Pacific Northwest Trail Association

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:

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.

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.

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.

2006: The stabilization of the PNTA started showing promise after the reorganization.

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.

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.

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.