To say that Wilderness Volunteers had a great year would be an understatement. WV completed forty-seven projects with a total of 529 participants. Some of WV’s accomplishments include the maintenance of seventy-one miles of trails, the construction of seven miles of new trails, the building of 166 waterbars of various constructions, the building of eighty check dams, and improving thirteen more.

WV participants did much more as well, removing three hundred trees from trails, closing five miles of trails and one mile of road, removing five miles of fencing, 153 illegal fire rings, sixty-three illegal campsites, and 61,000 invasive weeds (some of them tree-sized). Participants also placed one mile of fencing, restored seventy-five campsites, surveyed thirteen square miles of area for weeds, completed two miles of archaeological survey, and planted 7,403 plants. And this still isn’t everything; there was salmon and sea turtle habitat restoration and much more. Now that’s a year of which we can all be proud!

Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds participated in 2010—to Alaska and Florida, Hawaii and Maine and places in between. Some traveled to experience the tranquility and solitude of wilderness; some to make new friends. Whatever their reasons, all these volunteers came to give something back to one of our country’s precious national forests or parks. The description below, composed by a first-timer, demonstrates the amazing diversity of goals and experiences people bring to Wilderness Volunteers trips. Enjoy!

By Jacque Phillips

My 20-year-old niece and I participated in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness project during the last week of July. It was a week of connections. Connections to a group of people we had never met. Connections to the mountains we had never seen. Connections to the trail for which we were responsible. And, for us, the most important connection of all.

We were not “real” campers like other group members. We liked the hard work but not the hard ground. We did not have cool gear but instead had whatever we had borrowed from friends and bought from Goodwill. Yet while we laid in our flooded tent and missed our morning lattes, we connected. We connected through laughter—the kind of laughter that we can’t stop. Laughter because it has rained for hours and we’re laying in a mud puddle and we have to go to the bathroom. Laughter because we can’t sleep and we’re worried that our laughter will wake up the cool people on our trip.

We connected through powerful conversations on the trail while we worked and while we took breaks. Those were the conversations we needed to have. Those were the conversations we came for. My only nephew died when he was eighteen. He spent the final summer of his life working on trails in those same mountains. And so of all the connections during the trip, the most important one was with him.