Unlike many kids, when I first heard the tale of the tortoise and the hare, I didn’t identify with the flashy, speedy rabbit. “Slow and steady wins the race” resonated with me. The stodgy tortoise’s persistent trudge was inspiring to me, which proved prophetic. Growing up and into my adulthood, I embraced things that required slow, measured progress: distance running, digging fireline, working with mules, reading novels with tiny print, knitting …trail work. If any pursuit requires the tortoise mentality, it’s this. Yes, this work is inspiring and adventurous. Future generations will benefit from what we do today. We tackle spectacular natural events – ancient downed limbs and slides where gravity made a play. But in the end, our work requires an eye for detail and a quiet, steady patience. Methodically pulling a crosscut saw through a pitchy ponderosa pine, where working faster just means crookeder and stuck(er). Trail work requires a marathon mentality and a commitment to the long game. I love it, and I’m thankful so many others do, too!

As a steward of Idaho’s trails, ITA must be the right combination of excited, strategic, and patient. It’s hard not to get ahead of ourselves when we lay the crosscut on that first tree, and then feel overwhelmed when we see there are thousands more ahead. It’s a balancing act: get charged up to do the work, then be patient when you realize it may mean another project in another year.

Our Annual Membership Drive is part of the marathon. It’s the aid station that fuels the heart of the run: trail season. This drive happens at the same time as our fall planning season, when we meet with land manager partners to map out the next year. Your membership donations fueled a LOT of progress in 2023. We completed ITA’s first 3-week Wilderness Immersion project, where the crew cleared almost a marathon’s worth of trail and learned what it was like to live for an extended time in the remote Frank Church. Your support resulted in major work on the Idaho Centennial Trail and sparked new momentum for ICT maintenance. We hosted our first veterans’ project.

Moving ahead, our 2024 goals include another major host of projects on the ICT, our second 3-week Immersion Trip (stay tuned for a new location!), more winter and spring events to bring trail lovers of all kinds together, continued growth of our youth, women’s, and veterans’ programs, and working trails all over Idaho, from March through October.

There is no sprint. The determined tortoise eventually crossed the finish line. When will ITA win the race? To me, we win when we can close our eyes and place our finger on the map, and no matter where we point – the Gospel Hump or the Scotchman Peaks or the foothills of Pocatello – the odds are high the trail we land on is cleared and ready to hike. It may take years, but working with land managers and other non-profit partners, I know we’ll get there. We are Team Tortoise, doggedly pursuing an Idaho full of cleared trails! It’s not as hair-raising as a 100-meter Olympic final or a NASCAR race, but it’s what I dream of.

You can support this marathon effort by making a donation today. You can become an ITA member for as little as $30 a year, enough to clear brush from 200 feet of trail. At $60, you can help to build and maintain a water drain and for $100, you can be a part of removing ten trees blocking the trail. Join us on Team Tortoise as we doggedly pursue an Idaho full of cleared trails!

We’re in it for the long game, one that includes waking up to sunrise over the Selway, to pulling a saw beneath massive cedars along Priest Lake, to massaging sore feet at the end of a day working along the Middle Fork Salmon River with new friends who share a dedication to sustaining the trails that sustain us.

Melanie Vining, Executive Director

P.S. You can also gift a membership, donate in honor or memory of someone, or include ITA in your estate planning, end-of-year stock donations or retirement account distributions. You can even help out by purchasing ITA gear and showing your support wherever you live- spread the word by wearing it!