Mid-morning on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) where it runs out of Belden Town: a group consisting of six high school students, a couple of people from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and the Forest Service cross the railroad tracks laden with loppers, shovels, pry bars and scrapers. Their mission is to repair the trail as part of the Storrie Fire restoration plan.
Using funds provided by the Union Pacific Railroad settlement with the Forest Service, trail rehabilitation is just one part of the effort being made to repair damage caused by the blaze. Four days earlier this same crew finished working on the trail that runs up Yellow Creek.
Now they are tackling the portion of the PCT within the Storrie Fire area. The PCT is a hiking path that begins at the Mexican border and runs into Canada. The students are from local schools, recruited by the SCA: Geoffrey Guthrie, Juliana Arteaga and Tucker Willits are students at Greenville High, Carinne Cook attends a Greenville charter school, David Anderson is from Chester High and Justin Russell is a student at Portola High.
The job is tedious and is done in three steps. First up the trail is the lopper person, who trims brush and branches that intrude onto the trail. Then comes the trimmer team that clears the edges of the trail of ground-hugging vegetation. Last is the crew that smoothes the tread, that part of the trail that actually supports hiking boots. There is also work done to restack the rocks in portions of the trail that have been washed out from spring runoff.
All this work is not without hazard: Crewmembers wear hardhats to protect against rocks dislodged by those working above. There is also a fair sprinkling of poison oak, lots of mosquitoes and other biting insects. Other projects require some good old- fashioned logging. Because much of the trail winds through wilderness areas, power equipment, by federal law, can’t be used.
Trees must be cut by two-man crosscut saws. One oak required a full day to remove it, buck it up and get it out of the way. Weed trimmers and other labor-saving devices cannot be used, making hand tools and muscle the order of the day. The student crew will receive a stipend at the end of the work season for work well done. This crew in particular has received high praise for its work.
Trail rehabilitation is just one part of the Storrie Fire restoration plan. Reforestation, campground repairs and upgrades, fuel treatments, watershed restoration, noxious weed control, and fish and wildlife restoration are all part of the 10-year plan to bring as much of the damaged area back from the brink as possible.
For more information on this project and others within the Plumas National Forest, visit fs.usda.gov/plumas.