End-Of-Season Wrap-Up

With the 2017 Conservation Corps season a month behind us, the Conservancy has had a chance to compile some of the data from the season and reflect on our successes and lessons learned. Most notably, we are excited to share our 2017 End-Of-Season Portfolio, recapping the experience of the crews, work completed, and individual reflections from the season. To view the portfolio, visit 2017 End-Of-Season Portfolio.

Over the course of the twelve week season, the Conservancy hosted 36 conservation corps interns spread across six crews. All in all, the crews contributed over 12,000 hours of volunteer service on public lands. This service equates to $289,680 contributed to the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service in Northern Colorado. During these hours on-the-ground, the crews:

  • Maintained 225 miles of trail
  • Cleared 1,452 downed trees from trail
  • Repaired or installed 1,110 drain structures
  • Built 28 check steps
  • Constructed 2.7 miles of trail
  • Constructed or repaired ten stream crossings
  • Replaced 267 feet of turnpike (raised trail through wet areas)
  • Planted 2,480 native plants
  • Decommissioned more than 1,000 feet of social trail
  • Rebuilt a 1,200 square foot deck
  • Moth-Balled a historic structure by creating 25 window coverings
  • Refinished the exteriors of five cabins
  • Installed 50 bear boxes for campsites
  • AND MUCH MORE!

In addition, the young adults developed leadership skills, learned about the natural and cultural history of the Rocky Mountains, and gained valuable jobs skills and career resources to help propel them forward in their academic and professional careers.

To see a brief recap of the season, view our slideshow at 2017 End-Of-Season Recap.

As we work through the off-season, stay tuned for posts of Corps members’ reflections and photos from the summer!

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FINAL Week

Last week we wrapped up the season by bringing all six crews back to Estes Park and Moraine Park Campground for a final week of work and reflection. The week began with the Conservancy’s Annual Picnic on Saturday, August 5th. The picnic provided an opportunity for the Corps to interact with the Conservancy’s members and share their stories from a summer of work. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After a day off on Sunday, the crews were back out in the field for their last project. For this day, we all traveled over to the Sulphur Ranger District to help complete critical tread work on the Monarch Lake Trail. After 5 hours on trail, the crews had maintained nearly four miles of trail, completed a turnpike, constructed a stepping stone crossing, brushed a few 100 feet of trail, and much more! The day ended with smiling faces, as the crews finished up some of the leftover fudge from the picnic!

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On Wednesday, after a free day on Tuesday, the crews hit the ground in Hidden Valley at  Junior Ranger Headquarters to help lead activities for prospective Junior Rangers! The crews helped 80 children through activities related to Leave Not Trace, the 10 Essentials, food storage, and trail building.

Thursday brought all of the crews into the office for a day of portfolio work and career development activities, including resume workshops and a USA Jobs training. The crews wrapped up the day at the Rocky Mountain National Park Volunteer Appreciation Event.

For the last day, on Friday, we all woke up bright an early to summit Mount Chiquita in the Mummy Range of RMNP. The sun shined on us the whole hike, even if the wind was brutal. The views from the top did not disappoint. IMG_0380

Today, I move back behind my desk to begin to dig through the piles of gear and compile the results from the season. I look forward to sharing all of the season’s accomplishment soon. Aside from the quatifiable outcomes, I can tell you from experience that these young people were hard working, passionate, energetic, and altogether inspiring to all that worked with them!

-Geoff Elliot (Conservation Corps Manager)

In the Field: Week 8

Red Feather and Rawah Crews

The last hitch for Red Feather and Rawah was a combined hitch. Our goal for the week was to construct two turnpikes and a foot bridge. After a pretty 4 mile hike up the MacIntyre trail we began work on an old rotting bridge that would become a new turnpike. We removed many rotten boards, rusty nails, and some stringers (support logs for the old bridge).

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Around 11, Chris and Matt our USFS friends came to give us further direction. After a few more hours of hard work we cleaned up the worksite and went to set up camp.

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On Tuesday, the construction of the turnpike and bridge began. We replaced a rotten stringer for the new bridge and dug ditches that would act as drains underneath the turnpike.  The drain walls were lined with smaller logs on each side to assist in draining and support.  The drains then led into a trench surrounding the turnpike.  The next step was to fill the turnpike with rocks and then dirt to create a stable surface that would allow water to drain. It was beautiful.

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The bridge also required a lot of work.  Logs were chopped and nails were removed. Our fellow Forest Service friends arrived to assist in the leveling and placing of boards on the bridge. After a hard day of work and a quick jump into the river, we headed back to camp for a final hitch meal and some good old fashioned star-tipping (which involved a lot of laughing and falling over).

Wednesday was our last day of hitch ever. The crew divided up to work on constructing the final turnpike and to finish the foot bridge. The turnpike crew had a lot of work ahead of them. We worked to dig the drains in a large mud pit and Jordan took quite a tumble and ended up with a soggy bum. The small time allotment didn’t permit us to make the same type of turnpike as the day before. Using some ingenuity and a few pieces of extra rebar the final turnpike was born. The bridge was not quite finished by hike out time, but the majority was, and it looked great.  It should be finished in the coming weeks by Chris and Matt

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Our final week was a fantastic, fun, and unique week. “Redwah” finished it like they started, together.

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-Abigail Wetzel (Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week)

Estes Crew

The crew started the week off as per the usual scooping poop- but unlike other days the mules made a reappearance later in the day. The team started the day by beginning construction on a stabilizing rock wall and planting rocks along the trial. Then the mules arrived!! Each of the 9(!!) mules brought two bags filled with dirt, to help build up the tread in the turnpike. The dirt was then released onto areas of the turnpike that were otherwise complete. The dirt on each side of the mule must be released at the same time, so that the mule doesn’t have an unequal balance of weight. . The team used tampers to pound the dirt into the trail. Tampers are tools with a heavy, square, base that is used to compress dirt and tread material. About 50ft of turnpike were completed and filled with tread. (Unfortunately we didn’t snap any photos).

Tuesday entailed a change of scenery. The crew headed to a horse trail behind Moraine Park Campground to build logs checks. Log checks help keep the trail in place, reduce rutting from heavy use and help with drainage.

In the afternoon Compass Coalition came to shoot some footage for a video featuring the Conservation Corps and Rocky Mountain Conservancy! The film team is shooting for a series called Park Champions. As newly designated Park Champions the crew went back to work. We were able to complete 3 log checks as well as collect a number of large “capstone” rocks. After work the film crew came over to get footage of the crew barbecuing & preparing dinner. Geoff and Tommy joined as well!IMG_1451

IMG_1453On Wednesday the crew continued building log checks in Moraine. The film crew & Geoff and Tommy joined us for most of the morning! The team de-bermed 150ft of trail, added 2 additional log checks and closed a sizable social trail using boulders and brush. After work the entire crew went up to Trail Ridge Road to watch the sunset. The Compass Coalition team joined us and got some incredible shots!IMG_1459

Although the crew enjoyed their work at Moraine, they were excited to return to their project at Bierdstat on Thursday. The day was bittersweet as it was their final day with their NPS staff members. The team spent most of the day crushing in the turnpike. They crushed in more than 100ft of turnpike log. Additionally, the team prepared and moved two more logs, planted rocks to deter horses from going off trail and re-duffed the worksite. The crew also got to share their knowledge with the Colorado Young Leaders volunteer group.

-Grace Oh-Willeke (Crew Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

Howdy everyone! Shadow Mountain crew checking in one final time for the season after an awesome last week with the Sulphur Ranger District. This week, we partnered with the Headwaters Trail Alliance for a turnpike project on Ice Hill, a popular mountain biking trail just outside Winter Park, CO. We spent the first day digging drains around the project site to lessen water across the trail, cutting down stringer trees to line the turnpike with, and gathering rocks. It was fun to work with the volunteers, especially trail dog, Holly. We de-limbed and peeled the logs, which helps to prevent the wood from retaining water and rotting. On Wednesday, we finished prepping the logs and then dug trenches and set the logs, securing them with rebar.

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Will uses a gas powered drill to make holes for rebar in a stringer log

Once the logs were set, we lined the bottom of the turnpike with GeoTech, a durable fabric. We then filled the trail in with crushed rock to elevate the tread above the water level.

On Thursday, we had just arrived at the worksite when three moose appeared from the woods! We took a break to give them space, stay safe, and (of course) take Snapchats.

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Three bull moose bless our nearly complete turnpike

After our unexpected furry volunteers left, we got back to work, digging a barrow pit and packing dirt as the final layer of tread across our turnpike. Once the turnpike was complete, we restored the work site by decompressing the grass and spreading duff.

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The crew works to rehabilitate the work site

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The freshly completed turnpike!

caption: “The freshly completed turnpike!”)

 

Overall, we had a fun final week and I’m super proud of the work we did, which will help keep hikers’ feet and bikers’ tires dry for years to come!

-Izzy Owen (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

Kawuneeche Crew

After visiting the Rawah crew in their secluded habitat for a weekend full of hiking, exploring and a whole lot of driving, the Kawuneeche crew reluctantly headed home to prepare for their last week of work in Rocky. Monday morning came early but with a cup of coffee and a rigorous round of morning stretches, the crew was ready for another rousing day of sawing, scraping, and staining.

 

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Garret and Jon feel the burn as they loosen their  lethargic legs.

While Izzy, Kyle, and Tate stayed behind to make more progress on the Alpine Hot Shot deck, Jon, Ashleigh and Garret made the long drive over to Green Mountain on the West Side to start work on staining the last cabin of the season. Both groups showed off their impressive skillsets, managing to lay 60 square feet of decking and slather on a tub and half of stain without incident. Needless to say, our park service supervisors were happier than ever.

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Nervous and startled, Jon is caught in the act of publicly scraping a Green Mountain cabin.

 

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Mr. Maitland shows his confidence in the Crew’s solid craftsmanship.

On Tuesday the split crew switched roles, with the deckers rolling out stain and the stainers rolling out the deck. With swift precision (despite the angered wasp nests), both the cabin and the decking were completed! The deck crew even had time to mix, pour and smooth concrete pads for the new handicap and ramp. Tired and hungry from all of their success, the crew went to the Stanley Hotel for their weekly dosage of 5k and free food.

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Chuck looks to Tate for guidance while Ashleigh successfully ducks out of the way.

As the cabins at Green Mountain were stained to perfection, the crew was once again united into it’s natural squad of 6.  Yet unfortunately it would be Chuck’s (one of our park supervisors) last day working with us. After a morning of sweeping sawdust and hauling wheelbarrows of landscaping rock, Bob surprised us all with a lunchtime parting pizza party! After we had our fill of pizza and playful banter, we tackled a frame construction project for the handicap accessible ramp.

 

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The Kawuneeche Crew radiates pride while standing on their new, expertly constructed deck.

Thursday was our last day of work so we woke up a bit early to indulge in a morning donut run. After sharing the crumbs with our supervisors, we started work on building new picnic tables. Four hours of sanding, assembling, and staining later we had two brand new quality tables, even if they were a bit wobbly. When we finished lunch, it was finally time to return our tool buckets. After a good scrubbing with sand paper, the pliers and cat’s paws looked as shiny as new. Bob inspected them, gave us a thumbs up and we said our goodbyes to the project shop family. It was a bittersweet drive home as thoughts turned from our memories to packing up our summer and turning out the lights for the last time at the cabins. It seemed too poetic to walk out on our porch for one of the last times and to see the end of a rainbow.

 

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 Sadly, there was no pot of gold in the Park Ranger’s cabin. We checked.

Next week is final week, which means we’re back in Moraine campground with the rest of the corps for some trail work, resume building, and emotional goodbyes. It was a summer never to forget.

-Garret Fox (Kawuneeche Crew Leader

Boulder Crew

It’s the final countdown. We recently finished up our final week of work in Nederland and it called upon all of our trail prowess that we had gained throughout the season.

This last week of work was spent “on hitch” (working and camping in the backcountry). I and the rest of the crew were very stoked for it as the chosen trail was both incredibly beautiful and in desperate need of repair. We woke up Monday morning and headed to the 4th of July Trailhead with packs nearly overflowing with food, tools, camping gear, and food. We took a lot of food.

The hike in was fairly agonizing as it’s mostly uphill and our packs weighed upwards of 40 pounds; however, we eventually made it to our beautiful camping spot situated at Diamond Lake. We unpacked camp as efficiently as possible and got to work. Our first, and biggest, project was to tear out an old bridge near a stream crossing and put in about 20 feet of rock turnpike (a raised structure used to keep hikers out of wet, muddy areas). We began tearing out the bridge and gathering massive rocks to outline the turnpike with. It was muddy, grunt-filled work, but by the end of the day we had kicked some serious booty and made a ton of progress. We headed back to camp, cooked up some smashed veggie burgers for dinner, and all read poems for our crew poetry slam (this was all Andrea’s idea).

Day two was spent finishing up our rock turnpike. This was our first real, full 10-hour day since we no longer had morning travel time in the truck. We finished the rock walls for the turnpike, filled it with crush (fist sized stones), and then capped it with dirt. It looked gorgeous. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we walked away that day both impressed and satisfied with our work. Additionally, I think I can also speak for all of us when I say that we were exhausted. We headed back to camp, toasted quesadillas, and turned in for an early night.

For our third day of hitch we split up into two groups in order to maximize our efficiency. The girls (Louisa, Andrea, and Ally) worked on creating a walk sidewalk (sunk-in rocks in which hikers can walk on in wet areas) while Ryan, Brendan, Ben (our Forest Service partner) and I tore out another old bridge and put in a turnpike. I can not speak for the work the girls did, other than that it turned out well, but our turnpike turned out to be a muddy mess. After tearing out the bridge we slopped around in about 8” of muck attempting to sink large rocks and dig drains. We changed our plan multiple times when it wasn’t panning out and, by some grace, we actually (nearly) finished the turnpike by the end of the day. It wasn’t my favorite structure we had built, but by golly, we did something that improved the trail. Once again fatigued from a full day of work, we prepared for our last night at Diamond Lake. In the middle of night, a massive lightning storm passed right through our camp; as you can imagine, lightning storms can be quite terrifying at 10,000 feet. I personally felt a mixture of both terror and awe as the lightning flashed overhead and the thunder resonated off of the peaks valley walls. Thankfully, we woke up in the morning to blue skies and regained confidences.

Thursday was to be spent packing up our backcountry camp, finishing up final projects, and heading out early to take care off final housekeeping items. Our work finished up without a hitch (pun intended) and we slogged out with heavy packs and light hearts. We stumbled out of the trailhead and rejoiced upon reaching the truck as we knew Rice Crispy Treats and Capri Sun’s awaited us inside. The rest of the work day consisted of cleaning and sharpening our tools from the season and cleaning out our faithful Forest Service truck. We bid our truck adieu  and celebrated our hitch and season with copious amounts of pizza at Crosscut (a pizza shop in Nederland) and entirely too much ice cream from the B&F Market.

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The next morning, we packed up all of our belongings at our Kelly Dahl campground and left the place that had been our home for the last 2 months. Driving away, we attempted to deal with waves of nostalgia while trucking it to Estes Park in order to begin our final, all crew week with the Conservancy.

And this is where I, and the blog for the 2017 Boulder Crew will leave you. My hope is that my, and the rest of the crew’s writings, has helped you to better understand what our life and season was like out here. I think that we all realize how truly lucky we are to get to live and experience this type of lifestyle, even if only for a few months. I know that I personally am walking away with new perspectives, skills, and most importantly, best friends.

Thanks for reading and remember to get outside!

Signing off,

-Lucas McClish – Boulder Crew Leader

In the Field: Week 7

Rawah and Red Feather Crews

This past week, the Radwah collectively found themselves working deep within the Rawah wilderness. The goal of this journey was to maintain and improve the Rawah, Camp Lake, Lost Lake, and Sandbar Lakes trails. Our time in the Rawah wilderness went by fast as we worked hard and had a blast spending a week in the backcountry with an eclectic cast.

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Deep in the pines behind enemy lines

Radwah decided to drive in their tent stakes up a steep hill, near the lakes. They worked hard and took a few breaks, but soon discovered that swimming was a mistake. Instead of finding sandy beaches, they were attacked by numerous leeches. Through pain and rain, they dug some drains. Through the stormy weather, they cut trees by working together. Although Radwah got stuck in a rut, they pushed through with their trusty crosscut.

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Taking off the edge by slicing a wedge

At the junction hikers would shiver, as they feared crossing the tumultuous river. The crossing almost looked like a trap, but then the crew decided to bridge the gap. After searching through the Rawah bog, the crew cut the perfect logs. Radwah had many falls and slips, but Geoff came along with helpful tips. After making the bridge complete, they marveled at their tremendous feat.

Meanwhile the others continued up trail, working tirelessly through the blustery gale. All over they searched for trees past Rawah Lake number one, two, three. Sadly there were no trees to see, leave some for us PWV! With no trees to cut, the crew became down in the dumps; however, they cheered up by digging sumps.

 

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Thanks to the rain, Shelby and Anna knew where to add a drain

After living in forest, Radwah was ready for rest. They had a lot of fun and did their best. Back to Stub the crew went, to partake in a basketball tournament. Next they sharpened tools to a shine, then off to Glen Echo to dine on fancy food fried and fine. Until next time, we promise no longer will we rhyme!

– Anna and Zach (Redwah Crew Leaders of the Week)

Kawuneeche Crew

Monday, July 24

Today we split the crew up; three of us went to the Green Mountain employee cabins on the west side of the park, and the other half continued working on our main project at the hotshot dorm deck site framing and working on the outer trim. On the west side, at the cabin site, we worked on scraping off the old paint and bark from the siding and repainting with a thick stain to preserve the historical buildings. Our mentor on the west side site goes by the name of Robert. He showed us the proper way to scrape and paint the cabins and is always entertaining us with his vast knowledge of movies and music.

Tuesday, July 25

Our second day this week half of us were finishing up the decking supporting beams and trim, once we finished that we worked on the small stiffeners that go in between the trim and supporting beams and them began to lay the flooring. The other half worked on the cabins, scraping and painting. On the hotshot site we are working alongside three seasonal workers named Calvin, Justin, and Wilson, as well as our two projects crew bosses Bob and Chuck. They all are very helpful because of their vast knowledge of carpentry and endless jokes.

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Garret is using the skill saw to cut the stiffener boards for the deck.

 

 

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Tate stands on the deck showing progress we have made. Featuring some of our seasonals and projects crew boss. (Bob, Calvin, Justin left to right).

Wednesday, July 26

All of us were at the Green Mountain employee cabins today on the west side of the park. We began by finishing up scraping all of the old flakey bark and paint from the wood and finished by hammering in the loose boards. Together we finished scraping nearly two cabins, as we couldn’t begin painting because it rained on us all day. Today Robert started a game with us to see who could guess the artist of the song that he sang a couple lyrics to. Whoever guessed it in ten seconds got a dollar, and the song turned out to be by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

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Izzy showing she is properly equipped for the task of scraping

 

 

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Tate scraping old paint and bark off board under porch

Thursday, July 27

Our final day this week we split up again, half of us went to the employee cabins and finished scraping the large cabin we were working on yesterday and the other half stayed at the hotshot dorm deck site to work on the flooring of the deck. The weather was very nice today, on the west side, and only sprinkled on us a few times. The last thirty minutes of work on the Green Mountain site we had finished the cabin we were working on and began scraping on a more “lincoln logged” style cabin that we look forward to finishing next week.

-Tate Kitchell (Kawuneeche Crew Leader of the Week)

Estes Crew

Monday, July 26

On Monday, the Estes Crew returned to their worksite at Bierstadt Lake where they are replacing turnpikes on the trail around the lake. The turnpikes are used to help keep the trail elevated and drain better. They started the day by digging trenches where the new turnpikes will go. They removed the old rotting logs from the old turnpikes; it is important to remove the organic material from the trenches so that the new logs will last longer in the new turnpikes. Once the logs were in place, they collected rocks to crush around the log. By crushing rocks around the log, the log becomes more stable within the trenches so that the turnpikes last longer. In the afternoon, the Estes Crew helped to organize a volunteer event with some high school students. Even though the event was very short, the crew taught the volunteers about how to do trail work and why trail work is so important. The volunteers were very enthusiastic as they helped to close braided trails and lay new tread on a horse trail in Moraine Park.

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Sal digs a turnpike trench

Tuesday, July 25

On Tuesday, the Estes Crew continued to build the turnpikes. They started by digging the rest of the trenches where the new logs would go. There were several rocks in the trenches that were too big to remove so the crew used a micro blaster to blow the rocks up and out of the trenches. Once all of the trenches had been cleared, the crew began to fit the logs into the trenches. It is difficult to get the log to fit just right in the trench; therefore, the crew spent a lot of time lifting the logs in and out of the trenches and readjusting the logs or dig the trench a little deeper in order to ensure a perfect fit. Once the logs were correctly placed, the crew began to crush rocks around them. Crushing rocks into the trench gives the log more stability so that it doesn’t move around and creates a stronger turnpike. The crew gathered lots of rocks from the surrounding forest to use for crush. Overall, the crew had a great day and they can’t wait to see the turnpikes once they’re completed.

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Blake exposes a rock with a pick

Wednesday, July 26

Despite the (very) rainy weather, the Estes Crew still had a fabulous day of work! They continued to fit logs into the trenches and crush rocks in around the logs. Additionally, the crew worked on planting rocks along the outside of the trail. Planting rocks discourages horses and people from leaving the trail. This keeps the impacts of hiking concentrated on only the trail corridor, reducing overall impact to the forest area. The crew began to fit the turnpike logs together. The logs are cut to create a lap joint where they meet; the lap joint increases contact between the two logs and makes the turnpike more stable. The logs also get chiseled down to the same height at the place where they meet to increase stability. The crew also planted more rocks along the trail. Additionally, Jesse and Ben, the crew supervisors, downed a few more trees to be used in the turnpikes. The crew peeled the bark off of these logs using draw knives so that the trees can be used to build the rest of the turnpike.

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Claire chisels a log

Thursday, July 27

Today, the Estes Crew continued their work on the turnpike project. They started the day by planting a few more rocks along the trail. Several crew members spent the day building a junk wall along the outside of the turnpike log. A junk wall is a stretch of rock wall that provides stability to the turnpike log and ensures that the logs do not become undercut with erosion. Other crew members made pre-crush to be used next week around the final logs.  Soon after lunch, the crew got to hike back down to the trailhead and spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning out the National Park Trails shop. The crew had a great week and they are looking forward to a wonderful weekend!

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-Claire Gillett (Estes Crew Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

Day #1

The 1st day was a slow start. We spent most of the morning preparing and gathering all of the tools that we would need to repair the fallen bridge in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The morning was also spent herding the llamas so that we could use them to carry the tools and hardware for the bridge. We eventually got to the trailhead and started up the Cascade creek trail for roughly 4 miles. We set up camp just beneath the down bridge and cascade falls. Since we had a late morning, we didn’t have enough time to start work on the bridge. Instead our supervisors went ahead to assess the damage so we had a plan for the next day.

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Day #2

The 2nd day was our real first day of bridge repair. We were broken into two groups, one worked on measuring and dismantling the bridge and another worked on cutting the trees that would string along the length of the bridge. We had the majority of the work focused on cutting the trees because the trees had to be completely limbed and debarked. After the dismantling group was finished with clearing the bridge, they started work on the handrails and the handrail brackets. The brackets were constructed out of smaller limbs and still needed to be completely limbed and debarked but didn’t take as long as the stringers. By the end of the day the broken bridge had been cleared, the handrails were finished and work on the stringers had made good progress.

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Day #3

On the 3rd day everyone worked on cutting out the stringers. People would work in shifts chipping out sections of the trees and tagging out when they got tired. Most of the morning was spent cutting and finishing the stringers for installation. The second half of the day was spent hauling the trees 400 meters through the curvy trail. This was done using 5 sets of log-tongs with 10 people total carrying the tree. It took the rest of the day to move the trees from where they were found to the site of the down bridge. Once we got the two stringers to the site, we had to level and line them up with the other stringers. Once we made it safe for hikers and ourselves, we returned to camp before rain started to pick up.

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Day #4

The hard part was over. On day 4, all that was needed to do was to attach the brackets and handrails to the stringers so that the bridge was completely safe. To do this we were split into two different groups, one to work on the brackets and one to create a fire off site to keep the crew warm since it had rained the night before. When we finished the handrails and brackets we got a hiker to take our picture with the newly completed bridge. After completion of the bridge we packed up camp, hiked down the trail and drove back towards the village.

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-Will Sternberg (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week)

Boulder CRew

Monday 7/24

The week began on a relaxing note for the Boulder Crew. We began on Monday at the Hessey Trailhead, hiking two miles in to the King Lake Trail. The morning was spent brushing our way up the trail while simultaneously playing an entertaining word game Lucas so kindly introduced, which made the tedious lopping infinitely more bearable. After lunch, Andrea and I (Louisa) hiked further to buck out a tree that was across the trail, and then continued lopping until it was time to hike out. An uneventful yet enjoyable start to our week.

Tuesday 7/25

We began our Tuesday at the Nederland Work Center, gathering an array of different tools from the cache for our new project at Diamond Lake. After driving the 45 minutes down the treacherous, pot-hole filled, road to the Fourth of July Trailhead, we all strapped up with picks, shovels, Pulaskis, Austins, and rock bars before beginning our 3-mile trek in. Brendan and Lucas deserve a special shout-out for lugging the massive 40lb rock bar to our work site. This is an especially heavily used trail that has several problem areas in dire need of repair. Our work for the day consisted of constructing a rock turnpike, which was a nice change from the mindless brushing we did on Monday. Brendan and I were tasked with collecting rock crush-fill, while Ryan, Lucas, and Ally went searching for much larger rocks to line the edges of our turnpike. It was very muddy, back-breaking work, but by the end of the day we had made some real progress and our turnpike began to take shape. It had been gray and cloudy all day, and on our hike out it finally began to rain, so we hurried through the three miles back to the safety of our work truck.

Wednesday 7/26

Unfortunately, the rain from Tuesday continued throughout the day. We trudged through the mud to our worksite, continuing the turnpike from the day before and beginning a new project constructing rock steps across another water-logged section of the trail. By the end of the day we were covered in mud and our raingear was waterlogged. However, everyone remained in good spirits, because Chef Brendan was cooking one of our favorite meals that night; orange tofu and rice! Luckily, the rain let up for about an hour, leaving me just enough time to give my yoga lesson to the rest of the crew. Brendan cooked and Lucas struggled to get a fire going, and we all retired to the dry safety of our tent.

Thursday 7/27

Finally, blue skies! But everyone’s uniforms and boots were still soaked through from the previous two days (perks of living outside), so we arrived at the work center early to throw everything in the dryer. Geoff joined us as we drove to the Fourth of July Trailhead for another day at Diamond Lake. Andrea and I put the finishing touches on our turnpike, Brendan and Ryan finished up the rock steps, and everyone else began a new project on a similarly flooded area of the trail. The day went by quickly, and we hiked out an hour early so we would have time to plan for our backcountry hitch next week.

This was a fun week full of new projects on a beautiful trail. Despite the weather, we all had fun playing word games, telling stories, and sharing lots of laughter. Everyone is looking forward to our hitch next week, and making the most of our time left at Kelly Dahl.

 

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The beginning of our rock step construction across a muddy part of the Diamond Lake Trail.

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Warming up our muscles with an intense game of ninja

 

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Before the construction of our turnpike

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After the construction of our turnpike

 

-Louisa Markow (Boulder Crew Leader of the Week)

In the Field: Week 6

Kawuneeche Crew

Monday

Our week started out with returning to the deck to dig some holes. There was also a little bit of demolition left to do on some parts of the old deck. Digging the holes for the support beams took up most of the day with also mixing some concrete for the ones that were already finished. There was also time for us to meet the two new people joining our crew to help on the deck.

Tuesday

The day started out the same until three of us stayed to work on the deck. While working on the deck we had to dig a few more holes for the support beams in for the deck framework. During the afternoon we went to deconstruct some picnic tables while also getting rid of the old wood used for the ones already taken apart. The other three went down to the west side to green mountain housing to scrap and stain some cabins. The drive there and back would take almost 3 hours so there was not that much time to work on the cabins.

Wednesday

We were still having half go down to the west side to scrape and paint cabins while the others stayed at the deck. For the first half of the day we were working on the deck and adding support to the pieces that had already been put up. This involved cutting and measuring pieces of wood at different sizes. After lunch we had to wait for an order of lumber to come in so to kill the time we went to start building picnic tables. When the lumber finally arrived we had it sent up to the deck while we stayed down at the shop to finish making tables and help clean up around the shop till it was time to go.

Thursday

In the morning we had a small party for one of our workers that was leaving before everyone went out to their job sites. The ones at the deck were able to finish the framework that still had to be done. The others went down to work on scraping and staining the cabins on the west side.

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Garret scraping the side of the cabin.

Ashleigh and Tate mixing concrete

Ashleigh and Tate mixing some concrete.

Half of the framework being measured and cut to length

Half of the framework being measured and cut to length.

 

-Ashleigh Trujillo (Kawuneeche Crew Leader of the Week)

 

Boulder Crew

Sunday-

Lucas was in a wedding in Ohio during the weekend and arrived to Denver on Sunday.  Ryan offered to pick him up at the airport. Brendan tagged along so the three of them could go to church afterwards. I (Andrea) then concluded “I like car rides” so I signed myself up for the trip. Ally said “well if everyone is going, I might as well go too.” And like that, we all woke up at 5am and voluntarily confined ourselves in a narrow car for a long period of time. I bet Lucas did not expect to find a crowded car, but he must have loved being compressed against the window and being unable to find a comfortable position.  Then, Ally had the marvelous idea of passing by her house to see her DOGGOS! How could we say no to doggos?

Monday-

Crime Scene:

Date: July 17, 2017

Location: Sourdough Trail

Evidence: Sawdust- fresh

No witnesses

From the beginning of the day we knew it was not going to be a normal Monday. Some of our crew members had a rough night. One was visited by food poisoning and another by an unidentified small sized animal. Nonetheless, they diligently woke up at 6am and got ready to hit the road- I mean trail. We were told we were going to work at Sourdough. Only that I never heard the “going to work at” part so I was profoundly confused as to why everyone was suddenly obsessed with sourdough bread. It was not until I saw the trailhead sign that it clicked. We grabbed our crosscut saws, axes, etc, and started to hike. But something was wrong… An hour went by and there were no fallen trees on sight. Then we saw it. A smoothly bucked log with sawdust that looked as if it was mocking us. It could have only meant one thing: a volunteer cleared the trail and never communicated it. A biker confirmed that there were no more trees ahead, so we hiked back and drove to Brainard Gateway to dig some drains.

Tuesday-

On Tuesday we hiked about 12 miles! We arrived at Coney Flats Trailhead really early in the morning. We were welcomed by a beautiful lake that merged with the blue sky, so that was a nice way to start the day. We hiked 3 miles just to get to Beaver Creek, the trail we worked on. There we cut 13 trees and then stumbled upon treeline. Since we had a little bit of time left we explored Coney Lake Trail and got fiercely stabbed by branches, which led us to the conclusion that the trail needed some serious brushing. On our way back to Homestead Ned, a woman drove by us, rolled down her window and said “you drive like an idiot” to our driver.  This provoked explosive emotions inside of me (mostly because it isn’t true) so I wrote a poem about it and read it aloud during dinner. That night we spiced up our sump ritual by making ANIMAL SOUNDS. The dog, elk, cat, sheep, and cow medley led some of us into tears of laughter. It was insane. Afterwards, I taught everyone how to dance salsa for my lesson plan. Every Puerto Rican knows how to dance salsa.

Wednesday-

Geoff came to work with us and he told me I should write the blog in Spanish, así que eso mismito haré. Por la mañana, Geoff nos encontró en el workcenter y todos guiamos hasta Hessie Trailhead, que estaba a una elevación de 9,000 pies de altura.  La altura, el cansancio acumulado y el hecho de que el camino estaba extremadamente empinado ocasionaron que caminara a 0.000000000001 millas por hora. Después de caminar lo que sintió como ochenta millas llegamos hasta Woodland Lake Trailhead. Allí nos dividimos en dos grupos: tedious-lopping (Louisa, Lucas, Ally y yo) y crosscuts (Ben, Ryan y Brendan). Gracias a las conversaciones con Geoff y a la música descargada en el teléfono, tedious-lopping no fue taaaan tedioso. Justo cuando Ben nos avisó que íbamos a regresar empezó a lloviznar. En cuestión de minutos, nubes escalofriantemente grises se apoderaron del cielo. Nosotros básicamente volamos de regreso, pero comoquiera terminamos empapados. Además de esa aventura, Ben y Geoff vinieron a cenar a Homestead Ned. Preparamos una cantidad absurda de [päd THĪ] y ¡SOBRÓ! Ya saben que comí de almuerzo el próximo día.

Thursday-

El jueves empezamos el día con un Safety Meeting en Boulder. Esto fue algo muy positivo pues todos estábamos agotados de caminar tanto y así pudimos descansar un rato más. La reunión fue sobre PPE y dar updates. Después de eso nos dirigimos hacia Brainard Lake y dimos mil vueltas buscando estacionamiento. Como todo estaba lleno optamos por estacionarnos en la calle. Empezamos a caminar y de nuevo no estábamos encontrando arboles así que le preguntamos a unas mujeres si vieron árboles durante su caminata. Dijeron que no, así que fuimos a otro camino, South St. Vrain Trail. Allí cortamos 14 árboles, lo que nos hizo muy feliz porque caminar con sierras para no cortar nada es muy frustrante. Luego fuimos al workcenter para pulir las sierras, hasta que Ben nos mandó pa’ la casa. “You should be at home. Go home!” Seguimos las instrucciones de Ben y, ya en Homestead Ned, cocinamos pizzas con básicamente un lanzallamas que encontramos en el camión del Forest Service.  ¡De ahí fuimos para Boulder, me dejaron con mi padre y ellos fueron a ver una película!

-Andrea Rodriguez (Boulder Crew Leader of the Week)

Red Feather and Rawah

This week Red Feather and Rawah joined forces for a hitch in the Comanche Peaks. On Monday morning we set up camp next to the beautiful Comanche Reservoir for four days of intensive trail maintenance in the heart of the Comanche Peaks Wilderness.

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Morning Trail Maintenance Next to Comanche Reservoir

Monday afternoon we trekked up to Comanche Lake, tools in hand, on our first maintenance run. Gus, Noah, and Will cross cut through a monster obstructive log.

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Gus, Noah, and Will Pose Next to Their Crosscut Accomplishment

A twelve crewmember team made for speedy drainage and trail clearing and we made it to the lake with enough time for Anna and Noah to catch us some fish for dinner.

Noah Fisher

Noah The Fishing Magician

Cooking Fish

Anna’s Fresh Trout Sizzles Over The Whisperlight

Tuesday Redwah tackled the Beaver Creek Trail, digging over 70 drains on our way up to treeline. The morning break was spent cooling off with a brisk snowball fight in a perfectly positioned snowpatch.

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Jumping For Snowy Joy

We stumbled upon an illegal campsite right off the trail and Gus shared his obliteration knowledge as we decommissioned the area back into natural habitat.

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Gus Teaches Campfire Ring Obliteration

On Wednesday we headed back up the Beaver Creek Trail to hit the Mirror Lake Trail. While Mirror Lake trail never lead us down to Mirror Lake it did wind through Comanche Pass with a spectacular view of Rocky Mountain National Park and the Never Summer Mountain Range.

Rawah Crew Mirror Lake

Rawah Crew Atop Comanche Pass

Stephanie also taught a spectacular yoga lesson that was both relaxing and challenging.

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Crewmembers Limber Up With New Yoga Skills

Thursday we packed up and headed out from our Comanche site, digging drains and clearing trees on the lower half of Beaver Creek Trail.

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Will Digs a Drain Next to Comanche Reservoir

Anna headed the removal of a downed tree with a particularly tricky bind.

Anna and Gus Crosscut

Anna and Gus Crosscut on Beaver Creek Trail

We couldn’t get enough of the backcountry so Redwah capped off our work week of backpacking with a weekend backpacking trip up to Twin Crater Lakes in the Rawah Wilderness. By some stroke of impeccably timed fate, we ran into previous RMCCC members Ben Williamson and Gus Waneka in the parking lot! We joined camping forces and summited South Rawah Peak with four generations of Rawah conservation crew members!

Summit South Rawah

Four Generation of Rawah Crewmembers on South Rawah Peak!

-Shelby Ahrendt (Red Feather Crew Leader)

Estes Crew

Quite a week!

Estes went back to vegetation crew for their last week with them. (Sad but true.)  This time around they were “de vegetating.” The task for the week was to spray Musk thistle, Canada thistle and anything that was invasive such as toad flax.  Musk thistle is a highly competitive weed that invades disturbed areas, forest lands, pasture, to name a few. It spreads rapidly and forms stands (look like small little thorns or needles on the leaves) which forces out desirable and native vegetation. To kill the thistle, they used 6 ounces of milestone, 4 ounces of MSO and 2 ounces of dye in each tank. The rest of 3 gallons of the tank is made with water.

Monday

Estes started out spraying Upper Beaver Meadow. They sprayed around the area until it rained them out at around 2pm. (When it rains, no more spraying).

For the rest of the afternoon, they spent it around Beaver Meadow visitor center, and around NPS housing, digging out any thistle and Mullein plants.

Tuesday.

Tuesday was a similar day.

They started out  at riding stable parking lot spraying any invasive thistle they can find, then in the afternoon, made their way to cub lake trail head.

Wednesday

Woke up with the same mission. “Kill the Thistle”. Moraine Park was the target this time around. Sprayed around the whole camp ground. (This camp ground had bushes of them. So it was a win for Estes.) They were running out of the herbicide (aka the killer juice) within 30 minutes. It was a fun day until rain intervened. They were forced to go back to the shop and do some housekeeping around the shop.

Thursday! (Geoff and Tommy are here!!!)

This day was fun for Estes because they had to work with not only Geoff, but also Tommy! Tommy used to lead the high school program and since that’s over, well he gets to work with us now!

Estes went back to Moraine Park to finish the unfinished business! They are one very committed crew for sure. Although the whole camp ground could not be finished in two days, they did kill a lot of thistles (as promised). Now the camp ground is almost thistle free. Hopefully, some vegetation can grow back to their places now.

Since every “veg crew” had an afternoon meeting, Estes was back to the green house to do some transplanting.

What a fun week “de vegatating”

 

Claire in an ocean of thistles

Claire in a sea of Musk Thistle

Claire, Chris, Sal spraying in line

Claire, Chris and Sal use a grid to tackle invasive species

Grace, Simbi, Chris sprying thistle

Chris, Simbi, and Grace spraying some weeds with a view

Group photo with packs

-Simbi Umwali (Estes Crew Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

What a great week!  There is nothing better than spending time with good people doing excellent work in places we love.  This week Izzy, Will, Mary, Anna, Elise, and I spent our days on hitch in a beautiful part of the Rockies.  The trail we worked on is a 24-mile loop known as South Fork Loop.  Our main objectives were to clear the trail of all fallen trees and scout ahead to get a better idea of what needs to be done in the upcoming years.  Every morning we started our day at 7:00am for our routine stretch circle, safety concerns, and question of the day.  The question of the day is a great way to wake up the brain in a fun and sometimes interesting way.  Once awake and stretched out, a game plan on how to best tackle the objectives of the day is discussed.  Most days we would split into teams of two to four members, to work on different sections of the trail.  Two teams worked on clearing trees with chain saws, while the third focused on cutting tread and clearing brush.  All together we cleared well over 200 trees, and cut 500 feet of tread.

new tread

It was a wet hitch, almost every day coming off the trail we were welcomed by a rain/ hail storm that kept things exciting.  However, there was nothing that could dampen our good time.  The Evenings were filled with lots of laughs, good conversations, and warm camp fires.  We even stopped to soak our feet and wet our hair in the cool waters of the nearby streams.

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-Curtis Jay Hall (Crew Leader of the Week)

In the Field: Week 5

After a week long hiatus from field work for the Conservation Corps’ Mid-Week where crews learned about NPS careers, reflected on their goals, participated in educational field classes, and helped set over 50 bear bins in Moraine Park Campground of RMNP, the crews are back in the field.

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Estes Crew

After a fun week of camping with all the other RMC Crews, in Moraine Park, the Estes Crew moved back into the Chamberlin House. This time with a new member to the family, Grace Oh-Willeke! Grace has joined the Estes Crew for the remainder of the season after participating in the Corps High School Leadership Program. On Monday, the crew hiked up 1.5 miles, over twelve switchbacks, to get to their project site, next to Bierstadt Lake.

WalkToWorkBlog

View of the Daily Commute for the Estes Crew

Once at the worksite the crew was briefed on what steps would be needed to complete the turnpike project. Turnpikes are built on poor drained areas of a trail to raise the trail surface for better drainage. The rest of Monday consisted of the entire crew peeling logs, in preparation to build the turnpikes later in the week. Tuesday was identical to Monday. The Estes Crew hiked up the twelve switchbacks and continued to peel logs for the day. In all, the Estes Crew peeled over 350ft of logs!

 

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The Estes Crew Chips Away at Peeling Bark off a Dead Log

Wednesday was bring your boss to work day for the Estes Crew! Geoff Elliot, Conservation Corps Manager, and Estee Murdock, Executive Director, came out to the project site to work with the Estes Crew for most of the day.

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Sal Sharp fitting a log into place for our first turnpike

The work on Wednesday was comprised of ripping out the old, rotten turnpike logs, and digging trenches for the new logs. Once the trenches were cleared for the new logs, the rest of the day was spent trying to find the perfect fit  and cut precise angles to secure each log together.

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Blake Crossland and Geoff Elliot Supervising the Work of Sal Sharp, Simbi Umwali, and Grace Oh-Willeke

On Thursday the Estes Crew traded in their log peelers for some explosives! After discovering two large rocks in the middle of a turnpike trench, the Estes Crew needed the help of micro-blasters to remove the rocks. However, the crew ran into a few snags on Thursday, drill batteries were dead and not all of the equipment was working properly. This resulted in a less productive workday, but the two large rocks were removed from the trench. After a strenuous workweek, the Estes Crew is looking forward to a relaxing weekend!

– Chris Rokusek (Estes Crew Leader of the Week)

Boulder Crew

Homestead Ned was a sight for sore eyes for the Boulder Crew after being away for almost a week for midweek, but nobody stayed long before we were all off again. Most of the crew headed down to The Great Sand Dunes and I (Ally) went to camping with my family. Everybody had a good weekend despite all the mosquitos and came back Sunday night to get ready for the next day and get back into the groove of work. My little tent and my bed inside feel like home now and the peace and quiet is a welcome change from what I am use to. All of us are more than use to tent camping now and fell back into the groove of camp pretty quick.

Monday was a day of crosscutting. We were back up in the Brainard Lake Area to help clean up some of the trails before they opened the gate for more easy access. We were without our main supervisor Ben because he was still out on a fire but our higher up supervisor Jon gave us direction for what we would be doing for the day. We would be up on Long Lake Trail which loops around and gives access to other trails. Our task was to use our crosscut abilities to buck out the trees that had fallen on the trail. We have all become more comfortable with crosscut now that we have some experience under our belt. We were tasked by Jon to take our time and enjoy ourselves. A task not hard to enjoy with the beauty that is the Brainard Lake Area. High peaks surround you and there are so many lakes and creeks around to listen to and enjoy. We formed two teams of three. Team Alpha and Team Better than Alpha. I was on Team Better than Alpha with Ryan and Andrea and we got to work bumping from tree to tree on the trail. This took up most of our day and we cleared out 16 trees that had fallen on the trail. Our crosscut skills further refined we finished up early and went to work on some drainage on a nearby trail. We got started putting in some new drains on Mitchell Lake Trail and cleaning out some old ones. We only got about a quarter mile in before turning back for the day and heading to Homestead Ned.

Tuesday was another day of crosscutting but on a different trail. We kept our crosscut gear from yesterday and headed up to Fourth of July Trail which hooks up to the trail we would be crosscutting, Diamond Lake Trail. Getting to the trail was a bit of a drive and a bumpy one at that. This trail was one of the higher elevations ones we had been on and we were joined by Tommy from the Conservancy for our work day. First thing on our list was to get to the first downed tree on the trail which didn’t happen till about a mile and a half in. We switched up the crews a bit from the day before. That day I had Brendan and Louisa with me on our team and Lucas, Ryan and Andrea were on the other. Lucas and I played Rock, Paper, Scissors for the first tree and we were off from there bumping along from tree to tree. Alpine lakes are always really beautiful and Diamond Lake was no different. For the amount of hiking we did, there weren’t as many trees to clear out as the day before but we still managed to clear out 12 trees. A hike up to tree line and a bit of playing on a snowpile around lunchtime rounded out our day. We hiked back the 3.5 miles to the truck giving us 7 miles for the day. We were tired but happy as we headed back to the Work Center to put away our crosscut gear and then headed back to camp for a delicious meal. We don’t know what we will do once we don’t have Brendan to cook for us anymore.

Wednesday we luckily got to sleep in after a long hike the previous day. In fact we didn’t even have to leave camp because the work we would be doing that day was taking place at our campground Kelly Dahl with the people in the Recreation Department. We took our time in the morning and got out of our campsite ready to do some work in the place that we call home. Tommy from the Conservancy joined us again for the morning and our task for the day was to install these wooden frames into the ground. They would then later be filled with concrete in order for the Forest Service to install bear boxes in the campground. We split up into three teams of two, though Louisa and I had a volunteer named Brian with us that had come up from Arvada. The three groups bumped from campsite to campsite digging holes for these frames to fit into. After a while we had another team going when Jared the Recreation Manager and his coworker finished the flagging of where the frames would go. With four teams going we finished a bit early. In total we installed 46 frames for the eventual bear box installation. The Rec Crew gifted us with cookies and peanut butter which we were really excited for and then released us for the day. We drove the like 1/10 of a mile back to camp and got started on dinner. We were joined for dinner by one of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance Interns John who is a veteran of the Conservation Corp. After dinner I taught a line dance to my crew and John for my lesson plan. I taught the line dance Good Time and it went over really well. Everybody got it and if there is time in the rest of the season I will take everybody down to my favorite dance spot, The Grizzly Rose, to do the dance in a more real setting.

Thursday was our last work day of the week and we were back up in the Brainard Lake Area for some more trail work before they opened the gates. We had a higher up supervisor Jon with us that day and we divided into two groups. Ryan and Brendan went with Jon to complete bridge work they had started on the week before midweek on the Long Lake Trail. The bridge had lost one of its railings so they installed another. The other group made up of Lucas, Andrea, Louisa and me were tasked with continuing the work we had started on Monday on the Mitchell Lake Trail. We worked on drains for the whole work day. We took our time to make sure the drains would last and went through some of the drains we dug on Monday making sure we were through. We were joined later in the day by Ryan and Brendan after they finished their bridge work and we made it 1.5 miles up the trail between Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake. We will probably be back on that trail in the coming weeks to finish all the way up to Blue Lake. We cleared out about 20 drains and dug 40 new ones in that 1.5 miles giving us 60 total on that trail. We wrapped up our work and headed back to camp to start our weekend which was filled with a variety of activities.

As we go along I realize how little time we have left. Three more weeks of work and one week to wrap up the season. I don’t know how I will feel when this comes to an end, I am just trying to enjoy it while it lasts. Time keeps passing and things keep changing. We are celebrating one of our crew member’s birthdays on Sunday. We baked Louisa some peach pies and we are going to Katmandu for some delicious food. We are enjoying the time we still have together before we say goodbye to each other and Homestead Ned. This experience is truly one of a kind and I am grateful every single day that I get to be a part of it.Gustafson_4thofjulytrailconnection_diamondlaketrailGustafson_crosscutcrewbravo_longslaketrailGustafson_crosscut-giantlog-longslaketrailGustafson_limbing_longslaketrailGustafson_snowfun_diamondlaketrail

Signing off from Nederland,

-Ally Gustafson (Boulder Crew Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

This week was incredibly productive and fun for the Shadow Mountain Crew! We got to experience a wide range of weather, which is always interesting, as well as a variety of trail topographies and assignments.

Our week started Tuesday with the monthly Sulphur Ranger District meeting, during which every employee on the district comes together to Grand Lake to discuss important issues, events, and concepts. This district meeting happened to be the annual Shadow Mountain Village cleanup, so we spent all day in the village (the housing in which we and about 20 other seasonals live) doing various work to straighten it up. One group scraped, sanded and repainted around 25 picnic tables; another cleaned out two defunct houses filled with random furniture and appliances that need to be demolished; another organized “the Boneyard,” the outside area where the district keeps raw materials for later use; another installed new doors around the village. The cleanup was such a nice change of pace and was especially enjoyable in that we got to hang out with some amazing, wise, fun employees whom we normally don’t see and many of whom have been working for the USFS for decades. They have so much knowledge and grace to offer, and we all feel quite lucky to know them.

On Wednesday, our crew split into two groups and took on two sections of the High Lonesome Trail, which starts in the Indian Peaks at Lake Granby and continues into private land near Fraser and Devil’s Thumb. One group started at Devil’s Thumb and worked its way seven miles to Junco Lake. Kendra, our Forest Service boss, was bucking trees off the trail with a chainsaw while Curtis swamped for her. Elise and I trailed behind them all day clearing and creating drains, which was something of a challenge, as the trail was relatively flat. The other group, led by Amy, worked from Junco Lake to Monarch Lake crosscutting and doing drain work. While all of us got significant work done, it felt like a rather mellow day; we felt relaxed and, quite frankly, spoiled by the lack of elevation gain in our trail sections. The heavens did decide to open, though…we were poured on by rain, freezing rain, and hail literally for hours. We were soaked to the bone, even with our rain gear, and were freezing by the time we got to the trucks. It made for an exciting day and story, and we felt like we’d had a small adventure that day.

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The High Lonesome Trail between Devil’s Thumb and Junco Lake        

Thursday brought us to the Byer’s Peak Wilderness, where we worked on the Bottle Pass trail under the supervision of Andrew Otter, a veteran seasonal. We spent the whole day crosscutting fallen trees, as the beetle kill and wind exposure are both high in the area. We worked our way up steep switchbacks in the trees until we reached a large, open ridge from which we could see Byer’s Peak, mountain cirques, and the Gore Range in the distance. (Elise and I were so in awe of the view of Byer’s that we went back on Saturday and hiked it!) From there, Otter’s group hiked up the ridge, and Tommy’s group hiked across it and down into some trees. I was walking along with Tommy and my group when we heard a terrifying, raspy growling noise. We stopped dead in our tracks, and every one of us thought we were about to fight a mountain lion or bobcat. We were surprised to see Otter and his group traipsing down the hillside through some trees to our right. Otter is notorious for making all sorts of animal noises on trail and taking pleasure in psyching people out…he was beaming as he appeared amidst the trees and saw our pallid faces. It was ultimately a hilarious end to a great day.

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View of Byer’s Peak from the Ridge on Bottle Pass

 

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Mary bravely crosscuts a hang up

 

Friday, we drove out into the Williams Fork and worked on the Williams Peak trail. As a crew of seasonals had gone on hitch last week and cleared the whole trail, our job was to brush all day. The trail and topography felt vastly different from anywhere we’ve worked so far. It was far more open and Western feeling, which was a neat change. We brushed up the trail through open areas, lodgepole groves, and aspen stands. Eventually we reached the area that was our main objective for the day, a place we called “Baby Tree City.” The trail was clear cut a few years ago, and in turn, hundreds of baby lodgepoles had sprung up, and in this area they were so dense that you could hardly see the trail. We got to it with our loppers and silkies, clearing a seemingly countless number of baby lodgepoles. After this we took lunch, from whence one group went on to Hamilton Creek to brush and another stayed and worked on tread in a horribly trenched out section of the trail. At Hamilton Creek, we encountered a huge herd of cows that seemed very curious about us…Mary was stalked by a few of them, but she came out unharmed. We brushed along brand new corridor that Amy and Kendra had cut out the previous week, working our way back to the tread crew. At the end of the day, we all felt that our weekend had been duly earned.

-Anna Floyd (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah and Red Feather Crews (Redwah)

This past week the Rawah and Red Feather crews teamed up for another week on Youngs Gulch Trail in the Cache le Poudre Canyon. Instead of working from the trailhead, the crews focused their efforts on the upper stretches of the trail. This area was touched by the High Park Fire in 2012 and the floods in 2013, so it hasn’t seen much use in over 5 years. With that much of the work centered around establishing new tread and corridor. This required a lot of work in the dirt, some rock wall construction, and a few trees to be felled. On the first day alone, we estimated that the crews dug over 600 feet of new tread!

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-Geoff Elliot (Conservation Corps Manager)

 

In the Field: Week 4

Red Feather Crew

This week the Red Feather Crew started out at Signal Mountain on Monday and hiked roughly 3.5 miles in. They ended up working until their first much needed 15-minute snack break with guests Geoff Elliot and Tommy Egland. After the two left, the crew continued on and dug 56 drains total that day just before getting stopped by a wild Moose. They hiked through a beautiful trail that went through what crew members Zach and Colin believe to be an end moraine based off of their education from college.

Zach Signal Mountain

On Tuesday the crew headed to Flowers Trail to start their one-day hitch. Little known to them they had a massive section of trail to clear of downed trees. Approximately 3.5 miles in crew members Stephanie, Zach, and Davina stumbled upon the mess while realizing the crew had left the cross cut in the vehicle. Stephanie took the lead and trekked back to get it while the two other members started limbing the branches.

Crew Lead of the week Colin was hiking back to find member Abby and Co-Lead Shelby who were about a mile behind because they noticed a large section that needed a drain and water bar. Much later that day the crew finally cleared the downed trees the covered much of the trail and headed out for the day.

Flowers Before

Flowers AfterThe lessons learned of the day were 1) ALWAYS bring every tool you need regardless and 2) Cross cutting is a tiring endeavor but well worth it.

On Wednesday after a much needed rest at a beautiful campsite in the Comanche Peaks, the crew headed back to Signal Mountain in hopes to work until they reached the peak and in hopes that the moose had wandered off. They discovered that the latter half of Signal Mountain had not been maintained for a very long time and began to work on drains and downed logs. They cut 11 trees that day and dug 24 drains. Crew members Davina and Shelby were working on cross cutting a tree 2 foot in diameter when all of a sudden their saw got stuck. With no way to get it out they thought up some ingenious ideas. After nothing worked, with quick thinking Davina suggested to cut where the tree was resting on another. Soon after they finished that cut the tree dropped and the saw was free! As Shelby and Davina were cutting the large log, the rest of the crew decided to head on and see what was up the steeper part of the trail. They realized that there was so much work to be done and that the latter half of Signal could potentially be a project for another time. When the rest of the crew members got back, Davina and Shelby showed their success and took to using the large log to canoe down the mountain and into the Poudre. Davina and Shelby

Thursday the Crew headed to Dadd Gulch just before splitting up for the weekend. The crew ended up hiking 7 miles that day and maintaining the frequently used trail. On their hike they ran into numerous trail goers and some Poudre Wilderness Volunteers. Most of the trail goers thanked the crew and gave recognition to the hard work that they were doing. After completing a very large water bar and drain Abby and Stephanie decided it was time to rest in their finished product because their work was so draining. The crew then headed out for the weekend with members Colin, Davina, Zach, Abby, and Stephanie all headed to Moab, UT while member Shelby trekked from the Poudre Canyon into Estes Park! abby and stephanie

-Colin Mortemore (Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

This past week, the Shadow Mountain Crew joined forces with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to tackle an incredible project. In recent years, the Morgan Gulch trail was rendered useless by pine beetle deadfall. Along with Arapaho National Forest USFS representatives and the RMYC, we set out on a four day long backcountry hitch to restore the trail and make it again accessible to the public.

Over the course of the week, as a direct result of hard work and camaraderie, approximately two miles worth of trail saw all deadfall removed. Final numbers soared, the crews removing hundreds upon hundreds of trees that had previously fallen on the trail and felling nearly a hundred more that stood alongside the trail and would imminently fall onto the trail if not attended to. The saw work was completed so efficiently that the crews had to readjust their plans as ensure there was work to be done the remainder of the hitch. In addition to the numerous trees removed, the crews were able to reestablish tread along two sections of meadow marked beforehand solely by orange and pink ribbons tied on the stalks of green corn lilies. The entire corridor was brushed, from the trailhead we began at to the point of our end goal. Drains were dug dutifully in areas that required better watershed. In addition to basic drain work, two large trenches, reminiscent of turnpikes, but not quite as extensive, were installed in especially muddy spots along the trail.

This hitch was not only successful in terms of work accomplished, but also brought our crew closer together. We bonded with each other on a deep level, through conversation held around the fire and on trail, cooperation regarding camp chores, and by encouraging each other to give it all we had, even on days we felt a little bit off. The work we completed on this trail established meaningful connections between the Shadow Mountain crewmates and the forest around them.

On the final day of the hitch, as we were finishing up one of the sections of meadow being retreaded, some gentlemen rode by on their horses. All thanked us for our hard work, and praised the quality of the trail. As they exited the meadow, the last man in line tipped his cowboy hat towards us all in gratitude. Though he did not ride off into the sunset, the admiration in his eyes was all we needed to witness, as we wiped the last drops of sweat off our muddied foreheads, to know that the job we did was truly meaningful to those who have stepped, and those who may step, into the wilderness of the Morgan Gulch trail.

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Additionally, below is a link to a video of the Shadow Mountain Crews first few weeks in the field!

 

-Mary Cretney (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week)

Estes Crew

This week, the Estes crew was back with the trails division. Most of the trail crews were starting to do work on their summer projects rather than routine maintenance runs. This means that they hike to their work site and work in one place all day rather than maintaining the trail as a whole. On Monday and Tuesday, the Estes crew worked on the Lawn Lake trail. They helped to re-route a 100 ft. section of eroded and muddy trail. To do this, they built a 20 ft. log check drain, moved many big rocks and trees, removed sod and duff, and hid the old trail with logs and brush. On Tuesday, a large bull moose wandered into their work site and poked around for a few minutes before running off into the woods.

On Wednesday, the Estes crew worked at Lawn Lake trail again, but hiked a mile farther to help with a much longer re-route. This project had already been started, and all that was left to do was remove rocks and build rock reinforcement walls on the downhill side. They adopted a section of rock wall that will be left for them to build. On Thursday, the Estes crew went straight to Glacier Gorge Trailhead in the morning so they could find parking before the crowds came. They hiked up to a river overlook where large safety rocks had been placed near the edge to prevent people from getting too close to the cliff. There was a large gap in the rocks where they had been pushed over the edge. Along with two NPS trail workers, the crew spent the majority of the day finding big rocks in the woods, digging them out, and rolling them into place along the cliff. In total, they set four enormous rocks in place using rock bars, picks, and their hands.

The Estes crew wrapped up their week by completing the “Grand Slam” on saturday (Flattop Mountain, Hallett Mountain, Otis Mountain, and Taylor Mountain). The hike reached 13,185 ft., and was 20 miles long. At the end, they glacaded down Andrews Glacier and hiked back to the Glacier Gorge trailhead.

-Sal Sharp (Estes Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah Crew

This week marked our second week of work on our home turf for the Rawah Wilderness crew. After a slightly longer commute past Chambers Lake, we began work on the Blue Lake trail on Monday. We worked through a mile cutting trees and digging drains before hitting an old logging road. There wasn’t much work to do on this section of the trail, so we were able to cover some easy mileage. After the road ended, it was back to work as usual. Besides the typical fallen trees and filled-up drains, we ran into a couple of very muddy patches which required digging new drains to try to dry up the area.
We made it about 3.5 miles up the trail, and in our fervor trying to make it to a river crossing just up ahead, we accidentally ended up working about two hours of overtime.
On Tuesday, we returned to Blue Lake to work further up the trail. Today, however, we were graced with the presence of our RMC supervisors Geoff and Tommy. It took us an hour to hike back up to where we finished yesterday. It was pleasant to warm up by hiking along the stream and admiring our work from the day before. Past the stream crossing, we encountered a number of very large trees which had fallen across the trail. Plenty of work for the crosscut saw. Before Geoff and Tommy had to hike back, we decided to trek up to a nice meadow for a little break. Geoff pointed out some pretty yellow flowers called glacier lilies and mentioned that they were edible, so of course we had to sample some.
After our break, Geoff and Tommy bid farewell, and the Rawah crew decided to use some of our overtime to hike all the way up to Blue Lake. Along the way, we ran into more and more snow patches covering the trail. Once we reached the lake, we went for a little swim. It was rather chilly, as could be seen by our vigorous jumping jacks after getting out. Hiking back, we realized that we wouldn’t really be able to do much trail work with the path buried under snow. This being the case, we worked up as far as we could before enjoying a long hike back to the trailhead.

Wednesday brought us to the West Branch trail, one of the most popular of the Rawah Wilderness. We ran into a number of hiking groups grateful for our work. Work on this trail was slow due to large, rocky drains. We think the drains on this trail haven’t been maintained for at least a year or two, which would explain why they are so packed with dirt and debris. Nothing too exciting happened today, other than the usual fantastic views of the Rawahs.

Thursday! The end of a good week of work. We were back at West Branch to work a bit farther up. The crosscut crew walked a mile or two ahead, but to their disappointment, they found no fallen trees, and so they helped out with digging drains. After our morning break, we found two projects to work on: closing down a large social trail, and re-installing a missing rock check. The rock work brought back memories from previous weeks building rock walls, although we were thankful we only had to find and place a single rock. After returning to the luxurious Stub Creek bunkhouse, we cleaned and sharpened our tools, and then crew-leader-of-the-week Jacob Ng gave a lesson on tree identification.

For the weekend, our crew split up. Some members took a trip to Moab, Utah for a sweet few days of hiking through mind-blowing rock formations of arches and towers. The others decided to hike from the Comanche Peak Wilderness down through Rocky Mountain National Park into Estes Park, where all of the crews will be reconvening for our midweek training. We experienced some navigational confusion, and ended up hiking an unintended route. Nevertheless, it was a great weekend of backpacking through a beautiful area. Sadly, it will be another two weeks before we get back up to the Rawahs for our first backcountry hitch, so stay tuned!
– Jacob Ng (Rawah Wilderness Crew Leader of the Week)

Kawuneeche Crew

Monday:  To get into the swing of week four, we started out by staining a few picnic tables we had built before the weekend and then took a field trip to the west side of the park to see some of the projects that had been completed in past years with our supervisors Bob, Chuck, and Wilson. We first stopped and looked at the old CCC mess hall near Lake Irene that had been refurbished by a previous RMC crews. Following a stop at the west side project shop, we then had lunch and went to see the ice house rebuilt by Bob and Chuck, and got a down and dirty lesson of how to lasso by Wilson.

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Jon whips the lasso into the air with gusto on his third attempt at capturing the elusive wooden horse. Sadly, the beast got away.

 

 

 

On the return drive home we came upon a motor cycle crash off trail ridge road, and had to quickly jump into action as we were the first responders to the accident.  After radioing in for help, some of us helped direct traffic around the scene while others grabbed the first aid kit and went down a twenty-five yard embankment to the crashed motorcyclist.  Luckily for all parties involved, the rider was not seriously injured and did not need immediate first aid.  We stood by and did what we could until the first park ranger/paramedic arrived, and then left the scene to clear the road while our supervisors stayed to direct traffic.

Tuesday:  For our second day of work of the week, we alternated between breaking down old picnic tables, sanding new boards, and assembling and staining new tables.  All in all we broke down twenty five tables, which was the easy part, and then assembled five masterfully crafted tables to be delivered to eagerly awaiting park staff.

Wednesday: Wednesday brought a change of pace for the crew, with the highly-anticipated arrival of shingles necessary to continue progress at the Liefer cabin.  After running out of shingles for the second story coverings last week, we were eager to continue work on the cabin and hit the project hard all day making great progress.

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Ashley takes control while Joe goes for the candid photo

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Detailed oriented Garret and Kyle focus in

Thursday:  To finish off week four we wrapped up the Liefer cabin project by finishing the remaining shutters that required shingles, and then installing them around the second story of the cabin.  We then broke down all of the scaffolding, packed all the equipment and tools, and cleaned the area of all debris.

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 What Garret and Tate lack in fashion, they make up in painting skills

 

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The crew with some of the NPS staff were involved

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The South and East sides of the finished Cabin with Ashley and Izzy collecting lose nails/screws

Boulder Crew

Sunday

As the teeth of a crosscut saw bite through a log, pulled back-and-forth between two sawyers, the saw begins to sing. It is a high-pitched, undulating noise, and we created that melody many times on Sunday, when we finished up our five-day workweek with crosscut saw field training and certification. We, as well as ten volunteers for the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance, learned how to properly use single- and double-bit axes, saw wedges (which hold open the cut, or “kerf,” while sawing), and of course the crosscut saws themselves. Everyone in the program received intermediate sawyer certifications. Now we can operate crosscuts without a supervisor, so long as we stick to cutting smallish fallen logs off the trail, known as “bucking” trees. We unfortunately can’t fell live trees, but this is admittedly a good thing. Nobody wants a flattened RMC crewmember.

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Lucas getting some serious velocity on a double-bit ax during crosscut training.

Monday

Monday was the only day we had off in a grueling nine-day stretch that began on the previous Wednesday. That didn’t mean we were content to relax at the Homestead, however. After a short stop at the Happy Trails coffee shop in Ned—which has quickly become our go-to coffee and internet joint—we headed down into Boulder Canyon to (appropriately enough) do some bouldering. Next, it was on into Boulder itself, where most of the crew hiked and/or climbed the Second Flatiron, a steep, slablike mountain, and Andrea utilized the internet at a coffee shop to finish up some important tasks. We shopped for groceries following the hike and then drove back to the Homestead, our headlights chiseling out a path for us through the dark stone of the night. We got back late and went to bed, tuckered out.

Tuesday

The new workweek began at Buchanan Pass, a pass on the Continental Divide and its corresponding trail near the northern boundary of the Boulder Ranger District. We split up into three subcrews. Brendan swamped for Ben, our Forest Service contact, removing some forty fallen logs from the trail that Ben cut out with a chainsaw. Lucas and Louisa had a rough time trying to refurbish a miry drain before moving onto others for the rest of the morning and afternoon; Ally, Andrea, and I (Ryan, this week’s Leader of the Week) spent the day clearing corridor with loppers and a small handsaw. All told, it was a reasonably productive day, although everyone admitted that the ten hours had seemed more like twenty. We were all sluggish due to the dastardly duo of a five-day workweek and one-day weekend.

 

 

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Ben surveying some downed trees.

Wednesday

The road from Kelly Dahl to Nederland is steep and serpentine, winding down from our campground into town a few miles away. We make the drive every workday, so we know the curves by heart. But today we were in for a surprise. Coming around a bend, we met a government vehicle cruising up the road. The driver? Ben, who gave us a quick wave and then blew past us, headed for destinations unknown. We later discovered out he had been called up for fire duty in Brian Head, Utah. Unsupervised and unsure of what to do with our day, we called him and learned that we were to return to the Rainbow Lakes trail and brush it out. So that’s what we did, hiking past all four lakes and clearing 1.5 miles of corridor on the way back to the trailhead. Then we dug some drains, put in a short rock wall, and closed off some trail. During a snack break, we searched for a dead moose purported to be decomposing at the third lake, but to no avail.

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A newly closed-off section on the Rainbow Lakes trail.

Thursday

With Ben gone, we slept in. There was no reason for us to get up early as no one would be at the work center when we arrived. Jon, Ben’s boss and our supervisor for the day, was going to meet us there at 8:30. Thus, we started our day after an extra hour of sleep and a leisurely morning. Our worksite was up at the Brainard Lake area. Louisa and I worked with Jon, as well as Jake and John, two Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance interns, to repair a handrail on a footbridge near Long Lake. I must say, it felt good to be working with wrenches again after weeks of using solely cutting and digging tools. Once we reached a good stopping point on the handrail, which we didn’t quite finish, we headed back to the Beaver Creek trail. That’s where Lucas, Ally, Andrea, and Brendan were using their newfound crosscut skills to buck eighteen fallen trees from the path. The day ended with some much-needed tool sharpening. We got back to camp at around 7:00, an hour later than usual.

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A group picture before work. Front row, from left: Andrea, Jake, Lucas, Ryan. Back row, from left: Louisa, Ally, John, Brendan.

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Andrea and Ally crosscutting a tree.

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Working on the bridge at Long Lake.

Friday

The weekend arrived on Friday, and we made the most of it. Brendan, Louisa, and Andrea headed to Boulder in the morning. There, Brendan and Louisa bought some new climbing shoes and dropped Andrea off with her mother, who had flown in from Puerto Rico to visit. Meanwhile, Lucas and I worked on some things back in Ned. Ally had gone home the night before to see friends and family, so by the afternoon there were only four of us remaining. We decided to cap off the day by climbing in Boulder Canyon.

Saturday

The Homestead is still chilly at 4:45 am, which was when Louisa, Brendan, and I grudgingly rolled out of the warm cocoons of our sleeping bags to go for a hike to Arapaho Glacier, a forty-minute drive away. The early start was ultimately worth it. We beat the crowds and summited South Arapaho Peak (elevation 13,397 feet) before eleven in the morning. The panoramic scene from the mountaintop was spectacular. It included a clear view of Winter Park, where Lucas was downhill mountain biking with a friend at that very moment. Come evening, Ally returned from an enjoyable stay at home, while Andrea continued to spend time with her mom in Boulder. Ally brought with her one of the most exciting purchases of the summer (except for a small bottle of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray, which has easily been our best investment). We had bought a miniature battery-powered projector on Amazon and had it shipped to her house, and now it was at the Homestead. We eagerly fired it up after eating. Sully was the movie of the night. The inaugural showing went well; there were only a couple minor hitches. And although the picture quality was subpar (this is a $60 projector, after all), we all agreed that it was a good buy. We finished the movie at around midnight and went to bed. In the morning, we would rouse ourselves and head to Estes for midweek, but for now we were content to sleep among the mountains we had called home for four weeks.

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Louisa and Brendan crossing a small stream flowing across the Arapaho Pass trail.

Until next time,

-Ryan Bodlak (Boulder Crew Leader of the Week)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Estes crew members Claire Gillett and Chris Rokusek along with crew leader Blake Crossland stand at the top of Andrews Glacier before glacading down it on feet, butt, and back.

 

Written by: Sal Sharp (Estes crew leader of the week)