Check out the 2018 Season Slideshow HERE!
Check out the 2018 Season Slideshow HERE!
After each season, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy compiles reflections from crew members, data about work completed, and photos of the season to create End-of-Season portfolios for the Conservation Corps and High School Leadership Corps.
These portfolios provide a glimpse into the experience these program provide and the valuable work the crews complete. Check out the 2018 End-of-Season Portfolios below:
On National Public Lands Day, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy hosted 32 volunteers for a litter clean-up at Beaver Point in Rocky Mountain National Park (just outside the Beaver Meadows Entrance).
In less than two hours, volunteers collected over 160 lbs of trash from the area. This included construction materials, vehicle parts, abandoned camping gear, cigarette butts, and lots of plastic containers and wrappers!
National Public Lands Day is a nationwide celebration of OUR public lands. On the third Saturday in September, thousands of individuals across the country get out and celebrate public lands through volunteer projects, community events, and recreational offerings! On top of all of this, it is a fee-free day at most public land sites, making it a great opportunity for everyone to get out and enjoy these beautiful places!
The Conservation Corps season may be over, but that doesn’t mean the Conservancy has wrapped up its field season!
Today, Conservancy staff and local volunteers joined the Rocky Mountain National Park Wildland Fire Crews to complete some fire fuels reduction. The project was organized on the National Day of Service and Remembrance to honor the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those who rose up in service in response to the attacks.
The project focused on reducing the fuel load available for future wildfires. The work included collecting downed limbs and trees, previously cut by NPS staff, into slash piles (see photos). These piles are constructed during the summer and fall and then burned during the winter, when the conditions are correct. These projects remove potentially hazardous fuels from areas close to roads, trail heads, and campgrounds. By removing the fuel, volunteers are helping protect wildland firefighters from erratic fire behavior caused by excessive fuel loads and ladder fuels, which allow low-intensity ground fires to move up into trees.
Today, September 11, 2018, eight volunteers joined National Park Service fire crews and completed 10 slash piles. Each of which held more than 2000 cubic feet of fuel. Check out photos from the project below:
-Geoff Elliot (Director of Conservation)
The Corps season wrapped up just over two weeks ago. As we clean gear to put it away for the season, we have the chance to look back and remember all of the trails maintained, structures restored and built, and lives changed. Take a moment to check out some of these highlights from the season!
Stay tuned as we prepare reports on the impacts to the trail systems and public lands, as well as the AmeriCorps members that participated this summer!
-Geoff Elliot (Director of Conservation
The Boulder Crew finished up the season on hitch in our favorite spot- Pawnee Pass! The consistent pattern of rain from last week came to an end, and we were greeted with clear skies all week. The sunshine made work infinitely more enjoyable! Our tasks for the week consisted of continuing to clear the trail of large rocks, roots, and other obstacles to make it smooth and beautiful, as well as easier to walk on. Using rock bars to remove boulders from the trail is no easy feat, but Boulder Crew has become quite proficient at it.
Then, we installed many more rock check-steps and water bars into the newly cleared trail to control water flow and mitigate erosion. Setting rocks into the trail can be frustrating and tedious, but the struggles are worthwhile after a structure is complete.
While we may not be professional trail workers yet, the whole crew has made significant progress in rock work throughout our season, as well as gained some serious muscle! It is safe to say that all of us were heartbroken to be finished with such rewarding work, as well as to be leaving such a beautiful place.
Peace from Boulder Crew!
-Charlotte (Crew Leader of the Week)
We did it! After many weeks on the Aspen Brook Trail, the Estes Crew has finally wrapped up a variety of projects that help make up the new trail. Thoughout this project, we’ve come to know many wonderful trail crew members including a variety of unique volunteers and conservation crews. We’ve spent time managing NPS pack horses, controlling and surveying invasive species, and taking part in several outdoor adventures.
I’m very grateful for all the time that we have alongside each other, growing together, testing one another, laughing as we make our dad jokes. This season will be missed, but I know that we are all encouraged to keep moving forward on to greater opportunities, things such as education, peace corps, new and exciting jobs, and other leadership rolls. Hopefuly we will all see each other again in the near future so we can then share our stories.
-Curtis (Crew Leader)
For the past couple of weeks, we have built a solar shower, and afterwards, we began to build a turnpike that went from the parking lot, and then split to go to the nearby bathrooms and the solar shower. On Monday, July 30th, we put more crusher on top of the crusher that was already there, and began to really solidify this turnpike. Some people shovelled from a pile of crusher and put them into wheelbarrows, then carrying it and piling it onto a place on the turnpike that needed it. Others raked the crusher in places that were too low, and overall, just adding another layer of it since it was needed. Once it seemed level enough, one person would water the turnpike to make sure it was wet enough so it could be tamped down correctly and then another person got the plate compactor and tamped down the crusher. Once it dried, it began to truly look like a turnpike!
After the solar shower was completed, we shifted our focus to restoring a rotted sill log on the Glacier Basin Ranger Station. This was supposed to be one of our bigger projects of the year, but unfortunate time constraints only afforded us a few days to work on it. Regardless, our last week was spent under careful guidance from shop foreman Chuck Tubb striping replacement logs of bark, fitting replacement crowns, and hollowing out the rotted log for replacement. While we only had a few days working at the Ranger Station, our crew really hit the ground running. In true historical preservation style, we spent our days working hard with draw knives, timberslicks, axes, and chisels to tackle the prep work that would proceed the log’s actual replacement.
It was also during this time the crew received unexpected praise for their work on the solar shower. A ceremony organized by the Glacier Basin volunteer camp host recognized the project shop for their hard work with a ribbon cutting and barbeque attended by both park employees and campers.
Spirits were high during the final days of work, despite the sadness of leaving. Project Crew shirts were made up, commemorating our season of hard work and the Moraine crew departed the shop for the final time on Thursday afternoon with heads held high.
-Max (Crew Leader of the Week)
We wrapped up our last week of work Rawah style on the McIntyre Trail. Earlier in the season, we worked on McIntyre for a day and got about 4.5 miles in: it was a day full of accomplishment and hard work! On Monday, we spent most of the day hiking to the junction of McIntyre. Even though it was a tiring day for everyone, we did not give up and kept hiking up until we found a beautiful meadow that lead up to a nice woody area where we set up camp. After we set up camp, we decided to wrap up the day with some fun lessons! There were three different lessons that were all fun, but we also learned a lot. Zoe did her lesson on how to French braid hair; this lesson was not easy for the boys, but they tried until they got it! The French braiding lesson was followed by Jordan’s lesson on how to belly dance. It takes a lot of hip control to belly dance and a lot of practice, but we all got the moves down! After both fun lessons, Reche finished up the day and taught us French! We learned how to count, our body parts, colors, and some very famous food like “fromage” (cheese). Monday was a day full of accomplishments and fun lessons!
On Tuesday, we split up into small groups to hit the McIntyre Creek and McIntyre trails. After morning breakfast and JHAs, we had two saw crews out on McIntyre because we were informed that there were 55 trees that needed to be cleared so we got our best saw to get to work! As the crew separated and said their goodbyes for the day, Reche, Zoe and James got ready to work on McIntyre Creek trail. It was a long walk before they got to their first drain, but as soon as they arrived at their first drain, it was only a matter of time until that trail would be cleared. Reche, James, and Zoe finished the McIntyre Creek trail that was very steep, but also beautiful on the eyes. The drain crew on McIntyre was Jordan, Ruby Ann, and Stevie. They also had a very successful day, they ended up digging 86 drains and getting 2.5 miles up the trail. When they first started they thought that there would be a long hike between drains, but after break they reached the part of the trail that was previously an old road. On the road, the drains were about five feet apart from each other. Tuesday was another successful day for the Rawah Crew.
On Wednesday, the crew all decided to reunite and finish McIntyre together, so that they could hit Medicine Bow as well. As usual, we started our day with breakfast and JHAs. As the Rawah crew was in the middle of a stretch, they heard a pack of coyotes howling. It was a cool experience, but also a scary one. After finishing up McIntyre trail, the crew decided to split up once again so that we could get as far as possible on the Medicine Bow Trail. With Reche and Ruby Ann crosscutting, and Noah, James, and Nathan on drains, the South trail of Med Bow had a successful day. We also had Jordan and Stevie on the other saw. They finished cutting the rest of the trees on McIntyre and started working on the north part of the Med Bow. Zoe, Daniel, and Madi worked on drains alongside Jordan and Stevie. There weren’t many drains for them to dig, so they decided to put in new drains in spots where the trail was really rutted up. Even though we did not finish the Medicine Bow trail, we successfully cleared some trees from the trail and dug many awesome drains!
On our final day of hitch, we were all tired, but we had to hike out early because we had to pack and clean the bunk house, so that we can leave early Friday morning. It was a sad morning knowing that it was our last time hiking out with each other, but we all decided to cherish the moment and had an amazing hike out. We also met up with Tommy and Morgan on the way out and they joined us back at the bunkhouse for lunch. After we got to the cars we headed back to Stub to sharpen tools for one last time. We wrapped up the season with one last amazing week. We have done some incredible work this past summer and accomplished a lot as a crew. These past 10 weeks we have grown from a crew to a family. No matter where life will take the ten of us, we will always be the DARN TOUGH RAWAH CREW!!!!!
-Stevie and Reche (Crew Leaders of the week)
The Shadow Mountain Crew embraced their last week in Grand Lake. We spent our Tuesday working again with Vicki Burton, installing, removing, and updating trail signs for mountain bikes in the Winter Park area. This project, called Trail Smart Sizing, is a huge undertaking by the Sulphur Ranger District to improve marking, maintenance, and marketing of the trails available to users. It was a successful day, installing three brand new, accurate signs, as well as taking steps to decommission user created trails. We also bumped into a local woman with her horse named Crackers and friendly conversation ensued. She also let the Shadow Crew pet Crackers, which was a highlight of the day for many crew members.
Wednesday, we set out to tackle some unfinished business. Earlier in the season, we attempted to crosscut nearly 17 miles of the High Lonesome Trail in a single day. Unfortunately, time did not permit, and we had to forgo cutting 10 trees. Lucky for us, the section we couldn’t do that day was close to the Monarch Lake Trailhead, and by lunchtime, 9 of the leftover trees were cleared from the trail. The one that was left had, well, some problems. Mary and Adam started cutting it, and about halfway through, noticed a surprising increase in bees fluttering around the saw. They stopped cutting, and Mary decided that she was going to try and kick the tree and run away from the bees. The top half of the tree came off, with some effort, and so did the bees (then, we all discovered they were wasps). RUN! We frolicked up the trail, leaving the wasps to make their home in a tree, now halfway crosscut in the middle of the trail. Lesson learned: make sure there aren’t critters making their home in the tree before you open it up!
Thursday, we didn’t run into any wasp issues! Instead, we ran into a lake, specifically, Columbine Lake. We hiked up to the cirque, and by the time we got there, we were ready to eat lunch! After we stuffed our stomachs full of trail snacks, we walked to a section of tread that needed to be rerouted. We worked in the area, decommissioning braided social trails and defining the tread on which the true trail. As our last day of “real” trail work with our crew, we took a lot of pictures to document the season (featured below).
On Friday, the whole crew, Amy and Kendra included, got together for a pot luck breakfast. We had blueberry pancakes, cinnamon rolls, watermelon, apple juice, and plenty of coffee. The crew bonded over reflection of the past events of the summer in preparation to say goodbyes. We spent the rest of the day cleaning our houses. In the evening, we came together for one last Shadow Mountain Movie Night, a screening of Brother Bear, projecting off Adam’s laptop upon the coffee table, as we all crammed together on the couches to see the screen.
Saturday morning, we jumped (slowly) into our cars, said final goodbyes to our homes, and made our way to Estes Park for one last week in the mountains.
-Mary (Crew Leader)
Week Seven, on Rawah Trail, was quite an experience for the Rawah Crews. It was a week of beautiful lakes, challenges to navigate, and some great moments as a crew. During our first day on the trail multiple crew members faced sickness, but we took the hike slow and everyone crushed it! We made it about six miles to our campsite near Lost Lake Trail. It was Stevie’s birthday and we had ravioli to celebrate.
Day two began with the clearing of trees and drains on the Camp Lake and Upper Camp Lake Trails, as well as further up the Rawah Trail. While some of the crew was still under the weather, everyone worked hard to accomplish their task, and we were rewarded with some beautiful views of mountain lakes and fields overflowing with wildflowers! While rain threatened to fall, the weather held back and allowed us to soak in only the scenery (and not the precipitation)! Back by popular demand, pita pizzas made another appearance as Tuesday ended.
Day three, we divided into a few smaller groups to conquer the rest of the small loops and sections in this maze-like area. Nathan, Zoe, and Madison cleared all the drains on the steep climb to Lost Lake. After obliterating two campsites, they went back to a section of the Rawah trail to re-dig some drains that had started to fill and install a few new ones where necessary. Even though the drains had been dug once before this season, they felt it was important to ensure that we’re doing quality work and maintaining it when possible. Stevie, Reche, Daniel, and Jordan had a fun day finishing the Upper and Lower Sandbar Lake Trails. Every group obliterated at least a couple fire rings, but this group got the most. Apparently, lakeshores are just too tempting for campers and fire builders. Meanwhile Noah, James, and Ruby Ann had a beautiful hike further up the Rawah trail. They passed all four Rawah lakes and crossed over the alpine Grassy Pass into West Branch Valley, maintaining a total of about six miles of trail. When we regathered that evening, everyone shared stories of a wonderful day over a meal of chili mac with a ridiculous amount of cheese. Our spirits had been lifting all week and laughter abounded, but we knew we needed to go to bed to prepare for the hike out. We slept well, awaking only to a magnificent thunderstorm.
On Thursday we packed up and bade a bittersweet farewell to the Rawah Trail. And of course, Noah and James couldn’t resist clearing a few trees on the way out! After sharpening tools, our work day concluded with lessons from both Noah and Nathan. Nathan taught us about the construction of several different types of campfires while Noah gave a lesson on Four Wheel Drive operation! The forest service roads will be no match for this adventurous, off-roading crew! In all seriousness, this week’s hitch presented many challenges that provided opportunities for growth in all of us. While we are looking forward to a restful, community-filled weekend, we are all glad to have put boots down on the Rawah Trail one last time.
-Nathan and Ruby Ann (Crew Leaders of the Week)
The rain didn’t stop the Estes Crew this week, for we were happy to be back at it again with the NPS trail crew! Our time was challenged working with trail experts by a new and improved switchback located on the Aspen Brook trail, a trail that will forever be in our hearts. Our mission, though it seemed simple, was to construct a switchback in the trail that kept people on the track, shed water efficiently, and kept the surrounding soil from eroding. We were all surprised at how much work and attention goes into each of these larger projects, but it all pays off in the end when it all becomes unnoticeable to the naked eye. After all these trails are supposed to look as natural as possible. To build a successful switchback, we incorporated a retaining rock wall and some very large boulders to encourage people from shortcutting though natural land and keep them on the trail.
I’m happy to say that Estes crew is very honored to have such a big roll within the National Park this season. New tread construction, such as the work we have done on Aspen Brook, is an anomaly. Our hope is that stewards continue to protect the land that we love so that our new tail can last for the generations to come. “No one will remember our names, but that’s okay, because its not about us.” – Berry Sweed NPS ranger.
Estes crew has come a very long way from the begging of the summer, learning copious amount of new trades and skills, all the while living together in tents. This work and home life relationship has tested our patience and resilience to the max, but most importantly, connected us as lifelong friends and family. We are all very excited to finish out the season strong as a team!
–Curtis Hall (Crew Leader)
This week Shadow Mountain Crew spent their time in the Never Summer Wilderness. We hiked 4 miles up to the intersection of Parika Lake Trail and Baker Pass where we camped for our last hitch of the season. Our bodies were all really sore from a summer full of swinging tools and hiking but we were all anxious to get to work in an area that we haven’t been to yet. We were awed by the beauty of the area. Nico and I frolicked through the fields of wildflowers and everyone admired the view of Longs Peak from the lake. But despite the beauty, the trails needed a lot of care.
Wednesday, we brushed and dug drains on Parika Lake trail. The trails were very cupped from years without maintenance but hopefully the 63 drains we dug will keep the water from causing any more damage. While eating lunch by the lake, we were bombarded by hungry marmots. They started to sneak attack Nico and Adam in hopes of getting some of their food. We tried to instill fear back into them but they were some very brave and stubborn marmots. In addition to the whistle pigs, we saw a large bull moose munching on grass by the lake. We all wanted to see it swim but had to walk away as it started to get closer. After lunch we redefined the intersection of Parika Lake and Baker’s Pass by putting in new tread.
On Thursday a group went back to the intersection and continued to work on the tread while the rest of us did some rock work. Mary and I built a check dam and Kendra and Caitlin worked on a step. Both were put in place to try to build the trail back up where it was cupped out from water eroding away the sediment. Mary and I channeled our inner cave people as we moved the rocks and dug the hole for the check dam. The echoes of our chants could be heard by everyone in our crew.
The final day we were all very tired and cold from the rain but we packed up camp and worked our way back to the trucks. We continued to brush and dig drains where needed until it was time to head back to the trucks. Back at the village we cleaned and learned how to sharpen our dull tools. After the long week, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to Miyauchi’s for burgers and fries.
-Emma Geverd (Crew Leader of the Week)
Welcome (back) to Pawnee!
Boulder Crew here, continuing our project on Pawnee Pass—and having a blast! Much of our past weeks here, and half of this week, were involved in clearing the trail and making it gorgeous and easy to walk on. Not that this wasn’t rewarding and important (it was!), but we all felt some relief and excitement for starting checksteps and erosion control on our lovely but steep trail this week.
Perhaps the most interesting and unusual work for us thus far was building official cairns! The crew hiked up to the top of Pawnee Pass to build these trail markers and also found some great views. This task was yet another time to exercise our rock-work skills to build sturdy and visible structures that would aid hikers on the pass, and I’d say we fully appreciated the rarity and creativity allowed in the process.
This was probably the rainiest week of all, but as one Charlotte would say “PMA all day, every day!” That would be Positive Mental Attitude! Though storms, hail, and pounding rain may chase us off the mountain some days, it hasn’t chased away the smiles (check out those cheesy grins) or our hard work ethic. Everyone is ready to finish off this trail strong and steady, and to get all of the possible erosion control we can accomplished.
Ready to ROCK,
Rachel (Crew Leader of the Week)
Work week seven was all that we hoped and expected it to be!
We all got reunited on Monday and went out the the solar shower (SS) to begin the trail, or path, connecting it to the nearby comfort station and parking area. We did a bit of cleanup in the area and got the logs set and leveled around the SS. The whole time we were doing this we were watching the sky as it darkened. Then right when Chuck, our boss, got gas in the chainsaw to do the cuts that make everything match up nicely it started to pour! We tried to wait out the rain and lightning in our truck, but after 30 minutes and no sign of a change in weather we had to call it and go back to the project shop and work on picnic tables. Luckily the forecast for the rest of the week was way better!
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we put the pedal to the medal and each day put in about 17 logs and hauled thousands of pounds of road base into the trail. The weather was much more favorable and we only had about 30-45 minutes of stoppage each day for heavy rain, lightning and hail. At the end of Wednesday, we were really able to see the project coming together and nearing completion!
On Thursday we quickly finished up the log work and spent the rest of the day hauling literal tons of road base and then crushed rock into the trail. By the end of the day we were super close to finishing, only one more dump truck load of crushed rock for the final surface was needed.
One thing that is really nice about this project is that people have been going out of their way to walk over and thank us for putting in the solar shower. I never knew how much people enjoyed having access to this campsite amenity. This project is without a doubt increasing the quality of visitors experiences at Rocky Mountain National Park!
-Will (Crew Leader)