Get to know the nine dedicated trail crew leaders who lead our Performance Trail Crews. Each week, we’ll introduce a new member of our team in this blog!
During our short summer season, our crew leaders mentor and train youth and young adults who serve on our trail crews, guiding them on long backcountry hitches in spectacular wild places while working on the 1,200 mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. The Association performs over 80% of our maintenance and construction on the PNT with youth and young adults from trailside communities. Our crew leaders play an important role in managing that work in the field.
Leading a Performance Trail Crew involves more than building trail. Our crew leaders have a passion for outdoor education and for facilitating meaningful life experiences for their crews. While tending the most remote areas of the trail, crew leaders take their teams deep into Wilderness areas for up to ten days at a time. The experience is challenging — crews must learn to work and live together at remote spike camps that may be a day’s walk from the nearest trailhead. And they spend long days working on the trail using tools and backcountry construction methods that are still powered the old-fashioned way – with sweat, skill and perseverance.
By summer’s end, their effort ensures that the Pacific Northwest Trail remains open for all to enjoy, and helps build the next generation of outdoor leaders.
Colville National Forest
Forest was born and raised in Newport, Washington, where he spent his youth freely roaming the woods outside his door, and often went camping, hunting and fishing with his dad. Before finding his passion for trail stewardship, Forest did conservation work with Pend Oreille County, and sailed around the world, as a crew member of the tall ship Lady Washington of Port Townsend and on the Tole Mour of Long Beach, California.
The satisfaction which comes from working outside, and the sense of accomplishment at the end of a long day with his crew mates are why Forest considers trail work his “dream job.”
This summer, Forest will lead a PNTA Trail Crew that will log-out hundreds of downed trees on the Pacific Northwest Trail between the Washington – Idaho border and the trail town of Northport, Washington.
When not clearing trails, Forest enjoys rambling through the woods with his sidekick, Luna, and easy days spent resting with his feet on the coffee table with his nose in a good book.
Meet Kameron Walton, our trusty Log-Out Crew Leader. The Association is so lucky to have Kam return for a fifth consecutive season to lead our volunteer work parties, backcountry construction projects, and log out efforts in Eastern Washington!
Kam grew up in Layton, Utah working and playing outdoors. He spent his free time exploring the High Uintas Wilderness with his uncle Kevin, a US Forest Service employee, and pursued a career in home construction, beginning in high school.
In 2015, when an opportunity to spend the summer helping to build and maintain the PNT in Northeast Washington came to his attention, he took it. Later that summer, he discovered the rugged beauty of Colville National Forest and a newfound love for trail work while working with the Association’s long time crew leader, Forest Reeves.
This summer, Kam has led PNTA Trail Crews that have logged out hundreds of trees, working with at-risk students from the US Job Corps program and leading volunteers on trail work parties on the Pacific Northwest Trail system.
“Our office is always great no matter the weather and it’s nice to look back and see what you’ve accomplished. Even if some people don’t understand what it takes to keep a trail open, they will appreciate the trail and the fruits of your labor,” said Kam.
When not clearing trails, Kam likes to be outside tromping through the woods, kayaking, and climbing. On weekends you might spot him and his girlfriend practicing acroyoga on a beach near Sandpoint or practicing juggling and poi fire spinning.
Olympic National Forest
Meet Pete Riewald, our Olympic National Forest trail crew leader and intern. The Association is fortunate to have Pete join our team for the summer between semesters at Western Washington University, where he majors in Recreation Management and Alpine Leadership.
As our community development intern, Pete is currently based in Oroville near the midpoint of the PNT. Later this summer, he will “chisel trail for future generations” while leading a Performance Trail Crew in Western Washington!
Pete brings considerable outdoor leadership skills to the Pacific Northwest Trail Association having spent five years working with RMI Expeditions and American Alpine Institute mountain guiding services, and as NOLS graduate.
“On my thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014 and 2016, I experienced the type of generosity and kindness from strangers that words just cannot do justice. Years later, I am establishing connections in the communities along the Pacific Northwest Trail that foster grassroots support from the good samaritans long-distance hikers meet along their journeys. As an outdoor professional, I am passionate about leading inclusive outdoor programs where people from all walks of life can reap the benefits of time in nature,” said Pete.
When not leading trail crews, Pete enjoys being outside for long periods of time, whether it’s strapping up his pack for a thru-hike, scaling up one of the many glaciated peaks in the Pacific Northwest or going on trail runs spanning a full cycle around the sun.
“This is as real as it gets,” said William. “I love wild places and value the trust and respect that develop between crew members working and living together in nature. It’s one of the best ways of becoming familiar with people and places, learning, teaching and living in a hands-on environment!”
William brings a handy set of trail, craft and outdoor skills to our team! For two seasons, he has led groups of student stewardship interns on trail work, invasive plant management and restoration projects on the University of California Santa Cruz Campus Natural Reserve. William also has experience cooking for large parties of hungry hikers — up to thirty at a time — and has spent many summer days exploring the Sierra Nevada and Santa Cruz Mountains in California.
This summer, William have the opportunity to explore a new range while leading a PNTA Trail Crew in the Olympic Mountains after graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a BS in Plant Sciences.
When not leading trail stewardship projects, William enjoys reading, playing steel-string guitar, woodworking, sewing and walking in nature with a field guide.
Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Meet Catherine Sullivan, our Mt Baker-Snoqualmie trail crew leader. The Pacific Northwest Trail Association is very fortunate to have Cat join our team this year! She will manage one of five backcountry trail crews charged with stewarding projects on the Pacific Northwest Trail on the Mt Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest and in the Western Pasayten Wilderness.
Cat brings extensive experience managing trail and habitat restoration projects in the Southwest with Arizona Conservation Corp and educating youth as an adventure river, hiking, and educational guide with Northern Arizona University.
“Trail work provides immeasurable rewards to each individual who participates. We experience beautiful places, push personal boundaries working hard and see the positive impact maintaining and reopening access to wilderness for the public. Far and away, the best aspect of trail work for myself is seeing the crew grow and learn together. Trails are an excellent personal equalizer and teach life skills beyond trail maintenance and what community truly means. Watching the crew rise to challenges, surpass their own expectations, building each other up, and having fun as a crew is priceless. It’s my motivation to continue this work and wake up early to make the crew coffee. This sense of connectivity is elevated by the dynamic of the PNT thru-hiker community and our project partners. I can’t truly express how special the PNT is as a trail and as a community of people,” said Cat.
When not leading trail crews, Cat enjoys cooking and adventuring with friends and family, and chasing down her favorite food truck Kebab Causal.
Meet Thomas Gingrich, our Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest assistant trail crew leader. Thomas comes to the Association with considerable field experience as a biologist and Wilderness steward. We are so pleased to have Thomas lead our trail crews in Western Washington this year!
Thomas graduated in 2013 from Bluffton University with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and later spent three years working aboard commercial fishing vessels as a NOAA certified Fisheries Service biologist with the West Coast Groundfish Observer Program collecting data used for research and management of fisheries.
He fell in love with backcountry camping after a summer spent serving with the Student Conservation Association’s Wilderness Ranger Corps out of Darrington, Washington. Together, Thomas and his team surveyed over 800 hundred Wilderness campsites on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The SCA program provided them with training in Wilderness First Aid, CPR, team building, leadership and trail skills.
This summer, Thomas will lead a PNTA Trail Crew in Western Washington that will restore the Pacific Northwest Trail on the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and in the Pasayten Wilderness. He looks forward to forming new friendships with his crew and seeing an amazing part of the country.
“I am passionate about ecology, natural resource management, and the positive effects outdoor recreation has on people. I’d love to change a young person’s life in the same way those amazing crew leaders with SCA’s Wilderness Ranger Program changed mine,” said Thomas.
When not clearing trails, Thomas enjoys backpacking, disc golf and creating imaginative and detailed illustrations inspired by his travels.