By Bob Martinson | for Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — A group of hardy Clallam County volunteers are among those who keep the Olympic Discovery Trail maintained for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
The Clallam County Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) volunteer trail crew led by Volunteer Coordinator Tanner Boggs illustrates the energy, stamina and variety of those who donate their time on the trail.
Don Stoneman, 88, — nicknamed “The Rock” by his fellow trail volunteers — has put in 23 years working for different trail groups and eight of those years with this crew.
He smiles broadly at the hard work he enjoys and the friends he greets each Thursday morning.
Stoneman is one of the crew of this group of volunteers that keeps the Olympic Discovery Trail in pristine shape during weekly workouts year-round. The Peninsula Trails Coalition and other organizations also work with more than 10 federal, state, county, city and tribal jurisdictions across both Clallam and Jefferson counties to maintain and improve the ODT.
They remove rocks and stumps, drain mud puddles and cut overhanging branches throughout the day. This allows trail users to enjoy the quiet, beautiful passage through the scenery of the North Olympic Peninsula trouble-free.
Many say the work keeps them going after their retirement, but not all of the volunteers are seniors.
Seth Steben, 46, is an avid mountain biker who runs a large fishing boat in Alaska during the summer. He spends his winters in and around the Peninsula and helps on trails almost daily.
“I have watched and participated in seeing this trail become a reality over many years of living here,” Steben said with pride.
The crew meets at the Clallam County Roads Department building in Port Angeles each Thursday before heading to a pre-determined workplace.
The trail now runs uninterrupted from Diamond Point in the east to the Elwha River Bridge in the west, but when complete, it will travel nearly 145 miles between Port Townsend and La Push.
In Jefferson County, other completed sections of the ODT include the 7.7‐mile Larry Scott Trail.
Parts of the trail along the north shore of Lake Crescent are currently under construction in cooperation with the Olympic National Park and the U.S. Department of Transportation and Western Federal Lands.
Gene Rimov, 87, a retired school teacher from Port Angeles, works along with one of his students, Greg Raymond.
“My wife and I came here from California because we just loved it here and we loved to hike,” Rimov said.
“Washington is such a great place for hiking,” he said as he chopped away dirt to drain a puddle.
One horseman volunteer is Tom Mix, who lives in Sequim.
Mix says he’s had a lot of input as to the trail usage and construction over the years to accommodate equestrians.
At a potluck at the parking lot of the Adventure Trail, which is part of the ODT, Boggs and Steve Gray, transportation program manager for the Clallam County Roads Department, thanked volunteers.
“I have to thank all of you for the great work you do and the ideas and knowledge you share with me,” Boggs said.
Said Gray: “I have been highly impressed with the work effort and quality I’ve seen from the volunteers and all you have done is just great.”
The crew this year has logged 3,700 hours putting in culverts and raising bridges along with other general maintenance duties.
“I have made trails with just one other person at times and to pick out a piece of the forest and put in a trail across a creek somewhere is just the greatest, most enjoyable thing,” Stoneman said.
“You go in there and look back at it and say, we did this. And then to return someday and see it finished with light shining across the new pavement, it is just breathtaking,” he added.
He told of years ago when gravel was carried in saddlebags on goats. The weight seemed to be a bit much for the goats, so when the saddlebags were removed and dumped, the animals would lie on their sides resting their weary feet, he said.
In 2010, Stoneman met his wife Bobbie while they were working on bridge construction.
“She was working down in a mud hole and I had just lost my wife three weeks before. I offered to help her out.”
Bobbie told him, “there’s only room for one of us down here,” Stoneman said, but that didn’t stop him. He stood by to help her out when she was finished working.
It turned out that Bobbie had just lost her husband about a month before that day and the two began a friendship that turned into love along the trail. They soon wed and now live near the Elwha River.
Bobbie wasn’t there working this day but sent her husband to the potluck with a marionberry pie to share with his friends.
At the end of the day, the crew makes sure that the entire section has had all possible hazards repaired so they can move on to the next area needing attention.
But it is an ongoing battle and more volunteers are always welcome, Gray said.
For more about the ODT, see olympicdiscoverytrail.org.
Bob Martinson is a freelance writer and photographer living in Sequim.