Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Photo from the Field: Pinnacles National Park by Ulrich Boegli

To celebrate the upcoming holiday, this week's photo from the field is of wild turkeys found at Pinnacles National Park. This photo was taken by Ulrich Boegli when visiting the Park a few months in advance of the Wilderness Volunteers' service project he would join in spring 2013. These native turkeys are regularly seen and heard from the Park's campground.

While WV's 2014 service project in Pinnacles is full, opportunities remain to sign up for spring service projects in other fantastic wilderness areas around the country.

From all of us at Wilderness Volunteers, thanks for all of your efforts giving something back this year! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interview with Annette Smits, North Zone Trails Coordinator for the Gila National Forest

We checked in with Annette Smits, the North Zone Trails Coordinator for the Gila National Forest ahead of our returning service project there, June 8 - 14, 2014. We asked Annette about the area, her work and how to help, among a number of other topics.

Tell us about the most unique aspect of the wilderness area that you manage. What draws visitors here?
In my zone (I cover 3 districts of the Gila) we cover 2 wilderness areas-all of the Blue Range and the western half of the Gila Wilderness, as well as General Forest Areas (GFA) and Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA).

For the Blue Range the most unique feature is likely solitude, I can think of few other areas that give the user a chance to truly get away from it all. We have amazing dark skies, great hunting, and opportunities to catch glimpses of wildlife of all sorts from elk to raccoons or hear wolves howling in the distance.

For the Gila, the biggest draw is that it is one of the original wilderness areas, where Aldo Leopold got some of his inspiration. Where the green fire died in the wolf’s eyes. The western half has extremely rugged terrain that draws people looking for a challenge.

Tell us about the most important types of projects a group of volunteers can do to help in your wild backcountry areas.

Trail work. In my opinion trails bring people into our great public lands and give them the opportunity to experience them and grow to love them. Trail work is hard work in that is very demanding in terms of resources. Trails serve as a means to concentrate use, and reduce impact to natural resources (for example we typically route our trails away from sensitive resources whether cultural or biological). I think if we provide a sound way for people to come out and enjoy our backcountry they will start to love them and want to protect them.

Why do you work with Wilderness Volunteers?

We partner with WV, because we need help. What makes WV such an ideal group to work with is the continuity of leadership, the ease of working with leaders who are already savvy about being out in the woods and leaving no trace, and the general professionalism of Wilderness Volunteers as an organization. 

About the WV service project:

Our projects have been on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) construction. Currently much of our route of the CDT is on roadways, where non-motorized users are competing for space with trucks and ATVs. For the last few years we have been working on creating a new trail where people can enjoy the panoramic vistas, in the peace and quiet that the Gila is known for. In the still of the forest a user can catch glimpses of herds of elk, bobcats, deer, bears, various birds, coyotes, and other wildlife. It may be a personal bias here, but these things can make for an outstanding trip whether out for the day or on a longer trip. In partnering with WV we are giving more people the chance for these experiences. The way in which WV operates make them an extremely easy group to work with. There is always going to be set up time with any project, but due to good planning and working with the same leadership every time the amount of work that goes into a WV trip is much less than what is generally expected with volunteer groups in general. Working with WV, all that I really need to do is show up with tools, safety equipment, and water the rest of the in and out day-to-day logistical stuff is covered by WV. Any trip that is being coordinated by WV is one that as I can count on as being a productive week as a land manager, and an enjoyable week on a personal level.

How can folks continue to give back to your area when not on a WV project?

Being our eyes and ears out in the field. I cover about 1½  million acres in my zone, so needless to say there are a lot of things that I don’t know about as far as day to day stuff. Though we may or may not be able to deal
with the issue rapidly, the sort of things that are very helpful for us to know about are:
·        Water and spring conditions (or lack thereof)- this is the most common question I get asked, and being in the southwest water is almost always scarce. If at least I could say as an example- as of June 18th there was water in spring x. At least it’s a bit more certain than a guess.
·        Noxious weeds- this is starting to become more of an issue in our areas. If we have the opportunity to find and remove these outcropping while they are still small we have a much better chance of removing them.
·        Trail conditions- not necessarily a single tree down, but if there are excessive numbers of them down, trail has extreme washouts, if the trail is very difficult to find, or anything that looks out of the ordinary out there. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Photo from the Field: Superstition Wilderness by Sarah Slover

Photo from the Field: Taken by Sarah Slover on WV's spring service project in the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona's Tonto National Forest in March 2012.

You can sign up now for WV's 2014 service project in the Superstition Wilderness, as well as many others at

Friday, November 15, 2013


Everyone knows that staying hydrated while participating in outdoor activities is important. We all think that thirst will trigger us to drink enough, but this isn’t always reliable. Depending upon level of activity, weather, altitude and our own fitness level, it’s possible to lose fluid so quickly that our thirst mechanism can’t keep up.

We lose fluid in two ways, sensibly (meaning we are aware of it) and insensibly (we aren’t). Normal sensible losses include elimination (peeing), and sweating. In dry climates, our sweat might evaporate so quickly that we aren’t aware of how much we are sweating. Insensibly, we lose fluid through breathing, and also through our skin (in addition to sweat glands). Normal respiration (when at rest) can lose about two liters of water a day by evaporation from the lungs, and skin “respires” too, losing about ½ liter per day.

On a normal day, we lose about four liters of fluid which we usually replace with consuming our drinks of choice and with meals. This amount can be dramatically increased by illness (vomiting or diarrhea).

The most common cause of increased fluid loss is through exertion. When we are active, we increase the amount of fluid we lose, and depending upon the humidity and the altitude, we can lose even more. The lower the humidity, and the higher the altitude, the more fluid is lost through respiration. During heavy exertion, we can lose between one to three liters of fluid per hour which can quickly put us in a deficit that is hard to make up if we aren’t drinking constantly.

The symptoms of mild dehydration include headache, dry lips and mouth, decreased urine output, fatigue, and even dizziness. Thirst may or may not be present. The effects of these symptoms are decreased coordination, and impairment of judgment. Dehydration can worsen symptoms of other conditions including diabetes, and increase the likelihood of other heat-related problems such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

When engaging in outdoor activity, especially in a very cold or hot environment, and more so at altitude, don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Try to drink a liter an hour, and to eat frequent snacks to replace needed electrolytes.

Learn more about dehydration:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Photo from the Field: King Range NCA by Eric Mak

Sharing photos from the field has been a regular feature from the WV facebook page and we'll now be sharing on the blog as well!  If you have a favorite photo that you'd like us to feature, please let us know by dropping a note to

This week's photo from the field is from WV's first service project on Northern California's coastal King Range Conservation Area, taken by Eric Mak.  The project, which ran from April 20-27, featured coastal hiking, trail maintenance and a day of beach cleanup as pictured below.

WV will return to King Range this spring and you can sign up for that project and more on the project page.

You can find more of Eric's terrific photographs and photos from many of WV's service project in our photo gallery.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Working Together: Wolves and Grizzlies

A grizzly bear and leopold wolf in Yellowstone NP, Doug Smith 2006, courtesy of Yellowstone National Park
A recent study released in the Journal of Animal Ecology has officially detailed the symbiotic relationship of two of North America's greatest predators, the grizzly bear and the grey wolf. The authors, led by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, found that the health and well-being of each animal is linked. With the restoration of wolves to the Yellowstone ecosystem, elk herd populations were thinned, which allowed many species of berries to flourish.  Many animals that feast on those berries, such as grizzlies, were then able to find more food in abundance.

As Ripple told the High Country News, "We developed four different data sets to show that the re-introduction of the wolf to Yellowstone has had a much deeper and more far-reaching effect on the flora and fauna of the Yellowstone ecosystem than we realized."

This report wasn't the only bear and wolf story to come out in the last few weeks. The Billings Gazette posted fantastic pictures of grizzlies and wolves dining together on a bison carcass in Yellowstone National Park. Photographer Pete Bengeyfield, a retired member of the Forest Service, captured a remarkable series of the interaction between these species over a few days in September.  Head over to the Billings Gazette to check them out.