Two of WTA's youth trail crew share their firsthand thoughts on WTA's Youth Volunteer Vacations program.
A youth volunteer vacation cannot be described in just a few words, or even an essay! The only way to understand just how inspiring a week-long trail crew is with WTA is to experience it firsthand. But we’ll try to let you in on what it is like. Think of challenging, satisfying, and hilarious. Life changing memories.
We are youth volunteers and have been volunteering with WTA for four years now, and there’s a reason we keep returning, more excited than ever. This summer, we went to Indian Creek together on a backcountry trip. Arian also went on a second backcountry trip to Cliff Tree Basin. By far our favorite trips have been backcountry; the entire experience, in every way, is elevated: spending over a week far away from any road or civilization is a wonderful back-to-nature experience, and the challenge of it all is invigorating! The added difficulties when a trip is in the backcountry makes it even more exciting; we have fewer supplies, heavier packs, and a vital need for problem solving skills with our crew members. More materials are found on-site, such as stringers or logs needed for steps, and even the slightest project can turn into a predicament for the whole group. We learn to be resourceful and never wasteful, because while bringing more spikes to a front-country site isn’t too difficult, if you run out of supplies needed in the backcountry, creativity and self-reliance are the only ways to get yourself out of the situation. But hey, at least you’ll get to learn how to hand craft stakes with wood. Trust us, it gets pretty interesting out there on the trails!
We both agree that our favorite project is building a puncheon bridge, and this is something that we have gained quite a bit of experience with through WTA, having built three of them already! Day one usually includes removing the old structure or preparing the site for construction. We pull out paper, pens, and measuring tapes and set to work planning our approach to make a sturdy, lasting, and aesthetically pleasing bridge. The next job is to carefully select deadmen and stringers and place them, taking care to make everything level. This is probably the most technical part of the whole job, since leveling everything will determine the longevity of the bridge. The majority of the time is spent hand drilling and pounding the spikes in the deadmen, stringers, and decking. This can turn into quite the competition! But our job is not finished until we have done some restoration around our worksite – this is important so we have as little impact as possible on the environment. We have always been told that a well-done trail is one that isn’t too obvious. What is the best part of the project, you ask? Doing our catwalk as we strut up and down our new bridge at the end of the week and admire our hard work with pride!
A highlight of this past summer was Wednesday, the day off. With backcountry trips, we get Wednesdays off to rest from the difficult work involved with repairing trails, and we get to spend the day exploring and being trained in the ways of Tarzan! On our day off we found an old fisherman’s trail leading to the secluded Airplane Lake. In a mere mile, we gained 2000 feet of elevation! That’s what we call a real hike. After our brutal climb, we reached Airplane Lake, and discovered that even in late July it was still frozen over! We spent the day having snowball fights, making snow angels, and relaxing among towering peaks, with awe-inspiring views of the valley below where we were working. Sounds pretty nice, huh? Go find out for yourself!
Are you unsure about whether you want to join a WTA work party? Well, we would suggest that you go forit. People of all backgrounds join trail crews and we’ve never met anyone who hasn’t enjoyed it. Try a few day work parties first to get a good feel for the trail work. You should definitely try out a weeklong trip eventually. Week long crews will have generally multi-day projects and you work with your crew more, building tighter bonds than ever, glued together with laughs, riddles, jokes, and unforgettable memories that last a life time. Also, remember that some of the most memorable things happen after the work day is over – swimming, riddles and games, camp fire stories – we even tried out slack-lining on one of our trips! If you love hiking and camping, and want to give back to good, old Mother Nature, a WTA crew is just the place for you! There are opportunities galore for both youth and adults, so we are setting a challenge for you. Discover yourself outside.
Sally and Arian are seniors at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie. Sally is interested in majoring in either mathematics or aerospace engineering. She loves the technical aspect of trail work! Arian’s concern for conservation and ecology will lead her into a major in marine biology.