Backpacking enthusiasts can spend Labor Day weekend hiking the Pacific Crest Trail near Crater Lake, provided they help improve the site.

Backpacking enthusiasts can spend Labor Day weekend hiking the Pacific Crest Trail near Crater Lake, provided they help improve the site.

About five miles of the PCT near the national park's southern boundary are in need of maintenance. Two nonprofit organizations are recruiting volunteers to spend their holiday digging, clearing brush, repairing drainage systems, replacing signs and surveying dams and stone walls. The event is limited to 10 people, whose camping fees will be paid by Crater Lake National Park Trust, which also plans to provide meals.

"It's just an opportunity to meet people with similar interests and get out in the woods," says Ian Nelson, Pacific Crest Trail Association's regional representative for Northern California and Southern Oregon.

"It can be pretty hard work."

Prior experience in trail upkeep is not necessary. But participants will be expected to hike several miles while carrying backpacks and equipment. PCTA and park staff will provide training, tools and safety equipment. PCTA will rent some backpacking gear to participants who don't have their own. Transportation to the park is not provided, but carpooling may be available.

About 33 miles of the PCT cross the national park, and several years have passed since the last maintenance project, says Nelson. The Labor Day weekend event focuses on an area near the Pumice Flat Trail, close to where the PCT crosses Highway 62, he says.

"It's literally the last mile of trail that's in need of the most work," he says.

Nearly all of the PCT's 2,650 miles between the Mexican and Canadian borders are maintained by volunteers in cooperation with PCTA and government agencies, says Nelson. Local projects begin once the snow melts in mid-May and continue until the onset of winter weather in mid-October, he adds.

The Crater Lake project begins Friday evening, when volunteers will meet at one of the national park's developed campgrounds, receive an overview of the weekend's activities and spend the night. The next morning, the group will hike several miles with members of the park's trail crew to a backcountry campsite. After setting up camp, participants may start work if time allows.

"They'll get a sense of what folks want to do, what they're capable of and how much walking," says Nelson.

Work will begin in earnest on Sunday and continue until dinnertime at the campsite. Unfinished tasks will be wrapped up Monday before the group packs out at midday. Preregistration is required.

The partnership is a first for PCTA and the national park trust. Formed as an independent nonprofit group in 2007, the trust promotes the park by fundraising and organizing events that widen visitors' experiences beyond the standard tours, hikes and educational programs.

Beyond building trails, the weekend will build community support for the park itself, says Maria Clementi, the trust's program director.

"Doing any sort of volunteer work on the ground," says Clementi, "we feel helps people gain and build that connection to Crater Lake National Park."

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.