Every year, a group of WDFW staff invites members of the public to help celebrate National Trails Day (June 5 this year), while benefitting young people interested in wildlife management.

The annual Dave Brittell Memorial Hike not only celebrates the legacy of WDFW biologist Dave Brittell, it also raises money for the scholarship fund his family organized, helping students further their education in wildlife management at northwest colleges. Organizing the event each year is a labor of love for WDFW Regional Director Steve Pozzanghera.

Dave Brittell on left. WDFW Region 1 Director Steve Pozzanghera (on right in second photo) organizes a fundraising hike for his friend Brittell each year.

“With college costs growing every year, it’s important that we encourage and help young people get into the field of wildlife management,” Pozzanghera said. “Young people will keep the tradition of hunting, camping, fishing, hiking and other outdoor recreation alive in this state. I have seen it make a difference in the lives of more than one student.”

The hike is held at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area every year on a trail that now carries Brittell’s name. Since 2015, the hike has raised more than $25,000 in scholarship funds.

Brittell was a 38-year career WDFW wildlife biologist who was instrumental in the acquisition, development and stewardship of the 33 WDFW wildlife areas. We know he would be happy to have this annual event that brings people together to enjoy the public lands that he helped secure.

“A lot of the fun of this event is that many people camp out afterwards and either get to know others with similar interests, or use this event to catch up with people they only see once a year at the hike,” said Pozzanghera. “It’s a reunion of sorts for many of us.”

The Sinlahekin is WDFW’s oldest wildlife area at 82 years old. It covers 14 thousand acres in Okanogan County and has over 15 campground areas, which provides lots of room for hike participants to spread out.

The Sinlahekin also has incredible scenery. Located west of US 97 between Loomis and Conconully, it features 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.

About the hike, or virtual hike

The hike itself is mostly flat with one hill section, and there are options for people of all fitness levels. 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 for some socially-distanced evening events.

If you would like to participate in the Dave Brittell Memorial Trail Hike, you have two options this year. You can do the hike in-person (with COVID-19 protocols required) at the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area or virtually, wherever you want. If you choose the virtual hike option, take a hike of any length, either on June 5 or any day that works for you, and take photos or shoot a short video of your hike, explaining who you are, where you are, how you knew Dave or heard about the hike. Post those pictures or videos to the Dave Brittell Memorial Hike and Fundraiser page on Facebook. Then check out other hiker’s photos and videos to see where people are hiking around the state and even the country (we even had two hikers in Russia last year!).

More information is at the hike’s Facebook page above, or you can contact Steve Pozzanghera at Stephen.Pozzanghera@dfw.wa.gov.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.