Volunteer Vacations - National Outings

By: Sierra Club  06-Dec-2011
Keywords: Forest Service

The Work

Have you ever wondered where those water drainages on the side of your favorite trail came from? Or that rock-lined switchback? Or how some areas you hike seem to have escaped the plague of invasive plant species that have cropped up everywhere else?

If so, you may be looking at the work of dedicated Sierra Club Outings volunteers.

Service trips range from helping with research projects at whale calving grounds in Maui to assisting with archaeological site restoration in New Mexico. Usually, service trip participants team up with forest service rangers or park service personnel to restore wilderness areas, maintain trails, clean up trash and campsites, and remove non-native plants.

The Pay

Besides the satisfaction of a job well done, service trip participants feel a sense of ownership of the area where they work. They often return year after year to the work site, either on a Sierra Club service trip or just on their own to see how the work they did is holding up.

Service trip participants also get to meet and talk with the people who know the area best—namely forest service and park rangers. In some places, Sierra Club Outings has been working with ranger districts and park service personnel for more than a quarter century. Appreciative land agency representatives are happy to talk to service trip participants, and participants are often allowed into areas off-limits to the casual visitor.

There is also a social aspect to service trips. Service trip participants often share a similar work ethic and similar beliefs about the land and about social responsibility. Friendships form, and it's not unusual for groups to meet again on future service trips.

"If I were to view Outings in general as the 'circulatory system' for Sierra Club members to explore, enjoy, and protect our environment, then I would see service trips as the beating heart, and every moment spent on a service trip as a moment spent on conservation. Where else, where better, to let your heart touch that of our our dear old mother, the Earth, than on a service trip?"

—Susan Estes
Leader and program chair
45-50 trips led since 1991

"The people that go on service trips are the people that don't have to ask why they would want to work on their vacations."

—Didi Toaspern
Leader and program chair
18 trips led since 1987

"With your help, 54 water bars, 8 stream crossings, and 15 drainage ditches were installed .. this is above and beyond what we expected! We thoroughly enjoyed working with such an enthusiastic group."

—Gene Gibson
District Ranger
Bozeman Ranger District, Montana


Keywords: Forest Service

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Contributing to Service Trips - National Sierra Club Outings

Though all Sierra Club national outings emphasize conservation, service trips concentrate on specific conservation projects—from removing non-native plants in vulnerable wilderness areas to helping U.S. Forest Service staff maintain trails and marine biologists observe sealife.