Friday, February 20, 2009

And the Winners Are....

Thanks to everyone who participated in Wilderness Volunteers' inaugural Seven Words of Wisdom Contest and 1st Annual Photo Contest! We received over forty entries between the two contests and had our hands full selecting the winners from the creative, humorous, and impressive submissions. Alas, after much deliberation, here they are...

The winner of the inaugural Seven Words of Wisdom Contest and a limited-edition WV stainless-steel carabiner mug is:

"New Friends. Help their Mother. Wilderness Volunteers."

- Cap'n Greg

And the top three finishers in WV's 1st Annual Photo Contest are:

1st Place: Brian Bone

"Wilderness Volunteers Parade Entry #1: Log."
-Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Gen XY Trip, CO 2007

2nd Place: Amanda James

"Amanda said she was going to take it easy on our day off!" - WV on the Way-Up
- Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail, Glacier National Park Trip, MT 2008

3rd Place: Brian Miller

- White River National Forest, Raggeds Wilderness Trip, CO 2008

Congratulations to these wordsmiths and photographers and, above all, volunteers! 1st place wins a 27 oz. stainless steel WV Klean Kanteen, 2nd place a WV cap, and 3rd place a WV bandanna. Please send your mailing address to Mike Leonard at

Thanks again to everyone who participated!

(To view all entries, click here: Seven Words of Wisdom Contest and 1st Annual Photo Contest.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Off the Wall

Winter is getting old in Flagstaff:

I'm ready for spring. While I'm waiting, keeping warm, I've been catching up on my reading. Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite is subtitled, "Gripping accounts of all known fatal mishaps in America's first protected land of scenic wonders." Written by Michael Ghiglieri and Butch Farabee, it's a cautionary, sobering read. It starts off with deaths in waterfalls (almost fifty people have been swept to their death), which sent shivers down my spine because I just did a trip in Yosemite last June.

We were camped near a huge waterfall of raging, thunderous water where one false move could have ended tragically. Not having read this book yet, I was mercifully less aware how easily one of us could have slipped on the smooth (and often wet), slippery granite that makes up the backcountry of Yosemite.

Besides waterfalls, the book describes deaths due to snow, downed aircraft, falls while hiking and scrambling, vehicular mishaps, climbing (fewer died in climbing than in hiking and scrambling accidents), drowning, flora and fauna (stay away from horses)(and no, no one has been killed by a bear in Yosemite, ever), freak accidents and getting lost. In all, from 1851 through 2006, there were 765 traumatic deaths in the Park. This includes 29 park builders (O'Shaunessy dam was big here).

Reading about all these mishaps, many of them in great detail, reminds me how tenuous our hold is on life -- there are many ways to die; lots of them very sudden. Lots caused by simple bad luck.

But many teach lessons about planning, being prepared, being willing to bail when the weather changes, being attentive to your surroundings and knowing what to do when things start going wrong (keeping your head about you). These are lessons that can be easily forgotten -- lessons that need to be revisted often when you have a life with lots of adventure.

At the same time, we have to remember that life is fatal. None of us will get out of here alive. People die everyday in accidents around their houses. Football players die (and are horribly injured) every year. People pay big bucks to die on Everest. Planes fall on houses (thankfully very infrequently).

If we are lucky, we continue to pursue the things that interest us. For me, it's getting outside into nature, away from the throngs and noise and stuff. I will accept that my life has risks, and that I need to pay attention.

And continue to learn the lessons taught by the experiences of others. This summer, when I'm in Yosemite camped near those beautiful (raging) waterfalls, I'll remind the group about what could happen in a moment of inattention...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Obama and "Giving Something Back"

Part of President Obama’s Inaugural Address echoed sentiments that I have felt regarding the goal of Wilderness Volunteers - Giving Something Back:

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.... What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task."

The President was speaking more broadly about the many difficult challenges facing America. But the work we do as volunteers is surely a part of meeting these challenges. Giving Something Back truly is "satisfying to the spirit." Each WV trip is an opportunity to do our share of the work that needs to be done.

We can be proud of the accomplishments made by our volunteer service over the ten-year history of WV. The projects planned in our 2009 schedule continue to uphold this tradition. I hope you’ll share the WV volunteer opportunities with friends, neighbors and co-workers. Let them know that we provide an enjoyable, affordable way to be a part of the renewed spirit of "remaking America."