WTA's Pro Crew Finishes up Incredible Season
After 71 days and 4,243 hours of trail maintenance, WTA's first backcountry pro crew is wrapping up their packed season of trail work within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest!
After 71 days and 4,243 hours of trail maintenance, WTA's first backcountry pro crew is wrapping up their packed summer season of trail work within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest!
This six-person crew was the first of its kind for WTA — as a paid trail crew, they were able to spend longer stretches in backcountry locations and focus on areas that are often harder-to-reach during our volunteer trips. The crew worked throughout the forest on trails around the Entiat River Valley, the incredible Cathedral Lakes Loop in the Pasayten, a section of the iconic Pacific Crest Trail and Indian Creek.
These trails are a priority of our Lost Trails Found campaign, which works to keep backcountry trails on the map for generations to come. Due to environmental impacts and a lack of land manager budget, many of these remote trails had fallen into disrepair — succumbing to wildfire, washouts or overgrowth that negatively impacted hiker access. Our crew was tasked with resurrecting some of these remote routes that had been lost to time.
A season of work
In the Entiat, the crew touched on almost every trail throughout the river valley, and even some access points coming in from Lake Chelan. Much of their work took place throughout burn zones from 2015's Wolverine fire and previous fires, which meant extensive saw work and bits of tread repair. The crew cleared over 230 logs on the Entiat River Trail — the 15 mile backbone of the valley — and hundreds more on the spur trails that lead off of it.
In the Pasayten Wilderness, which remains a priority area for out Lost Trails Found campaign, the pro crew finished up lingering maintenance along the Cathedral Lakes Loop, which had received 5 weeks of brushing from our Lost Trails Found Youth Crew back in 2019. The pro crew spent 8 days backpacking the 44-mile loop with tools in tow and cleared out every single fallen tree from their path — a whopping 447. This scenic backpacking loop is a favorite for backpackers, but also a key access point to the Boundary Trail/Pacific Northwest Trail that runs the length of the Wilderness.
Along the Pacific Crest Trail, the crew had a chance to leave the saws behind as they focused on nearly 1000 feet of new trail construction near the popular Snowy Lakes. An section of old trail had become severely deteriorated, and Forest Service crews had been working on a new access route over the past couple of seasons. Our pro crew was able to finish up this work, decommission the remainder of the old route and even had time to install and seven new rock stairs and 18 erosion control features.
Capping off their season, the pro crew spent 15 days along Indian Creek just south of Glacier Peak. This trail serves as an access point to the Pacific Crest Trail and a necessary piece of the 90+ mile Glacier Peak circumnavigation. Many backpackers list this trail among the hardest section of the loop — not because of the grade or length, but because of the sheer volume of brush taking over the trail. The crew focused extensively on relieving this issue — brushing over 5 miles of completely overgrown trail along with some tread restoration and realignment, drain clearing and log removal.
Looking toward the future
The amount of work accomplished by this small-yet-mighty six-person crew in just one season will make an immense difference for hikers visiting these backcountry destinations. A huge thank you to each and every crew member — crew leader Zachary Toliver, assistant crew leader Kathryn Conley, and crew members Anna Pree, Blake Harmon, Ginevra Moore and Zachary Sklar (along with several other WTA staff guest stars). We are also thankful for our partners at the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest who worked with us to bring this pro crew to life.
"The work the WTA trails crews put in this summer leaves me almost speechless," said Jeffrey Arndt of the Entiat River Ranger District. "The accomplishments they made were something I never thought I would see in the last five years I’ve been on the Entiat Ranger District. They were an integral part in regaining access to trails in the wilderness that have been covered with thousands of down logs for six years plus. From regaining access to the Headwall to Ice Lakes and even the Larch Lakes loop is something truly amazing."
Funding for this crew was made possible by the Region 6 Forest Service and the Great American Outdoors Act — which was passed in part through hiker advocacy. This historic public lands funding bill is making a noticeable difference for trails right here in Washington!
Thanks to the success of our pilot crew, we look forward to continuing our pro crew model for another season in 2022 and restoring access to even more backcountry locations. Keep updated about our 2022 crew and learn more about all of our lost trails work at wta.org/losttrails.