Without our volunteers, the Idaho Trails Association could not do the important work of keeping public trails open. As part of our 2016 membership drive, we’d like to introduce you to some of the folks that have made our projects so successful and fun. Tobey has volunteered on our Alice-Toxaway project two years running and was moved, like we are, by the stunning beauty of the Sawtooth Mountains. She wrote this letter after her first weeklong Work Vacation in 2015.  

Volunteer Spotlight: Tobey Jinkins, Boise

Tobey photo2This past August I had the opportunity to volunteer through Idaho Trail Association for a trail clearing project in the Sawtooth Mountains. I had just heard about ITA through the local PBS series Outdoor Idaho. It seemed like a great way to get outdoors, explore the mountains, and meet likeminded people all while doing some good.

Jeff Halligan of ITA met me and the other volunteers at Petit Lake and gave us an overview of what we would be doing. We were scheduled to work on the Alice-Toxaway loop, focusing mostly on a six mile section between Petit Lake and Alice Lake. Jeff took our packs to his team of horses and mules and the team of volunteers carried the ground tools up to base camp.

What a beautiful hike it was to base camp. Passing Petit Lake, smelling the pines and hearing the wind through the leaves of the aspens all was such a welcome change from city life. As we continued, we crossed several streams and had many beautiful views but getting to our base camp at Alice Lake was even more invigorating. The crystal clear waters of Alice made my heart stand still and my mind stop churning. We had a relaxing evening to set up our tents and get to know the tools and people we’d be working with.

Tobey photo1We were up and moving early each morning, greeted with the beauty of the lake, the smiles of our team mates and the smell of breakfast and coffee freshly brewed by our resident chef, Carla. Shortly there after, our team lead, Mel, and our Forest Ranger, Chelsea, told us what our day would hold. Some days it was cutting back brush that was taking over the trail, other days it was cutting out a tree that was blocking the trail, and every day included installing or rebuilding water bars to direct the water off the trail. In addition to the description of the terrain we would be working with, they gave us an education on the tools we would be using. With at least one of every tool, Pulaski, McLeod, handsaw, and shovel, our team hit the trail.

Each day was filled with new experiences all with the back drop of the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains. Each morning and afternoon on our way to and from the worksite, we would take a few minutes to appreciate the beauty. “Not a bad commute.”

On the way home from a hard day’s work led by Mel’s gentle tenacity, the topic quickly changed to ponder what Carla would have waiting for us when we got to camp. Would the snack be sweet or salty? Usually it was both! Our favorite day was when Jeff and his stock passed us headed for our camp to replenish us. It was like seeing Santa and his reindeer headed to our chimney. What goodies did he have in those panniers?

We worked the trail for six hard days. We would laugh with Chelsea as the layer of dirt on our faces got thicker, it seemed like our smiles got bigger. Our evenings were filled with first aid lessons and debating the best way to layer moleskin and duct tape. Each had their own opinion and each was tested the next day.

We worked hard and learned a lot about the terrain, tools, wilderness and ourselves. This was the first time I had spent any time in the Sawtooths. I had backpacked some sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, but wanted to see more local beauty and hadn’t ever backpacked solo. By the end of the trip, I was so comfortable and so in love with the Sawtooths that I committed to myself to return – alone.

Tobey Photo3Two weeks later, I was back on the trail. My adrenaline was pumping with the anticipation of seeing Alice Lake again. I knew the exact spot I wanted to set up my tent and was moving as fast as I could to get there before anyone else did. I made it! That night as I sat on a boulder eating my dinner, I realized that my chewing was the loudest sound out there. I was alone in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Tears came to my eyes and gratitude filled my heart. I enjoyed the rest of the evening blending in with Mother Nature and her beauty. At night I slept with the tent door open and woke several times to a sky filled with more stars that one can imagine. It was so peaceful and so moving at the same time.

I will be forever grateful to Idaho Trail Association for introducing me to the Sawtooth Mountains. They helped me see the awe and wonder of these mountains and created an appreciation in me for the trails that allow us to access such beauty.
Thank you ITA!

Your committed volunteer,
Tobey

We would love to have you join us in 2017 on any of our Work Parties across the state. Projects will be announced next Spring. For now, you can get involved by becoming a member today and showing your support for Idaho’s non-motorized trails.