Trail work teaches life skills

Trail work teaches life skills for high school students
Posted on 05/30/2018
Mandy Beatty directs PCS high school students in trail work.During an April work day with Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, 22 student volunteers from Plumas Charter School’s Quincy site developed and rehabilitated a stretch of trail on Mount Hough above Quincy, and learned valuable life skills along the way.

Mandy Beatty, SBTS trails program coordinator, led PCS students and teachers in designing and building drainage structures and implementing revegetation efforts along a notoriously muddy stretch of the Berry Creek trail on Plumas National Forest’s Mount Hough Ranger District.

The day started with stretching and a discussion of rules and expectations. “It’s really important for the kids to learn what risk management means and what it looks like,” said Leslie Pace, outdoor education coordinator for Plumas Charter School.

The teens set to work using hand tools, stacking rocks, and moving brush. Despite the heavy labor and inclement conditions—Beatty called it “the muddiest day possible”—students said they were surprised that the experience wasn’t more difficult.

“There were challenges, but nothing too hard,” said Jacey Taylor, a freshman at PCS’s Quincy site. “It was interesting. It’s not something you do every day.”

Fellow Quincy PCS freshman Thea Nicoles agreed. “I thought it was going to be harder,” she said. “I had low expectations for myself, but it turned out really well. It was really fun.”

Pace pointed out that exposure to new places and local flora and fauna increases students’ confidence, as does learning to use new tools. That confidence will serve them well in their future jobs, and in life, she said.

“Lots of these kids, even though they’ve grown up here, these tend to be places they’ve never been to before,” said Pace. “Through trail maintenance they learn about conservation and protecting these very special places.”

The students built armored drains, which involved moving and stacking rocks, “kind of playing Tetris with them,” said Beatty. Nicoles said this taught her and her fellow students the importance of teamwork and communication.

“We were moving rocks, we would have teams get rocks or move brush. We communicated really well,” said Nicoles. “Communication is the best key to getting things done.”

The work ethic teens learn through real-life experiences like trail work is essential, said Pace, both “in everyday matters and in things they are going to do throughout their life.”

Through rehabilitating extensive “trail braiding,” which occurs when users leave the main trail, in this case to avoid mud, Beatty taught the students about trail etiquette and the importance of staying on the trail.

Clearing brush alongside the main trail introduced students to the concept that removing some plants could save many other plants, said Pace.

Their impressions of Beatty’s guidance style gave the students an experiential example of good leadership. “I liked how Mandy helped us,” said Nicoles. “She showed everyone, she let us all help, and we could all talk and have our own ideas. There were good vibes everywhere.”

Taylor said that because she wants to be an animator, her future career may not require trail building skills per se. But she foresees drawing on her experience working with rocks and soil to design and create animated terrain features.

“I thought it would just be fixing trails, not actually creating new trails,” she said. “It was fun to say I’m stepping on a brand new trail.”

By Ingrid Burke, I. Burke Writing & Editing
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How to get there
Want to check out the students’ hard work? “This trail provides the best view of Quincy that’s easy to get to on Hough,” said Mandy Beatty, trails program coordinator with Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship.

From the stoplight at Plumas Pines Shopping Center (Safeway) in Quincy, take Quincy Junction Road away from town. After crossing Chandler Road, turn left on Mount Hough Road.

After about 3 miles, turn left at Four Corners, the first major intersection. A large parking area is available in about a quarter-mile.

The students focused on the first half-mile of the Berry Creek trail.

From the parking area, there are two hiking options, each about 3 miles long. A one-way route on the Berry Creek trail leads down to Oakland Camp. For a loop hike, start out on the Berry Creek trail and turn left on the Berry Creek tie after about half a mile. After three-quarters of a mile, turn left again on Fireline to head back to Four Corners.

Signs are available to guide visitors.
Note that official approval of these routes by the Plumas National Forest is currently pending.

In the photo: Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship’s Mandy Beatty, center, pointing, directs Plumas Charter School student volunteers during a work day in April.