Friday, January 12, 2018

Leader Spotlight: Bill Sheppard

"Put the cut pieces uphill. People walking down paths tend to look downhill," says the sage leader of more than approximately 75 Wilderness Volunteers service projects.

While we are brushing trail in the middle of a wilderness area, Bill Sheppard makes it clear that we need to make sure it looks as natural as possible. That means carefully hiding our slash piles up the hill from the trail, not below the trail. Not in the line of sight of hikers and horse riders. Keep it as natural as possible.

Bill is meticulous about his placement of slash. Always uphill, always hidden from view.

And, he is someone whose advice should be followed.

Bill has led an impressive 110 or so service trips between WV and the Sierra Club since 1990 after having been a participant for six years. And then, in 1989 he was invited to the Sierra Club Midwest Subcommittee spring meeting, and was assigned to lead a second section of a full trip in late summer.  It was a canoe service trip in the Sylvania Wilderness, located in the Superior National Forest in Michigan.

In all his years traveling around the country and lending a hand to various national parks, forests and wilderness areas, Bill has seen a myriad of our public lands. However, Bill, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, finds himself returning to his local favorite, Grand Canyon National Park. He also prefers leading trips that are within a day to a day-and-a-half drive from Flagstaff. Most of his most recent trips have been located in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

He has conducted nearly every type of trip imaginable, from building trails to eradicating invasive species, and most of them have been in the back country, where WV sometimes receives assistance from packers and their mules hauling in gear from the trailhead to the camp site. It lessens the weight on the packs for everyone, which makes an 11-mile hike into a site much more manageable.

“The packers always amaze me,” Sheppard stated. “They’re usually volunteers, and they really know how to load their stock with our food, kitchen equipment and tools. They make our work possible, and I’m always grateful for their service.”

It’s not only our national public lands that are on the receiving end of Bill’s selfless service. He volunteers for the City of Flagstaff one day a week, working a seven-hour shift doing graffiti abatement. And, he also conducts “unofficial litter pick-up hikes on trails in the forest near home several days a week,” which should come to no surprise to anyone who has ever crossed paths with Bill.

On his various service trips, Bill has enjoyed meeting and working with the volunteers who hail from across the country and sometimes from overseas. He says, “almost all the volunteers have been wonderful. They’re motivated, flexible, physically fit and good comrades.

“The hardest part of each trip was at the end of the week,” he added. “Saying goodbye to all my hard-working friends who had generously spent a week of their vacation time giving back to the wilderness.  We always hope to keep in touch and maybe meet up again on another WV project.”

As for the details that go into getting ready to lead a trip, many leaders, especially new leaders, feel that putting together a menu is one of the most stressful parts of the trip planning. If people aren’t happy with the food, they might not have enough energy needed for the work to be done.

Bill is not one of those leaders.

After planning as many menus as he has, Bill has perfected the process. It is generally the same from trip to trip, although he still tweaks his lineup – adding one or two meals to change things up. For example, when leading his final Wilderness Volunteers trip in 2017, his menu featured a new dinner. He served up Thai food, which featured Tom Ka soup, Backpacker Pantry Pad Thai plus shrimp and spiked mandarins for dessert.

As he retires from leading service projects for Wilderness Volunteers, Bill has one last piece of advice.

“Be flexible, because our plans must sometimes change due to weather, wildfires, packer problems, etc.”

After all, there always is work to be done somewhere.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Announcing the Winners of the 2017 WV Photo Contest

Wilderness Volunteers is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 WV Photo Contest sponsored by:

We received nearly 200 entries and there were so many fantastic photos, picking a winner was not an easy job.

The grand prize winner for best photo is Eric Mak. He has won a gift certificate for a free Wilderness Volunteers project good for the 2018 project season.

Eric took this epic photo of Denali on the Denali National Park service project.  

The Landscape photo winner is Randy Meier. He has won a adventure sized Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve donated by Mom's Stuff, a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy, and a MiiR Vacuum Insulated Camp Cup donated by REI.    

The Wildlife photo winner is Dave Rice. He has won an adventure sized Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve donated by Mom's Stuff, a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy, a REI buff donated by REI, and a Wilderness Volunteers tri-blend tshirt. 

Dave took this photo of a Bald Eagle in the rain on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge service project. 

The Hard at Work photo winner is Laurel Casjens. She has an adventure sized Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve donated by Mom's Stuff, a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy, a Coupon for 20% off one full price item donated by REI, and a Wilderness Volunteers baseball hat.

Laurel took this photo of volunteers doing trail work on the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness service project in the White River National Forest.

The On The Trail photo winner is Danielle Alling. She has won an adventure sized Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve donated by Mom's Stuff, a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy, an Aloe Gator Sunscreen & SPF 30 chapstick donated by REI, and a Wilderness Volunteers Klean Kanteen.    

Danielle took this photo of the hike in on the Escalante River service project in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

You can see the rest of our great 2017 photo contest entries as well as photos from just about every 2017 service project online in the Wilderness Volunteers photo gallery.

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to our generous sponsors and everyone who entered!

Don't forget to bring your camera with you on your next service project so you are ready for the 2018 Wilderness Volunteers photo contest.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Announcing the 2017 Wilderness Volunteers Photo Contest

The 2017 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 (scenic photos of our nation's public lands)
  • Wildlife (from slugs to bears, if it's a wild animal it's game)
  • On the Trail (volunteers/hikers on trails)
  • Hard at Work (volunteers working on projects)
Please add a description for each photo as well as your name and what project it was taken on.

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

Grand Prize:
  • A gift certificate for a free Wilderness Volunteers project good for the 2018 project season

Best Landscape:
  • Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve (adventure sized) donated by Mom's Stuff 
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy
  • MiiR Vacuum Insulated Camp Cup donated by REI    

Best Wildlife:
  • Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve (adventure sized) donated by Mom's Stuff 
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy
  • REI buff donated by REI    
  • Wilderness Volunteers tri-blend tshirt 

Best On the Trail:
  • Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve (adventure sized) donated by Mom's Stuff 
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy
  • Aloe Gator Sunscreen & SPF 30 chapstick donated by REI 
  • Wilderness Volunteers Klean Kanteen    

Best Hard At Work:
  • Mom's Stuff All-Purpose Pinon Salve (adventure sized) donated by Mom's Stuff 
  • LifeStraw Personal Water Filter donated by Eartheasy
  • Coupon for 20% off one full price item donated by REI      
  • Wilderness Volunteers baseball hat

You can enter as many photos as you like, just be sure to do so before the deadline on November 30th! 

A huge thank you to this year's photo contest sponsors:

Mom's Stuff

Official Contest Rules:
  • All photos must be taken on a 2017 Wilderness Volunteers Project and must comply with Leave No Trace ethics & principles.
  • Each entry must include the photographer's name and the project it was taken on.
  • The same photo cannot be entered in more than one category. Judges reserve the right to switch images to other categories.
  • The contest is open to all 2016 WV project participants and leaders, except for Wilderness Volunteers staff, contest judges and their families. WV reserves the right to verify, in its sole judgment, entrant eligibility. 
  • Photographs will be judged on originality, technical excellence, composition, overall impact and artistic merit. Awards will be selected by a panel of judges, and all decisions are final.  
  • Entries must be submitted to the Wilderness Volunteers photo gallery no later than 11:59pm UTC on by Thursday, November 30th, 2017 to be eligible.
  • Judges may exclude entries that do not meet the above criteria.
  • Winners will be notified by email. Wilderness Volunteers is not responsible for lost or damaged prizes.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Photos From the Field: Never Summer Wilderness

In early July Wilderness Volunteers completed a service project in the Never Summer Wilderness of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest in northern Colorado.

The Never Summer Wilderness shares its eastern boundary with Rocky Mountain National Park. This 21,000-acre wilderness includes landscapes from forested ridges to steep tundra ranging in elevation from 8,900 to 12,520 feet.  Spruce, fir and lodge-pole pine blanket the lower elevations.  This area receives large amounts of snow, and four of its peaks have names that hint at their cloud-topped heights: Cirrus, Cumulus, Stratus and Nimbus.

The popular Baker Gulch trail leads to Never Summer's beautiful Parika Lake, however it has been suffering from a lack of maintenance for nearly a decade and the upper sections of the trail have become nearly impassable due to large fallen trees.

Our volunteers began the week with a Forest Service shuttle in to the Bowen Baker Trail head before backpacking about a mile in and setting up camp in a remote area. During the week the crew worked with a Forest Service wilderness ranger to clear and repair the Baker Gulch trail. Work included removing large fallen trees from the trail with a crosscut saw, clearing brush away from the trail, and placing over 76 rock steppers through marshy areas. 

Each day volunteers were treated to unique ridgeline views of the Never Summer Range and Rocky Mountain National Park as well as a few visits from a resident momma moose with her baby.


Want to give something back with Wilderness Volunteers in Colorado's Never Summer Wilderness?

The Spring 2018 projects were released on our website October 2nd & the Summer and Fall 2018 projects will be released December 1, 2017.

Photos by WV Project Leader Benjamin Johnson.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wilderness Volunteers Internship: Adventure #3

Inyo National Forest, Minaret Lake

My last project for the year as a WV intern was just outside of Mammoth, California at the base of the Minarets. Aside from LAX, this was my my first time in California. It had only been a week since my last WV trip and I was excited to be on another project in a new, very beautiful, location. We met as a group the night before and helped to pack food into the bear panniers for the trip. On the route to basecamp, we saw Devils Post Pile National Monument, crossed the JMT and the PCT, and got a few glances at the spires in the distance.

Necessary Work

The region we were working in received 200% of normal annual precipitation which made for about 20 downed trees over the trail, washed out bridges and overfull water bars. Before working on WV projects I never really new how much it took to maintain trails. The first two days we logged out the trail using the cross cut saw to clear trees and block secondary trails. For the second part of the project we did a variety of tasks such as campsite restoration, rocking the trail and building check dams.

WV Community 

Perhaps the best part of WV projects is the community that develops during the trip. Everyone is passionate about the preservation of these recreational areas and has a deep respect and appreciation for the environment. It is so refreshing to leave the phone behind and spend a week straight focusing on just what is present.

What I learned from WV 

Being an intern for Wilderness Volunteers was an awesome experience that will help to shape my perception of conservation and preservation and serve as a means to give something back. I learned about the process of caring for the environment and I met numerous people with such a passion for the outdoors they are willing to give time in an effort for the greater good of the environment.  Thank you to everyone who has participated on a WV trip and I encourage anyone who is interested to give it a shot! See you later.

Written by Kevin Graves; WV's 2017 Intern. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Wilderness Volunteers Internship: Adventure #2

Snowmass Wilderness, Maroon Bells 

My second project of my internship with Wilderness Volunteers was in Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness. I came into the project ready and eager for the trip and the community of the coming week. Crazy as it is in the last week of July, snow prohibited us from working on the planned project which called for a quick back up plan. Plan B turned out to be working on the same trail system but on the back side of the Bells. The majority of the group met up at a nearby campground the night before, allowing us to get to know each other, exchange stories and anticipate the upcoming week. The next day the group (about 9 of us) piled into Forest Service trucks and 4-wheel to the trailhead for the hike into basecamp. As a Colorado native, I was surprised to be taken
back by the views throughout the trip. Cascading waterfalls, jagged peaks, an array of wildflowers and the daily moose sighting made for one of the fastest weeks of the summer. However, all of those things are not nearly as memorable as the community that grew over the week and the joy exchanged by working with other people for the good of the environment.

Factors of a Successful WV Trip  

The leaders for this trip; Carter and Jeff (with a huge thanks to Robin, Carter's wife for amazing food prep) made the week smooth and enjoyable. They had an in-depth understanding of the project which complimented the Forest Service crew well. In addition to that, all the volunteers were helpful with getting water, doing dishes and any other camp chores.

Trail work  

The project for the week was building water bars and check steps for a section of the four pass loop. We built a total of 98 features along the trail with panoramic views at over 12,000 feet each day. One neat opportunity of the trip was getting to talk to hikers about Wilderness Volunteers. Many seemed interested in getting involved in the organization in coming years. KJ, one of the other volunteers I
befriended told me that he used his vacation each year to come on WV trips. I thought to myself, what a great way to see the country and be doing something productive for the planet. Through my internship with WV I hope to spread this idea to more of the outdoor community. Becoming involved in something that allows us to be a part of something greater while still allowing us to have a great time outside is exactly what WV offers.

My Role as an Intern 

As an intern my main goal is to spark more interest and publicity for the organization. I will be writing an article to submit to Backpacker Magazine in an effort to communicate with the outdoor community about the awesome opportunities Wilderness Volunteers has to offer. I also plan to give a presentation to the environmental college and Northern Arizona University about the organization. In addition to that, I hope to continue my involvement with WV by participating in future trips and eventually becoming a trip leader. Help me by sharing WV with your friends and the rest of our community. See you on the trails!

Written by Kevin Graves, WV's 2017 Intern.