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A hands-on trail education By Connor Swift, PCTA technical advisor

t’s no secret that the Pacific Crest Trail is largely con- structed, maintained, and cared for by dedicated volun- teers. So, where do these volunteers learn proper trail maintenance techniques and hone their skills? Many take advantage of the PCTA’s Trail Skills College, which offers classes every year in California, Oregon, and Washington.

It is becoming harder and harder to obtain the traditional

skills required for trail maintenance, but the PCTA’s Trail Skills College events are keeping these skills alive and pass- ing them down through generations of trail enthusiasts. The PCTA’s Trail Skills College is for volunteers who would like to expand their knowledge about trails and learn how to construct, repair, and maintain the PCT to the correct standards. Most TSC’s are held on weekends and are attend- ed by about 50 students. When you sign up for Trail Skills College, you can

choose from a variety of courses that accommodate all skill levels. The courses are one or two days long and are taught on the trail by experienced staff, volunteers, and partners. The PCTA also offers a handful of certification courses dur- ing Trail Skills College sessions, such as those required to operate chain saws and crosscut saws. These classes include an additional classroom session and final test/evaluation. Trail Skills College courses and the events themselves are constantly evolving, but here is a list of courses that the PCTA has offered in the past (not all courses are offered at 

Volunteers are taught to handle and use rock bars while constructing rock-retaining walls; photo by Connor Swift

                                and chain saw

One of the great advantages of offering numerous cours-

es throughout a region is that the TSC’s can be tailored to fit the needs of a particular area. For example, not all sections of trail have the same climate or ecosystem, so naturally the conditions and maintenance needs change. Tailoring classes to specific regions or locations is a great way to direct volun- teers’ efforts so that the PCT receives the proper attention. There are many advantages to the TSC’s other than sim-

ply offering trail skills courses. These events bring like-mind- ed people together to be a part of something bigger than themselves. In class and around the campfire, you’ll share a wealth of knowledge and experience with fellow attendees, expanding both yours and their own knowledge of trails and trail maintenance.

These events also are a great way to meet new friends and socialize with wonderful people, and to take a “working vacation” near a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCTA’s Trail Skills College is an investment in the volun- teer community as well as in the trail itself.

32 After class, volunteer saw instructor David Roe teaches volunteers

 FALL 2016

Learn more and see dates and details for the 2017 Trail Skills College at

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