A Toast to Trails
Last Thursday, I left the office a little early and headed out to Columbia Winery in Woodinville. The Washington Wine Commission had invited seven of the state's top winemakers - Chris Figgins (Leonetti Cellar), Greg Harrington (Gramercy Cellars), Mike Januik (Januik Winery), Dave Merfeld (Northstar Winery), Rob Newsom (Boudreaux Cellars), Kerry Norton (Columbia Winery) and Chuck Reininger (Reininger Winery) - to serve their wines at a special tasting event. Delicious bites were provided by Purple Cafe and Wine Bar.
The occasion? A celebration of WTA's recent successes for the hiking community - including a record 94,000 hours of volunteer trail maintenance in 2009 - and the Fireside Circle members whose financial generosity helped make it possible.
As I welcomed some of the more than 100 Fireside Circle members and guests, it was clear that this wasn't going to be your ordinary wine-and-cheese affair (though there were plenty of both to be had.) It turns out that the people pouring wine are true outdoor enthusiasts -- active mountaineers and even professional guides in their previous lives. Over the course of the evening, old friends reconnected, WTA's plans for the year were discussed and, of course, lots of backcountry adventures were shared.
One of my favorite stories came from WTA Executive Director Elizabeth Lunney. She recounted how she and some Fireside Circle members hiked to Hyas Lake to deliver ice cream to a group of teens on an Advanced Youth Volunteer Vacation at the peak of last summer's heat wave. About 10 days later, coming down through Esmerelda Basin, Elizabeth ran into one of the Hyas Lake volunteers on a backpacking trip with his parents. Initially skeptical about two back-to-back weeks in the backcountry, his attitude had clearly changed as he excitedly reported the potential trail work projects he had scouted out for WTA.
In a year when many had to cut back, every gift mattered more than ever for our youth volunteers and the entire hiking community. As a group, the Fireside Circle increased their giving by 5%. That may not sound like a lot until you consider that each dollar contributed to WTA is multiplied many times over by volunteers working on trail, on our website and in Olympia and DC.
So on behalf of all of us at WTA, many thanks to the Fireside Circle, and to our generous sponsors for bringing us together for a memorable evening.