“Put the cut pieces uphill. People walking down paths tend to look downhill,” says the sage leader of more than approximately 75 Wilderness Volunteers service projects.
While we are brushing trail in the middle of a wilderness area, Bill Sheppard makes it clear that we need to make sure it looks as natural as possible. That means carefully hiding our slash piles up the hill from the trail, not below the trail. Not in the line of sight of hikers and horse riders. Keep it as natural as possible.
Bill is meticulous about his placement of slash. Always uphill, always hidden from view.
And, he is someone whose advice should be followed.
Bill has led an impressive 110 or so service trips between WV and the Sierra Club since 1990 after having been a participant for six years. And then, in 1989 he was invited to the Sierra Club Midwest Subcommittee spring meeting, and was assigned to lead a second section of a full trip in late summer. It was a canoe service trip in the Sylvania Wilderness, located in the Superior National Forest in Michigan.
In all his years traveling around the country and lending a hand to various national parks, forests and wilderness areas, Bill has seen a myriad of our public lands. However, Bill, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, finds himself returning to his local favorite, Grand Canyon National Park. He also prefers leading trips that are within a day to a day-and-a-half drive from Flagstaff. Most of his most recent trips have been located in California, Arizona and New Mexico.
He has conducted nearly every type of trip imaginable, from building trails to eradicating invasive species, and most of them have been in the back country, where WV sometimes receives assistance from packers and their mules hauling in gear from the trailhead to the camp site. It lessens the weight on the packs for everyone, which makes an 11-mile hike into a site much more manageable.
“The packers always amaze me,” Sheppard stated. “They’re usually volunteers, and they really know how to load their stock with our food, kitchen equipment and tools. They make our work possible, and I’m always grateful for their service.”
It’s not only our national public lands that are on the receiving end of Bill’s selfless service. He volunteers for the City of Flagstaff one day a week, working a seven-hour shift doing graffiti abatement. And, he also conducts “unofficial litter pick-up hikes on trails in the forest near home several days a week,” which should come to no surprise to anyone who has ever crossed paths with Bill.
On his various service trips, Bill has enjoyed meeting and working with the volunteers who hail from across the country and sometimes from overseas. He says, “almost all the volunteers have been wonderful. They’re motivated, flexible, physically fit and good comrades.
“The hardest part of each trip was at the end of the week,” he added. “Saying goodbye to all my hard-working friends who had generously spent a week of their vacation time giving back to the wilderness. We always hope to keep in touch and maybe meet up again on another WV project.”
As for the details that go into getting ready to lead a trip, many leaders, especially new leaders, feel that putting together a menu is one of the most stressful parts of the trip planning. If people aren’t happy with the food, they might not have enough energy needed for the work to be done.
Bill is not one of those leaders.
After planning as many menus as he has, Bill has perfected the process. It is generally the same from trip to trip, although he still tweaks his lineup – adding one or two meals to change things up. For example, when leading his final Wilderness Volunteers trip in 2017, his menu featured a new dinner. He served up Thai food, which featured Tom Ka soup, Backpacker Pantry Pad Thai plus shrimp and spiked mandarins for dessert.
As he retires from leading service projects for Wilderness Volunteers, Bill has one last piece of advice.
“Be flexible, because our plans must sometimes change due to weather, wildfires, packer problems, etc.”
After all, there always is work to be done somewhere.