ジェフ・キッシュのHIKER LIFE with PNT | #01 パシフィック・ノースウエスト・トレイルという僕の仕事
About the work I am doing at PNT.
This is Jeff! How’s it going, guys?
The Pacific Northwest Trail Association (PNTA) was founded in 1977 with a mission to build and advocate for the designation of the United State’s newest “national scenic trail.” At the time, only the first two national scenic trails had been officially recognized; the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. It would take more than 30 years for the advocacy efforts to pay off, but in 2009, the Pacific Northwest Trail was designated as one of the newest national scenic trails in my country – a distinction that remains true to this day.
In 2014, I thru-hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail 1200 miles (about 1900 km) from its eastern terminus on the Continental Divide in Montana, to its western terminus on the Pacific beaches of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula; and it changed my life. So, in 2016, when I learned that the PNTA was looking for new leadership, I was eager to take up the challenge.
The PNTA currently has five full-time staff, including myself. Every summer, when the trail comes out from under the snow, we add another 50-60 seasonal employees on our trail crews. My job as Executive Director is to oversee all of the programs that the other employees each specialize in. This includes trail maintenance and construction, the development of trail information, hosting educational events, advocating for the trail in local, state, and federal governments processes, and fundraising so that we can pay for it all.
As the seasons change, so does our focus.
Spring is time for outreach, education, and recruiting and training our seasonal crews. Spring is when we partner with ALDHA-West to hold educational events called “rucks.” These ruck events bring experienced long distance backpackers together with those who plan to hike for the first time. The rucks are a place to build community and share our love of hiking with those who are about to experience it for the first time.
Spring is also when our trail operations team spends time visiting local high schools and colleges to talk about our trail and inspire students to join our summer programs. We also recruit leaders, and provide them with the training that they need to keep our crews safe and productive in some of the most wild and remote places in our country.
Summer is the season to hike and maintain the Pacific Northwest Trail. The season is quite short due to the trail’s northern proximity along the 49th parallel. Hikers can only hike, and we can only work, after the snow has melted in early July, and before the snow comes again in early October. In the office, our Communications Manager is busy updating hikers about wildfires and other changing conditions out on the trail. Our trail operations staff huddle over maps, coordinating the logistics of our trail crews, partners, and volunteers.
During this time, we operate six crews of trail maintainers. Each crew is guided by two experienced leaders, who are certified in Wilderness First Aid, the use of saws (chainsaws and old-fashioned cross-cuts), and more. The crew they lead is made up of youth and young adults that we recruit from communities along the length of the PNT.
These crews work for 10 days at a time, deep in the wilderness where the trail needs them most. When they’re done, they come home to rest for four days before returning to the wilderness for another 10 day project. In order to keep the crews supplied with food and equipment, we coordinate with partners who use horses and mules to carry the heavy supplies in and out of our job sites.
Autumn is a time for reporting. The PNTA is the designated nonprofit partner of the United States Forest Service in the management of the Pacific Northwest Trail. As the days get shorter and the snow returns to the mountains, we analyze our trail maintenance season and report to the Forest Service and other land managers about our successes in the field. This is also the time of year when we begin to prepare for our end-of-year fundraising activities. These fundraisers are when we encourage everyone who has fallen in love with our trail to help us take care of it. Without the support of our members and donors, we couldn’t do the work that we do.
Every February, representatives of the PNT travel to Washington D.C. to meet with Forest Service Leadership. Here are representatives of every National Scenic Trail meeting with the Chief of the Forest Service, Vicki Christiansen.
Winter is for planning and advocacy. During the dark months, we apply for grants, secure contracts, develop budgets, and work with partners to plan the following year’s work. This is when we arrange packing trips with our horseback riders, and communicate with other trail maintainers to make sure we can all work efficiently without getting in each other’s way. This is also the time that we update maps and guides, and adjust our messaging for the following hiking season. For me, winter is when I travel to the United States Capitol in Washington D.C. On these annual trips, I meet with members of Congress, and Forest Service leadership to advocate for their continued support of the management and administration of our trail.
Then the cycle repeats.
We all work very diligently. Sometimes 50 or 60 hours a week. It can be very challenging work. Managing 1200 miles of trail, across three states, seven national forests, three national parks, and a variety of other land, including private property, is a complicated task. There are a lot of politics and personalities involved with managing public land. It’s something that is very sacred to so many people, who each have different ideas of how it should be done.
But, it’s good work; something we’re all very passionate about, and something that we believe makes the world a better place. I have never been so fulfilled by an occupation. The PNT is a very special trail. It’s more wild and remote than the others. It is a place where hikers can truly be challenged by all the forces of nature, as well as glimpse the world as it was in the beginning, and not just after humans got through with it.
In this unique period of the PNT’s history, we have a great responsibility to ensure that the trail will be properly managed and protected for the future. The decisions that we make now will shape the trail for eternity. It’s an honor to do what we do, and to share this very special resource with the world.
I hope you’ll come see it some day!
TRAIL TALK #006 JEFF KISH / ジェフ・キッシュ（前編）
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