be from." During the week she is a physical therapist in an outpatient clinic. She got her first taste of trail work more than 20 years ago with the Sierra Club, with whom she did service trips in Idaho and Colorado. When word trickled down that there was an organization right here in Washington that specialized in volunteer trail work, she jumped right in, leading off with WTA Volunteer Vacations. These days you'll find Jane leading work parties on the Colville National Forest, where you have just as great a chance of running into a moose as a fellow hiker, and other locations in Eastern Washington.
Karen moved here from Chicago in 2015 looking for adventure. Illinois was far too flat and had way too much corn. Being just over 5 feet in height, the mountains help her feel tall. Her first day volunteering with WTA had her on one side of a crosscut saw cutting a 3-foot diameter tree. She was hooked. Her work in museums for the last 15 years helped drive her quest for knowledge. When not hiking, biking, and backpacking she enjoys teaching and learning trail construction skills. Dirt and mud drew her to WTA and the amazing community of new friends kept her coming back.
Mike has a passion for wild places and the trails that take him there. His connection to nature began as a kid out hunting, fishing and turning over every rock in the local creek to inspect for critters. His love of the outdoors has only grown deeper with age and he always loves sharing what he has learned from many years of listening to the forest. Crew leading for WTA gives him a chance to get a deeper connection with the North Cascades and the wonderful community of people that he shares them with. When he isn’t working on trails you can find Mike kicking around the South Fork valley of Whatcom county on the lookout for a flush of edible mushrooms or sign of the wild creatures that share the valley.
Carole moved to Seattle in 1995. That first summer she started solo hiking, starting with hikes in the Issaquah Alps, then venturing along I-90 and Mount Rainier. She acquired most of the ‘Best Hikes’ books to find more trails, kept hiking and discovered the WTA website. She started with the trail maintenance program in 2007 and has been hooked since then. It also helped her expand her hiking horizon to Mount Baker and the southern parts of Washington while supporting day crews or volunteer vacations. She enjoys the constant learning of new skills that trail maintenance brings and working with volunteers, teaching the whys and the hows of trail maintenance.
Lisa grew up in Seattle with WTA's original newsletter Signpost fueling her youthful summer hiking. As an adult, she came back to WTA for the magazine and went on her first work party 14 years ago. Since then, she has worn green, orange and blue hats, and served eight years on WTA's board of directors. Teaching new folks about what it takes to maintain trails we love and getting them back to the trailhead safely is challenging, fun, and satisfying. Lisa also works toward strengthening WTA's presence in the south central part of the state around the Tri-Cities she now calls home.
Arlen runs the WTA show in Northwest Washington, crew leading work parties, representing WTA at outreach events and promoting hiking in the area. Somehow, in between all of this he finds time to feed the animals on his small farm. After years in the construction field, Arlen finally united his work with his passion: trails. He enjoys a good day hike in a high meadow or a backpacking trip in the desolate North Cascades, and his favorite hike is Skyline Divide. If he ever gets the chance, he would like to section hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
Meg has always loved active vacations instead of plopping on a beach. She hikes in places like Scotland, Ireland, Patagonia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and spends time admiring the tiny alpine flora of the Arctic Circle. Originally from LA, she knew that forests and mountains belonged in her heart, and was able to go crazy with that love on moving to Bellingham after living in Nashville for 27 years. She quickly found WTA a happy post-retirement career as a trail work volunteer. She loves fleece, the sound of a sleeping bag zipper in the night, and isn’t fazed by cloudy rainy weather. She is perpetually amazed by the beauty of Washington and the wealth of wonderful trails, and loves to pay back those gifts by helping other trail users learn, maintain and support the intense value of our trails.
Growing up in rural Maine, Liz spent as much time as possible playing in the woods near her home. As life went on, she gradually moved West — first Indiana, then Wisconsin and eventually western Washington. The ability to easily get to mountains or ocean brings her joy. Liz started volunteering with WTA in 2007 after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, where she discovered that trails don't make themselves. Upon becoming an orange hat in 2009, she found a love of teaching trail work with a lot of humor. When not doing trail work, you may find her wandering around the Middle Fork Snoqualmie valley, specifically the Pratt Connector. She's the first to say there are trails that just suck us in.
Alan carter Mortimer
It took Alan 11 years of volunteering with WTA to decide he liked it enough to stay. If you’ve ever wondered how WTA decides what work to do on which trails, talk to Alan. He coordinates with land managers to plan trail projects in the Olympics and South Sound as well as Central and Eastern Washington. He works to ensure that volunteers have a safe, fun and rewarding experience on trail. Alan, also goes by Ace, Sheldon or Mort. One of his favorite hikes is the Shedroof Divide in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness of Eastern Washington.
Matt has enjoyed the outdoors in various ways throughout his life. Growing up in southeastern Massachusetts, he played soccer and fished as a child. Living in San Diego during his twenties sea kayaking and ultimate frisbee played key roles in his interaction with the outdoors. Upon moving to Washington in 2009, Matt began to gain a passion and love for trails and hiking. This has now culminated in having hiked 5,000+ miles including thru-hikes of the Wonderland Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, the Arizona Trail as well as section hikes of the Colorado Trail and Pacific NW Trail (PNT). Matt’s love for helping maintain trails began in 2014 on his first volunteer work party with WTA, leading to many more days of volunteer trail work. Matt worked for the Pacific NW trail Association in 2022 leading a crew in various segments of the North Cascades along the PNT. When not out this season leading volunteer work parties along the Mountain Loop highway, you can find him out rock climbing, reading non-fiction, enjoying board/card games with friends, and making improvements to his van that he currently lives out of.
Kathryn "Kat" Conley
Kathryn grew up on the dry side of the Cascades in Yakima. As a child her parents had to drag her along on hikes through the Yakima shrub steppe, but eventually she developed her own passion for exploring the outdoors. She first became involved with WTA as a youth volunteer in 2016 and attended youth volunteer vacations every summer throughout high school. After a summer season of backcountry trail work with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy and several months as a crew member with Washington Conservations Corps, she found her way back to WTA and spent two seasons as ACL for the Lost Trails Found crew. These days, you can find her in Bellingham, studying for a degree in Environmental Science at WWU and leading day work parties throughout the Northwest Region. While she feels spoiled by the majesty and vastness of the North Cascades, her heart will always be a little nostalgic for the sunny ponderosa pine forests of the Gifford Pinchot.
Phil decided at the ripe old age of 12 to work in the woods the rest of his life after his first week-long hike along the Cascade Crest Trail and an encounter with a Forest Service trail crew. Midway through his career in forestry he noticed he was spending more time driving a desk than working in the brush, so in 2000 he volunteered on a WTA work party and found what that 12-year old had been looking for. Since retiring, the pendulum has swung back to more trail time for Phil, balancing work and recreation. He looks forward to sharing many more WTA volunteer experiences.
Kaci Darsow (they/them)
Kaci grew up poking around the rocky shores of Puget Sound and romping through cedar and sword fern forests. They come to WTA with extensive youth work experience in a variety of outdoor settings and an M.Ed. in Environmental Education. Kaci is returning home to the Pacific Northwest from their most recent adventure — a year of teaching outdoor education in rural Alabama. They are stoked to ease into the world of office work by splitting their time facilitating youth work parties and serving as a support system for youth volunteer vacations. When they're not inspiring youth, Kaci loves cross-country road trips, learning new things, singing off-key in their car, climbing trees and dismantling the patriarchy.
Growing up in Europe, Todd got started hiking at an early age doing volksmarches (organized 5km hikes) with his family around the German countryside. Today he resides in Spokane with his wife and three children where he works in land conservation at the Inland Northwest Land Conservancy. Todd picked up his first pulaski and volunteered with WTA on the Franklin Falls Trail while completing his masters degree in Seattle back in 2001. Since that time he has served on WTA's board of directors and was an assistant crew leader for a few years before becoming a crew leader in 2016. Todd really enjoys volunteering on work parties in the Spokane area and the Salmo Priest Wilderness.
Austin hails from Seattle and holds deep connections to the misty winters and craggy alpine mountains of the North Cascades. He became involved with WTA in high school and now leads volunteer crews all over the state and in week-long backcountry trips. A rock and book nerd at heart, he majored in geology at Whitman College with an emphasis in politics and environmental studies. While there, he worked as an instructor at the climbing gym and led numerous backpacking and climbing trips all over the Northwest. He is most passionate about supporting volunteers to achieve a sense of place and belonging in the outdoors while focusing on the need to conserve, preserve, and protect these wild environments. He loves any hike that involve climbing and obstacles whether traversing the north ridge of Mount Stuart in a day or scrambling over headlands and hiking the 40-mile coast from Rialto to Shi Shi.
Gary was born and raised in Whatcom County. He has always enjoyed being in the outdoors, weather it was fishing in the mountain streams or skiing on Mount Baker. Being in the woods came natural to Gary. It started when he got married and had a wood stove fireplace to heat their house. After cutting over and burning more than 500 cords of wood for his family, he's happily hanging up his chainsaw and picking up a crosscut saw. Gary was a runner and used the Chuckanut trails for training. But after a knee injury and retirement he found his passion in trail work with Washington Trail Association. He enjoys watching and teaching a first time volunteer what it takes to maintain trails. Gary also volunteers for other agencies that need trees to be cleared off the trails. He follows in his grandfather's footsteps, who worked for the Department of Natural Resources.
Jen loves two things: working with people and working outdoors. With WTA, she's grateful for the chance to combine both of these passions. Her enthusiasm for trail work began as a youth when she spent a month building rock structures on the Appalachian Trail with the Student Conservation Association. It took many years and many dreams of pulaskis before Jen returned to the magical world of trail maintenance as a crew leader for the Northwest Youth Corps and later with WTA in Mount Rainier National Park and the greater Seattle area. In her current role, you can find Jen splitting her time between the office and scouting trails in the Puget Sound region.
Tom has been hiking for most of his life; first in Northeastern Pennsylvania where he was born; then in Southern California where he split his love of surfing at the nearby beaches and backpacking in the Sierras including a through-hike on the John Muir Trail; saving the best for last, he has spent the last 25+ years hiking and backpacking in the spectacular Cascades. Soon after retiring from a career in public safety, Tom met WTA’s southwest regional manager Ryan Ojerio out on a hike. Ryan chatted up WTA’s trail maintenance program and of course the result was that Tom immediately volunteered for his first WTA work party and has been volunteering ever since. Tom believes that WTA provides a fulfilling opportunity to maintain and build trails in our beautiful state with the nicest, most friendly, and diverse cadre of trail enthusiasts that can be found anywhere. Whether he is wearing a green, orange, or blue hat, Tom always is learning new trail skills from his fellow volunteers, receiving far more trail knowledge than he can provide. WTA – Come for the trail work, stay for the terrific community of amazing volunteers.
Guy recently retired as an engineer with UPS IT in north New Jersey. He's originally from the Portland metro area but moved east with his job. After 23 years, he's back in the Pacific Northwest and he'll trade the PNW rain for the northest cold, snow and/or humidity any day! He's been outdoors oriented all his life and has thoroughly enjoyed skiing/backpacking/mountaineering in the west. After moving back, Guy joined WTA and got involved in trail work as a means to "give back and pay it forward". He's also a seasonal volunteer Wilderness Ranger with Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Mount Adams District) and spends a lot of trail miles in some fabulous hiking areas as well as weekends on the Mount Adams South Climb as well as the Indian Heaven and Trapper Creek wilderness areas. Lately, in his spare time, Guy has been involved in trail skills education with Trailkeepers of Oregon and the Gorge Recover Team efforts.
Don is a Chief Crew Leader volunteering in the Olympics on Backcountry Response Teams (BCRT). He started volunteering in 2009. He enjoys working with people and ensuring they have a safe and fulfilling time out on trail. No matter what skill level, WTA encourages volunteers to bring what they have and learn throughout the day, all while having fun, being safe and usually working harder than you ever expected. Don believes you never stop learning about trail maintenance: "The folks we volunteer with are amazing and always willing to share what they know. They come from all walks of life, young and even older than me." When he's not scouting his next BCRT, Don works for a technology company as a supply chain materials engineer working with folks all over the world. After work, Don looks forward to spending time with family, working on house projects, and volunteering with WTA.
Legend has it that one of Stasia's first words was "outside," and she's been trying to stay outside as much as humanly possible ever since. She moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2001, to the chagrin of her sun-loving family, and finally found her way to WTA in 2018. In the interim, she spent her time wrangling kiddos and volunteers as a 7th grade teacher, young adult mentor, conservation crew leader, stewardship coordinator, and volunteer manager—all of which capitalize on her extreme cheerfulness and ability to sit quietly with chaos. In her non-work time, she can be found questing for adventure on her bicycle, running on trails, or getting ridiculously excited about plants and birds. She is a firm believer in wonder and enthusiasm, and her favorite answer to things is a resounding "yes!"
Elaine hails from Portland, and grew up doing day hikes with her family, mostly in the Columbia Gorge. When she met her husband Pat, they did occasional backpacking as their own family of three boys grew. She is a registered nurse who worked many years in emergency departments before switching to nursing education until her retirement from full time work in 2015. Elaine volunteers on both sides of the river, with both WTA and Trailkeepers of Oregon. She and Pat have been volunteering with WTA in some capacity since 2004 when they tried their first volunteer vacation. Now most of the WTA work is on Thursdays with the wonderful southwest region “Thursday crew”. She serves on the Trailkeepers of Oregon board as well as volunteering as a crew leader. She especially loves new trail construction and teaching new skills to volunteers.
Michaelene (Micki) Kedzierski joined her first work party in 2007 and became an Assistant Crew Leader in 2009. In autumn 2020, she became the first Volunteer crew leader for the Youth and Family Program. She also leads work parties at the WTA Packing Facility and is an assistant crew leader on adult trips primarily in Puget Sound and Western Washington. She’s originally from Wisconsin (where there are no mountains) and loves being in a forest in all kinds of weather.
Simon was born on a big island in the Pacific and grew up mostly in Minnesota. After learning engineering on the east coast, he moved to Washington for a career at Boeing. He’s been exploring Washington’s trails ever since. More recently, his exploring often includes a hard hat and trail maintenance tools. Simon volunteers with WTA to spend time outdoors, get in some physical activity, and give back to the community. However, he didn’t anticipate the best benefit – meeting and getting to know generous folks from all walks of life who share a love of nature.
After spending time since the early 60s hiking in the Olympics, Al decided to start giving back to the trails when he retired in 2014. It only took a few trips out with Charlie Romine, to get Al hooked on trail work, joining many BCRTs and as many Tuesdays as possible. Says Al, “It’s nice to work with so many folks who understand the importance of keeping these trails open and inviting to hike, and want to constantly improve their skills to make that work last longer.” A lifetime resident of Gig Harbor, Al also enjoys various projects around the property during the good weather, and puttering in the woodshop when it’s nasty.
Currently calling Anacortes and its splendid community forest lands home, Richard has been an on and off resident and user of trails in western Washington for over 50 years. Following a career in financial management, he started volunteering on work parties with WTA in 2007 and more recently has been serving as an ambassador for the organization in the Northwest Region. From the start, he has been especially appreciative of WTA’s commitment to its volunteers, in particular, its emphasis on a safe and welcoming environment and opportunities to develop new skills. Learning, practicing and teaching these skills on our extraordinary public lands keep him coming back.
Doug grew up along the shore of Eld Inlet outside of Olympia. He spent much of his time exploring the beach and the woods around his family home. He also got his first taste of trail work on trails on the family property and cutting firewood with crosscut saws. After over 30 years at a desk job, Doug was glad to get back to doing physical work on trails with WTA. Starting in 2012, Doug worked on local trails in the Puget Sound region and does multiple backcountry trips throughout the state every year. As a crew leader, Doug enjoys meeting and chatting with the wide variety of people who volunteer with WTA. He encourages all volunteers to learn new skills and to see what what can be accomplished using only human muscle, brain power and teamwork. When asked, Doug usually says that whatever trail he is on and work he is doing is his favorite because nothing is like experiencing nature in the present moment.
Even though she had grown up in Seattle — a very outdoorsy town, Justine had never been hiking or camping before she decided to participate in a 10-day canoeing and backpacking trip on Ross Lake with the North Cascades Institute. The experience — as well as the volunteer experiences that followed with the Student Conservation Association — sparked a love for the outdoors, trail work, and volunteering that has continued into her adult life. That first experience was in 2007, now over a decade has passed. In that time, she graduated with a degree in Environmental Management and Protection from Humboldt State University as well as worked for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on a trail crew and as a wilderness ranger/volunteer coordinator for multiple seasons. She hopes that through her work, she can help others find their love of the outdoors, as she did all those years ago.
Liza (like lizard) is a Washington native out of Spanaway. Her childhood was filled with climbing trees and eating dirt (along with a few other inadvisable things). While Liza had a slow introduction to hiking and most outdoor sports of the sort, she is definitely a lifelong enthusiast. After graduating from college in 2015, Liza found herself working for a small conservation corps in southeast Utah and has been working for the trail world ever since all over the United States. When not working she enjoys trying (and failing) to get through her ever-growing TBR stack, mothering her numerous plants, writing, climbing, traveling, etc. etc. She is very passionate about getting folks from all walks of life outdoors so she can explain how much she hates seeing orange peels left on a trail (among other things).
Ryan is, in and of himself, a WTA microcosm in Southwest Washington. He leads volunteers, scouts projects, advocates for trails and promotes hiking in Southwest Washington. Armed with a Masters in Community and Regional Planning and several years of experience managing crews for the Northwest Youth Corps, Ryan is more than up to the task of handling all these different parts of the program in the Southwest. Although these days his hiking pace is set by his daughter and new son, there was a time when he solo backpacked through Yosemite National Park and mountaineered in Peru. One day, Ryan would like to take a summer-long motorcycle tour to visit all the trails he's ever worked on.
Joe grew up on the opposite end of Interstate 90, in the hills of Western Massachusetts where he developed a passion for the outdoors, first through fishing and canoeing with his grandpa. He received a B.A. in outdoor education and travel writing at Hampshire College, where he deepened his connection to the backyard outdoors through climbing, learning about its natural history, and volunteering with local outdoor groups. Prior to WTA, Joe coordinated and led I-90 corridor trail projects for many years with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. He is excited to connect with and grow the vast network of WTA volunteers to accomplish necessary trail work in the Puget Sound region. When not stewarding trails, he is in the woodshop working on a project, playing music, or bicycling the backroads of Puget Sound.
Erica grew up in Washington, but didn't start hiking or camping until college. She fell in love with the mountains while studying environmental science and ecological restoration. After graduating from Western Washington University she joined the Washington Conservation Corps with King County DNRP focused on habitat restoration. She is excited to do some saw work out on trails. You can find Erica looking at native plants, tending to her veggie garden, playing video games or drinking coffee.
Aaron G. Peabody (he/him)
Yet another Ohioan relocated to the PNW, Aaron is a recovering theatre kid who has lived in the Seattle area since 2004. He’s been hiking and camping pretty much since he was born (thanks mom and dad!), but really made it a central component of his life starting in 2014, which is the same year that he began volunteering with WTA. Aaron is a life-long reader, generally consuming between one and two hundred books a year, and tends to prefer genre fiction and history. His personal library sits at nearly 700 books and he hopes to reach a thousand by the time he turns 50. Rounding things out, Aaron is a lover of black teas and Irish whiskeys, FANATICAL about the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, talks to crows and ravens any time he sees them, only wears trousers with great reluctance, and is passionate about creating more passionate defenders of our public lands by promoting equity and inclusivity among all peoples.
BEATRIZ ROJAS VAZQUEZ
Beatriz Rojas Vazquez aka "Bea" is a movie fanatic, thespian, and foodie. When Bea isn't trying to learn useless skills (if there ever is such a thing), like speedcubing (I stand corrected). You will find her planning "gameshows and tournaments" in which Bea's most competitive and ruthless friends attempt to complete a series of challenges (poor sportsmanship, cheating and playing dirty is encouraged) in order to win the golden Pineapple. When Bea isn't talking malarkey she enjoys rock climbing, biking, and the occasional polar bear plunge. Bea is a climate activist focused on dismantling the patriarchy and move towards rebuilding an equitable society. Bea won't neglect the power of her peoples stories. Bea wears her braids proudly. Bea speaks her language excitedly. Bea hopes to embody WTA's mission of safety, FUN, and work on her work parties. They hope that people can find a place to be their authentic selves, be treated the way they want to be treated and have fun.
Out hiking or backpacking almost every weekend, Charlotte (or Charlie) wanted to give back and started volunteering with the Ojai Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest when she lived in California. She wanted to continue this type of work, so the week after she moved to Washington she came out on her first WTA work party — and she's been a WTA regular ever since. Now retired from the navy construction battalion after 30 years, Charlie is WTA's chief crew leader on the Olympic Peninsula, where she puts her skills to work these days building bridges (and other things) on trails. During the winter Charlie relocates to Florida to be with her parents, but each summer she returns to the Pacific Northwest. When she isn't doing trail work, you can find her out hiking with her dogs or volunteering with other nonprofits.
Dawn's introduction to trail work came in high school, working for the Youth Conservation Corps in Southern Utah. After graduating high school, growing a small research business, and 38 years she returned to trail maintenance. She joined WTA in 2016 and spends most of her time on the Olympic Peninsula.
Emily discovered WTA in 2013 and fell in love with trail work. She grew up locally, tucked between sword ferns and salmon berries, and was forever climbing trees and covered in pine sap. Not much has changed. Her intro to trail work began building new trails at Evans Creek Park and after her first time on a cross cut saw, she was hooked. As a crew lead, her favorite trips are BCRT logouts and her favorite projects are lost trails found. You will most likely find her with an axe in hand practicing her bucking skills, or talking with volunteers and hikers swapping stories and exchanging trail beta. She is excited to be leading trail crews out of Darrington off the Mountain Loop Highway this season.
Gabe grew up in the Colorado Rockies and spent much of his childhood being out in nature. He moved to the northwest in 1978 and found a forever home here. Working with WTA for a number of years has reinforced the sense of creating a positive impact for many people, learning from those participating in a work party, and experiencing the newness of a freshly worked trail were significant incentives. Gabe enjoys all aspects of trail work but really enjoys building structures with wood or rock or being involved with logouts. His focus is to promote trail maintenance to those he meets on the trail, especially to encourage young people to get involved with this type of work. Gabe has six granddaughters who are involved in trail work and they eagerly await the next opportunity to play in the mud. Haeli, Gabe’s daughter’s oldest, is a WTA Youth Ambassador. Gabe's daughter and son and their spouses have all worked on trails and continue to instill in their children the importance of this work. They are the future of trails in Washington.
The smell of trees and dirt has always been home for this 4th generation Washingtonian growing up in a family that owns timber land, loves tent camping and being outside. Elizabeth has been covered in dirt for as long she can remember. From Girl Scout camps to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, fresh air has always been a big part of who she is. After getting her taste of trail crew with her dad in the summer of 2017 at Mount Rainer, she has been coming back ever since — especially Mount Rainier National Park. When not volunteering with WTA or Girl Scout's of Western Washington you can find Elizabeth planning her next big adventure, camping, or enjoying the beauty of the Cascade Mountains.
Mountains and beaches, the more remote the better, were the best part of Marj’s growing up. Living just a few miles from Northern California beaches combined with helping her parents build a cabin in the Sierras instilled a deep love of nature and the satisfaction of working hard together to create something. The freedom to roam was paramount. Marji’s wanderlust spirit and need for less populated places took her to the Pacific Northwest to attend college in 1970. The beauty of the Cascades with their majestic glacier covered peaks called to some inner place and she knew the Pacific Northwest was where she wanted to be. Throughout the years, alpine reaches and high peaks offered balance to the complexity of life. In 2016 Marji was introduced to WTA and found a great retirement hobby. Working together with interesting people to create something purposeful, in nature, brings great satisfaction. While her love of the Cascades and the high peaks remains strong she has also discovered the beauty and calling of the deep forests and rushing rivers of the Olympic Peninsula.
Growing up, Patrick developed an attachment to outdoor spaces in Arizona. While the desert regions were interesting, it was exciting to discover that the mountainous regions of the state have lovely pine forests. His love of the outdoors was cemented while spending summers during college working for the Forest Service in the Diamond Lake District. While hired for fire suppression work, his time between fire activity involved trail building and other forest maintenance activities. During this period he also moved to the Pacific Northwest. His degree from Oregon State University includes a minor in Forest Products. Upon retirement in 2015, he attended his first work party and shortly thereafter was hooked. “I have met so many interesting folks while out doing the important work of improving the trails. WTA is so much more than just the physical trail work.” He became a volunteer chief crew leader out of a desire to provide an opportunity for WTA work parties on the Kitsap Peninsula and northeast Olympic Peninsula.
Jeremy "Jay" Tarife
Jeremy aka "Jay" hails from northern New Jersey. Longing for a place with dense forests and wide open spaces, he finally found that here in the Pacific Northwest. He began volunteering with WTA which led to work as an assistant crew leader then crew leader on the trails in the busy I-90 corridor. Majoring in Biology and Bio-Defense, he created and managed a medical scribe company prior to moving here. While on Jay's trail work party, you may end up on one of his weekly video recaps and give this week’s trail confession. When not working, you’ll find him pretending to do outdoorsy adventures such as mountain biking, snowboarding, and backpacking for Instagram pictures.
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Brandon discovered his passion for the outdoors first as a volunteer and then as an assistant crew leader with the Maine Appalachian Trail Crew. Making his way to the Pacific Northwest he worked on an organic farm, conducted salmonid life cycle surveys, and worked construction. Jumping back into the trail world, Brandon spent two incredible seasons with WTA as the Southwest Regional Trail Crew Leader before joining Trailkeepers of Oregon as their North Coast Stewardship Coordinator. Now, he's excited to be back with WTA working in the majestic Cascade mountains as well as the North Puget Sound Region! Brandon’s other passions include playing guitar, eating pizza, and adventuring with his wife, child, and two dogs!
Zachary spent most of his life bouncing around various rural Midwestern towns before finally settling down in the Pacific Northwest — largely because of the region's unrivaled landscapes and its phenomenal vegan food. In 2020, he joined WTA as a member of a paid program that focused on outdoor leadership development for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) and LGBTQ+ individuals. Zach now spends his summers leading WTA's backcountry Pro Crew, which strives to restore lost and overgrown trails throughout Washington. Coming full circle, he also works as a program coordinator for the same program that gave him his start at WTA. Outside of advocating for communities historically underrepresented in the outdoor industry, you can find Zach playing banjo for a captive audience (aka "the two dogs who live with him"), rock climbing, or riding around on his motorcycle.
In 1998, Ken discovered WTA while seeking something to do on National Trails Day, got hooked, and has remained active since then. In 2000, Ken undertook his first self-supported overnight backcountry work party (the precursor to Backcountry Response Teams or BCRTs) with Matt Contorchick. Starting with Greg Ball in 1999, Ken was eventually persuaded by Olympic Peninsula crew leaders to take on a leadership role. He became an assistant crew leader in 2006 and a chief crew leader in 2013. Being a crew leader enables Ken to teach others about trail maintenance safety and skills, and affords him the satisfaction of watching them beam with pride over their work. Ken believes the trail work program is important because volunteers learn what it takes to maintain trails, thus fostering respect for them.
James came to Washington in August of 2009 and immediately fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. Originally from Ireland, he also lived in Scotland, Australia and Japan before moving to the USA. He hiked when living in all of those places, as well as New Zealand, but he never tires of seeing the Pacific Northwest's trees, mountains, streams, and ocean. James is an engineer from a long line of engineers, and this background took him around the world and gave him an understanding of how things work. He applies these same skills to trail creation and repair. James and his wife, Sandy, discovered WTA when they were hiking on the Cape Horn Trail and came across a work party, and loved the idea of giving back to the trails they enjoy. He and Sandy signed up for a WTA crew working at Cultus Creek in 2018, and that was just the beginning of a fun and creative trail working journey. James loves taking their hiking group out on trails that WTA crews have recently worked on.
Holly’s passion for trails has its roots in trail running, but over the years she has transitioned into a seasoned backpacker who loves her time in the backcountry. When she’s not running or backpacking, you can find her doing trail maintenance. An early introduction to trail work through Conservation Northwest turned into a bit of an obsession, and she's now the proud owner of four crosscut saws and two Pulaskis. After several seasons of volunteer trail work and Hike-a-Thoning for WTA, she's excited to be doing outreach and leading trail work in the Spokane area.
Mason "Mace" White
Mason started volunteering with WTA in 2002 and served on WTA's board of directors for several years. One thing he loves about crew leading is helping people learn how to tackle a complex project by breaking it down into manageable elements of effort and risk. He also enjoys listening to people describe their recent or favorite hikes. He's personally partial to trails that get people out to remote reaches of wilderness and the ones he can walk to from his home. Mace has a reputation for running strenuous Backcountry Response Team trips, but he wants future crews to know that he isn't that bad. He often lets people eat lunch while there's still light in the sky.
Bob hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 2015. In his teens and early twenties, he was an avid hiker, and subscribed to the Signpost newsletter to help direct his hikes. His worn copy of "100 Hikes in Western Washington" is one of his favorite treasures. His long hike inspired him to want to give back to the hiking community. In 2016, he discovered WTA. His first volunteer trip was a volunteer vacation to Prince Creek on Lake Chelan. Ever since, he has been hooked on volunteering. Bob is known for his love of tread work, and views trail work as a form of artistic expression.
To Gary, the best part of leading is the camaraderie built with great volunteers and having the chance to continuously learn from crew members. He started volunteering with WTA in 1999, was asked to be a leader shortly after, and hasn't stopped since. Gary attends day trips, leads BCRTs and fills in where needed, but logouts are his favorite. He especially enjoys logouts on the PCT in the Pasayten from Harts Pass to Rainy Pass and the Pratt River trail. If he has one bit of advice for his future crews, it's this: become a champion of anything, just something. When it comes time for candy breaks, Gary reaches for the KitKat bars first.