A few weeks ago, Minimal Gear's impact manager Kyle attended the PCTA's Trail Skills College program in Cascade Locks. Trail Skills College are weekend long events that take place up and down the Pacific Crest Trail throughout the year that teach folks different aspects of trail work - all for free! We want more folks to know about this fantastic resource, so Kyle wrote up a blog about his experience over his weekend of classes!
What is the PCTA’s trail skills college program?
Every Spring, chapters of the PCTA all along the trail host a weekend of trail skills college in their region to inform, train, and connect local volunteers. It’s a chance to learn new trail maintenance skills, update your certifications, and network with other folks who care deeply about the PCT.
What made you want to attend?
As Impact Manager, I run our trail crew programs for Minimal Gear. We’ve recently adopted a section of the PCT (Table Mountain, Washington) for which we are the new caretakers. Our long-term goal is for the Minimal Gear team to become an independent and self-sufficient trail crew in partnership with the PCTA. So I’ve got plenty of trail skills, safety knowledge, and certifications with the US Forest Service to develop as I journey down the path of becoming a certified crew leader.
What classes did you go to and why did you pick them? Were there any you wished you had time to attend?
At trail skills college, I attended classes specifically hosted for crew leaders in training. These courses included project management, leading volunteers, and trail scouting for when the snow begins to melt out of our section of the PCT.
But oh boy, there were a host of other classes I would have loved to take. In particular, I’d love to go back and participate in the classes on rock structures (building long lasting retaining walls, masonry tools, rock shaping and splitting) and mechanical advantage & rigging (using devices and rope systems to haul massive boulders and logs).
What were some takeaways from the experience?
At this point in our training, our team has a respectable amount of technical trail building skills, but learning the project management that goes into each outing is an entirely different beast. These courses gave me great insight into the leadership aspect of a trail crew, including how to scout a trail and plan a project in advance, how to navigate the administrative responsibilities and reporting structure of the US Forest Service, and how to work with a volunteer trail crew in a variety of scenarios. But the most valuable part of my experience was connecting with all the other volunteers in the Portland area.
Who would you recommend skills college to?
Are you a past-thru hiker looking to reconnect with the trail?
Are you wanting to do good in your community?
Need volunteer hours?
Maybe you’re just looking to make friends, connections, or a sense of community?
Then go ahead. Volunteer with the PCTA. No experience required.