Public Lands Stewards: The Quick and Dirty

by | Land Stewards


The first time I crossed over Highway 20 and into the Methow Valley I was in a strangers truck hitchhiking from Bellingham, WA to Glacier National Park. Our driver pulled off the road at Washington Pass where Liberty Bell, Early Winters Spires and the Needles form a striking crown of jagged peaks. “Whoa!” Five years later I found myself standing in the same place but as a different person. Reflecting on everything that had happened since my first visit I thought to myself, “this is probably the origin of all my adventures, and now it’s my home”.


So what’s it like? you ask, well I present to thee my quick and dirty guide to being a ranger in the Pasayten and the Lake Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness.


Lets talk about duties: “So what exactly do you do?” Um, well a lot of things really…With over 700,000 acres of wilderness, and thousands of miles of trail to patrol, there’s quite a lot of work to be done.

The Cleanup:

Our first priority this season has been opening trails. Fires are certainly the reality up here, and the trails we have that have burned over resemble more of a dusty jungle gym than an actual footpath. Whether I’m solo or on hitch with the trail crew I’m always carrying a saw to clear the way for hikers and stock animals. Sadly the other part of the cleanup involves picking up after other hikers, cleaning aluminum foil and burnt plastic out of fire pits, picking toilet paper off flowers, and beer cans out of bushes.


Public Outreach:

A large part of my job is simply talking to people I meet while on the trail. Spreading the message of Leave No Trace to hikers and campers. Trying to mitigate the impacts that hikers have on the wilderness while staying friendly and approachable. Making note of which trails get the most foot traffic and making sure people have less of an imprint and help keep it healthy.


Training’s and Certs:

In the past three months I’ve had so many new experiences. I never really imagined working with stock but there’s a real practical need for horses and mules in the Pasayten and Sawtooth. We dedicated a week to horsemanship training, sitting in the saddle and trying my best to decipher horse behavior. The cross cut was also new to me and I cant tell you the satisfaction you can get cutting a monstrous log!



This place is huge and there is so much to see! The views are big and this area is so diverse, and I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of it. The greatest pleasure of all has been the community and the new friendships. I can’t think of anything better than being deep in the mountains with good people…


Right, so I’m tired of staring at this computer thinking of things to say so I’m going to leave you now and go for a hike. Until next time.