Thursday, December 15, 2016

Season Highlights

As the New Year approaches, we find ourselves reflecting on this past season and what has been accomplished in our public lands by the outstanding individuals who have dedicated their time as Wilderness Volunteers. These accomplishments can be summed up into a handful of meaningful statistics:
  • We completed 50 volunteer work projects in 2016;
  • We had 509 volunteers in the field for these week long projects;
  • With all of these volunteers we donated approximately 16,290 hours of volunteer work time!
Behind these impressive stats are stories of conservation and preservation of public lands. Here are a few which reminded us why we do what we do.

Limahuli National Botanical Garden, HI

In October volunteers traveled to Limahuli National Botanical Garden on the tropical island of  KauaŹ»i to help with the preservation of this unique area. Here this stellar group of volunteers removed 2,000 square feet of invasive plant matter, planted 239 native plants, harvested taro root and sweet potatoes from the demonstration garden, and prepared the soil for replanting.

One volunteer felt strongly about the difference they made in the park:
"One of the strongest aspects of this project is the union of preserving culture and native species. As the invasive plants are rapidly overtaking the native plants, it is critical to work to maintain a foothold in the endangered area [and to] ensure cultural preservation..." -Linda Gonzales

San Rafael Reef, UT

In September a group of volunteers found themselves among a sea of red rock wonders in the San Rafael Reef. Joining them on this project was a two-foot-tall batman figurine who served as a loyal and fitting mascot. The crew completed an exceptional project continuing the multi-year task of eradicating invasive tamarisk from the waterways, a appropriate job for a superhero such as Batman. A complex work plan was devised by the BLM in order to rid riparian areas of this invasive. Tamarisk, also referred to as 'saltcedar' is especially harmful in the southwest because of its ability to absorb large amounts of water and create vast salt deposits which inhibit plant growth. Continued investment in this work aims to restore these canyon waterways to their previous and natural condition, and reserve the small amount of water available in the southwest ground for native plant species to flourish!

Pecos Wilderness, NM

In June, a group of  WV leaders-in-training ventured into the mountains of New Mexico in the Pecos Wilderness Area. Here they encountered a region dauntingly called the 'Borrego Triangle', in reference to the Bermuda Triangle. The region gained its name for the notorious disappearance of trails due to overgrowth and tree fall. Here, the volunteers set forth to reopen trails which have been neglected for too many years. The importance of this work was unmistakable; by reopening this trail system, the volunteers facilitated access to other spectacular parts of the Pecos Wilderness. Increased access to Wilderness areas has numerous benefits, including facilitation of continued preservation in the region. In addition to the wonderful trail work completed on this project, the participants also trained to be project leaders for Wilderness Volunteers. This training spurred numerous discussions about Leave No Trace principles and wilderness ethics. WV is excited to get these new leaders on service projects, continuing the conservation of public lands!

Additional Comments by 2016 Project Participants

"I get only two weeks of vacation a year. After my experience at Glacier NP this September, I plan on making a trip with Wilderness Volunteers a yearly endeavor! First of all, my leaders were amazing. Truly respectable people who embodied the principles that WV stands for. The location of our trip was beautiful beyond words. I never wanted to leave! Trust me, I was bawling like a baby driving out of those mountains!! The food was delicious and clean up was organized and efficient. I feel like I developed a lifelong respect and comradery with my fellow participants. I will never forget this experience for as long as I live. I would highly recommend attending a WV trip. What a rewarding way to spend a vacation!"
- Leah Taylor, Glacier National Park

"Outdoors, great food, like minded people... what's not to like?"- Jan Lochner, Castle Crags Wilderness, Shasta-Trinity NF

"I went to a place that I've never been to before and I met a terrific group of people and had a great week in the woods. I did something good for the Pacific Northwest and America's public lands while having a lot of fun!" - Max Gordon,  Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest

"You can almost hear a sigh of relief from the native plants as you eradicate russian olive! If you can lop and saw, you can handle the work for this project. And, you get to work in beautiful surroundings to boot!" - Dave Barger, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

"The WV leaders had the complex logistics of this trip perfectly organized, and were very good with ensuring safety and effective work practices. Our USFS ranger was a delight to work with as well - energetic, strong, bright, and accommodating. We had a wonderful day hike to the Obsidian Cliffs and a picnic by a beautiful waterfall." - Wim Kimmerer,  Three Sisters Wilderness, Willamette National Forest

"I am honored to have been part of the work team that completed this challenging, but so valuable, project." - John Glade, Wind River Mountains, Popo Agie Wilderness, Shoshone NF

"I greatly enjoyed my WV trip. It was a wonderful combination of meaningful trail work and fun. I made a few good friends, and am already looking forward to my next adventure."
- Matthew Petushek, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, La Croix RD, Superior NF

"This was the first WV project I have ever been a part of and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I would recommend it to anyone who loves the outdoors and wants to give something back to others who also love the outdoors. The work was physically demanding and required a good deal of strenuous effort but I was happy to discover it was not a "fluff" project and it was worth every drop of sweat lost and every breath gasped. Our leaders and the Forest Service employees were very knowledgeable and experienced. They worked hard alongside the seven volunteers on our team, improving trail conditions in some areas and re-routing it in others. This WV project was, for me, very satisfying and personally rewarding. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I am certain I will be signing up for more of these projects in the future." -Bradley Smail, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest

"This was one of the best "vacations" I have taken. While the work was challenging (in a good way) it was very well organized, the trip leader was fantastic and the group worked well together to accomplish great things. I highly recommend a WV trip for someone who is interested in doing something different, seeing awesome places while at the same time, giving something back. You won't regret it." -Marc Talluto, Bighorn Crags, Frank Church RONR Wilderness, Salmon-Challis NF

You can get more information and register for one of our 2017 projects here. See more great photos from 2016 WV service projects over at the WV Photo Gallery.

If you'd like to share your experiences on a WV project please send them to to be included in a future blog post.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Announcing the Winners of the WV 2016 Photo Contest

Wilderness Volunteers is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 WV Photo Contest sponsored by: Peace Surplus

We received more than 100 entries and there were so many fantastic photos, picking a winner was not an easy job.

The grand prize winner for best photo is Brandon Jett. He has won a gift certificate for a free Wilderness Volunteers project good for the 2017 project season.

The Landscape photo winner is Kelly Randall. He has won a Black Diamond SPOT headlamp donated by Peace Surplus, a one-year subscription donated by Backpacker Magazine, and a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI.  

The Wildlife photo winner is Randy Kahn. He has won an Ultra-Sil Day Pack (20L) donated by Sea to Summit, a one-year subscription donated by Outside Magazine, and a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI. 

The Hard at Work photo winner is Amy Schwake. She has won an Ultra-Sil Pack Cover (Medium) donated by Sea to Summit, a one-year subscription donated by Backpacker Magazine, and a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI.  

Amy took this photo of Randy Meier on the Indian Peaks Wilderness service project in the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest.

The On The Trail photo winner is Amy Schwake. She has won a Clear Stopper Dry Bag (8L) donated by Sea to Summit, a one-year subscription donated by Backpacker Magazine, and a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI. 

Amy took this photo on the Indian Peaks Wilderness service project in the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest.

You can see the rest of our great 2016 photo contest entries as well as photos from just about every 2016 service project online in the Wilderness Volunteers photo gallery.

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to our generous sponsors and everyone who entered!

Don't forget to bring your camera with you on your next service project so you are ready for the 2017 Wilderness Volunteers photo contest.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Announcing the 2016 Wilderness Volunteers Photo Contest

The 2016 season is nearly over, so let's celebrate all of the great work our trip participants helped WV accomplish this year by awarding some great prizes for a few fantastic photos!

A few of our great entries from last year:

Enter your favorite WV project photos by uploading your selections to the WV gallery in these categories:
  • Landscapes (scenic photos of our nation's public lands)
  • Wildlife (from slugs to bears, if it's a wild animal it's game)
  • On the Trail (volunteers/hikers on trails)
  • Hard at Work (volunteers working on projects)
Please add a description for each photo as well as your name and what project it was taken on.

One winner will be selected for each category as well as a grand prize winner for best photo.

Grand Prize:

  • A gift certificate for a free Wilderness Volunteers project good for the 2017 project season.

Best Landscape:

  • Black Diamond SPOT headlamp donated by Peace Surplus
  • a one-year subscription donated by Backpacker Magazine
  • a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI    

Best Wildlife:

  • Ultra-Sil Day Pack (20L) donated by Sea to Summit
  • a one-year subscription donated by Outside Magazine
  • a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI  

Best On the Trail:

  • Clear Stopper Dry Bag (8L) donated by Sea to Summit
  • a one-year subscription donated by Backpacker Magazine
  • a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI  

Best Hard At Work:

  • Ultra-Sil Pack Cover (Medium) donated by Sea to Summit
  • a one-year subscription donated by Backpacker Magazine
  • a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI  

You can enter as many photos as you like, just be sure to do so before the deadline on November 30th! 

A huge thank you to this year's photo contest sponsors:

Peace Surplus

Outside Magazine

Sea To Summit

Backpacker Magazine

Official Contest Rules:
  • All photos must be taken on a 2016 Wilderness Volunteers Project and must comply with Leave No Trace ethics & principles.
  • Each entry must include the photographer's name and the project it was taken on
  • The same photo cannot be entered in more than one category. Judges reserve the right to switch images to other categories.
  • The contest is open to all 2016 WV project participants and leaders, except for Wilderness Volunteers staff, contest judges and their families. WV reserves the right to verify, in its sole judgment, entrant eligibility. 
  • Photographs will be judged on originality, technical excellence, composition, overall impact and artistic merit. Awards will be selected by a panel of judges, and all decisions are final.  
  • Entries must be submitted to the Wilderness Volunteers photo gallery (no later than 11:59pm on by Monday, November 30th to be eligible.
  • Judges may exclude entries that do not meet the above criteria. 
  • Winners will be notified by email. Wilderness Volunteers is not responsible for lost or damaged prizes.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Photos From the Field: Dark Canyon Wilderness

Wilderness Volunteers recently finished a service project in the Dark Canyon Wilderness of the Manti La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah.

The Dark Canyon Wilderness is a spectacular canyon wilderness in southeastern Utah that was the ancestral home of Puebloan peoples for 5,000 years. Dark Canyon is rich in biological, geological, archaeological, and historical significance, and is also one of the most colorful canyon systems on the Colorado Plateau.

Dark Canyon begins on Elk Ridge at an elevation of 8,800 feet then cuts through Cedar Mesa sandstone formations dramatically framed amidst a forest of ponderosa pine on its 5,000-foot descent to the upper reaches of Lake Powell. It is remote and spectacularly beautiful.

At various times residents of the canyon hunted on the mesa tops, grew maize, squash and beans on canyon terraces, gathered pinyon nuts on the plateaus, and hunted turkey and deer in the high ponderosa pine forests.

They built cliff-dwellings and grain storage warehouses, made pottery in a variety of styles, and fashioned tools from the mineral resources of the canyon.

As part of our ongoing project with the Manti-La Sal National Forest, participants backpacked into the area and then worked with Forest Service archaeologists to survey remote parts of the Dark Canyon system for artifacts and ancestral sites.

They split into small teams, each led by an archaeologist, and slowly walked the canyon looking for stone tools and flakes, projectile points, pot sherds and the remains of ancient structures.

Forest Service staff provided participants with training on how stone tools and artifacts were made, the different styles of tools and pottery used, and how to find artifacts and document the sites where they are found.

The training included a demonstration of the art of "flint knapping" - the fabrication of tools and projectile points from stone - that gave participants insight into the things to look for and the types of tools that can be made from stone.

This year's project was extremely fruitful: participants surveyed over 353 acres, recorded 5 sites, and identified 14 new sites.

Want to give something back with Wilderness Volunteers in the Dark Canyon Wilderness?

The Summer and Fall 2017 projects will be released on our website December 1, 2016.

All of the stunning photos in this post were taken by Dark Canyon participant Brandon Jett.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Just Because Bears Hibernate, Doesn't Mean You Need To: 10 Public Lands to Visit During Fall

The leaves are changing colors, the air is beginning to have a bite, and the world seems to be telling you to curl up on the couch with a cup of joe and begin winter hibernation preparations. Fight that urge because our public lands are blooming in the most spectacular way - in the golden hues of autumn! Fall offers a unique opportunity to see your public lands in a whole new light. While all lands are pretty enjoyable in this delightful season, here are some that we felt should not be missed.

Denali National Park, AK
Snow-capped mountains bordered by vibrant tundra? Fall has never looked better than in Denali National Park.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA
Larch trees take a turn for the gold in lake basins in the Alpine Lakes. Anyone interested in a cold dip in one of these glacial lakes?

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Acadia National Park, ME
Who can resist the reds and yellows of east coast fall foliage! Acadia in autumn is the ideal weekend adventure.

Zion National Park, UT
Always a surprise in such an arid environment, deciduous riparian vegetation attempts to mimic the orange glow of the surrounding rock faces.

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, ME
Our newest national monument have much to offer in this season! Deciduous plants burst into swaths of reds, yellows, and oranges, bordered by old-growth forests.
Kachina Peaks Wilderness, AZ
Inner Basin in the Kachina Peaks is a valley filled with aspen trees. The golden glow from the fall aspen leaves is other-worldly!

Daniel Boone National Forest, KY
Oak trees melt into a wide variety of reds once the weather turns in Kentucky. Scenic vistas will offer glimpses into these vibrant valleys.

Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO
With adventures of all kinds to offer, Maroon Bells Wilderness, outside of Aspen, CO, displays dynamic and vivid landscapes filled with aspen trees and serene mountain lakes.

Glacier National Park, MT
Prime-time for Glacier extends well past busy-time. Larch and aspen sprinkled throughout the lowland forests offer a unique (and more isolated) take on one of Americas most popular National Parks.

Regardless of where you are geographically located, there is always a way to enjoy your surroundings this season! Get out there and enjoy what our public lands have to offer!

Share some of your fall favorites in the comments!