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Volunteer Vacations with the Washington Trails Association

Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake

Image source: Democracyforvancouver.org

My husband and I fell in love in a Washington forest. We’re both avid hikers and we met beneath the trees, I was searching for mushrooms in the leaf litter, he was peering up into the treetops, and we collided, our tin cooking pots clanking in the silent forest. We’ve been hiking together ever since, in the redwood forests of California, the evergreen forests of Maine, and the lush maple and oak forests of our native New York. But Washington will always have our hearts. This is why the volunteer opportunities with the Washington Trails Association jumped out at me. They offer volunteers the opportunity to spend their days on the trails, clearing brush, repairing tread, improving drainage, and even logging out fallen trees with a crosscut saw. To a forest lover like me, this sounds like an ideal opportunity for relaxation, meditation, exercise, adventure, and fun.

Washington State is home to one of the most pristine and wild wildernesses in the United States. The ponderosa pines are like living skyscrapers, stark and towering. The mountain lakes are clear and cold, misty in the morning and like glass on a still afternoon. Volunteering with WTA means making a difference in wild places. It means providing future hikers and explorers with a safe experience. Without the trail work of WTA, many people would never experience this incredible natural resource. Without the experience of nature first-hand, it is difficult to understand why it is so important. We care about the things we know, the things that affect us emotionally. I think it is virtually impossible to visit Washington’s forests without having a visceral emotional experience.

WTA Volunteers

Image source: Americanhiking.chattablogs.com

Some of the WTA trips are simple trail-clearing expeditions while others are designed to protect endangered ecosystems in the forest. For example, their trip to Bean Creek involves moving a trail out of a meadow and onto a slope to preserve the meadow habitat for its resident animals and plants. WTA is also one of the only organizations working on Yakama Nation lands, sacred territory that few people get to experience. They also have projects on the Vanson Ridge Trail, adjacent to what’s left of Mount Saint Helens. Volunteers experience the silver forest trees in the volcano blast zone, an awe-inspiring sight.

WTA Volunteers

Image source: Visitrainier.com

WTA trips are very low cost compared with other volunteer opportunities ($195 for the whole trip). They provide meals but volunteers must bring their own camping equipment and a good pair of hiking boots (trail clearing with blisters is no fun, take it from me!) They have an FAQ section on their website. All of their projects are led by experienced crew leaders. I think WTA is a great model organization for domestic wildlife volunteering projects.

 

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