Allingham Trail Skills College

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In 2022 the PCTA and Deschutes National Forest hosted an in-person Trail Skills College event for volunteers to learn about trail maintenance and stewardship. Beginners and seasoned trail workers alike can benefit from the courses being offered. 

These Central Oregon trail skills trainings are offered free of charge in an effort to inspire stewardship of trails. In exchange for attending a training session, we encourage you to volunteer at least 8 hours of work on trail projects in the coming year.

These trainings are possible thanks to the U.S. Forest Service, Deschutes Trail Coalition and the PCTA’s Mid-Oregon Volunteers.

Registration for the 2023 Allingham Trail Skills College is now closed. 

When is it?

Allingham Trail Skills College took place June 1st-4th, 2023. Stay tuned for next year’s event! 

Where is it?

Field sessions will take place on the PCT in the Deschutes National Forest. Attendees will meet at Allingham Guard Station each morning and carpool to trailheads/class locations nearby.

Directions to Allingham Guard Station:

  • Coming from the east: 9 miles west of Sisters on Hwy 20, turn right (north) onto FS Road 14, following the signs to Camp Sherman/Metolius River.  After approximately 2.5 miles, at a “Y” intersection, bear left (straight) onto Forest Road 1419 for several miles.  At the junction where Road 1419 makes a right turn into Camp Sherman you will continue going straight on Forest Road 1420.  At the next intersection turn right (east) on Forest Road 1217.  The entrance to Allingham Guard Station is ¾ mile from this intersection, on the right, just before the bridge over the Metolius River.  Registration tables will be set adjacent to the small parking lot.
  • Coming from the west on Hwy. 20 the turn off to Camp Sherman is about 3.5 miles past Suttle Lake. The turnoff will be to the left onto FS Road 14 (Camp Sherman turnoff), then the same directions as above.

How much does it cost?

Trail skills trainings are free of charge.

Are meals and lodging provided?

Camping within the Guard Station is informal.  There are no designated sites but there is plenty of space.  When selecting a camp spot, please avoid camping in the riverside meadow and stay within the tree line.  This avoids harmful impacts and keeps our camp discreet from other Forest visitors.  For those arriving on Wednesday evening, please don’t set up camp near any of the Yurts as this area is used for classes.

Bring everything you need for car or RV camping.  For tent campers, bring a warm sleeping bag.  It is not uncommon for temperatures to dip down to the 30s and 40s at night. There are no hook ups, but water and toilets will be available.  Please bring a camp chair.

We are hoping to offer one community meal on Saturday night, and will have coffee and other beverages available. Please bring your own food/camp stove/utensils for other meals.

What’s the fitness level?

The fitness level of the field sessions will vary depending on the classes you select during registration. However, all participants should be prepared to hike a minimum of 1-2 miles while carrying personal gear and tools. Participants should also be prepared for the hands-on learning opportunities in many of these classes, resulting in 6 hours of active trail maintenance per day.

What classes are being offered?

In 2023, we will offer the following trail skills courses:

This session covers the fundamentals of Crosscut Saw use. It focuses on hazard assessment, safety procedures, saw selection and tooth patterns, the importance of axes and wedges, and the best practices for clearing trail effectively in challenging and potentially hazardous situations. This course consists of one classroom day and one field day clearing trail. The instructor will determine the certification level. Long-sleeve shirt, pants, leather boots, eye protection, gloves and hard hats are required. Gloves and hard hats will be available for those who don’t have them. Bring a saw if you have one.  A current CPR and 1st Aid card are required to take Saw certification classes.

The FS requires that chainsaw operators be certified. Attending this Course does not guarantee certification but for those who successfully complete the Course they will be USFS certified which will allow them to operate a chain saw without the presence of another certified sawyer. The Certification is valid for 3 years. The class focuses on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), chainsaw safety features, safe chain saw operations, hazard/complexity assessment, importance and use of axes and wedges, understanding trail standards and safe practices in clearing/maintaining trails in challenging and often hazardous situations. The Course consists of 2 days. Day 1 consists of primarily classroom training with some “hands on” chain saw experiences. Day 2 is almost exclusively chain saw field work. At the end of Day 2, the instructor/certifier will determine the certification level.

A current First Aid and CPR card are required before a Saw Certification card will be issued. If you have these cards, please bring them to class. For those who successfully complete the course and show proof of current First Aid and CPR certification their chain saw certification card will be provided within 30 days.

In order to attend the Course you will need to bring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): a helmet, hearing protection, wrap around eye protection, long sleeve shirt, full length pants, gloves, chain saw safety chaps, laced 8” high lugged or caulked heavy leather or Kevlar (or equivalent) boot, single bit axe with sheath and 3 or more wedges. The underlined equipment above is personal equipment/clothing and solely your responsibility to provide. You may want to withhold purchase of a helmet, chaps or saw prior to the class as you will likely be a more informed buyer after attending the class. Prior to the class you will receive course related material and a reminder of the needed PPE and other equipment you’ll need to bring to the class. You’ll be asked to notify us if you are lacking a saw or other required equipment. In most cases we can provide loaners.

Intended for those new to trail work who want to learn how to cut brush and small logs to help clear a trail to proper specifications. After discussion of general safety protocols, students learn about safe and effective use of hand saws and loppers. This class also includes how to complete an early season trail survey to identify and report major problems, especially blown down logs, by their number, location, and size.

For curious trail workers who want to understand why so many trails are in bad shape because of how they were made. Learn how better design and layout makes trails more sustainable and less prone to erosion. Introduction to different trail design standards appropriate for different kinds of trails. This class is for anybody interested in these topics, but students with some trail building and maintenance experience will benefit the most.

Learn how to design and locate effective drainage structures. After a comprehensive explanation of hillside hydrology and how trails work when they shed water properly, this class shows students how to design and construct long, rolling drain dips as a way of reducing erosion on existing trails.

Where earthen rolling drain dips are not feasible, drainage features are sometimes armored using rock or log. Learn contemporary techniques to build water bars. The class will include a review of “old school” waterbars, and how to convert “old school” waterbars to a more effective design. Furthermore, learn how to install rock and log checks where tread is gullied and cannot be drained, or in other situations requiring tread armoring

Understand sign specifications and learn how to install signs and keep proper records in conjunction with land managers.  Learn about agency standards for signs.  Making needed signs is very gratifying, though navigating the Forest Service sign manual requires special attention to detail.

Learn how to put an abandoned campsite or section of trail to bed so that it returns to nature without erosion. Some call this Zen and the art of wilderness gardening, or trail magic because if properly done the old trail disappears. Includes transplanting, seed collection, and rock placements.

For students with moderate to extensive trail building experience who want to lead trail crews and work parties. Not a construction techniques class; this is about effective leadership. Students will have classroom and field work in the following topics: workday responsibilities, risk assessment and safety, tool safety and tool talk, leadership and team building, practical experience leading volunteers.

The procedures, equipment and Forest Service guidelines used for constructing and maintaining winter trails are different from those used for summer trails. This class will review the guidelines and tools used for constructing and maintaining winter trails and hanging assurance markers, and will include field time for practice of these techniques

Learn how to use your hand-held GPS with confidence. This intro course will explore GPS theory, navigation, data collection, and GPS features. Be prepared to get dirty by navigating and collecting data in the field using your GPS. Course is intended for anyone looking to improve GPS skills and is taught using the Garmin platform, but techniques can be applied to any manufacturer. Students should bring their own GPS and extra batteries.

When you’re out on a trail project, safety is the number one priority. And one of the most critical skills to a safe trail project is communication, whether between crews, or in an emergency. Every trail volunteer should know how to make an emergency call using a provided FS radio. In this class we will cover how to operate radios properly and the correct verbiage when calling in an emergency or checking in/out of duty. We will review Forest Service radio usage, plus we will review Trail Communication Plans.

**This is an advanced class for established volunteers, class size is very limited.** Mechanical Advantage is the ratio of load to effort. Pulleys and levers alike rely on mechanical advantage. The larger the advantage is the easier it will be to lift the weight. In other words, you would need to put less effort into lifting the weight. In this class you will learn how to use mechanical advantage using pulley systems and/or rock bars to move heavy logs or rocks out of the trail. Learn how to work smarter, not harder by using 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 pulley systems and more to make moving heavier objects easy

This 2-hour class provides detailed instructions on the importance of ensuring your saw’s required safety features are functioning as designed. The class also covers preventive and routine maintenance including troubleshooting problems such as hard starting, poor running or cutting problems. Bring your enthusiasm, any questions you may have and, if you would like, bring your own saw.

View our Trail Skills College Course Curriculum Here!

Each field session will follow enhanced Covid-19 safety protocols.

We are also able to offer First Aid/CPR courses at this year’s event. Classes will be held in nearby Sisters, OR. In order to register for one of the above saw certifications, you must have current First Aid/CPR certification or be registered for one of these classes that we are hosting.

First Aid Classes will be held at Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District located: 301 S Elm St, Sisters, OR 97759 on May 5th & 6th, June 9th & 10th, and July 28th & 29th. Registration for these classes has closed. 

What’s the schedule?

The below 2023 schedule is subject to change (yellow class blocks are multi-day classes):

Thursday June 1 Friday June 2 Saturday June 3 Sunday June 4
Initial Chainsaw Certification — Initial Chainsaw Certification Chainsaw Sharpening/Maintenance
Initial Crosscut Certification — Initial Crosscut Certification
200 Intro to Trail Design — 200 Intro to Trail Design
Basic Radio Communications (afternoon) Intro to GPS (morning) 100 Intro to Trail Maintenance — 100 Intro to Trail Maintenance
Campfire talk: Whitebark Pines (evening) 201 Drainage Design 203 Check Steps & Waterbars
208 Trail Sign Installation 207 Trail Decommission
300 Rock Retaining Walls — 300 Rock Retaining Walls
Nordic Trail Maintenance 304 Crew Leadership
Invasive Plant ID & Weed Pull
Intro to Mechanical Advantage

What should I bring?

  • Layers work best as outdoor temperatures, weather, and your activity level will vary through the day. Follow
    the layering system for your work and camp clothes. Long pants are required to conduct trail work. Long
    sleeve shirts are recommended for sun and insect protection and in some areas are required for trail work.

    • Layer 1: Long underwear tops, bottoms, and socks; made of lightweight wool or synthetic material.
    • Layer 2: Mid-weight wool or synthetic pants and shirt. Can be more than one layer; bring additional
      layers if you get cold easily. Cotton is not advised.
    • Layer 3: Rain coat or other water/wind resistant coat or poncho and rain pants.
  • Sturdy boots with slip-resistant tread that offer firm and flexible support. No sandals or sneakers
    while working on the trail but you may want these in camp. Saw students have specific footwear
    requirements. See the Crosscut & Chainsaw Training page.
  • Warm hat and warm gloves while at camp.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Pillow

  • Since meals are not provided at this year’s event, please bring food for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner for each day you will be attending.

  • Sealable plastic container to pack lunch in
  • Plate / bowl for breakfast and dinner
  • Silverware
  • Cup / insulated drinking mug
  • Water bottles / hydration pack

  • Sun protection: sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, lip balm
  • Insect repellant
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Daypack
  • Alarm clock

  • Camp chair (compact)
  • Supplemental snacks
  • Camera
  • Bandana
  • Safety gear (i.e. hard hats, gloves) will be provided throughout the weekend. However, if you have safety gear that you would prefer to use, please bring it with you.

What should I leave at home?

Please do not bring pets to Trail Skills College.

As with any camp, please do not leave valuables in your tent during the day. Plan on either storing your valuables on you, in your vehicle, or leave them at home

How do I register?

Registration for the 2023 Skills College has now closed.

Can’t wait?

Don’t forget, you can learn new trail maintenance skills by volunteering on a PCTA trail crew any time. Most crews don’t require any previous trail maintenance experience. Knowledgeable and experienced crew leaders are on site to teach you the necessary skills.  Visit PCTA’s online schedule to find trail projects near you.

If you have questions about Trail Skills College, contact PCTA’s Volunteer Program at [email protected].

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