Columbia Cascades Trail Skills College

Volunteers at the 2018 Columbia Cascades Trail Skills College learn to build turnpikes and work with packers and pack stock. Photo by Les Taylor.

2022 Columbia Cascades Trail Skills College

The 2022 Columbia Cascades Trail Skills College returned 2022 as an in-person, three-day gathering. Stay tuned for 2023!

Trail Skills College is 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.

Registration for the 2022 Trail Skills College has now closed.

Thanks for joining us!

When is it?

The 2022 Columbia Cascades Trail Skills College took place from April 29th – May 1st, 2022.

Where is it?

The 2022 Trail Skills College was hosted at Beacon Rock State Park. Field sessions took place in the greater Columbia River Gorge area.

How much does it cost?

Trail Skills College is free of charge.

What classes are offered this year?

In 2022, we offered the following courses:

This introductory sampler class is for people new to trail work who want an overview. One quarter of the class covers “how trails work,” i.e. basic trail design concepts; one quarter covers trail work safety protocols; one quarter covers hands-on brushing and hand-saw clearing; and one quarter covers hands-on drainage cleaning. This sampler class does not prepare students to work independently. Instead, students will understand a range of trail work tasks and have a good idea of what they want to do under a crew leader, or what class they want to take next.

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 – their numbers, locations, and sizes.

Water and gravity constantly threaten our trails and thus we must learn how best to deflect them. This course begins with basics of hillside hydrology and how trails work when they shed water properly.
Includes introduction of “trail eyes” and basic trail design concepts, as well as how to recognize tread erosion patterns. Hands-on practice removing slough and berm, and effective cleaning and maintenance of existing water bars and grade dips.

Are you interested in helping certified sawyers to clear trails, but don’t have much experience working with or around saws? Regardless of if you aim to become a certified sawyer yourself, learning to be a safety-conscience saw crew member is an important place to start. This class provides field experience with crosscut saws and axes, but most of the principles are also applicable to chainsaws. Therefore, this class is the place to start, no matter what trail clearing tools you expect to use in the future.

The session begins with an introduction to crosscut saws and axes of various types, and how they work. It then covers their safe and effective use, including a review of trail clearing specifications, safety equipment, the forces of tension and bind, and the practice of situational awareness.

This class is an introduction; it does NOT provide saw certification, which is required for those who wish to be lead sawyers.

We rely on hand tools to lop branches, dig drain dips, remove slough and berm, construct waterbars and check steps, and much more. As a result, hand tools receive a great deal of wear and tear. Learn about the most common tool problems that are encountered during trail work (dull blades, loose handles) and how to address them in the field. 

Intended for someone who has taken 102 Tread & Drainage and/or has experience doing drainage work. 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.

This class will focus on restoration of damaged tread to ideal specifications. Review hillside hydrology and how trails should work, practice systematic slough & berm removal, re-cutting sidehill tread, and learn to reconstruct tread after damage from gullying, tread creep, nasty roots, and uprooted trees. 

Learn how to put a campsite and section of trail to bed so that it returns to nature without erosion. Some call this “trail magic,” or “Zen and the Art of Wilderness Gardening” because, if properly done, the old scars disappear, replaced by a natural-appearing landscape. Methods include transplanting, seed collection, and rock placements. There are no prerequisites for this class, though students should have interest in working with plants and be willing to get dirty.

Become more sign savvy! Understand trail sign specifications and learn how to install signs correctly. Learn to record sign inventory records in conjunction with agency partners. Students should be seasoned hikers experienced with map reading, have some experience with basic tools, be detail-oriented with clear hand writing, and be comfortable learning to use digital devices.

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: work day responsibilities, risk assessment and safety, tool
safety and tool talk, leadership and team building, practical experience leading volunteers.

This course, taught by a packer, is meant to take any intimidation out of planning a trip that’s going to be pack-supported, especially for those not experienced with equine. Students will learn safety around the stock, and some horseman lingo. They will learn what essential pieces of information need to be discussed with the packer in advance.
This course won’t make students into packers, but they will gain a general understanding of the key principles of packing and balancing panniers, coolers, tools, and other trail crew gear.

Learn the steps for estimating time and materials, and setting up a work project. Learn about trail triage: how to prioritize and what techniques to use when total trail reconstruction to ideal specs is not an option. Understand environmental concerns and policies that may impact projects. Learn what to look for when scouting a trail and how/when to schedule work. Develop advanced knowledge of project layout and trail (re)construction

View our Trail Skills College Course Curriculum Here!

Are meals and lodging provided?

Camping was available at Beacon Rock State Park Group Campground. Thinking about the safety of our participants regarding potential Covid-19 exposure, no meals were provided at this year’s Trails Skills College.

What precautions are being taken regarding Covid-19?

We will be having smaller class sizes, and will offer multiple sessions of certain classes in order to limit opportunity for exposure.

We will also be forgoing large-group/PCTA-hosted meals and have created a schedule that allows for commuting if people are uncomfortable with group camping.

Find our current Covid-19 Volunteer Protocols Here. 

What’s the fitness level of Trail Skills College?

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.

How do I register?

Registration for 2022 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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