West Cascades Trail Skills College

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2023 West Cascades Trail Skills College

The West Cascades Trail Skills College is a free weekend event for volunteers to learn about trail maintenance and stewardship.

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.

The 2023 West Cascades Trail Skills College is hosted in collaboration with Cascade Volunteers, U.S. Forest Service, and the PCTA’s Mid-Oregon Volunteers.

Registration has now closed for 2023.

When is it?

The 2023 event took place from May 19-21, 2023. Stay tuned for details about next year’s event! 

Where is it?

Camp White Branch, OR

How much does it cost?

Trail Skills College is free of charge.

Are meals and lodging provided?

Camping and bunkhouses will be available Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

Dinner will be provided on Friday and Saturday.

A simple breakfast will be available on Saturday and Sunday mornings, coffee will also be provided.

Please plan to bring your own food for Lunch on all three days.

What classes are being offered?

In 2023 we offered the following classes:

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.

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 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.

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.

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

The PCT and its feeder trails cross water courses of every conceivable size and type. Because bridges are time consuming and expensive, whenever possible it is better to build simpler structures that are more durable. Learn to build and maintain two to three of the following: fords, stepping stones, culverts, French drains, armored swales, and step down drains. If you enjoy working in water, this is the course for you!

This half-day class provides detailed instructions on the importance of ensuring your saw’s required safety features is 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.

Learn to identify trees and weeds in wild areas, especially invasive weeds, and help prevent them from spreading.  Help survey National Forest trails for invasive weeds so we can stop them before they get entrenched. This class will teach you to identify the highest priority invasive plant species and give you the tools you need to start helping prevent these weeds from spreading into our wilderness areas. More information at https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/invasive-species 

Opportunity to renew your chainsaw cert for A and B sawyers.  For other dates to recert for power or crosscut contact [email protected].  Online refresher at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz9Cw8Dup8c

And more!

Find the PCTA Trail Skills Curriculum Here!

Tentative schedule:

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

Friday May 19 Saturday May 20 Sunday May 21
101 Intro to Brushing and Scouting 102 Intro to Tread & Drainage 203 Water bars & Check Steps
Tree & Weed Identification 201 Drainage Design 205 Tread Reconstruction
Radio Communication (half-day) 207 Trail Decommission/Restoration 302 Stream Crossings
200 Intro to Trail Design– 200 Intro to Trail Design Chainsaw Recertification
Chainsaw Maintenance (half-day)
GPS Navigation (half-day)
Evening: Crosscut Competition & Intro to PCTA Stewardship

How do I register?

Registration has closed for 2023.

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 the online volunteer 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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