Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day & National Park Week

At Wilderness Volunteers we care deeply about the health and preservation of our planet.  That's why we do the work that we do. We're grateful for all that you do to celebrate and protect the Earth.

We celebrate Earth Day every day and offer many weeks to celebrate our National Parks as well.  Below are two examples on how you can celebrate and give something back to the National Park Service this year:

Glen Canyon NRA, October 5 - 11, 2014

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is best known for its central attraction, Lake Powell, but it's the Escalante River that forms the wonderful network of canyons between Waterpocket Fold to the east and the Straight Cliffs of the Kaiparowits Plateau to the west. This wide, deep redrock canyon cuts numerous narrow slot canyons and is surprisingly riparian with springs hidden deep in shaded walls.

Our work will be a continuation of fourteen year's work eradicating Russian olive in the Escalante watershed (over 45 miles of river have been cleared from the reservoir up). We'll use saws and loppers to prepare larger trees for later cutting by a chain saw crew, and apply an herbicide to smaller stumps we'll cut. This invasive non-native tree is well known for choking rivers and streams in the west. The incidence of Russian olive in the area is such that it is possible to get it out of the corridor and keep it from expanding its grip, effectively restoring natural conditions. The miles of river that have been cleared are much more pleasant for hiking, kayaking and rafting, and our project will assure that the native trees continue to thrive.

The Grand Staircase Partners have arranged pack animal support to haul tools, group food and our commissary to the camp site. We'll backpack with our personal gear approximately 6 miles to set up a tent camp near the mouth of Harris Wash, one of the largest side canyons of the Escalante River. From camp, we'll work upstream in daily forays, prepping and cutting trees as we go.

Olympic National Park, October 12 - 18, 2014

Designated a World Biosphere Reserve, Olympic National Park is the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest’s magnificent ancient temperate rain forests. 95% of the park is federally designated Wilderness. The Olympic peninsula is one of the wildest places left in the lower forty-eight states. Here you will find Pacific Ocean beaches, rain forest valleys, glacier-capped peaks and a stunning variety of plants and animals. Roads provide access to the outer edges of the park, but the heart of Olympic is wilderness; a primeval sanctuary for humans and wild creatures alike.

Our project is a long-anticipated work in progress and a cause for celebration of all that is wild! With the dismantling and removal of both the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams on the Elwha River, the once-again-wild river now comes tumbling out of the Olympic Mountains, unhindered all the way to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Salmon have already begun to repopulate the river.  The de-watered reservoir beds behind those dams are rich in sediment but currently bare after decades underwater. Wilderness Volunteers will assist National Park Service staff to replant trees and woody-stemed shrubs in the upland areas of the old beds, as part of a larger restoration effort throughout the Elwha River system. We're excited that the work of past Wilderness Volunteers crews is
coming full circle -- all the plants used in the project have been grown from natives in the Olympic NP greenhouse -- continuing a chain of volunteer revegetation work that began years earlier with gathering cuttings from area plants and transporting them to the greenhouse for propagation! 

We'll set up a base camp at one of the established park service campgrounds and make daily short drives and hikes to the areas we'll be replanting. Participants should expect rain and come prepared for it. This project is suitable for those new to service work and who are fit and ready to work in wet conditions. Our free day options include exploring the Elwha River area for wildlife and wildflowers, photography, day hikes to area peaks, or a visit to the spectacular Olympic National Park beaches.

See more photos from projects at these locations at the WV Photo Gallery.

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rocky Mountain Adventures Await

Spots remain on several WV service projects in some of the most visual striking landscapes North America has to offer - all within the boundaries of Colorful Colorado.

La Garita Wilderness, July 6 - 12, 2014

Photo by Carter Bland
The 1.86 million acre Rio Grande National Forest is located in southcentral Colorado, about four hours south of Denver and four hours north of Albuquerque, and remains one of the true undiscovered jewels of Colorado. The Rio Grande begins its 1800 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico high up in the San Juan Mountains in the western most part of the Forest. The Continental Divide runs for 35 miles along the La Garita Mountains on the western border of the Rio Grande National Forest. To the southeast lies the San Luis Valley which is the largest agricultural alpine valley in the world. The Forest is composed of a myriad of ecosystems ranging from high elevation desert at 7600' to rocky crags at 14,014' San Luis Peak in the La Garita Mountains.

Photo by the USFS
La Garita is Spanish for "Lookout," because of the unique vantage point attained at the top of San Luis Peak. Of the long and colorful Spanish influence in these mountains and in the San Luis Valley below there is no doubt. The area is a sprawling forestland that provides ideal habitats for huge numbers of elk and mule deer. Melting snow feeds many creeks and small lakes, such as Benito Creek, a high mountain tributary of the Middle Fork of Saguache Creek, where we're camping and volunteering. These headwaters nourish a forest of oak, aspen, and spruce. Black bears and a few mountain lions live here, along with elk, deer, and bighorn sheep.

photo © Brian W. Schaller / License: CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0
Our service project is located west of the town of Saguache, Colorado. We'll meet at a Forest Service trailhead, leave our vehicles for the week and backpack 6 miles up the Middle Fork of Saguache Creek to elevation about 10,000'. From base camp, we'll day hike up another 1,000' in 1-2 miles and work to remove a rockslide that closed a section of trail. This is a challenging project at high altitude, for fit adventurers.

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, July 19-26 2014

Photo by Brian Bone on WV's 2013 Maroon Bells-Snowmass service project
The world-famous and spectacular Maroon Bells-Snowmass area truly exemplifies Rocky Mountain splendor and is Colorado's fourth largest Wilderness. The Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness was established with the original 1964 Wilderness Act and total size now is approximately 183,500 acres. Featuring 100 miles of trails that lead over nine passes above 12,000 feet, vast regions lie above the tree line and long glacial valleys point the way to glistening alpine lakes. The awesome, jagged symmetry of the Maroon Bells, reflected in Maroon Lake, is perhaps Colorado's most often photographed mountain scene. In midsummer, the wildflowers are arguably the best anywhere. Elk, deer and an abundance of wildlife are found throughout the area. The variety of terrain encompasses scenic forests, summer wildflowers, challenging river crossings, and spectacular views of the numerous peaks of the Elk Mountain Range. 

Wildflower a plenty in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness
This is a great opportunity to experience Colorado wilderness, and give something back by helping the White River National Forest control erosion along the North Fk. Crystal River trail through Fravert Basin. This popular trail network provides hikers access to the high ridgelines and peaks that dominate the area, and it requires constant work to maintain safety through the passes. We'll start our backpack at 10,400', go up and over 12,400' Frigid Air Pass and camp in Fravert Basin at around 11,000' near a glacial stream, working back on the trail, moving rocks and controlling erosion towards Frigid Air Pass. The place names here tell the whole story like no other wilderness! As always with high country projects, depending on how winter snows affect area trails, the project may move to a higher-priority area. The Forest Service has arranged additional pack animal support to help us get gear up and over the pass.

Holy Cross Wilderness, July 20-26, 2014

Elk Herd - Taken on WV's 2013 Service Project by Karen Stump

The Holy Cross Wilderness, located in central Colorado just southwest of Vail, is characterized by rugged ridgelines and glacier-carved valleys complete with spruce-fir forests, cascading streams and dozens of lakes. The wilderness is named after Mount of the Holy Cross, which became famous in 1873 when William Henry Jackson first photographed the cross of snow on the northeast face of the mountain. Over 150 miles of trail traverse the 122,918 acre wilderness, providing excellent opportunities for day hiking and backpacking. We'll volunteer while camped at 10,000' elevation Beaver Lake, and hiking along Beaver Creek, as it emerges from the surrounding high country of the central Colorado Rockies.

Photo by Karen Stump, taken on the 2013 Service Project in the Holy Cross
Our service project is working with the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District to construct three rock turnpikes through particularly wet areas of Beaver Creek trail that keep eroding away. The existing condition is dangerous for horses, backpackers, day hikers and trail runners, and the wetlands impact needs to be reduced. The trip involves a 1 mile, steep backpack into basecamp at 10,000' elevation, and daily hikes to the work sites with tools roundtrip of 2-6 miles. On our free day we can relax, swim, fish, photograph, and check out the Turquoise Lakes.

See these and all of the available Wilderness Volunteers service projects over at our website. We look forward to seeing you on the trail!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Superstition Wilderness, March 2014 by Elaine Gorman

Sarah & I left Modesto at 8 AM on Sat. 3/21, eagerly anticipating our week on a trail crew with Wilderness Volunteers. The most boring part of the almost 1000 mile drive is the stretch along highway 99, but we spent the time catching up from the last time we backpacked together, about 7 years ago. After many stops (shout out to Kohnenos German Country Bakery in Tehachapi), we arrived in Golden Shores, Ariz., where sister Leanne had created a scrumptious dinner for us. The perfect weather allowed us to eat al fresco, and we enjoyed a great night's sleep.

After breakfast, we headed southeast, and as we approached the mining towns of Superior, Miami and Globe, we saw some of the results of copper mining activity, mainly the steep walls formed from digging and reconstructing the land. The grazing cows on these steep slopes were comical, how were they able to stand up straight, legs longer on one side? In Globe, we visited Besh Ba Gowah Archeological Park, a 700 year-old Pueblo ruin. The museum and gift shop are worth a stop if you are traveling in the area. Early dinner at LaCasita, a family-owned restaurant since the '40's. We happened to sit next to members of the family, who recommended the machaca and the green chili, yum!

On Sunday at the Globe Forest Service office, we met the Wilderness Volunteer leaders Jane and Bill, the other 8 trail crew volunteers, and ranger Pablo. We carpooled to the Haunted Canyon trailhead in the Superstition Mountains Wilderness, part of Tonto National Forest. We drove through an active mining area, 10s of square miles of pits, tailing ponds, and huge mounds of earth covering the landscape. A seemingly sacrifice area for all of our metal needs, depressing. And then suddenly we were in the beautiful forest.

We hiked about 4 miles to our campsite, hiking in and out of the Haunted Canyon's mostly dry streambed, admiring plants from riparian, mountain, and desert habitats -- black walnut, cottonwood, sycamore, poison ivy, yucca, agave, alligator juniper, and several types of cacti. Lots of organisms with thorns and spines, toxins, or ghostly white bark.

The previous day, volunteers on horseback had brought in camp gear and tools. After setting up camp for the next 6 days (I was on latrine-digging duty) we enjoyed a scrumptious meal of veggie chili, cornbread, and fresh strawberry shortcake with whipped cream. Most of us were tuckered out from the activities of the day, and we all hit the sack by 8:30 PM.

We had 4 days of work, mainly clearing brush on 2 miles of trail. We also built cairns at junctions/stream crossings, dug out rocks, constructed water bars, and fixed "tread". Cat claw acacia grew thick in some areas, and its curved thorns would tear at our clothing, hair, and skin. My shirt soon became polka-dotted with my blood. Since this plant, and many others, root sprout, we had to dig out the thick root clumps with the pick-matic. I would shout "die!" as I hacked out a gnarled root.

On our day off, we split into groups, with some people hiking and others staying close to camp to relax. Our campsite was near the Toney Cabin, occupied by the Toney family from 1913-24. This family of 10!! shared 2 small rooms and raised wheat, apples, vegetables, chickens, and livestock. People were really tough back then! The cabin and surrounding land is now owned by a conservancy.

Our last morning was spent packing up camp and heading back to the trailhead. Two volunteers with the Forest Service were waiting for us with made to order root beer floats! After hugs and farewells, Sarah and I paid another visit to LaCasita, then onward to Tempe for a shower and hotel bed.

Favorites of the week....
Desert Penstemon
Wildflower -- Desert Penstemon, Penstemon psuedospectabilis

Tree -- Arizona Cypress
New recipe -- Munch n crunch -- mix together equal parts p-nut butter and cream cheese, add diced apple, celery, and green olives, spread on bagel/bread
Morning sky objects -- venus and the waning moon
Evening activity -- singing with the uke, everyone picked a song
Bird -- Cardinal

If you haven't fallen asleep yet, this Haiku might do it:
Ocotillo red
flames on stickery green stalks
Beauty sears my eyes.
Check out www.wildernessvolunteers.org for future trips. Join me in Desolation Wilderness in August?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Distance to Nearest Road

The USGS Geographic Analysis and Monitoring program developed a national high resolution dataset that gives the distance to the nearest road every 30 meters (square) across the conterminous 48 states. These roadless areas are clustered mostly in the west around mountain ranges and deserts, with a few in the east ( the bayous of southern Louisiana, northern Minnesota, etc.).

The dark green signifies the areas farthest from roads and much of it overlaps with federally designated wilderness areas. Designated wilderness comprises only about 5% of the continental United States, and this map shows how special these areas are. (Click on the map to enlarge it.)

What are your favorite roadless areas?

View the complete publication (Fact Sheet, 2005, Watts, RD, RW Compton, JH McCammon, CL Rich, and SM Wright. Distance to the nearest road in the conterminous United States. Fort Collins, CO: USGS)

Monday, March 17, 2014

WV Auction Currently Awaiting Your Bids!

The Wilderness Volunteers Online Auction is happening right now! Check out the auction site to see all the great items donated by these amazing supporters. Please spread the word and feel free to bid generously, as every dollar bid supports Wilderness Volunteers!