Monday, April 18, 2016

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Celebrates 20 Years!

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) is celebrating their 20th anniversary in 2016! Wilderness Volunteers has been working with Grand Staircase-Escalante for 18 of those years doing a variety of projects, from backcountry restoration to eradication of invasives to trail maintenance. One of the early highlights recalled by project leaders was Sage Sorenson playing a flute for participants in the Gulch during a lunch break.

Designated as a National Monument in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, the Grand Staircase-Escalante is the largest National Monument in the United States spanning nearly 1.9 million acres. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

From its spectacular Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces, across the rugged Kaiparowits Plateau, to the wonders of the Escalante River canyons, the Monument's vast landscape offers unparalleled opportunities for scientists and visitors alike to experience the effects of millions of years of geological history. Reaching from the town of Escalante at the northeast end to Kanab in the southwest, the monument covers an area roughly the size of Delaware and was the last region in America to be explored.

Planned events include a 20th birthday party with cake and lemonade, an Open House, an Artists in Residence Veterans Salute, a art exhibition, the first annual Lower Calf Creek Falls hike, and a Science Forum covering topics such as Paleontology, Geology, Archaeology, Botany, Soils and Hydrology, and Recreation/Social Science.

Read more about events in the BLM's event announcement.

You can also celebrate GSENM's 20th year with Wilderness Volunteers on our fall service project October 2-8th. Help remove invasive Russian Olive and Tamarisk from tributaries of the Escalante River and protect the beautiful and delicate riparian areas of the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

The non-native olive trees were originally planted to prevent erosion and stabilize soil but the trees have spread and in Utah they have colonized entire riverways, crowding out native vegetation, lowering the temperatures of the Escalante River, and making the riverway impassable to wildlife and hikers alike.

Project participants will likely car camp in a remote setting (or a designated campground close to the project area) and hike to the project site each day.

You can find out more about the project and apply to volunteer on it here.

Have you done a WV project in the Grand Staircase-Escalante? 
Do you have a favorite hike in the GSENM? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Lamzac Lounge Chairs

If you are wishing your camp chair was a little more comfortable you might want to check out the new Lamzac Hangout chair.
Made from ripstop nylon they set up in just a few seconds. Take down is just as easy and the sacks are designed to fold up compactly. A cross between a beanbag chair, a hammock and a air mattress they are designed to hold up to 440 pounds so you can share your newfound comfort with a friend or two.

At 2.6 pounds the chair is a bit on the heavy side for backpacking trips where weight is a consideration but for car camping it could be a great addition. The ripstop nylon construction is resistant to rips and tears but probably shouldn't be used near campfires as an errant ember could easily deflate your chair and patching the hole could be tricky.

The chair is being sold soon by the Dutch company Fatboy USA. They will come in six different colors; you can find out more about them here.

Do you have one? Have you field tested it? Please let us know what you thought in the comments below.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Project Spotlight: Yosemite National Park

Combing the meadows
Yosemite National Park stretches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, spanning nearly 1,200 square miles. Our nation's third national park, Yosemite is widely known for its magnificent rock formations, grassy meadows, crystal-clear streams, majestic waterfalls, rushing rivers, ancient giant sequoia trees, and abundant wildlife.

Over 90% of the park is designated as wilderness, providing a phenomenal variety of growing conditions and habitat for more than 1,450 native plant species.

Our ninth year service project will take place June 5-11, 2016 in the beautiful Hetch Hetchy section of the park. Carved by glaciers and drained by the Tuolumne river, the Hetch Hetchy Valley lies in the northwestern part of Yosemite National Park and contains some of the tallest waterfalls in North America: Wapama Falls, at 1,700 ft (520 m), and Tueeulala Falls, at 840 ft (260 m).

Western Salsify
Our continuing project in Yosemite is removal of several species of invasive weeds such as wooly mullein, bull thistle and western salsify. These invasive plants have the potential to rapidly displace native plants, alter fire regimes, and/or significantly alter ecosystem structure or function.

Common mullein
Because of the complex ecological relationships among native organisms, impacts to native plant communities can negatively affect associated wildlife throughout Yosemite. Invasive plants are prioritized for control based upon the threat they pose and the park's capabilities for successful control. Find out more about non-native species in Yosemite and what you can do to help here.

Project participants will hike in approximately 6.5 miles around the northern shore of the Hetch Hetchy reservoir to Rancheria Falls and set up a basecamp. The hike in is a scenic treat with a modest elevation gain that includes hiking over a dam, through a short tunnel, across a few foot bridges, under some spectacular waterfalls, and maybe even a mist rainbow or two.

Hiking along the reservoir

Wapama Falls
A refreshing mist rainbow
A visitor in camp
From our basecamp we will hike approximately 3 miles to and from grassy meadows in the area each day to work. We'll also likely conduct a day of campsite restoration in the backpackers camp ground at Rancheria Falls. The Park Service will provide pack support to carry the tools, food and commissary gear to camp.

Weed warriors!
Come spend a week in beautiful Yosemite National Park and give something back to our nation's wild lands with Wilderness Volunteers! You can get more information and register for our Yosemite project here. For information about our other 2016 projects visit our website. See more great photos from previous WV Yosemite service projects over at the WV Photo Gallery.

Hiking to work