Tahoe Trails Skills College gets back to in-person training

By Allegra Torres

The Tahoe Trail Skills College looked a little different this year due to Covid-19 and smoke from wildfires in the area. But with the help of awesome volunteer instructors and PCTA’s Northern Sierra Regional Rep, Connor Swift, we took a big step with a small but mighty group and everyone learned new trail skills.

On Saturday, participants gathered at the Donner Summit Parking lot, eager and excited for the day. Volunteers Lisa and Bob were the instructors for the Intro to Trail Maintenance course while Connor and Technical Trails Advisor, Allegra, were the instructors for the combined Water Bars, Drainage, Check Steps, and Retaining Walls course. Participants split up into their classes and began to learn about the right tools for the job, ergonomics, safety, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Then it was time to hit the trails!

Volunteers instructed and participated in a hands-on Intro to Trail Maintenance course during the 2021 Tahoe Trail Skills College.

Bob and Lisa’s crew went North on the PCT from the Donner Peak Trailhead and got started on what to look for when working on the trail. Tread width, brushing techniques and water bar clearing techniques were all explained as well as how to use “trail eyes” while scouting or maintaining the tread.

Volunteers head out with PCTA staff to learn the ins and outs of water bars, drainage, check steps and retaining walls during the 2021 Tahoe Trail Skills College.

Connor and Allegra’s crew also worked north from the Donner Peak Trailhead. They focused on proper rock quarrying techniques, how to move big rocks with rock bars and how to roll them without throwing out their backs.

How do you move a big rock? Together! Photos by Allegra Torres.

The crew also set in place two solid check steps to lessen the steep grade of the tread and retain soil. The volunteers in the course were fast learners and communicated very well while moving big rocks. All together we set in two awesome steps and walked out feeling accomplished!

Volunteers at the Tahoe Trail Skills College set check steps to lessen the steep grade of the trail. Photo by Allegra Torres.

On Sunday new and returning participants met up at the same parking lot. Due to heavy smoke, we didn’t get out on the trail, but instructors got creative and we were still able to explain a lot right on site! Bob and Lisa taught volunteers how to make rolling grade dips, explained the importance of using the right tool for the job and practiced using “trail eyes.” Connor and Allegra’s group went through the process of quarrying and how to properly move rocks. Allegra also did a “mini demonstration” with rocks and showed the group what a check step, retaining wall and water bar should look like, plus the process of making them.

Volunteer instructors Bob and Lisa stress the importance of using the right tool for the job.

All in all, it was a great weekend at Trail Skills College. Everyone learned a lot, laughed a lot and gained some awesome trails skills! Thanks to the Tahoe National Forest and PCTA staff, partners and volunteer instructors who made it possible – and all the volunteer participants for showing up with enthusiasm and a good attitude!

Up and down the Pacific Crest Trail, we teach the fundamental skills of trail design and maintenance. Trail Skills Colleges are free and open to new and experienced volunteers. For more on Trail Skills College and to learn how to get involved in trail maintenance, visit www.pcta.org/volunteer