The huge success of the Southern California Trail Skills College

By Debi Rodriguez. Photos by George Soliman.

Not many things make me happier than volunteering on the PCT or at a PCTA event. Hanging out with cool people that share a passion for the trail is always fun and inspiring; and you can make great new friends.

Trail Skills College, PCTA’s trail maintenance training program, is no exception. Besides just doing trail work, Trail Skills College is an opportunity to learn valuable trail maintenance skills from instructors with many years of experience. In the case of the 2015 Southern California Trail Skills College, held October 2-4, Idyllwild County Park was a pretty nice place to spend the weekend thanks to event co-sponsors Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District.

The 2015 SoCal Trail Skills College class.

The 2015 SoCal Trail Skills College class.

On Saturday, my partner and I attended the Trail Decommissioning & Wildland Restoration course taught by PCTA’s Southern California Regional Rep, Anitra Kass. Our class of seven spent most of the day working on a “social trail” that had been created as a short cut to an actual trail in Idyllwild Park. By the time we were done, it was hard to tell where the “social trail” had been! The information I learned in this course was very valuable and I definitely will put it to use while volunteering on the PCT.

One of the many highlights of the weekend was the awesome food that was prepared for us. Riverside County Parks provided the food while PCTA trail cook volunteers fed the group of 50-plus Trail Skills College instructors and participants from Friday dinner through Sunday breakfast.  I must say, we ate very well!

Riverside County Parks staff members tend the grill during the Friday night BBQ, hosted by Riverside County Parks.

Riverside County Parks staff members tend the grill during the Friday night BBQ, hosted by Riverside County Parks.

Saturday night there was a raffle, awards ceremony, and a movie. Although I won a prize in the raffle ($75 gift card from Mountain Khakis – thank you PCTA corporate sponsor!) the highlight of the evening was seeing the many PCTA award winners of the night: Doris Peddy received the 2014 Lifetime Achievement award. At almost 90 years old, she is truly an inspiration. A longtime trail maintainer, she now is a regular cook for PCTA Trail Gorillas crews in Southern California. Richard Leahy earned the 2014 Trail Maintainer of the Year: Southern California award for his incredible dedication as a PCTA volunteer and section chief. Mary Litch was presented with the 2014 Extra Mile award for her dedication to the PCT and service to the trail community.

Doris Peddy with her 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. Thank you so much for everything that you've done Doris!

Doris Peddy with her 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. Thank you so much for everything that you’ve done Doris!

Sunday we woke up to some rain but that didn’t keep us from gathering for breakfast or attending classes. I joined the Sign Installation and Inventory course, and learned about the range of signs used by different agencies and the many rules and regulations that apply to PCT signage. After the “classroom” portion of the day, our class took to the Riverside County Parks trails and posted three trail signs to help direct hikers within Idyllwild Park. Thank you to our teacher, long-time PCTA volunteer and Trail Gorillas Section C Chief John Hachey for sharing a lot of valuable information with our class.

I am very grateful to Riverside County Parks, PCTA staff and volunteers for all the valuable teaching and information we learned at Trail Skills College. I am always amazed that this priceless opportunity is a free event. Can’t wait to try out my new skills!

Enjoy these photos from the weekend!


Intro to Trail Maintenance students and instructors.


Hand Tool Field Maintenance students.


Intro to Trail Maintenance students.


Trail Decommissioning & Wildland Restoration students (John Crawford – PCTA Board Chair & Jonathan Reinig – RivCo Parks Natural Resource Specialist)


Trail Gorilla and Trail Skills College instructor Don Line with some of the weekend’s tools and signs.


Mary Litch wins the 2014 Extra Mile Award.


Richard Leahy wins 2014 Trail Maintainer of the Year for Southern California.


Rock Retaining Wall students.


Friday night spread with kitchen crew volunteers Doris Peddy, Pebbles Lewis, and Cristoph Bocchetti.


Crew Leadership students and instructors.

RivCoParks-25yr-Logo-(1) Special thanks to Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District! Your support for the PCT and this weekend of learning was both essential and delicious! Thanks for being a partner for the PCT!