Annual hike celebrates National Trails Day and former WDFW Biologist
The Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, south of Loomis, Washington, is gearing up for a celebration. Not only will WDFW celebrate the Sinlahekin’s 80 years as a wildlife area (the oldest in the state), but National Trails Day is also coming up, celebrated on the first Saturday of June each year. The day is used to remember a staffer who is gone but far from forgotten.
The annual Dave Brittell Memorial Trail Hike takes place that day on the Dave Brittell Memorial Trail, followed by a cook-out and bonfire.
Brittell was a WDFW biologist who was instrumental in development and stewardship of the department’s 33 wildlife areas. His 38 year career left a legacy of lands for wildlife habitat conservation and wildlife recreation.
Brittell was hired when the department was called the Washington Department of Game, in 1975. He worked with many species, but one of his several legacies is that his lynx research in Okanogan County changed the way the Loomis Forest and U.S. Forest Service land is managed. Following Brittell’s work, it was changed to balance timber harvest with species protection.
Brittell also facilitated the merger of Wildlife and Fisheries, managed an agency financial crisis, and spent 18 years as Assistant Director of the Wildlife Program in Olympia. He developed a network of state, federal, tribal and private partnerships and continually looked for land conservation, restoration, and recreation access opportunities.
In 2010, Brittell was honored with The Wildlife Society’s Leadership in Conservation Award for work to conserve almost 300,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat and recreation lands in Washington. He retired in October 2013, then lost a three year battle with cancer in February of 2014.
You are invited to honor Brittell’s legacy, while enjoying the incredible scenery of the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, during the hike dedicated to him. It also raises funds for the Dave Brittell Memorial Scholarship Fund that provides financial assistance to students pursuing wildlife degrees at Pacific Northwest colleges. The fund so far has helped six students at the University of British Columbia, Western Washington University, Washington State University, University of Montana, and Boise State.
The hike itself is mostly flat with one hill section. The Sinlahekin, located west of US 97 between Loomis and Conconully, is 14 thousand acres of amazing scenery and lakes, shrub-steppe habitat, conifer forests, wetlands, and the Similkameen and Okanogan rivers. Wildlife including black bears, migratory birds, cougars, bobcats, eagles, badgers, coyotes, and mule deer call it home. It was established in 1939 to protect winter range for mule deer. The first parcels were paid for with the state’s first use of “Pittman-Robertson” funds, named after the program’s prime congressional sponsors.
The complete hike is just under ten miles but can be shortened; there are several points where the trail meets the road and hikers can catch a shuttle back to the starting point. At a modest pace, most hikers will complete the full trail in five to six hours. At the end, shuttles will return hikers to the parking area and some evening events.
A cook-out is part of the event and its one meal you won’t soon forget. A bonfire and s’mores follow that. You will be sleepy after all that food so choose from one of more than 15 different campground areas located along the Sinlahekin Road and stay the night, enjoying the millions of stars in the wide-open sky.
If you go, bring clothing and footwear for a variety of weather conditions, bug spray, sunscreen, sun glasses, binoculars, cameras, snacks and water for the hike. If you stay for the cook-out and bonfire, bring a chair or stool.
Registration is $30 per person. You can register by sending an email to Steve.Pozzanghera@dfw.wa.gov Registration includes a t-shirt, evening cook-out and bonfire. The last day to sign up is May 15. A Discover Pass or WDFW Vehicle Access Permit is required to park in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area. They can be purchased at https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/parking.
If you aren’t able to take part in the hike but would like to help students pursuing wildlife degrees at Pacific Northwest colleges, you can make a donation to the Dave Brittell Memorial Scholarship Fund by making a check out to that same name and sending it to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Attention Dave Brittell Hike, 2315 North Discovery Place, Spokane Valley, WA 99216.