Thursday, November 15, 2018

DIY Series: Wine Box Handwashing Bag

In a group camping/backpacking situation handwashing is one of the most important ways we can keep from getting sick (or from spreading germs to others). It can be difficult though when you have to get some extra water and take the water/soap 200ft away from water sources. Making it easy and accessible makes people much more likely to wash their hands more often and help keep your group healthy and happy.

Wilderness Volunteers Leader Karen Peters recently brought a handwashing bag she made herself on a service project in the Superstition Mountains. We were so impressed with her bag that we asked her to share her technique with everyone!

"I love having hand washing bags set up near the kitchen and near the latrine and have had success with this DIY bag.

STEP 1: Drink a large box of wine. (Or have friends help you drink a large box of wine.)
Remove the bag. Snip off the corner opposite the spigot.

STEP 2. Use duct tape to secure the inner liner to the outer plastic bag.

STEP 3. Purchase 16 inches of nylon or other sturdy, quick dry fabric. The fabric I bought was wide enough for two bags. First use a zig zag stitch to reinforce the opening that you will use for the spigot. Next sew the edges to make an envelope to hold the bag.

STEP 4. Sew a casing for the string that you will use to hang it up on the corner opposite the spigot hole. I used a light line that I also use for hanging laundry.

STEP 5. Your completed bag should look like this

STEP 6. Stuff the plastic wine bladder into the bag. Secure the plastic with a binder clip.

STEP 7. Poke the wine spigot through the hole you created in the nylon bag. I like the twist knobs, rather than the plunger, as I think they are easier to use with wet hands.

STEP 8. Hang your completed bag on a tree, fence post.

I also like to teach people to wash their hands to a song, happy birthday or jeopardy. One recent participant told me that the jeopardy song is really long when the air is only 30 degrees!"

Karen Peters
Wilderness Volunteers Leader

Friday, November 02, 2018

Announcing the 2018 Photo Contest

The 2018 season is nearly over and it's time again to 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 clicking on the following links and uploading your selections to the WV SmugMug gallery in these categories:
Please be sure to add your name and the project name to the file name of each photo before uploading them. (eg. NorthcuttLyeBrook.jpg)

To view entries so far go to: and click on the desired category.

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 2019 project season
Best Landscape:
  • Patagonia Provisions Sampler donated by Patagonia
  • Coupon for 23% off one REI Co-op Brand Item or REI Putdoor School Class donated by REI  
  • REI Gift Certificate for $10 donated by Liz Lemon
  • Miir 16 oz vacuum insulated stainless steel food canister donated by Patagonia Provisions   
Best Wildlife:
  • Backpacker's Pantry Sampler donated by Backpacker's Pantry 
  • Coupon for 23% off one REI Co-op Brand Item or REI Putdoor School Class donated by REI
  • REI Gift Certificate for $10 donated by Liz Lemon
  • Open Country 12-cup aluminum Camp Perk

Best On the Trail:
  • Patagonia Provisions Sampler donated by Patagonia
  • Coupon for 23% off one REI Co-op Brand Item or REI Putdoor School Class donated by REI
  • REI Gift Certificate for $10 donated by Liz Lemon
  • Wilderness Volunteers Klean Kanteen    

Best Hard At Work:
  • Backpacker's Pantry Sampler donated by Backpacker's Pantry 
  • Coupon for 23% off one REI Co-op Brand Item or REI Putdoor School Class donated by REI  
  • REI Gift Certificate for $10 donated by Liz Lemon
  • Open Country 12-cup aluminum Camp Perk

You can enter as many photos as you like, just be sure to do so before the deadline on December 15th! 

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


Official Contest Rules:
  • All photos must be taken on a 2018 Wilderness Volunteers Project and subject matter 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 2018 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 UTC on by Saturday, December 15th, 2018 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.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

20 Years in the Making: Restoring the Escalante River

Project photo

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light green/ silvery leaves
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yellowish olive-shaped fruit
Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is a perennial tree or shrub with light green/silvery leaves that can grow to 30+ feet tall and bears yellowish, olive-shaped fruit. The young trunks and branches of Russian Olive have large 1 to 2 inch thorns. Native to southern Europe and to central and western Asia,  Russian Olive was introduced to the central and western United States in the early 1900's as a horticultural plant. It was cultivated as a hedge, to provide shade and windbreaks, and as a landscape plant for decades and can still be found at plant nurseries throughout the southwest.
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Russian Olive.jpg
yellow 4-lobed flowers
Since its introduction Russian Olive (RO to weed warriors) has escaped into the rivers and canyons of the southwest where it has become a serious threat to the native plants and animals. Thick stands of Russian Olive crowd the river banks, narrowing the river channel, trapping sediment and changing the water temperature and chemistry, and shading/crowding out native river plants. Fragrant willows, magestic cottonwoods and other native woody shrubs and trees that provide critical shelter, food and habitat to migrant birds, nesting waterfowl, deer, and elk disappear from the river banks as the Russian Olive moves in.


Escalante River just above the ‘Twin Canyons’ between Harris Wash and Choprock
(left\before)    April 30, 1991 — No Russian Olive present. Photo: Bill Wolverton 
(right\after)   April 28, 2010 — 19 years later overrun with Russian Olive. Photo: Bill Wolverton

dani-escalante-23Wilderness Volunteers has been actively working to restore southern Utah's magnificent Escalante River corridor since 1998 by fielding multiple Russian Olive removal projects each year. We've coordinated over 58 week-long volunteer service projects over the last 20 years in cooperation with the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (downstream), Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (upstream), the Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, and the Escalante River Watershed Partnership (ERWP).

The Escalante River runs approximately 90 miles from where the river forms at the merging of the Upper Valley and Birch Creeks to the southeast where it flows into Lake Powell. Volunteers have hiked countless miles into the far reaches of the Escalante to remove Russian Olive. They've used saws, loppers and other small hand tools to cut small RO trees and treated the stumps with herbicide to finish the job. Larger trees were trimmed back, girdled (the bark is removed from the entire circumference of the trunk), and herbicide applied to the cut. Larger RO are often girdled and left standing to minimize the amount of debris on the ground. These trees die and and eventually fall down and are washed out with natural flood activity. 

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Escalante Apr 2011 - 10PA020021


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Just across the river from Choprock Canyon
(left\before)    August 28, 2009 — Photo: Bill Wolverton
(right\after)   May 5, 2010 — Photo: Bill Wolverton
0.25 miles above Choprock Canyon
(left\before)    August 29, 2009 — Photo: Bill Wolverton
(right\after)   October 16, 2010 — Photo: Bill Wolverton
As of late 2017, over 84 miles of the 90 mile river corridor had been cleared from the reservoir up and the prediction is that all 90 miles will have been treated by the end of 2018. This isn't the end of our Russian Olive removal efforts in the Escalante (as some areas will need retreatment) but it is an incredible milestone for a massive restoration undertaking that many didn't think was feasible when removal effort first began.

Thank you to all of the dedicated volunteers, public land agency staff, and tireless weed warriors who have made this possible. 

"Off in the east an isolated storm is boiling over the desert, a mass of lavender clouds bombarding the earth with lightning and trailing curtains of rain. The distance is so great that I cannot hear the thunder. Between here and there and me and the mountains it’s the canyon wilderness, the hoodoo land of spire and pillar and pinnacle where no man lives, and where the river flows, unseen, through the blue-black trenches in the rock."
-Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire


Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners
 Escalante River Watershed Partnership 
Tom Haberle
Jim Bowman
Amber Hughes
John Sherman
Deborah Northcutt
Bill Sheppard
Carleton Sheppard
Dave Pacheco
Misha Kokotovic
Bill Olmstead
Dan Stevens
Dudley McIlhenny
Curt Mobley
Steve Cole
Robin Rose
Brian Bondy
Jen Jackson-Quintano
Jane Butter
Stephanie Flores
Cass Hopkinson
Brian Miller
Henry Whiteside
Jeff Moorehead
John McLean
Caroline Williams
Tony Zimmer
Chris Riccardo
Don Meaders
Edward Hill
Kathryne Zaborowski
Aaron Crosby
Bill Goolsby

Thursday, September 06, 2018

INTERN BLOG SERIES: No Country for the Uncertain

No Country for the Uncertain
                               by Mary Sanders

views from camp
Our group, tired and focusing heavily on the warm food in front of us, ate dinner quietly, enjoying the remaining hours of sun. It was day four of our project. Dinner was pasta, accompanied by the garlic knots I was assigned to make. Reminder, this is intern that is trying to get as much backcountry cooking experience as possible, there was a lot of effort that went into those knots. A group member was kind enough to compliment my work, and jokingly I responded “at least I did one thing right”. A lot of people laughed. One of the volunteers, Melissa, was not going to let that one fly though. She turned to me and corrected me for undercutting myself. It may seem so small, garlic knots for god sake, but all too often people, especially young women, as Melissa pointed out, brush off their abilities. It took only that moment for there to be a huge realization on my part. Here the group was, in one of the best scenarios to build on skill sets and confidence, as anyone in the backcountry has. It was time to take advantage of it.
the hard hats and rain boots we brought in
the group loading up the truck on day one
This was my very first Wilderness Volunteer Project, and second time backpacking, so to say the least there was a lot to learn. Being in a place like the Never Summer Wilderness, an environment so unfamiliar, a lot can happen. Moments like carrying a heavy cooler across a river on a narrow log, learning how to use a WhisperLite stove, and trying to convince myself the moose outside my tent isn’t going to kill me, were all major points, personally, during that week. The backcountry does not allow questioning of self. It doesn't have time for frustration, selfishness, pride. It’s basically where the seven deadly sins go to die. Quite frankly, I worked hard to adjust, but what was almost more important, was to realize how much progress I was making through the week. It was apparent from Melissa’s comment that there was still some work to be done in that department.

volunteer Melissa working at crossing #2
 leaders Ben and Laura resting on a stringer
It wasn’t just the intern. Everyone in that pack of seven volunteers, and one forest ranger, got to grow a little. Each day members were checking up on one another more, not being so eager to be the first one served at dinner, and seeking out ways to help during down time. The communication got better too. Before picking up a log, there’d be greater clarification of where exactly it needed to be moved, and if the footing was good enough. There was also noticing that a volunteer’s mood was more of a reflection that it was day six on the project, than anything else. This seems to be the way of the backcountry. It doesn’t bring out the best in everyone necessarily, but it can. Because of the challenge, the fact that these individuals get put in such a foreign environment, the superhuman side sometimes makes an appearance.

 Trees plowed down from a previous avalanche, located near the worksite
That’s where the importance of Melissa’s comment comes in. It’s the acknowledgement of the accomplishment, the growth, that is so important. If I’d continued to undercut myself, as I was trying to learn and get comfortable with the work, well it’s like the saying: one step forward, two steps back. The volunteers give so much to the land during a weeklong project, but what might not be recognized, is how much the land gives in return. Would I say I’m a completely different person after returning from the trip? Of course not. Yet, I’m definitely more confident to take on the upcoming project challenges.

Mary is a sophomore at Michigan State University and is the Wilderness Volunteers 2018 Intern. Stay tuned for more blogs about her summer experiences on WV projects!