Sierra Buttes realignment 2016: an amazing experience

By Connor Swift, PCTA Trail Crew Technical Advisor

It’s often difficult to describe our experiences on the Pacific Crest Trail, whether we’ve been hiking or volunteering to do trail maintenance. Some experiences can be summed up with just a word or two, such as exhausting, beautiful or worst day ever. On the other hand, many of us have experienced the PCT in ways that we cannot describe with a single word or phrase. We’ve had so many feelings and emotions out there.

This is how the Sierra Buttes realignment projects of 2016 have been described to me. There have been ups and downs, good days and bad days. This ebb and flow is synonymous with trail work.  Everyone described it differently. Of course, some crew members and volunteers were more excited than others. Even so, the descriptions all ended relatively the same way: “This was an amazing experience!”

Learning how to build a rock wall on a trail. ACE corp crew members teach PCTA volunteers about dry masonry

ACE corp crew members teach PCTA volunteers about dry masonry.

The Sierra Buttes realignment project is anything but ordinary in comparison to your typical trail maintenance and construction project. It’s a multi-year, collaborative effort between the PCTA, American Conservation Experience (ACE) corp crews, the Tahoe National Forest, and of course, relentless volunteers to build six new miles of the PCT. The work is two hours north of Lake Tahoe, near the popular trail town of Sierra City. The new route takes the trail away from forest roads and private property, moving it closer to water sources and more ideal camping opportunities. So far, we’ve built nothing but new trail through some of the rockiest and most stubborn pieces of land one could find in this part of the world. Though that might be the case, building this section of trail with so many different people this summer has truly been, yes, an amazing experience.

ACE corp crews and PCTA volunteers after a hard day of work.

ACE corp crews and PCTA volunteers after a hard day of work.

There has been a tremendous workforce on the realignment throughout the season. For six weeks, two PCTA Trail Crew Technical Advisors, two ACE corp crews, the Yuba River Ranger District Trail crew, and up to 10 PCTA volunteers at a time have been putting in the tough hours. Together, they’ve made great progress and the final product is equally impressive. Most of the new section of trail has been built by hand, from the first swing of the pick to the last tamp of the McLeod. (That’s not to say there wasn’t a little help from a few power tools here and there.)  The work has required almost every type of skill set and discipline – another reason it has been an amazing experience.

Tahoe National Forest staff helping out with the power tools.

Tahoe National Forest staff helping out with the power tools.

The completion date of the Sierra Buttes realignment is unclear, but the end is near. Progress on the new trail section has been steady and all the pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fit together. The awesome teamwork will continue next year and beyond until the Sierra Buttes realignment is completed.

Want to learn more? Read: A community builds a new stretch of Pacific Crest Trail near the Sierra Buttes. Support our trail crews by donating or volunteering today.

ACE crew leader and PCTA volunteers having fun getting dirty.

ACE crew leader and PCTA volunteers having fun getting dirty.

Two legs of a newly constructed switchback.

Two legs of a newly constructed switchback.

A little sample of the new Sierra Buttes section of PCT .

A little sample of the new Sierra Buttes section of PCT .

One of the larger rock projects within the Sierra Buttes realignment.

One of the larger rock projects within the Sierra Buttes realignment.