By Courtney Pal
B.S., Earth Systems: Anthrosphere and B.A., Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, 2018
Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Intern in Colville, Washington
When I think back on these past two months in Colville, Washington, what stands out to me the most is the breathtaking places that I’ve seen and the interesting people that I’ve met. Take last night, for example. I spent the evening sitting on the porch of Snow Peak Cabin, a little shelter nestled high in the Kettle Crest. Poring through the trail registers for the past few years, it was easy to see the growth in popularity of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNT), the trail on which the cabin sits—and the trail I’ve spent the past two months studying.
“7-23-10,” one entry is dated. “Greetings to whomever. We, I believe, are two of only one or two other PNT hikers currently on the trail.” Then, jump ahead a few years—now it’s 2015, and another set of thru-hikers have made an entry. “We wish we had gotten here at 5:30pm rather than 9:30am,” this one says. It doesn’t mention that there will be somewhere close to 20 additional thru-hikers coming through that same summer. The trail isn’t crowded now by any means, but it’s not as rare to spot a PNT thru-hiker these days. As I found out, you can ask almost any business owner in either of the three trail towns that I've worked with-- Metaline Falls, Northport, and Republic. The hikers are coming through now more and more regularly, bringing with them the opportunity for towns to develop a sustainable recreation economy.
Off the trail, my main task has been hosting community meetings in each of the three trail towns located in Northeastern Washington. Prior to these meetings, I had spent time going door-to-door in towns talking to local business owners and residents about the economic opportunities the trail offered. I was excited that the meetings would offer the opportunity for an even greater segment of the public to get involved in planning how their community could grow around the trail. Indeed, some of the most insightful comments that I heard dealt not singularly with business or recreation, but the intersections between enhancing those opportunities and also highlighting community history, encouraging healthier lifestyles, and growing a sense of town pride. While much of the opposition to the trail that I had encountered in my position came from a fear that it would change traditional rural ways of life, at these meetings people came together to brainstorm ways in which it could preserve tradition and uplift it. I was especially enthusiastic to hear ideas in Northport about allowing hikers to use amenities at a newly planned local museum and visitor’s center. There is no shortage of great ideas in these towns to utilize the opportunities that the PNT provides.
Looking back on my plans for this summer, there are some things that I was not able to do—while I promised myself I’d learn how to bake three different huckleberry recipes, the huckleberry muffins that I made were so delicious I didn’t have the heart to make anything else after. Also, I may have found that I have a slight preference for wild raspberries… although that’s blasphemy to say around here, so I keep quiet about it! Other goals for my internship have definitely been fulfilled. Working with both the US Forest Service and Tri County Economic Development District has allowed me to sample the same interdisciplinary fields that I study in class, in the real world. I’ve enjoyed my adventures this summer – both the ones on and off the trail – so much, and learned so much from them as well.
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