News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Honoring stalwarts of the trails

Sisters Trails Alliance Board Chair Catherine Hayden told two of STA’s most valued board members to “Take A Hike” last week. In STA’s world, that phrase carries a very different meaning than it does in everyday slang: It’s an invocation to go forth and enjoy the fruits of many years of labor.

Gary Guttormsen, Chuck Humphreys and Greg Vandehey were feted during STA’s Toast the Trails event at Cork Cellars on Tuesday, November 12, as the organization celebrated their extraordinary efforts to build, maintain and enhance a network of trails across Sisters Country. The trio is stepping down from the STA Board of Directors.

Hayden praised Vandehey’s work as secretary of the organization, noting that he was instrumental in developing a key relationship with the giant outdoor gear retailer REI. He has also done instrumental work in scheduling work parties and — “this is big,” Hayden said. “He’s been troubleshooting our database.”

Guttormsen has been an extraordinarily active volunteer for years.

“Gary has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Sisters trails system,” Hayden said.

“He’s a human GPS,” chimed in board member Katie Williams.

Certified in the use of a variety of saws, he has been the on-call volunteer who removes felled trees obstructing the trails. Guttormsen has also been an educator and a teacher of good stewardship, volunteering as an instructor at the Allingham Trails Skills College, where he teaches students the art of trails and works as a co-instructor for the chain-saw certification courses.

Guttormsen also led the collaboration between the STA, the Forest Service, and the National Forest Service Foundation for the Whychus Creek Trail and Whychus Overlook projects, managing grants and funds over $150,000.

The hours of work he has put in are incalculable, but certainly range well into the thousands.

Humphreys, as board chair, shepherded STA into independent existence as a nonprofit after it left the umbrella of Sisters Park & Recreation District. Humphreys is known in STA circles for a calm, deliberative demeanor and an interest in viewing issues from a multitude of perspectives.

“If you’ve ever been in a meeting with Chuck, I’m sure you’ve heard him say, ‘But let me play devil’s advocate,” Hayden said.

Humphreys’ remarks focused on mentors that helped and taught him.

Jeff Sims first taught Humphreys to build trails, and John Rahm taught him that “it takes a village to build a trail.” Kim McCarrell, an advocate for equestrian trails, “taught me what it was like to be positive and upbeat.”

Guttormsen thanked the U.S. Forest Service Sisters Ranger District for its support and collaboration. And he had words of praise for the entire Sisters community:

“I love the energy in this organization — this whole community,” he said. “What makes Sisters so special is the volunteers, that spirit of getting out and making Sisters the best it can be.”

STA has established a Trails Stewardship Fund in honor of Guttormsen and Humphreys. For information visit

The men may be under order to “take a hike” — with a brand-new T-shirt to show for it — but they aren’t going too far away from the organization they helped put on the map. Both will serve on the trails committee, continuing the work they have dedicated years of service to in Sisters.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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