Meet the Trail Community: Volunteer
Three years ago, Bev Stoll joined her first work party at Mount Walker. Now, with 95 days of volunteer trail work under her boots, we ask her what she thinks is the future of volunteers on trails.
For WTA's 50th Anniversary, we're highlighting trail users across Washington state. Hear what hiking means to them, and the future of their on-trail pursuits.
Bev Stoll grew up loving the outdoors—her family spent lots of time outside, including a seven year stint in Alaska—a haven for outdoorsy types. When she reflects on her childhood, she believes that time spent outside impressed a love of the outdoors on her personality.
“I have always had a love of being in the woods because of the time my family spent outside.”
Passing on a passion for nature
After she married and had kids, Bev and her husband passed that love for the outdoors onto their children. While they lived in Lynnwood for their veterinary surgical referral practice, they tried as often as possible to take their three kids to a cabin they owned on Lake Leland near Quilcene.
“I really wanted my kids to learn to enjoy the outdoors and so we got into backpacking and hiking.”
They succeeded, though at first her daughter was reluctant.
“I can remember when she would stand in the middle of the trail, stomp her foot and shout she was not going any further." Bev laughs. "Now she has environmental science degrees and spends a lot of time in the field. That turnaround has been just amazing to see.”
But it was her youngest son who provided Bev her introduction to WTA.
“He did a Youth Volunteer Vacation when they were very new, and said he had the most amazing experience. He bonded with the other volunteers and his crew finished the Greg Ball Trail at Wallace Falls State Park.”
Discovering an opportunity to give back
When researching for her son’s trip, Bev looked at the WTA website and was intrigued by the work parties listed there. But between balancing work and raising her kids, she thought, ‘Who would ever do a crazy thing like that?’
That changed when she and met Bonnie and Bob McDaniel in the Quilcene book club. Bonnie convinced her to go on her first work party, held on an early February morning at Mount Walker.
“They had done WTA work parties and I told her, ‘I don’t know if I can do that.’ I think a lot of people think that at first. But Bonnie said, ‘Yes you can.’ So I went, and it just so happened that Janice O’Connor and Mace (Mason) White were there.”
Like many other volunteers, the two crew leaders have infectious energy, and warmly welcome new volunteers. After that first outing at Mount Walker, Bev took the plunge with a Backcountry Response Team (BCRT) trip to the South Fork Skokomish.
“Janice got me to come on my very first trip Women’s BCRT. It rained solid for four days, and I was soaked the whole time. But I came back because the women I met on it were amazing. I couldn’t believe I came back—I was so miserable and wet during it. But the work parties are always so much fun, and you meet the most amazing people. So I came back, but I started with day work parties with Charlie.”
The soggy overnighter on the Skokomish River didn’t scare her away. Since her first work parties, she’s logged 95 days on trail, including 17 BCRTs and 3 Volunteer Vacations. The other volunteers provide great company, and the work rewarding.
Her kids are impressed by her accomplishments, too. Her oldest son, a climber and mountain biker, recently worked with Department of Natural Resources to re-establish a lost trail to a favored climbing area, and afterwards, he had new appreciation for what Bev does on trail.
“I was talking to him after he finished his project, and he said, “Wow, Mom, I know what you do now, and it’s a lot of work.”
Finding an amazing community
Bev does all that hard work based out of the little cabin at Lake Leland now. She retired three years ago, moving away from the bustle of Lynnwood to the quiet of the Olympic Peninsula. She thinks that the work volunteers do to keep trails open is important for anyone looking for a bit of peace and quiet—a respite from the world. But she’d like to see sufficient public lands funding going towards that work, too.
“It’s so important to give people a place to go, give them someplace to get away from the craziness and reestablish their sanity. But, I feel strongly that our tax dollars should be doing this if they’re doing anything. I think volunteers should do a moderate amount, but I don’t want us to step up and step up until we’re doing it all, because then there’s not going to be a motivation to properly fund the work these places need."
“But I’m also concerned that the roads are all getting into disrepair. Maybe if the money was spent on improving roads so volunteers can get to trails to repair them, maybe that would work.”
All this Bev shares with me as we took a break from sharpening tools in another WTA volunteer’s spacious garage. The tool sharpening event was the first of its kind on the Olympic Peninsula. Before this year, one volunteer, Jim Scrafford, sharpened all of the tools for the year himself. There were 15 people on hand, making short work of the nearly 60 tools that needed sharpening. Jokes, handshakes and hugs were the main form of greeting that morning; it’s clear the community of volunteers is close friends. And that’s the final thing that Bev cites as the reason she keeps coming back.
“I am meeting all these people I have social connections with. I go hiking and backpacking with them, and I do citizen science surveys. And its through WTA that I’ve made every one of these connections. And that’s really a benefit for me—you meet and become friends with such great people.”
Want to join WTA on a work party of your own? Find the best one for you at wta.org/volunteer.