I’ve met a few people who have done trail work, and each of them talked very fondly of their experiences. As someone who loves the outdoors and was looking for an excuse to spend more time in the Sierra I searched around for volunteering opportunities and came across the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew, or HSVTC. They’re based in Fresno, and over the summer period run a series of weekend car camping style and weeklong backpacking volunteer trail crew trips.
Most of their trips are in National Forests, in and around the wilderness areas. After working on the trails alongside National Forest wilderness rangers and the entire trail maintenance team of just 2 people it became clear that the National Forests are significantly more resource starved than the neighbouring National Parks, and need all the help they can get. The wilderness areas in the National Forests are just as beautiful as the National Parks they border.
The first trip I did was 3 day weekend trip, most people arrive on Thursday afternoon/early evening, set up camp, and assemble for dinner in the evening as everyone introduces themselves. Then on Friday we get up early for coffee and breakfast, pack our lunches, walk through basic safety, and then we’re ready to hit the trail. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are work days. On Sunday morning we pack up the camp before heading out, and then on Sunday afternoon everyone says their goodbyes and heads home.
I also went on two backpacking trips, spending 6 nights camped out in the wilderness, first in Sierra National Forest and then Sequoia National Forest. The backpacking trips are supported by pack trains; horses and mules carry out all the tools, food, and camp kitchen, which means for our hiking we only need to carry our tent, sleeping bag/mat, and clothes. There are 4 workdays with a rest (or go explore) day in the middle.
I had a huge amount of fun on each of the trips, got to meet a lot of different people, and learnt a lot about trail building and maintenance, all while supporting trail systems in our National Forests. I’m really looking forward to doing some more trips again this year and hopefully seeing some of the same faces back out there.