Groups host educational Caldor Fire scar treks

A volunteer stands in a burned stump/root hole.
Don Bailey/Tahoe Rim Trail Association

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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Sugar Pine Foundation and Tahoe Rim Trail Association have partnered over the years to educate hikers and have fun in nature while encouraging safe and responsible recreation.

On Monday, June 27, the first of three Caldor Fire scar treks took place with two more treks scheduled through the summer which will provide insight to the aftermath of the large wildfire that left its mark in the basin. 

Prior to the Caldor Fire, Don Bailey, longtime volunteer for the Tahoe Rim Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Pony Express had been rerouting the trail away from the highway. Just after completing the project Caldor came in and demolished five bridges along the Pony Express trail. 

Two and a half miles of the trail that was impacted has been repaired thanks to volunteers. 

“Over 100 volunteers, including at least one youth group, dedicated 885 hours of trail work from mid-May to June 11,” Bailey said. “We prepared the trail, repaired tread, took felled trees out, filled in burned stump holes.” 

Volunteers rest on the trail during reparations.
Volunteers rest in the burn scar.

Even still, “The horses had to be shuttled from Echo Summit to Kyburz to bypass that part,” Bailey said of the yearly voyage of the Pony Express reenactment — a 10-day trek across the United States from St Joseph, Missouri to Old Sacramento, California.

Executive director of the Sugar Pine Foundation, Maria Mircheva, started as a volunteer 15 years ago climbing trees and harvesting cones for seeds to aid in reforestation. Her knowledge and passion for the forest has brought her to work full time, year around. She is the interpretive guide on the scheduled Caldor scar treks. 

“The goals of the trek are to educate people that fire is part of the ecosystem, but fire behavior has changed in the past 20 years, and they have become more devastating.” Mircheva said. “It is a delicate balance being part of an ecosystem. The fires have a role in clearing the forest floor, thinning the forest naturally.”

The hike held mid-June talked about identification of trees and the different adaptations to the fire. Along the way the group stopped in the burned portions to talk about the checkered footprint left behind, how the trees burn, and what will grow in the future. 

Mircheva said, “Plant ID apps are used to identify the plants that are growing in the area to inform what is needed for reforestation. There were a few tree seedlings, red fir and a lot of canyon oak bushes present within the impacted area.” 

Mircheva added, “The trail had been washed out or destroyed in some areas but has been restored by the volunteers in an extraordinarily short amount of time. Trees hanging down or felled by other entities were hand sawed or chain sawed and removed.” 

Finished segment of Tahoe Rim Trail
Caldor burn scar trek finished

As of June 30, the Forest Service has rated and removed all hazardous trees along the trails. The different nuisances and aspects of the fire scar left some ‘snags’ – a standing dead tree not necessarily from the fire. Only the trees that are thought to have a chance of falling are removed. If less than half of the crown, branches and needles, is burned there is a greater chance of survival. The trees that have been burned but still have green have a very slim chance of survival.

The USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit reminds the community and visitors that the landscapes have been tragically impacted by the Caldor Fire which wreaked havoc on the Tahoe Rim Trail near and on Echo Summit. The areas are open to public access with a warning. It is advised using caution when recreating in the scarred areas. Hikers and mountain bikers should be on the lookout for falling trees and limbs, ash pits, and burned stump holes/root chambers. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid the impacted areas during high winds and listen for cracking. 

For those who would like to get involved with reforestation within the basin are encouraged to help with waterings scheduled at different locations during the summer months. Every Tuesday at 6 p.m., a location will be selected on the South Shore and every Thursday, also at 6 p.m., on the North Shore. Locations vary and are updated on Sugar Pine Foundation website and social media. The waterings are to increase the survival rate, currently at 25%, due to the dry summers.

Two more Caldor scar treks are planned on July 19 and Aug. 17.

For more information and to register, visit and

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