MSHI Volunteer Update August 2022

By Sarah Philips

These days, almost anywhere you go on Mount St. Helens, you’re likely to run into a Mount St. Helens Institute volunteer sporting a red shirt and hat. They’ll be ready to answer your question, bandage your scraped knee, or help with a trail repair. Volunteers are the heart of the work we do at MSHI, and after the slowdowns of the past few years, the volunteer program is back in full swing this year!

As the manager of our volunteer programs, I am inspired by and thankful to all of our incredible volunteers, who share their time and their passion to support this special place. I’d love to share some of my favorite highlights of the season so far with you!

We kicked off the summer volunteer season back in May with a training for a brand new volunteer role: Volcano Ambassadors at the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Seaquest State Park. Volcano Ambassadors share their knowledge at the visitor center, answering questions and offering trip guidance and interpretation. The new partnership with Washington State Parks has been a huge success, and the new Volcano Ambassadors have served over 165 hours so far this season.

In June, we held Mountain Steward training. Mountain Stewards support hikers on trails all around the mountain, from gentle trails like the Hummocks to the challenging climbing route, providing safety support and information about the mountain. They also assist with MSHI’s guided hikes and climbs. After participating in online training activities, Mountain Stewards came together for in-person training hikes on the climbing route and north side trails. This year, 79 Mountain Stewards participated in in-person training this year, including 35 new volunteers.

After training, Mountain Stewards hit the trail! New Mountain Stewards must complete a “mentor session” with an experienced volunteer. Newbies and mentors had a lot of fun connecting, learning from each other, and building community.

Each time a Mountain Steward roves a trail, they submit a roving report to staff and other volunteers to share learning experiences, interesting or inspirational stories, and current conditions they find on trail. These roving reports are an invaluable tool for MSHI, the US Forest Service, and our other partners like the Washington Trails Association to keep tabs on what’s happening on the mountain. They help alert us to maintenance or safety issues to be fixed and supply information for the MSHI current climbing conditions page. So far, 145 roving reports have been submitted in 2022. Perhaps most fun of all, volunteers share photos from the day in their reports; here are a few highlights:

We continue to partner with the Washington Trails Association, supporting them on trail work parties around the monument to keep our trails in good condition. Thanks to all the MSHI and WTA volunteers and staff who have worked on trails so far this year!

Volunteers have also been ready to jump in and lend a hand with single-day activities like small-project work parties around the mountain and our MSHI summer Base Camp events at the Science and Learning Center.

So far in 2022, 122 individual volunteers have served over 4,200 hours, hiked over 2,800 miles, and engaged with over 21,800 visitors on Mount St. Helens. No matter where you are or what role you’re in, thank you so much for volunteering your time to support Mount St. Helens and its community. We appreciate you!

Photos courtesy of Yvonne Baur, Camille Stephens, Gina Roberti, Alysa Adams, Thomas Greg, Sarah Philips, Jerome Peterson, Stuart Zeltzer, Lee Rosenbaum, Raina Lovrien, Barbera Bond, Shelly Maddox, Judith Lundeen, Lane Wilson, Allen Bennet, Jean Cavanaugh, Sojo Hendrix, Trixie Honeywell, Nick Giovanni, Pete Van Tilburg, Kimberly Lee, Ruth Schindelmann, Sarah Connor, Jamie Jones, Rebecca Cortez, and friends of the Mount St. Helens Institute.