Friday, March 10, 2017

Trailwork Tools of the Trade

Trail work requires many different types of tools- having the right tool for the job (and knowing how to use it correctly) makes trail work faster and a lot more fun. Some of the tools of the trade are common gardening/yard tools while others are very specialized and less well known. Here's a quick overview of common tools used on typical Wilderness Volunteers service projects.


A McLeod (pronounced mccloud) is a handy tool with teeth on one side and a hoe like blade on the other side at the end of a long wooden handle. It is commonly used to rake duff, break up sod clumps, and move/level dirt when working on trails. Its unique shape makes it especially effective for repairing trail slopes and compacting tread.


A Pulaski is half axe and half adze at the end of a long wooden handle. It can be used both to dig and to chop wood making it a trail construction and maintenance favorite.

Rock Bar

A rock bar is a long and straight bar made of metal that is used to pry large rocks, loosen compacted earth, and break up rocks. The length of the bar gives added leverage to the user making moving enormous rocks out of a trail much easier.

Crosscut Saw

A crosscut saw is a large saw designed for felling large trees and bucking (cutting a felled tree into logs). It can be used as a one or two person saw and makes removing large trees from trails a breeze.

Silky Saw

A silky saw is a small hand saw used for pruning, limbing, brushing, and removing small downed trees from trails. They may be folding or non-folding and can have curved or straight blades. Their light weight and versatility make them a must have for trail crews.


Loppers are a manual two-handled cutting tool designed to prune small branches. Long handles provide excellent leverage and make clearing trails of brush and tree limbs much faster.

Single Jack & Double Jack Sledge Hammer

Sledge hammers are used to break up larger rocks into smaller pieces to make them more manageable or to create fill for trail features such as drains, boardwalks, bridges, and causeways.

Pick Mattock

The pick or pick mattock is used for breaking up tread, prying smaller rocks, loosening compacted soil, and grubbing.


The common round-point shovel is fantastic for moving dirt & gravel, correcting tread and digging.

Canvas Bags
Heavy duty canvas bags are great for moving rocks, gravel, duff, and tundra mats. A substitute for these are 5 gallon buckets.


A drawknife is used to peel the bark off dry logs/ felled trees. It is typically used by sitting on top of a log, holding the drawknife by both handles, and pulling it towards you.

What is your favorite trailwork tool? Let us know in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Project Reflections: The Lost Coast of King Range NCA

In April of 2016, six adventure-crazed volunteers set off into the wild backcountry of the King Range National Conservation Area with one main goal in mind; to have a week of fun in a beautiful and wild region. A close second to their main goal was to perform some much needed conservation work in the area including trail maintenance, trail reconstruction, and beach cleanup. With these goals in mind, they began their excursion, accompanied by BLM Outdoor Rec Planner, Justin Robbins.

The crew hiked nearly six miles with full packs into their basecamp adjacent to the mouth of the freshwater Cooskie Creek for the week. From here they set out each day with a project in mind; this included maintenance and reconstruction of the eroded trail, beach cleanup and removal of debris, and removal of illegal beach shelters.

Through the week, the crew made some serious accomplishments. The mighty group of six repaired approximately four miles of trail, removed and rehabilitated five campsites, and removed approximately 200 pounds of debris from the beach! 

Per tradition, when the crew exited the wilderness - exhausted, fulfilled, and with a deep sense of accomplishment - they were warmly greeted by the BLM with a hearty barbecue. With full hearts and stomachs, the participants parted ways, never to forget their week of adventure in the Lost Coast. 

We are quickly approaching the King Range project for 2017 and it is sorely in need of volunteers! The project remains largely the same as 2016 and the region remains as beautiful and in need of help as ever. Come join one of WV's most dynamic leader duos for a week of fun and adventure in King Range's Lost Coast, and give something back to you public lands!

To share your own volunteer adventure story on WV's blog, send your experience to Taryn at

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Tips and Tricks for Packing your Backpack

An obligatory gear photo to incite envy in all your friends

Lay Out Your Gear

Before you start attempting to squeeze everything you think you might need into your pack, take a moment to lay it all out on the floor. This will help to keep your pack organized, to ensure that you don't forget anything essential, and to give you the opportunity to rethink items which might be superfluous and unnecessary. An extra bonus is the opportunity to take a rad gear photo to make your friends envious of your adventure!

Prepare for the worst, but no more

Only Pack the Essentials

The number one item I typically over-pack is clothing. It is all too easy to get carried away with the thought of 'what-if' and end up bringing clothing for every possible weather event. Decide instead to go for quality rather than quantity by checking the weather ahead of time and packing accordingly. I suggest that you only need one to two hiking/working outfits (top and bottom), something to relax in camp and sleep in, rain gear, and a compactable warm jacket for cold mornings (doubles as a pillow!). Materials for these clothes should be wool, fleece, synthetics, or...well, pretty much anything that is not cotton.

Remember, you're camping, not glamping.
Limit Your Comfort Items

Only allow yourself one to two nonessential items to heighten the comfort factor. These could include a camp chair, a camp pillow, chocolate bars for every night, a packable lantern, or a bag of wine. With all of the amazing new backpacking and camping gear available, it is easy to get caught up and bogged down with the gear. Just remember, you are headed out to get away from it all, so stop trying to replace your creature comforts with lighter versions of themselves. And for the love of wilderness, minimize the technology you bring! I have always felt that limiting these comfort items allows me to appreciate them that much more while in the back-country.

Pack Smarter

To optimize space in your pack, utilize compression sacks as frequently as possible. Not only will this squeeze your belongings down to their smallest size, but it will also keep your gear organized, easily accessible, and will protect it from water in case of a storm.

When it comes to actually packing your pack, things are really up to your preference. Based on the weights and densities of your gear, distribute your belongings according to the 'Backpack Weight Distribution' diagram. As a general guideline remember that your heaviest items should be lower and close to your back, and you should not overload parts of your pack above your shoulders, as it will throw off your balance. Many people put their sleeping bag down low on their hips, their tent and cook gear close to their back, and fill the remaining space with clothes and other gear.

Don't let the size and shape of your pack restrict your packing too much. I always like to attach my sleeping pad to the lower outside and my camp shoes and hiking poles (when not in use) to either side. These odd-shaped rigid items can be cumbersome to fit inside a pack, and may come in handy if you make them easily accessible.

On the subject of easy access in your pack, always keep your rain gear, pack cover, camera, snacks, water, and any other gear you might need in a pocket which is easily accessed throughout your day. These are all items that can be a hassle to dig for when you actually need them!

If you have any additional tips or tricks, please share them below for the greater good.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Preparing for your Volunteer Adventure: Fitness Tips for Service Projects

With our project season kick-off only a few weeks away, it is time to be preparing yourself for the physical challenge ahead! With many of the movements being vastly different from a normal day-to-day exercises, here are some tips on how to train for your specific project! While all of these exercises are generally more indoor-based, they can be modified to fit your outdoor lifestyle...just take your workout outside!

Invasive Species Removal Projects

These projects require that you are bent over for extended periods of time, and, depending on which invasive species, that you transport hefty loads of removed plants, use lopper's (not Cyndi, but the pruning/shearing type), or even small handsaws. If unprepared, this can be extremely difficult on your back, and biceps. Exercises to prepare for this sort of project include:
  • Core strengthening exercises like plank, side plank, crunches, and "bird dog" (to keep your back safe)
  • Push-ups and pull-ups (for pulling plants and using tools)
  • Bicep curls with weight (for lopping and handsawing)
  • Superman repetitions (for lower back strength)

Trail Maintenance Projects

These projects require that you are a jack of all trades; be prepared to be bending, lifting, digging, sawing, and hiking with a pack on your back all day. Naturally, this means you need to be in good shape all around. Here are a few of the exercises that will help prepare you for this:
  • Squats with or without weight (for lifting)
  • Bicep curls with weight (for lopping and handsawing)
  • Core strengthening exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and Russian twists (for crosscutting)
  • Cardio training like running, cycling, hiking, etc. (for long hikes and general endurance)
  • Hiking with a loaded pack (to prep your body for what is to come!)

Rock-work Intensive Projects

These require that you are lifting and transporting large and HEAVY rocks from possibly long distances! These projects also require that you have a massive amount of patience and attention to detail, so be sure to practice your rubix's cube (or any other perplexing puzzle) prior to the project.

  • Squats with or without weight (for lifting)
  • Bicep curls with weight (also for lifting)
  • Any and all core strengthening exercises like sit-ups, crunches, plank/side-plank, and "bird dog" (to keep your back safe/strong while lifting)
If you didn't get the general theme, you will be doing lots of lifting!

Crosscutting Intensive Projects

Crosscutting requires that your back, shoulders and biceps are fully prepared for an endurance workout! You will be using a non-mechanized cross-cut saw which
  • Rowing machine, or just rowing (for core endurance and strength in for crosscutting)
  • Core strengthening exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and Russian twists (for crosscutting)
  • Squats with or without weight (for lifting/moving large logs)

Projects with Long Backpacks

These projects will require that you are all around in good shape. Due to the nature of projects, you will be backpacking in with a large pack, then waking up the very next morning for a strenuous or challenging service project! To physically prepare for this sort of project you should be...
  • Hiking with a full pack (for practice, of course!)
  • Cardio training like running, cycling, hiking, etc. (for general endurance)
  • Squats with or without weight (for steep climbs with a weight on your back)
  • Stair-climbers (for endurance)

All Projects 

Every WV service project requires that you are in good shape and prepared for the work at hand. No matter what project you are working on, it is good to be active all winter long, be it in the form of hiking, running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or anything else that keeps you on your feet and prepared for unforeseen physical challenges!

If your project is at elevation, or an elevation foreign to you, prepare by traveling to that elevation a few weeks ahead of time for a weekend trip. If this is not an option for you, then show up to the project location 2-3 days ahead of time to allow your body time to adjust. Regardless, you should always prepare for elevation by drinking more water, getting adequate amounts of rest, taking it easy, and knowing the signs of altitude sickness.

If you have any other tips and tricks for preparing for projects and maintaining your fitness through the winter, please share in the comments below!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ten Wild Winter Reads to Prepare for Wild Summer Adventures

The best way to get through these short days and long nights of winter is to settle in with cozy blanket and a STACK of quality books. Learning more about the the philosophy of Wilderness, the meaning of Wilderness, and the natural world around you can heighten your experience, be it on a WV project, or out on your own adventures. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are ten of the best books to get you jazzed about being in the wilderness!

Desert Solitaire 

~ Edward Abbey

In his unique and captivating voice, Ed Abbey allows readers to fall in love with every aspect of our desolate southwest landscapes.
"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself." - Edward Abbey

The Abstract Wild 

~ Jack Turner

This book makes you ask the question of 'what is wild?' and more importantly, 'what wild is still left?'. With profound intellect, author Jack Turner delves into what he refers to as the ultimate endangered resource: wildness.
"Humans become foreigners to the wild, foreigners to an experience that once grounded their most sacred beliefs and values. In short, wilderness as relic leads to tourism, and tourism in the wilderness becomes the primary mode of experiencing a diminished wild." - Jack Turner

Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild 

~Ellen Meloy

Through her own eyes Ellen Meloy elegantly describes her year spent with a herd of desert Bighorn Sheep who she calls 'The Blue Door Band'. Meloys words allow for contempation of the relationship between animals and humans, going back to our roots of evolution.
"Each time I look into the eye of an animal...I find myself staring into a mirror of my own imagination. What I see there is deeply, crazily, unmercifully confused." - Ellen Meloy

A Sand County Almanac 

~ Aldo Leopold

A Sand County Almanac, a collection of Leopolds natural, crotchety, and lyrical writings, offers insight into the mind of a man who spent his life in some of the U.S.'s most stunning lands. This book is beloved by environmentalist and conservationists across the globe, and for good reason.
"One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise." - Aldo Leopold

Claiming Ground 

~ Laura Bell

Laura Bell recounts her journey from her home state of Kentucky to a wild life of sheep herding in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. Through her search for place, home, and adventure Bell perfectly describes the inexplicable beauty of hard labor and Western landscapes.

The Tree 

~ John Fowles

In one of his only nonfictional works, John Fowles intimately describes his perception on the relationship between nature and human creativity. In an autobiographical manner Fowles presents his compelling argument for keeping wild places wild.
"There is a spiritual corollary to the way we are currently deforesting and denaturing our planet. In the end what we must most defoliate and deprive is ourselves. We might as soon start collecting up the world’s poetry, every line and every copy, to burn it in a final pyre; and think we should lead richer and happier lives thereafter." - John Fowles

Into Thin Air 

~ John Krakauer

Most simply put, Into Thin Air is a mountaineers first hand account of the disastrous events of May 1996 on Mt. Everest. Krakauer delves into the dynamic of climbers on this mountain, where the key tool is money, rather than experience.
"...I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, it struck me that most of use were probably seeking, above else, something like a state of grace." - John Krakauer

A Walk in the Woods 

~ Bill Bryson

In Bryson's eclectic and entertaining voice, he takes you along the Appalachian Trail, describing human history, ecology, and the unique characters he encounters along the way. Bryson coaxes a face-consuming smile and many giggles from each of his adventures (and misadventures) on the trail.
"I wanted to quit and to do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again. All of this all at once, every moment, on the trail or off." - Bill Bryson


~ Henry David Thoreau

I find this quote to be Waldens' best advertisement. Do we not all aspire for this richness of life?
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived...I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion." - H.D. Thoreau

Wilderness and the American Mind 

~  Roderick Frazier Nash

Listed by Outside Magazine as one of the "books that changed our world", Wilderness and the American Mind describes the changing of attitudes and perceptions towards Wilderness in the United States. With the inclusion of the historical accounts of conservation and environmental movements, this book is one that will change the meaning of the word Wilderness for you. The newest edition includes a new preface, epilogue, and forward which place it in context with 21st century viewpoints.
"Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his own soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect setting for either melancholy or exultation." - Roderick Frazier Nash