On Wednesday, March 21, a group of TireBuyer employees gathered at a trailhead parking lot in Issaquah, Washington. Our mission for the day: To help King County and the Washington Trails Association (WTA) with maintenance on the Grand Ridge Trail, a seven-mile trail that wanders through 1,200 acres in an area known locally as the “Issaquah Alps.” This trail and the surrounding Grand Ridge Park are the result of an agreement between King County and Port Blakely, a development company, to set aside four acres of park land for every acre of developed land in the Issaquah Highlands.
Our TireBuyer crew was joined by employees from the WTA and King County, and an impressive group of WTA volunteers (more about them later!) who fitted us with some sweet hardhats, filled us in on the day’s activities, and gave us a “tool talk” – going through all the tools we’d use that day, as well as the dos and dont’s associated with each tool. Then we packed up our backpacks and all the tools, and headed out on a hike down to the part of the trail where we’d be spending the day.
We split up into three groups, each under the supervision of WTA volunteers, and got to work. One group spent the morning digging drainage ditches, so rain will drain off properly instead of eroding the trail. Some of the soil that crew dug up was transported down the trail, where the second group used it to improve the trail. The third group improved the trail surface, replanted the edges of the trail, and cleared out drainage areas. The Grand Ridge Trail is a multi-use trail, frequented by hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers, so the WTA takes all these users and their various needs into careful consideration when working on the trails.
At lunchtime, we gathered on a long wooden bridge (built by WTA volunteers) to rest, eat, and talk. After lunch, it was back to work: Some of us dug more drainage ditches, some leveled other sections of the trail, and others replanted the beautiful Sword Ferns we’d displaced while digging earlier in the day – trailscaping! Eventually it was time to wrap up the workday, so we packed up our tools and hiked back out to the parking lot.
Now, let’s talk about those WTA volunteers for a second. We were lucky enough to spend the day with a truly amazing group of people, all retirees, who impressed and inspired us with their dedication, skill, and stamina. By the end of the day it’s safe to say that all of us from TireBuyer were tired and sore, but these folks were still going strong. We were particularly inspired by Pete, an 88-year old volunteer crew chief and retired attorney who’s racked up 1,850 days of work with the WTA over the past twenty years. We did the math – that’s more than 92 days of volunteering every year for 20 years! And it wasn’t just Pete. All the volunteers we worked with have spent many, many long days helping to keep trails all over Washington in fantastic condition, and open to everyone who wants to use them. We are truly in awe of their dedication and commitment. (Also, we’re pretty sure they showed us where to find the fountain of youth – on our state’s lovely trails.)
Here are a few thoughts from our team about the day:
“I loved reconnecting with nature and being in a new environment for the day. Being more in the body rather than the mind. I will never look at a trail the same way ever again. It might be naive, but I used to think that nature was finding its way and really creating the paths. After Wednesday, I look at how the drainage that we created will help nature and the people using the trail over time.”
“What a great team event to do something for our community! Pretty cool to look at an area full of ferns and stumps, and two hours later, you’ve groomed this great drainage ditch, re-landscaped the ferns and made a difference. Our trails are beautiful in Washington, it feels great to volunteer and do something to contribute to our beautiful state.”
“I worked with Pat, who has been volunteering with WTA for the last 20+ years. It was a very refreshing and rewarding experience. This was my first time working on a trail and I will never look at any trail the same way ever. ”
“Rob and I worked with Bob, a 68-year-old retired Boeing engineer. Three years ago he hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail in five months, and now he volunteers six days a week for the WTA doing trail work.”
(Note: The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,600+ mile trail that spans from the U.S. border with Mexico to the U.S. border with Canada. Through-hiking this trail is an incredible achievement at any age!)
“Travis, Bob and I worked mostly on a bend in the trail three miles in. We leveled two sections, re-built some drains and then restored some natural ferns to the bend. Bob probably did twice as much work as we did.”
Many of us are already looking forward to our next WTA volunteering adventure – just five volunteer workdays and you earn your very own hardhat!