Monday, January 30, 2017

Preparing for your Volunteer Adventure: Fitness Tips for Service Projects

With our project season kick-off only a few weeks away, it is time to be preparing yourself for the physical challenge ahead! With many of the movements being vastly different from a normal day-to-day exercises, here are some tips on how to train for your specific project! While all of these exercises are generally more indoor-based, they can be modified to fit your outdoor lifestyle...just take your workout outside!

Invasive Species Removal Projects

These projects require that you are bent over for extended periods of time, and, depending on which invasive species, that you transport hefty loads of removed plants, use lopper's (not Cyndi, but the pruning/shearing type), or even small handsaws. If unprepared, this can be extremely difficult on your back, and biceps. Exercises to prepare for this sort of project include:
  • Core strengthening exercises like plank, side plank, crunches, and "bird dog" (to keep your back safe)
  • Push-ups and pull-ups (for pulling plants and using tools)
  • Bicep curls with weight (for lopping and handsawing)
  • Superman repetitions (for lower back strength)

Trail Maintenance Projects

These projects require that you are a jack of all trades; be prepared to be bending, lifting, digging, sawing, and hiking with a pack on your back all day. Naturally, this means you need to be in good shape all around. Here are a few of the exercises that will help prepare you for this:
  • Squats with or without weight (for lifting)
  • Bicep curls with weight (for lopping and handsawing)
  • Core strengthening exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and Russian twists (for crosscutting)
  • Cardio training like running, cycling, hiking, etc. (for long hikes and general endurance)
  • Hiking with a loaded pack (to prep your body for what is to come!)

Rock-work Intensive Projects

These require that you are lifting and transporting large and HEAVY rocks from possibly long distances! These projects also require that you have a massive amount of patience and attention to detail, so be sure to practice your rubix's cube (or any other perplexing puzzle) prior to the project.

  • Squats with or without weight (for lifting)
  • Bicep curls with weight (also for lifting)
  • Any and all core strengthening exercises like sit-ups, crunches, plank/side-plank, and "bird dog" (to keep your back safe/strong while lifting)
If you didn't get the general theme, you will be doing lots of lifting!

Crosscutting Intensive Projects

Crosscutting requires that your back, shoulders and biceps are fully prepared for an endurance workout! You will be using a non-mechanized cross-cut saw which
  • Rowing machine, or just rowing (for core endurance and strength in for crosscutting)
  • Core strengthening exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and Russian twists (for crosscutting)
  • Squats with or without weight (for lifting/moving large logs)

Projects with Long Backpacks

These projects will require that you are all around in good shape. Due to the nature of projects, you will be backpacking in with a large pack, then waking up the very next morning for a strenuous or challenging service project! To physically prepare for this sort of project you should be...
  • Hiking with a full pack (for practice, of course!)
  • Cardio training like running, cycling, hiking, etc. (for general endurance)
  • Squats with or without weight (for steep climbs with a weight on your back)
  • Stair-climbers (for endurance)

All Projects 

Every WV service project requires that you are in good shape and prepared for the work at hand. No matter what project you are working on, it is good to be active all winter long, be it in the form of hiking, running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or anything else that keeps you on your feet and prepared for unforeseen physical challenges!

If your project is at elevation, or an elevation foreign to you, prepare by traveling to that elevation a few weeks ahead of time for a weekend trip. If this is not an option for you, then show up to the project location 2-3 days ahead of time to allow your body time to adjust. Regardless, you should always prepare for elevation by drinking more water, getting adequate amounts of rest, taking it easy, and knowing the signs of altitude sickness.

If you have any other tips and tricks for preparing for projects and maintaining your fitness through the winter, please share in the comments below!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ten Wild Winter Reads to Prepare for Wild Summer Adventures

The best way to get through these short days and long nights of winter is to settle in with cozy blanket and a STACK of quality books. Learning more about the the philosophy of Wilderness, the meaning of Wilderness, and the natural world around you can heighten your experience, be it on a WV project, or out on your own adventures. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are ten of the best books to get you jazzed about being in the wilderness!

Desert Solitaire 

~ Edward Abbey

In his unique and captivating voice, Ed Abbey allows readers to fall in love with every aspect of our desolate southwest landscapes.
"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself." - Edward Abbey

The Abstract Wild 

~ Jack Turner

This book makes you ask the question of 'what is wild?' and more importantly, 'what wild is still left?'. With profound intellect, author Jack Turner delves into what he refers to as the ultimate endangered resource: wildness.
"Humans become foreigners to the wild, foreigners to an experience that once grounded their most sacred beliefs and values. In short, wilderness as relic leads to tourism, and tourism in the wilderness becomes the primary mode of experiencing a diminished wild." - Jack Turner

Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild 

~Ellen Meloy

Through her own eyes Ellen Meloy elegantly describes her year spent with a herd of desert Bighorn Sheep who she calls 'The Blue Door Band'. Meloys words allow for contempation of the relationship between animals and humans, going back to our roots of evolution.
"Each time I look into the eye of an animal...I find myself staring into a mirror of my own imagination. What I see there is deeply, crazily, unmercifully confused." - Ellen Meloy

A Sand County Almanac 

~ Aldo Leopold

A Sand County Almanac, a collection of Leopolds natural, crotchety, and lyrical writings, offers insight into the mind of a man who spent his life in some of the U.S.'s most stunning lands. This book is beloved by environmentalist and conservationists across the globe, and for good reason.
"One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise." - Aldo Leopold

Claiming Ground 

~ Laura Bell

Laura Bell recounts her journey from her home state of Kentucky to a wild life of sheep herding in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. Through her search for place, home, and adventure Bell perfectly describes the inexplicable beauty of hard labor and Western landscapes.

The Tree 

~ John Fowles

In one of his only nonfictional works, John Fowles intimately describes his perception on the relationship between nature and human creativity. In an autobiographical manner Fowles presents his compelling argument for keeping wild places wild.
"There is a spiritual corollary to the way we are currently deforesting and denaturing our planet. In the end what we must most defoliate and deprive is ourselves. We might as soon start collecting up the world’s poetry, every line and every copy, to burn it in a final pyre; and think we should lead richer and happier lives thereafter." - John Fowles

Into Thin Air 

~ John Krakauer

Most simply put, Into Thin Air is a mountaineers first hand account of the disastrous events of May 1996 on Mt. Everest. Krakauer delves into the dynamic of climbers on this mountain, where the key tool is money, rather than experience.
"...I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, it struck me that most of use were probably seeking, above else, something like a state of grace." - John Krakauer

A Walk in the Woods 

~ Bill Bryson

In Bryson's eclectic and entertaining voice, he takes you along the Appalachian Trail, describing human history, ecology, and the unique characters he encounters along the way. Bryson coaxes a face-consuming smile and many giggles from each of his adventures (and misadventures) on the trail.
"I wanted to quit and to do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again. All of this all at once, every moment, on the trail or off." - Bill Bryson


~ Henry David Thoreau

I find this quote to be Waldens' best advertisement. Do we not all aspire for this richness of life?
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived...I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion." - H.D. Thoreau

Wilderness and the American Mind 

~  Roderick Frazier Nash

Listed by Outside Magazine as one of the "books that changed our world", Wilderness and the American Mind describes the changing of attitudes and perceptions towards Wilderness in the United States. With the inclusion of the historical accounts of conservation and environmental movements, this book is one that will change the meaning of the word Wilderness for you. The newest edition includes a new preface, epilogue, and forward which place it in context with 21st century viewpoints.
"Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his own soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect setting for either melancholy or exultation." - Roderick Frazier Nash

Friday, January 06, 2017

Scholarship Opportunity

The Victor Nathan Siwa Memorial Scholarship

The Victor Nathan Siwa Memorial Scholarship helps young men and women get into the wilderness and give something back to our nation's public lands in memory of Victor Nathan Siwa. 

From a young age, Victor Nathan ‘Nate’ Siwa was a lover of the outdoors and was always willing to help others. His late father, Vic Siwa, spent a lot of time with his children on outdoor excursions including camping, fishing, & hunting. With this upbringing, Nate came to love and appreciate the outdoors. He taught others and found joy in showing them how to fish, hunt and connect with the environment through outdoor excursions with him. 

Nate had always planned to join a project that helped the environment, a project that fueled his passion to include others and help others to learn about the environment. The Wilderness Volunteers Victor Nathan Siwa Memorial Scholarship Fund is Nate’s family’s way of honoring his love for the environment and helping others. 


The scholarship is open to young men and women ages 16-30, and covers $199 (~67%) of the project fee. It does not cover transportation to or from the project. 

To Apply

If you would like to apply for the scholarship please write a short email/letter letting us know how the project would be meaningful to you and send it in to the office. Make sure to include your name, contact details, and the specific project(s) you are interested in. Scholarship recipients will be notified by phone/email. 

To Donate

If you would like to donate to the scholarship please write "In memory of Victor Nathan Siwa" in the comments field when making a donation. Your donation will go into the Scholarship Fund and be used to decrease project fee costs for eligible young men and women. 

The Fine Print

Please note the following:
  • Scholarship funds are limited and will be awarded to qualified applicants (WV reserves the right to review your application to ensure that the trip is appropriate for your level of fitness and experience) on a first -come, first-served basis.
  • Due to our cancellation policy scholarship awardees who cancel from a project will not receive a refund of their $100 portion of the project fee. Scholarship awardees may switch to another 2017 project that has available space at any time without penalty by notifying the WV Office. 
Questions? Email us at or call us at (928)255-1128.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

President Obama Designates Two New National Monuments

With just a few days left in 2016, President Obama designated two new national monuments, protecting over 1.6 million additional acres of our nation's public lands.
  • Bears Ears National Monument (named for two distinctive buttes that rise high above Cedar Mesa) covers 1.35 million acres in southern Utah.
  • Golden Butte National Monument protects over 300,000 acres in southern Nevada between the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead. 
Here are some select excerpts about Bears Ears, Golden Butte and the animals that call these beautiful places home from the Presidential proclamations protecting them:


"Rising from the center of the southeastern Utah landscape and visible from every direction are twin buttes so distinctive that in each of the native languages of the region their name is the same: Hoon'Naqvut, Shash Jáa, Kwiyagatu Nukavachi, Ansh An Lashokdiwe, or "Bears Ears." For hundreds of generations, native peoples lived in the surrounding deep sandstone canyons, desert mesas, and meadow mountaintops, which constitute one of the densest and most significant cultural landscapes in the United States. Abundant rock art, ancient cliff dwellings, ceremonial sites, and countless other artifacts provide an extraordinary archaeological and cultural record that is important to us all, but most notably the land is profoundly sacred to many Native American tribes, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah Ouray, Hopi Nation, and Zuni Tribe." 

"The area's human history is as vibrant and diverse as the ruggedly beautiful landscape. From the earliest occupation, native peoples left traces of their presence. Clovis people hunted among the cliffs and canyons of Cedar Mesa as early as 13,000 years ago, leaving behind tools and projectile points in places like the Lime Ridge Clovis Site, one of the oldest known archaeological sites in Utah. Archaeologists believe that these early people hunted mammoths, ground sloths, and other now-extinct megafauna, a narrative echoed by native creation stories. Hunters and gatherers continued to live in this region in the Archaic Period, with sites dating as far back as 8,500 years ago." 

"Tucked into winding canyons are vibrant riparian communities characterized by Fremont cottonwood, western sandbar willow, yellow willow, and box elder. Numerous seeps provide year-round water and support delicate hanging gardens, moisture-loving plants, and relict species such as Douglas fir. A few populations of the rare Kachina daisy, endemic to the Colorado Plateau, hide in shaded seeps and alcoves of the area's canyons. A genetically distinct population of Kachina daisy was also found on Elk Ridge. The alcove columbine and cave primrose, also regionally endemic, grow in seeps and hanging gardens in the Bears Ears landscape. Wildflowers such as beardtongue, evening primrose, aster, Indian paintbrush, yellow and purple beeflower, straight bladderpod, Durango tumble mustard, scarlet gilia, globe mallow, sand verbena, sego lily, cliffrose, sacred datura, monkey flower, sunflower, prince's plume, hedgehog cactus, and columbine, bring bursts of color to the landscape." 

"The diverse vegetation and topography of the Bears Ears area, in turn, support a variety of wildlife species. Mule deer and elk range on the mesas and near canyon heads, which provide crucial habitat for both species. The Cedar Mesa landscape is home to bighorn sheep which were once abundant but still live in Indian Creek, and in the canyons north of the San Juan River. Small mammals such as desert cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, prairie dog, Botta's pocket gopher, white-tailed antelope squirrel, Colorado chipmunk, canyon mouse, deer mouse, pinyon mouse, and desert woodrat, as well as Utah's only population of Abert's tassel-eared squirrels, find shelter and sustenance in the landscape's canyons and uplands. Rare shrews, including a variant of Merriam's shrew and the dwarf shrew can be found in this area." 

"Carnivores, including badger, coyote, striped skunk, ringtail, gray fox, bobcat, and the occasional mountain lion, all hunt here, while porcupines use their sharp quills and climbing abilities to escape these predators. Oral histories from the Ute describe the historic presence of bison, antelope, and abundant bighorn sheep, which are also depicted in ancient rock art. Black bear pass through the area but are rarely seen, though they are common in the oral histories and legends of this region, including those of the Navajo." 

"Consistent sources of water in a dry landscape draw diverse wildlife species to the area's riparian habitats, including an array of amphibian species such as tiger salamander, red-spotted toad, Woodhouse's toad, canyon tree frog, Great Basin spadefoot, and northern leopard frog. Even the most sharp-eyed visitors probably will not catch a glimpse of the secretive Utah night lizard. Other reptiles in the area include the sagebrush lizard, eastern fence lizard, tree lizard, side-blotched lizard, plateau striped whiptail, western rattlesnake, night snake, striped whipsnake, and gopher snake." 

"Raptors such as the golden eagle, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, northern harrier, northern goshawk, red-tailed hawk, ferruginous hawk, American kestrel, flammulated owl, and great horned owl hunt their prey on the mesa tops with deadly speed and accuracy. The largest contiguous critical habitat for the threatened Mexican spotted owl is on the Manti-La Sal National Forest. Other bird species found in the area include Merriam's turkey, Williamson's sapsucker, common nighthawk, white-throated swift, ash-throated flycatcher, violet-green swallow, cliff swallow, mourning dove, pinyon jay, sagebrush sparrow, canyon towhee, rock wren, sage thrasher, and the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher."

"As the skies darken in the evenings, visitors may catch a glimpse of some the area's at least 15 species of bats, including the big free-tailed bat, pallid bat, Townsend's big-eared bat, spotted bat, and silver-haired bat. Tinajas, rock depressions filled with rainwater, provide habitat for many specialized aquatic species, including pothole beetles and freshwater shrimp. Eucosma navajoensis, an endemic moth that has only been described near Valley of the Gods, is unique to this area. Protection of the Bears Ears area will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its 6 diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans."


"In southeast Nevada lies a landscape of contrast and transition, where dramatically chiseled red sandstone, twisting canyons, and tree-clad mountains punctuate flat stretches of the Mojave Desert. This remote and rugged desert landscape is known as Gold Butte.

The Gold Butte area contains an extraordinary variety of diverse and irreplaceable scientific, historic, and prehistoric resources, including vital plant and wildlife habitat, significant geological formations, rare fossils, important sites from the history of Native Americans, and remnants of our Western mining and ranching heritage. The landscape reveals a story of thousands of years of human interaction with this harsh environment and provides a rare glimpse into the lives of Nevada's first inhabitants, the rich and varied indigenous cultures that followed, and the eventual arrival of Euro-American settlers. Canyons and intricate rock formations are a stunning backdrop to the area's famously beautiful rock art, and the desert provides critical habitat for the threatened Mojave desert tortoise."

"The Gold Butte landscape that visitors experience today is the product of millions of years of heat and pressure as well as the eroding forces of water and wind that molded this vast and surreal desert terrain. Rising up from the Virgin River to an elevation of almost 8,000 feet, the Virgin Mountains delineate the area's northeast corner and provide a stunning backdrop for the rugged gray and red desert of the lower elevations. Faulted carbonate and silicate rock form the ridges and peaks of this range, which are regularly snow-covered in winter and spring, while the southern region of Gold Butte is laced with a series of wide granitic ridges and narrow canyons. These broad landscape features are dotted with fantastical geologic formations, including vividly hued Aztec Sandstone twisted into otherworldly shapes by wind and water, as well as pale, desolate granitic domes. An actively-expanding 1,200 square-meter sinkhole known as the Devil's Throat has been the subject of multiple scientific studies that have enhanced our understanding of sinkhole formation."

"The Gold Butte landscape is a mosaic of braided and shallow washes that flow into the Virgin River to the north and directly into Lake Mead on the south and west. Several natural springs provide important water sources for the plants and animals living here. The arid eastern Mojave Desert landscape that dominates the area is characterized by the creosote bush and white bursage vegetative community that covers large, open expanses scattered with low shrubs. Blackbrush scrub, a slow-growing species that can live up to 400 years, is abundant in middle elevations. Both creosote-bursage and blackbrush scrub vegetation communities can take decades or even centuries to recover from disturbances due to the long-lived nature of the plant species in these vegetative communities and the area's low rainfall. These vegetation communities are impacted by human uses, invasive species, wildfires, and changing climates. Gypsum deposits are a distinctive aspect of the Mojave Desert ecosystem and result in soil that contains physical and chemical properties that stress many plants, but also support endemic and rare species. For example, the sticky ringstem, Las Vegas buckwheat, and Las Vegas bearpoppy are unique plants that rely on gypsum soil; the populations in Gold Butte are some of only a handful of isolated populations of these species left in the world. Other rare plants in Gold Butte include the threecorner milkvetch and sticky wild buckwheat, which are sand-dependent species, as well as the Rosy two-tone beardtongue and the Mokiak milkvetch. Scattered stands of Joshua trees, an emblem of the Mojave Desert, dot the landscape along with Mojave yucca, cacti species, and chaparral species, among others."

"The often snowcapped peaks of the Virgin Mountains in the northeastern corner of Gold Butte stand in stark contrast to the desolate desert landscapes found elsewhere in the area. Due to their elevation of almost 8,000 feet, these mountains exhibit a transition between ecosystems in the southwest. At the highest points of the Virgin Mountains, visitors can hike through Ponderosa pine and white fir forests, and visit the southernmost stand of Douglas fir in Nevada. In this area, visitors are also treated to a rare sight: the Silver State's only stand of the Arizona cypress. The lower to middle elevations of the area are home to stands of pinyon pine, Utah juniper, sagebrush, and acacia woodlands, along with occasional mesquite stands. By adding structural complexity to a shrub-dominated landscape, these woodlands provide important breeding, foraging, and resting places for a variety of creatures, including birds and insects, and support a number of plant species."

"Gold Butte also provides habitat for a number of wildlife species. It has been designated as critical habitat for the Mojave desert tortoise, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. These slow-footed symbols of the American Southwest rely on the creosote-bursage ecosystem that is widespread here. A generally reclusive reptile, the Mojave desert tortoise uses the protective cover of underground burrows to escape extreme desert conditions and as shelter from predators."

"Other amphibians and reptiles also make their homes in Gold Butte. For example, once considered extinct and now a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, the relict leopard frog has been released into spring sites in the area in a collaborative effort by local, State, and Federal entities to help revive this still very small population. The banded Gila monster, the only venomous lizard in the United States, has also been recorded in Gold Butte. Many other reptile species -- including the banded gecko, California kingsnake, desert iguana, desert night lizard, glossy snake, Great Basin collared lizard, Mojave green rattlesnake, sidewinder, Sonoran lyre snake, southern desert horned lizard, speckled rattlesnake, western leaf-nosed snake, western long-nosed snake, and western red-tailed skink -- also have populations or potential habitats in the area."

"The Gold Butte area serves as an effective corridor between Lake Mead and the Virgin Mountains for large mammals, including desert bighorn sheep and mountain lions. Smaller mammals in Gold Butte include white-tailed antelope squirrel, desert kangaroo rat, and the desert pocket mouse. Several species of bat, including the Pallid bat, Allen's big-eared bat, western pipistrelle bat, and the Brazilian free-tailed bat, are also found here, as well as the northern Mojave blue butterfly."

"Bald and golden eagles, red-tailed and Cooper's hawks, peregrine falcons, and white-throated swifts soar above Gold Butte. Closer to the ground, one can spot a variety of birds, including the western burrowing owl, common poorwill, Costa's hummingbird, pinyon jay, Bendire's thrasher, Virginia's warbler, Lucy's warbler, black-chinned sparrow, and gray vireo. Migratory birds, including the Calliope hummingbird, gray flycatcher, sage sparrow, lesser nighthawk, ash-throated flycatcher, and the Brewer's sparrow, also make stop-overs in the area. These birds, and a variety of other avian species, use the diversity of habitats in the area to meet many of their seasonal, migratory, or year-round life cycle needs."

 Golden Butte National Monument (BLM)

Bureau of Land Management Flickr Page

You can read the rest of the Presidential proclamation protecting Golden Buttes here.