History of the Association
The following text through 1999 is copyrighted by Ron Strickland, author of The Pacific Northwest Trail Guide, with Jon Knechtel providing the text from 2000 to present.
Long-distance trails are as old as the seasonal migrations of herders and their livestock. Emigrant routes, such as the Oregon Trail, populated America's vast west. But long-distance recreational trails are a distinctly twentieth-century phenomenon. Vermont’s Long Trail dates from 1910, and the Appalachian Trail from 1921.
Thirty years ago the Pacific Northwest Trail was born from the traditions of those earlier trails when Ron Strickland began to seek a way west from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean.
In the late sixties the backcountry experienced an explosion of recreational walking for pleasure. The federal government's changing backcountry management priorities and the new backcountry recreation movement met head on. The result was increased pressure on the relatively few popular trails maintained for outdoor recreation. Maintenance budgets have declined so precipitously that hikers often need Sherlock Holmes's skills to follow some of the old trails.
The bedrock PNT philosophy is that local volunteers are the key to development and maintenance. Only they have the grass roots contacts and knowledge to do the job right. Take Max Eckenburg, for example. His grandfather was a timber cruiser in Whatcom County where Max himself was successful decades later in designing our Chuckanut section. Max married Carol Hull, another of our volunteers, in the mid 1980’s. They built a homestead on Pontiac Ridge near Mount Bonaparte where Max continued to develop our northeast Okanogan County route. This personal dimension is the essence of the PNT experience.
Here is part of the volunteer record of accomplishment:
1970-76: Initial exploration of alternative routes for a Divide-to- Pacific pathway using existing trails, cattle driveways, Indian tracks, and primitive roads.
1977: Incorporation of the non-profit Pacific Northwest Trail Association in Seattle.
1977: First PNT trail sign erected by local volunteers ( Copeland, Idaho.)
1977: Five thru-hikers become the first to travel the entire PNT in one season.
1979: Publication of the PNTAs first guidebook.
1980: Publication of a revised edition of the Guide.
1980: Maintenance and reconstruction of the Long Canyon Trail.
1981: Data about current Trail conditions gathered by a four-man PNTA expedition.
1982: Unanimous resolution by Washington State's House and Senate in favor of the Pacific Northwest Trail.
1982: Blazing with the PNTAs standardized 6-by-2-inch white paint blaze begun in every county.
1983: Location and construction of the first new, volunteer-built link in the PNT.
1984: Publication of the PNTAs first book-length guidebook Pacific Northwest Trail Guide.
1987-88: British Army volunteers construct the Blanchard Hill section in WA.
1989: Dedication of the newly-constructed South Chuckanut Mountain section in WA.
1992: In WA extensive Skagit and Whatcom County relocations (including, for the first time, private lands), and completion of the Blanchard Hill construction.
1993: The resolution of long-standing routing problems in Ferry and Okanogan counties in WA.
1994: Extensive field testing of the guidebook manuscript (including its first GPS mapping.)
1996: Reincorporation of the PNTA. Construction began on Anderson Mountain in WA.
1997: In WA re-dedication of the Samish Bay section. Construction on Anderson Mountain continued.
1997: Development of the Kootenai Trail section between Eureka and Rexford, Montana. PNT volunteers used tracked excavators to mechanize some of the digging after winning a matching grant from the state of Washington to buy an excavator, trailer, and motorized wheelbarrow.
1998: In WA Blanchard Hill reconstruction and Swift Creek Trail resurrection. The Ford Motor Company gave the PNTA a $125,000 grant. When the Northwest Ford Dealers subsequently matched it, the Trail reached a plateau of financial stability that foreshadowed a new era of progress. At the dawn of the new century, the PNTA was on a roll.
1999: The PNTA hires Jeri Krampetz as a full-time Executive Director. Several Maintaining Organizations sign agreements with the PNTA to maintain and develop parts of the Trail.
2000: The Peninsula Trails Coalition creates a new route on the Quimper Peninsula. The PNTA education program was developed, SKY, for Service, Knowledge, Youth thanks to major donations from Tully's Coffee and the Ford Motor Company Fund. Crews of SKY students began trail improvements on Blanchard Mountain and the Canyon Ridge Trail.
2001: Mike Dawson, formerly of the Appalachian Trail, was hired as Director of Trail Management and the SKY program expanded to the Olympic Peninsula where student crews improved the Spruce Railroad Trail, part of the all-weather route across the Olympic Peninsula. Other SKY crews continued to work on the Canyon Ridge Trail in WA. A PNT Trail was built in Fort Ebey State Park in WA and The Huckleberry Trail was begun south of the South Fork of the Nooksack River in WA.
2002: 2002 was a busy and productive year that included:
- The section of the PNT in North Cascades National Park and the Ross Lake Recreation Area achieved National Recreation Trail status. This event was announced and celebrated on National Trails Day in the North Cascades National Visitor Center campground.
- The summer SKY education program continued with four programs one each in Skagit, Whatcom, Jefferson, and Clallam counties in WA. In addition SKY Leadership Hot Shot crews worked in the Pasayten Wilderness, in the North Cascades National Park and in the Olympic National Park in the summer and one Hot Shot crew worked on the Cow Heaven Trail in the North Cascades in the winter. Two SKY graduates worked with forest service personnel in the SKY Ridge Runner Program.
- The PNTA assumed responsibility of the Quilicene Ranger Corps program on the Hood Canal Ranger District.
- The SKY Native Plant Nursery grew under the leadership of Michael Hinderman, Beth Hailey, and Suzanne Perlmutter. Funding from the Discuren Foundation allowed Suzanne to be hired as a full-time teacher to work with SKY students on restoration and reforestation projects.
- Project WILD was formed with students from the International District in Seattle doing seed gathering at Heather Meadows on the Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest, bringing the seeds to the nursery and propagating them for replanting in 2004.
- The PNTA teamed up with the Washington Trails Association to begin a restoration project on the Bogachiel River Trail in Olympic National Park.
- A trail on the east side of Anderson Mountain was improved and the Huckleberry Trail near the south fork of the Nooksack was completed.
- A PNTA chapter formed in Oroville WA; one of their goals is to secure permanent trail easements to the Similkameen Rail Grade.
- Volunteer Jon Knechtel developed color maps of the Trail for the web site. Maps available at the end of 2002 for downloading were from Sweat Creek to the Mount Baker Highway.
- Women from Wellesley College worked on the Cow Heaven Trail in the North Cascades.
- Volunteers in the Bellingham Traverse raised $911 for the PNTA.
2003: With theaward of a $300,000.00 grant from the Department of Education to expand the SKY Program, each region of the PNT found itself in need of a Regional Director. Darek Staab, a graduate of Western Washing University, was hired to run the Olympic Region, Mike Hinderman was promoted and put in charge of the Cascade West Region, Jim Weed, the former Sheriff of Okanogan County was hired to run the Pasayten Region, Trygve Culp, a retired forest service employee, was hired to run the Colville Region, and Greg Seabloom, a graduate of Colorado State University, was hired to run the Rocky Mountain Region.
- Mike Dawson left to go to work for the Pacific Crest Trail Association and Jon Knechtel was hired to replace him.
- Matt Krogh was hired as the Director of SKY Education.
- Darek Staab was hired as Olympic Regional Coordinator, Mike Hinderman as Cascade West RC, Jim Weed as the Pasayten RC, Trygve Culp as Colville RC, and Greg Seabloom as the Rocky Mountain RC.
- The segment of the Trail through the Olympic National Park was given National Recreation Trail Status.
- SKY was active in Clallam, Jefferson Counties, working on the PNT, Whatcom, and Skagit Counties working on Canyon Ridge, Hannegan Pass, and Horseshoe Bend Trails.
- A partnership was formed with Cascade Job Corps Center to secure work-based training for students. Two crews of five students, under the leadership of Tim Shelton, worked on various projects for the USFS, DNR and State Parks.
- National Trails Day saw about 30 volunteers working on trails at Deception Pass State Park.
- The Partnership for National Scenic and Historic Trails held their Conference at the Skagit Casino/Hotel with the PNTA being the co-host.
- A new section of trail was built, paralleling State Highway 20, in Deception Pass State Park.
- An Adopt-a-Trail Agreement was signed with WADNR for a segment of the PNT on Blanchard Mt.
- Jon Knechtel got the maps of the trail across the Olympics on the website.
- Job Corps Crew built new section of Olympic Discovery Trail Adventure Route by Joyce, WA.
- One WTA Crew on the Olympics and two AHS Volunteer Vacation Crews on Canyon Ridge in the Cascade West Region.
- Another stretch of new trail was completed connecting the Josephine Ridge Trail to the South Fork of the Nooksack
2004: SKY went on a large expansion program with two crews on the Olympic Peninsula, two crews in the Cascade West Region, three crews in the Pasayten Region and one crew in the Rocky Mountain Region. Major reroutes on the trail started taking place in Montana and Washington.
- A lot of time was spent in Montana trying to establish SKY Programs without any success.
- All Ranger Districts and Supervisor Offices were visited and the trail route discussed. Out of these meetings came concerns about the original location of the trail and the need for new routing. Major changes occurred in Montana, the trail now goes to Bowman Lake and up to Brown’s Pass; and west of Polebridge, MT with the trail going up Coal Ridge to the Whitefish Divide and north to the Blue Sky Trail. This eliminated the need to ford the Flathead River and bushwhack over Mt. Tuchuck.
- Another 45 miles of trail was added in Glacier National Park putting the eastern terminus of the trail at Chief Mountain Customs.
- The other major change was through the Northwest Peaks Scenic Area. With the addition of the Midge Creek Trail #177, constructed this year, hikers can now tie into the Canuck Pass Trail #174.
- Work began by the Skagit Trail Maintenance Organization to reopen the Swift Creek Trail #607 and the South Fork Nooksack Trail #602 on the Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest.
- PNTA Crews were instrumental in trail work on the White River, Hood Canal, Pacific, Mt. Baker, and Tonasket Ranger Districts.
- The trail was rerouted through the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest.
- New trail construction was started in the Mt. Zion area of the Olympic NF.
- Two AHS Volunteer Vacation Crews were once again utilized for work in the Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest.
- Over 14,000 hours of labor was done by volunteers and crews of the PNTA.
2005: This was a tumultuous year for the PNTA; however we survived and became stronger as an organization. Growth was to fast to be sustained and reorganization became necessary if the PNTA was to survive. The Executive Director and CFO were let go and staff was reduced. The Regional Office in Montana was closed. Jon Knechtel the Director of Trail Management was asked to oversee the PNTA as an Acting Executive Director.
- SKY Crews were active in Clallam, Jefferson, Okanogan, Ferry and Pend Oreille Counties.
- Darek Staab left and was replaced by Larry Browning as the Olympic Regional Coordinator
- National Recreation Trail Status was given to the PNT through Glacier National Park.
- Lobbying continued to get the Swift Creek and South Fork Trails back on the system maps.
- Work continued on the new trail system around Mt. Zion on the Olympic National Forest with our Jefferson SKY Crew and Quilcene Ranger Corps along with other trails on the Hood Canal Ranger District.
- SKY Crews in Clallam County worked on Kloshe Nanitch Lookout in addition to their trail work.
- Cascade Region SKY worked on the Hannegan Pass Trail on the Mt. Baker Ranger District.
- On the Okanogan NF a SKY Performance Crew spent 8-weeks doing a massive cleanup in the Pasayten Wilderness. A SKY Education Crew did rangeland enhancement projects for Okanogan County, while another SKY Crew worked on trails in the Loomis State Forest.
- In the Rocky Mountain Region we had a SKY Performance Crew doing work on the Batey Bould ORV Trail System.
- Three AHS Volunteer Vacation Crews worked on the PNT. Two on the Mt. Baker Ranger District and one in the Olympic National Park.
- Trail Maintenance Organizations were developed in Oroville, WA and Eureka, MT to help maintain the PNT.
- Over 28,000 hours of labor was done by volunteers and crews from the PNTA.
- Our Native Plant Nursery started to show promise by getting large mitigation projects for cities, counties, and private developers with Nate Melanson being placed in charge of the nursery.
2006: The stabilization of the PNTA started showing promise after the reorganization.
- Andy Skurka made history by being the first hiker to hike from the Atlantic to the Pacific with the last 1200-miles being on the PNT, 7700 plus miles total. Because of Andy’s presentations around the United States, through hiker interest in the PNT picked up.
- Trygve Culp replaced Jim Weed as our Pasayten Region Coordinator, Daniel Collins replaced Larry Browning as the Olympic Regional Coordinator and Nate Melanson replaced Mike Hinderman in the Cascade West Region.
- SKY Education Crews and Quilcene Ranger Corps continued on the Olympic Peninsula doing trail and other related projects for the US Forest and Park Service.
- Our Job Corps Crews started working year-round, trails in the summer and Nursery projects in the fall, winter, and spring. Expanding to take on trail projects for the State and Federal Agencies where ever needed, including ORV trail work.
- The Pasayten Region saw three SKY Crews; One performance crew working on trails for the Methow Valley Ranger District, one SKY Education Crew working in the Loomis State Forest, and one SKY Education Crew working on the PNT and Rangeland Projects.
- On the Coleville NF we had a SKY Performance Crew and a SKY Education working on the Kettle Crest Trail System, all part of the PNT.
- Job Corps Crews and members of the Skagit Trail Maintenance Organization worked on the PNT in the Cascade West Region.
- Three AHS Volunteer Vacations took place along the PNT with one in the Olympic National Park and two in the North Cascades National Park.
- 27,000 hours of trail related labor was accomplished by Youth Crews and Volunteers.
- Swift Creek Trail #607 and the South Fork Trail #602 were reinstated on the Forest Service System Map for the Mt. Baker/Snoqualmie NF.
2007: The PNTA is alive and well, although we didn’t come up with grants to keep all our previous programs running, the programs on the Olympic NF were fully funded and partial funding was obtained for the Cascade West and Pasayten Regions.
- Once again Andy Skurka was a celebrity, hiking that portion of the PNT from the Pacific Crest NST to the Continental Divide NST, in his great western loop hike.
- On the Olympic Peninsula our Jefferson SKY Crew worked on the PNT for the Hood Canal RD as did the Quilcene Ranger Corps. The Clallam SKY Crew worked on various projects, including building a greenhouse for the Alternative School in Forks, WA.
- Job Corps Crews worked on the White River, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, and Mt. Baker Ranger Districts doing projects like the removal of a damaged suspension bridge, a damaged 180 foot hiking bridge, removal of some forest service bathrooms, trailhead sign installation along with numerous trail maintenance projects. They also spent 2-weeks working on the PNT in the North Cascades National Park.
- We only had one SKY Performance Crew in the Pasayten where 8-weeks were spent replacing 277 fire damaged water bars on the Boundary Trail as a result of the Tripod Fire.
- Over 18,000 hours were spent working on trails by our students and volunteers.
- The Native Plant Nursery once again proved its worth to the PNTA by doing some rather large mitigation projects in the Edmonds/Lynnwood area.
- October of this year found Tom Gilbert, NPS, writing draft legislation for getting the Trail designated as an NST. Congressman Norm Dicks and Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington were the first to show interest in dealing with the legislation. Co-sponsorship shortly followed by Senator Patty Murray and Congressmen Rick Larsen, Jay Inslee, and Jim McDermott.
2008: Again this year we’ve been fully funded on the Olympic Peninsula with three SKY Programs and two Quilcene Ranger Corps Programs. In the Cascade West Region, one SKY Program was funded and in the Pasayten Region two Programs were funded.
- The Nurserywas extremely busy during the fall of 2007 and the spring of 2008 with numerous mitigation projects taking place in Island, Skagit, and Snohomish Counties.
- On April 30 th legislation to designate the PNT as a National Scenic Trail was introduced into both Houses of Congress, Norm Dicks in the House and Maria Cantwell in the Senate.
- The regional coordinators began lining up projects in their respective regions in April and the crews were hired.
- Numerous hours were spent garnering support from County Commissioners in all the counties the trail traverses. Overwhelming support came from the counties, mayors of towns along the trail, Washington Trails, Backcountry Horsemen, thru-hikers, retired forest service officials and 1000’s of citizens in Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
- Jon Knechtel was asked to testify in front of the Senate Natural Resources Committee on June 17 th. During this 4-day trip contact was made with representatives from all three states asking for their support.
- The Olympic programs overall were very successful with work taking place on many miles of trail on the Hoodsport and Pacific Ranger Districts, the Nation Park, Rayonier land, and the Quileute Reservation. Community service projects were also done in Forks, WA.
- SKY in the Cascade West Region worked on trail projects for the Mt. Baker Ranger District, WADNR and State Parks, along with work for the Skagit County Parks Department.
- SKY in the Pasayten Region worked on projects in the Loomis State Forest, on the Methow Valley and Tonasket Districts, and for Okanogan County.
- During the year meetings were held for FERC relicensing of both Boundary Dam, in Pend Oreille County, and Enloe Dam in Okanogan County. The PNT is affected and included in both of these areas under the recreational aspect of the relicensing.
- Our Job Corps Program was extremely busy throughout the Northwest, spending nearly 8-weeks on the Snoqualmie RD doing trail work and also installing custom reader boards at Denny Creek, Ira Spring, Talapus Lake, PCT North and PCT South Trailheads. They worked on the Iron Goat and Lake Serene Trails for the Skykomish RD and the South Fork/Elbow Lake Trails on the Mt. Baker RD. They also spent working for the WADNR and Skagit County Parks Department. In October the crew spent 10-days on the Pacific RD on the Olympic National Forest working on the Bogachiel Rain Forest Trail, the Morgenroth Homestead Trail and the Ira Spring Wetland Trail.
- On September 11 th the marked up version of legislation for designation of the PNT passed the full Natural Resource Committee of the US Senate overwhelmingly and was inserted into the Public Lands Omnibus Bill.
- During the year the PNTA sponsored four American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacation Crews. Two of these crews worked in the Olympic National Park, at Boulder Creek and Hi Divide, doing much needed trail maintenance. The other two crews worked on the Mt. Baker Ranger District on the Canyon Ridge and Excelsior Trails.
- Thanks to all of the efforts of our volunteers, SKY Crews, and Job Corps Crews over 21,000 hours of work took place along the PNT, working on trail related projects.
2009: The year is starting off with a bang! We’ve received funding so far to put at least seven crews in the field and are hoping to fund at least five more for the year.
- On January 15 th the Senate voted 73-21 in favor of the Public Lands Omnibus Bill and it has moved to the House. The House will take up the legislation the week of February 23 rd. “Keeping all of our extremities crossed,” the members, friends, and employees of the PNTA are all hoping for a successful outcome in the House.
- On March 11 th the House brought the Omnibus Public Lands to a vote, “under suspension of rules”, meaning it had to pass by 60% of those present. The vote was 282-144, which meant it lacked two votes of passing. The legislation was sent back to the Senate. Very disappointing!
- Amendments were added and the Omnibus Public Lands Bill was voted on by the Senate again on March 19 th, where it passed by a by a margin of 77-20, and sent back to the house.
- On March 25 th the House voted on the bill, needing only a simple majority to pass. The legislation passed by a vote of 285-140 and was sent to the President.
- On March 30 th, President Barack Obama signed the legislation and it became Public Law 111-11. Thereby designating the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. Hip! Hip! Huzzah!!!!!!!!!!!
- April 7 th, a small celebration of the designation took place in Mt. Vernon, WA. Present were past and present board members, Randy Urmstead, Pat Cummins, Duane and Joan Melcher, Keith Magee, Lynn Postler, Dave Hess, Doug Shepherd, Jon Knechtel, and Tom Solin. Numerous members of the local Trail Maintenance Club, local dignitaries, and many friends of the trail were in attendance, along with former Executive Director, Jeri Krampetz. The evening was alive with champagne toasts to all who have had a part in keeping alive the dream of the Pacific Northwest Trail, with special significance to Ron Strickland, the visionary who first contemplated the trail, and Duane and Joan Melcher, who have kept the grassroots effort going over the two decades.