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Your First Trail Party

September 13, 2022

by Ginny Sorensen

Want to add trail volunteer to your many talents, but curious to know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign up? You’ve come to the right place! Read on for some helpful info on what to expect during your first trail party, as well as some tips from fellow first-time Trailkeepers.

1. Get Ready: Sign up, sign your waiver, and get packed

Tip: all Trail Party descriptions include details about hike distance, elevation gain, and difficulty of both the hike and the trail work, so you can pick something right for you.

  • Read your confirmation email carefully and look for links to complete your waiver and submit vaccination information in advance; take note of the directions to the trailhead.
  • Pack the essentials in a daypack or easy-to-carry bag (you’ll need at least one hand free to carry a tool); don’t forget lunch and snacks, plenty of water, and work gloves if you have them.
  • Get dressed in hiking boots or shoes sturdy enough to protect your toes from sharp tools, work gloves (we have loaners if you need them), long-sleeved shirts and pants, and rain gear if it’s wet out. 

First-time Trailkeeper Chelsea recommends dressing in layers, “You get pretty hot when working hard, but cool off quickly during downtime.”

2. Get Set: You’re at the trailhead, now what? 

  • Look for a green sign with the TKO logo or a bunch of folks hanging around with hardhats and tools
  • Once you’re parked, find someone with a yellow or orange hard hat—these folks will be your leaders for the day and can get you set up with a loaner hard hat, gloves and eye protection if you need them
  • As other volunteers trickle in, mix and mingle until your Crew Leader calls everyone into a circle for some opening words. TKO volunteers are a friendly bunch, so introduce yourself!
  • Listen up for the safety talk where your Crew Leaders speak to how the number one goal for the day, safety, will help us achieve our other goals, fun and service; you’ll also learn more about the day’s project and the tools you’ll be using.

Advice from first-time Trailkeeper Betts: “Don’t worry if you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, because there will be more explanation and time to ask questions.”

3. Get Dirty: It’s time for some Trailkeeping!

  • Grab a tool or two (which you learned to carry safely in the safety talk) and join the rest of the crew on the trail.
  • Follow your Crew Leader to the worksite where they’ll explain the work in more detail and provide demonstrations for anyone who’s new to the day’s tasks
  • Start working on the task you’ve been assigned; you will likely be paired up with a more experienced volunteer. If not, one of your Crew Leaders will be close by to check in on how you’re doing and answer questions 

Tip: Tired of the task you started on or ready to use some different muscles? Ask for a new task or to try a new tool!

  • Wait patiently for 10 am. Why? It’s chocolate break time! First-time trailkeeper Steph says, “Emphasize the chocolate break!” 
  • Need a break? Take a break! Chat up your Crew Leader or fellow volunteers, stretch, have a snack, drink some water, re-apply sunscreen—do what you need to take care of your body and your mind to have an enjoyable time.

Tip: most worksites don’t have bathrooms so plan to use the “facili-trees” and pack out any toilet paper if you use it.

  • There will be a full group break for lunch around noon. 
  • After lunch, you will focus on wrapping up your project for the day before hiking back out to the cars for some light snacks and refreshing beverages. 

4. Come on back to see us again!

  • As soon as you’re back in cell service, go directly to the Volunteer Calendar and sign up for your next Trail Party 😊
  • You can share feedback about your first Trail Party experience in the follow-up survey you’ll receive from your Crew Leader via email.

We hope this list has answered some of your questions and that you feel ready to sign-up. We want you to feel prepared so you’ll wrap up day one with the same sentiment as recent first-time Trailkeeper Emily shared, “I’d like to do more trail partying in the future!”.

What if even after all this, you decide that trail parties aren’t your jam? Thats totally ok! While we always find a place for everyone to help on a trail crew, if thats not your style, then you can still help trails in one of these many ways:

Tip: If you have questions that weren’t addressed here, you can always reach out to TKO staff at volunteers@trailkeepersoforegon.org

See you at our next trail party!

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