Monday, November 16, 2015

A look into the Joshua Tree National Park service project

Wilderness Volunteers hosted our first service project with Joshua Tree National Park last month and we were able to help their trail crew finish a needed project refinishing the cholla cactus garden trail  and making it more accessible to visitors.

Volunteer Tom Coroneos documented his experience on his 18th WV project and created this lovely video. Take a look and hopefully you can join us next year when WV returns to Joshua Tree NP in 2016.

Joshua Tree Wilderness Volunteers 2015 from Tom Coroneos on Vimeo.

The full 2016 schedule will be released in early December. Spring projects are available right now on the WV website.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Equipment Spotlight: Henry Shires Tarptent

After years with a heavier tent I recently picked up a Henry Shires Double Rainbow Tarptent. I had heard good things about the Tarptent - the low cost and weight (a mere 2 lbs and 10 oz) really made it look great for those longer backpacking trips. After spending three weeks in the tent this summer, I am thoroughly impressed by its simplicity and spaciousness.

The Double Rainbow sets up easily and quickly with only one carbon fiber pole. On average it only took me about 3 minutes to set it up no matter the terrain. It sleeps two, has two zippered mesh doors with vestibules for keeping boots and other gear dry. I did miss having a net gear loft above, but the other features of the tent more than make up for it.

The double vestibules and mesh sides made it easy to open the tent up for a cool night breeze and the mesh netting kept out even the tiniest no-see-ums. The tent was subjected to some pretty significant wind gusts and held up with no problems. The interior stayed dry through a number of rainstorms with the exception of one occasion when a bag was placed too close to the wall on the interior (user error) resulting in some water dripping off the top layer of the tent through the mesh section near the floor.

From sandy beaches in Hawaii to rain forests in Alaska this tent has been a pleasure to use.

You can find out more about the Henry Shires Double Rainbow and other Tarptents here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Announcing the 2015 Wilderness Volunteers Photo Contest

The 2015 season is nearly over, so let's celebrate all of the great work our trip participants helped WV accomplish this year by awarding some great prizes for a few fantastic photos!

A few of our great entries from last year:

Enter your favorite WV project photos by uploading your selections to the WV gallery in these categories: Landscapes, Wildlife, and Hard at Work.

Please add a description for each photo as well as your name and what project it was taken on.

Winners will be selected for each category as well as a grand prize winner for best photo. 

Winners will receive a voucher for a brand new pair of KEENs, a set of Leki trekking poles, and some other great gear.  You can enter as many photos as you like, just be sure to do so before the deadline on November 30th

Last Years Winners:

#1 Ulrich Boegli, Glacier National Park

#2 Eric Mak, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

#3 Randy Kahn, San Rafael Swell

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wilderness and Littering

Imagine hiking five miles into a wooded wilderness and finding a beautiful stream. Imagine sitting and listening to the sound of the stream rushing over the rocks, the breeze blowing through the trees, the birds singing, and the sense of peace and solitude you would feel.

Now imagine the same setting but with empty water bottles, candy bar wrappers, plastic baggies, and clumps of toilet paper scattered across the landscape.
Litter effects our perception and our appreciation of wild places. It can take away from an otherwise beautiful experience and negatively influence our opinion of and our regard for a place. Would you plan a return trip or encourage others to visit a remote campsite you had visited and found covered in garbage?

Abandoned crab pots on a beach in Alaska
macro trash
Lake litter picked up in the Boundary Waters, MN
Trash collected in Mt. Hood, OR
Litter also endangers wildlife in a variety of ways. An animal may ingest plastic from a food wrapper, become entangled in fishing line, or get stuck in a can or bottle leading to injury or death. Litter that contains scraps of food can draw wildlife to areas where people camp and habituate them to search for food in these areas. This behavior increases the chance of a negative human-wildlife interaction that often end with severe consequences for wildlife.  

Where does all this litter come from?

People may litter intentionally for a variety of reasons including misinformation (these apple cores are natural/biodegradable), laziness (it’s too much trouble to dispose of trash properly), and entitlement (somebody else will throw it away for me). In the backcountry there are additional reasons people may be more inclined to toss their garbage rather than pack it out including the added weight of the trash, unpleasant odors, the distance to the nearest trash receptacle, and a lack of a feeling of ownership or pride in our public lands.

Litter may also be unintentional. Unintentional littering in the backcountry typically involves containers and other trash that falls out of a backpack/pocket or that is created when wildlife get into food/trash and disburse it. In high use areas even unintentional littering can lead to the buildup of significant amounts of trash over time.

Cleaning up a beach on Admiralty Island, AK
Collecting trash around a lake - Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, ID

What you can do to help prevent litter on our public lands:
  • Follow Leave No Trace© practices. Wilderness Volunteers promotes Leave No Trace ethics and is a proud supporter and non-profit partner of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.
o   Plan Ahead and Prepare
o   Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
o   Dispose of Waste Properly
o   Leave What You Find
o   Minimize Campfire Impacts
o   Respect Wildlife
o   Be Considerate of Other Visitors
  • Educate others about littering and proper waste disposal. Increased awareness about litter and its harmful effects is critical component of changing littering behavior.
  • Plan adequately for bad weather and other contingencies.  Effective planning will reduce the chance that Leave No Trace practices will end up being sacrificed for safety.
  • Buy food products for camping with the least amount of packaging possible. Less packaging means less to carry and less to pack back out.  
  • Dispose of all waste properly.
o   Apple cores, banana peels, fruit pits, pistachio shells, sunflower seed hulls, etc. aren’t native to most environments and should packed out and disposed of with other trash.
o   Toilet paper is not “natural” or easily biodegradable and should also be packed out. Buried toilet paper can be easily dug up by wildlife and in some areas make take years to degrade. Burning toilet paper incorrectly can damage nearby flora and in the wrong conditions could start a forest fire.
  • Pick up litter that you find and pack it out when possible. Removing litter that someone left before you not only cleans up the area, it reduces the chance that somebody else will litter in the same area again.
  • Keep a resealable bag with you to store your personal trash. Having a handy place to put your trash makes proper disposal easy and a resealable bag helps keep odors contained.  
  • Make sure to secure trash at night and when away from camp. The method of securing your trash will often depend on the area (bear boxes, hanging, etc.) but securing your trash will prevent wildlife from getting into it.
  • Secure your food appropriately. Again methods may vary depending on the area but never leave food unsecured and unattended even for short amounts of time.
  • Double check your campsite for loose articles and micro-trash before departing. Even if you are careful small items such as tent stakes, socks or small bits of food wrappers are often unintentionally left behind.   
WV trash clean up in Mt. Hood, OR

Wilderness Volunteers follows Leave No Trace practices (c) Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Yosemite Turns 125 on October 1st

Today Yosemite National Park is celebrating the 125th anniversary of President Benjamin Harrison signing legislation which made Yosemite our nation's third National Park.

Yosemite National Park park spans nearly 1,200 square miles on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range in central eastern California. 

Each year more than 3 million visitors go to Yosemite to see magnificent rock formations, grassy meadows, crystal-clear streams, majestic waterfalls, rushing rivers, ancient giant sequoia trees, and abundant wildlife.

Climbing the cable route up Half Dome

On top of Half Dome looking down into the valley
The granite and water of Yosemite make for spectacular landscapes.

At the top of the steel cables.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

To honor this historic anniversary, Yosemite is holding special events in the park throughout the day, including a large public ceremony in Yosemite Valley that will have special speakers, dignitaries, a commemorative program and cake!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Equipment Spotlight: Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed

The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed is a fun new sleeping bag design that allows for some seriously comfortable backcountry sleeping. The bags weigh around 3 pounds and come with a variety of fill types (poly synthetic fiber or down) and season levels (from 1.5 season to 3 season). There is even an extra large Duo bag that sleeps 2.

Unlike traditional mummy sleeping bags, the Backcountry Bed has no zipper and allows for a quick and quiet exit for those late night calls of nature. No more getting a zipper stuck and fighting off panic while you try to escape your bag like Houdini! The shell and liner are a very soft nylon, and while they seem very thin, I have had no problems with rips or tears.

The comforter style top is over-sized and allows for incredibly easy temperature regulation. Fold it up and tuck in the sides for extra warmth or throw it down for extra air. The comforter top also has built in insulated hand pockets to keep your hands warm on cold nights. The bag comes with a sleeping pad sleeve along the upper third which keeps your pad in place without sacrificing your ability to sleep on your side.

One last feature that makes temperature regulation a breeze is the self-sealing foot vent. A little too warm? Pop those feet outside the vent and cool down in a hurry.

Socks not included.

For more info on Sierra Designs Backcountry Beds head over to the Sierra Designs website.

Cat Tested and Approved

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Spend a Week in Paradise & Take a Walk in the Clouds

Koke'e State Park, Kauai, Hawai'i (Oct 4th - Oct 10th 2015)

Located north of Waimea Canyon on the west side of Kauai, Koke'e State Park covers over 4000 acres of fluted cliffs, lush green tropical rainforest and cloud covered bogs at an elevation of roughly 3000 to 4000 feet above sea level.

With over 45 miles of hiking trails through cloud forests covered in mosses and ferns, Koke'e State Park is an excellent spot to see native Hawaiian plants (like koa, 'ohi'a, and mamane trees) and colorful endemic Hawaiian forest birds (like the apapane, i'iwi and 'amakihi).

Koa trees can reach heights of well over 100 feet.
I'iwi are bright orange-red and have long curved bills.
Apapane rely heavily on the nectar of 'ohia blossoms.
Beautiful 'Ohi'a trees are common in Hawai'i
Mamane trees can grow to over 50 feet and prefer higher elevations.
 'Amakihi are green-yellow Hawaiian honeycreepers.

Akala (giant Hawaiian raspberry)
Koke'e's ecologically rich high elevation forests are truly unique in the world and are in need of protection from invasive plants which threaten their existence.

On the Wilderness Volunteers Koke'e trip our service project will focus on the removal of non-native, invasive plants and vines such as Kahili ginger, Strawberry guava, Firetree, and Banana poka.

Our partner organization on this project is the Koke'e Resource Conservation Program, a volunteer based alien species control program working in cooperation with the HawaiĘ»i Department of Land & Natural Resources State Parks Division.

The Banana Poka is an aggressive woody vine that can entangle and kill large stands of forest.   
Learn more about Kauai’s native plants, flowers, trees and birds in the cloud forests of Koke'e with Wilderness Volunteers!

Read more about the area and the project here.