Monday, January 25, 2010

Vocation Vacations - WV on the Radio

Tune in Tuesday morning to Takeaway on Public Radio International and WNYC New York to learn about "vocation vacations" - what they are, who they're for, how one goes about going on one, and more...

Contributor Beth Kobliner introduces us to the variety of working vacations out there - from the weekend fantasy job as a Hollywood makeup artist to the seasonal job on a cruise ship to the week-long forestry gig that can lead to permanent work. And a current volunteer who first took a "vocation vacation" with Wilderness Volunteers while in college explains how his experience working in the woods for a week contributed to a new job in the outdoors and, later, to a career in the energy and conservation field.

Skip ahead to 3:34 and listen in:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Calling All Cooks!

Volunteer Leader Gayle Marechal at Work in the Sawtooth Wilderness, ID (2007)

One of the most daunting tasks a new Wilderness Volunteers trip leader faces is menu planning. Among the many questions a new leader faces regarding food and menu planning are how much food to buy, what types of meals to prepare, how to keep food fresh, how to provide variety, should meals be vegetarian friendly, and the list goes on.

To help with this aspect of leadership, WV is launching “The Kitchen Corner," a new monthly blog post led by volunteer leader Gayle Marechal which will provide answers to these questions and more and include tried-and-true recipes for you to use in the backcountry. We hope that you find what is posted here helpful and encourage you to submit comments, questions, and your own favorite recipes and cooking tips in the months to come. (It's worth adding that, among other things, Gayle makes the best blueberry pancakes you'll ever eat in the backcountry!)

The first installment of "The Kitchen Corner" has particular relevance for New Years Day revelers, though it comes a few weeks belated. But anytime is a good time for a party, right?

Here's Gayle:

"I recognize that each leader, whether new or old, approaches menu planning and food issues on WV trips differently. I hope to give you the benefit of my years of experience as a WV trip leader and let you know what has worked for me over time."

"A tradition in the South is to eat black-eyed peas on New Years Day to ensure good luck for the year - a tradition which dates back many centuries. Southern black-eyed peas are typically prepared with some type of meat (salt pork, bacon, ham) and onion for flavor. Originally from Texas, my wife Bunny and I have embraced this tradition but have added a few "Texan touches" to make our own version of this New Years dish. Serve the peas with corn bread for a healthy and filling meal or as a side dish."

Bunny’s Black-Eyed Peas

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas or 2 lbs fresh (often available around New Years)
4 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 stalks celery cut into ¼ in. slices
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
Olive oil
2-3 qts. water

Put water and bacon in a large pan and bring to boil. Sort and wash the black-eyed peas (if using dried; not necessary if using fresh) and put in water to begin cooking. Sauté the celery, bell pepper, onion, and garlic in a bit of olive oil until soft, and then put them in the pan with the peas. Sautéing the vegetables is the secret to adding the extra zest to this dish. Add the tomatoes, juices and all. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer covered over low heat until the peas are soft. Add water as necessary to keep the mixture as soupy as you want. Note: fresh black-eyed peas will cook much quicker than dried, and cornbread recipes are available upon request.

Friday, January 15, 2010

WV Trips - Good for the Mind, Body, and Everyone!

One of my favorite things about Wilderness Volunteers trips – besides the hard work, the great people, the good food, and the spectacular views – is the wildlife. I still remember the first time my brother and I saw elk – which for two teenagers from New Jersey was a big deal. We were building new trail along the Continental Divide Trail in New Mexico's Gila National Forest, and were determined to see some bulls on our day off. We hiked for hours in the 95 degree heat, sun beating down on us as we crested 7500 feet, yet the only signs of elk we saw were the pellets they left behind on the ground. It was getting late. We were getting tired. Our patience was wearing thin. It was the end of the road and we turned to head back to camp. As fisherman say, we were "skunked."

And then we heard him. A massive twelve-pointer, just forty yards away in a hollow beneath us, had his heart set on running over a hearty young aspen with his antlers. We were spellbound, and stood there motionless on the trail above. Dropping to the ground and out of his sight, we army-crawled forty feet to a large rock that overlooked the hollow below, and saw not one but five enormous bulls casually grazing. They were awesome!

We watched them for twenty minutes, awestruck by their size, beauty, and antlers. We had hit the jackpot! Naturally, we snapped a few photos to document our trophy find (though we somehow failed to see the tall blades of grass in front of the camera lens, which, as seen below, are in perfect focus. If you look closely, you can make out the body of one of the bulls. Guess that’s a free photography lesson!)

On every WV trip since this one – my first one – ten years ago, I keep my eyes peeled wherever I go. There’s something magical about being in the wilderness knowing that you just might get lucky and see something – be it an elk, an eagle, a bear, a bobcat, a moose - who knows! It makes me feel alive and keeps me coming back – both to the woods and to WV. You simply can’t beat it.

Read more volunteer reviews of Wilderness Volunteers trips in the Winter 2009 Newsletter. Whether you're new to backpacking or a seasoned mountain climber, we've got a trip for you. And be sure to vote for your favorite WV free day activity in our latest poll!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Summer and Fall Trips Are on the Website!

Sawtooth Wilderness, ID (2007)

In case you missed the news amidst the holiday shuffle, the summer and fall trips are on the website! You'll notice many old favorites as well as several new locations. Check them out here.

Is this your year to finally try canoeing in the Boundary Waters, planting native plants and battling invasive species in Hawaii, or exploring Alaska? How about doing trail work in Colorado's Raggeds Wilderness, surrounded by world-class wildflowers? Or conducting a trail survey in Oregon's Three Sisters Wilderness, with views of distant (and dormant) volcanoes?

Looking for the trail less traveled? Head for the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, just west of Yellowstone; the Apache Kid Wilderness in the wildlands of New Mexico; or the Mission Mountain Wilderness above Montana's Swan Valley. While many people are drawn to places that boast household names, there is much to be said for the solitude and mystery of these "hidden gems." All possess outstanding beauty without the crowds. And all have lots of work to be done and are grateful for volunteers.

Got questions? Email us at

See you out there!