Let’s see.  I could hike up a glaciated volcano (five choices). Or, I could saunter through a shrub-steppe (11,000+ acres of roaming room). I could visit an archipelago frequented by whales (with over 700 islands). Should it suit me, I could spend the day in an old-growth forest (more than a million acres) or trek down the spine of the Cascade range (just about 500 miles).

Where else could a backpacker wake up, wonder, ‘where should I hike this weekend?’ and have that kind of array of places from which to choose? It’s ridiculous how lucky we are to live and backpack in Washington. Really.

Washington Trails Association’s volunteer trail crews cover a lot of this vast and varied terrain in a year, with work sites ranging from the Olympic Peninsula to the far northeast corner of Washington. And it’s not just the geographic spread that gives our program breadth. We also offer several different kinds of volunteer experiences, from single day trips where you can cut brush back on trails just off Interstate 90 to weeklong expeditions for teenagers in remote stretches of the South Cascades.

Every year, WTA volunteers maintain and improve dozens of hiking trails throughout Washington (or, 148, to be precise, in 2010) and, just last week, WTA announced our Signature Projects for 2011. We don’t have space to talk about all ten here, but we’ll give you three now and you can find the rest on WTA’s website, under Signature Projects 2011. We invite you to check back throughout the year to follow our progress on these trails, and many more.

Wonderland Trail – Carbon Glacier

Location: Mount Rainier National Park

Dates of Work: May, June and September

Types of Trip: Three adult and one youth Volunteer Vacations

Three weeks of Volunteer Vacation crews and one Youth Vacation will tackle a section of the Wonderland Trail two miles up from Ipsut Creek Campground that was completely wiped out a few years ago. This is also the route to the Carbon Glacier, a popular destination before the Carbon River Road was permanently washed out in 2006. WTA started working in this area in 2010, and this spring crews will continue to make this trail passable. After the Park does some blasting over the summer, a fall crew will come in and continue their work.

>> Sign me up! WTA Trail Work Schedule

>> Hike it! Learn more in WTA’s Hiking Guide

A smiling volunteer crew on the Carbon Glacier Trail. Photo by Dick Axon











Pacific Crest Trail

Location: Snoqualmie Pass and north

Dates of Work: July – September

Types of Trip: Two Volunteer Vacations, six Youth Vacations, two BCRTs and several day trips

WTA will be on the PCT in force this summer, led by six Youth Vacations. Crews will be doing a variety of maintenance in eleven different locations, from day trips south and north of Snoqualmie Pass to a BCRT log-out between Hearts and Rainy Passes. In between, Adult and Youth Volunteer Vacations will be repairing tread and brushing in several places between Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes (Lemah Meadows, Cliff Tree Basin, Deep Lake), and north of Stevens (Cady Pass, Meader Meadow, Pear Lake). A June BCRT will get to go around the barricades on the Suiattle River Road and make improvements to trails in preparation for the road opening this fall.

>> Sign me up! WTA Trail Work Schedule

>> Youth Vacation Schedule

>> Hike it! Learn more in WTA’s Hiking Guide

Youth volunteers pose on the Pacific Crest Trail. WTA is fielding more than 70 days of work on the PCT in 2011, including six Youth Vacations. Photo by Steve Hertzfeld.












Quartz Creek Trail

Location: Dark Divide Roadless Area, Gifford Pinchot N.F.

Dates of Work: August and September

Types of Trip: Two BCRTs and a weekend work party

The Quartz Creek drainage was spared during the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, leaving it a cool and lush old-growth corridor that is graced with waterfalls and certain solitude. This is the entry-way for the Dark Divide Roadless Area, and it may someday again become a candidate for wilderness designation. After years of neglect, two BCRT crews and a weekend work party will tackle poor tread, downed trees and brush clogging the first five miles of trail.

>> Sign me up! WTA Trail Work Schedule

>> Hike it! Learn more in WTA’s Hiking Guide

Fire-scarred Douglas Fir on the Quartz Creek Trail. Photo by Susan Saul.













Read about the rest of WTA’s Signature Trail Work Projects for 2011: Guemes Mountain, Evans Creek Preserve, Cape Horn, Colonel Bob Trail, Colville National Forest trails, and Grand Ridge Park.

With this bounty of backpacking destinations awaiting us, and the assurance that there are volunteers who love these enough to spend a day, a weekend or a week improving them, Washington backpackers sure do have reasons to be smug.

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