After the first week in the field, the crews have begun to hit their stride and really begin to knock lots of quality trail work.
On Monday of this week I visited the Red Feather Crew, this day is documented in Spotlight – Red Feather Crew. The Red Feather Crew spent both Monday and Tuesday on the Lion Gulch Trail and maintained 2-3 miles worth of check bars and drains, established a horse ramp, grubbed out over 75 yards of tread for a rerouted trail, stripped about a dozen aspen saplings to create a reinforcement structure for a steep embankment along the edge of a trail, and moved between a few dozen large rocks to fortify that structure and prevent erosion.
On Wednesday the Red Feather Crew moved to the Lily Mountain Trail in Estes Park. This trail was heavily affected by the flood and the crew is working to reopen the trail within the next few weeks. Last week they brushed over a network of social trails, maintained approximately 35 drains and a series water bars, used a rock drill to create new tread across an area previously devastated by a rockslide. They also established a series of stone steps leading up to that new tread. (Stayed tuned for pictures of this work).
USFS Orientation kept the Red Feather Crew in Fort Collins on Thursday. The Red Feather and Rawah Crews reviewed the importance of customer service, JHA, USFS expectations, USFS infrastructure, USFS career advancement, general Safety Protocol, Incident Reporting, and defensive driving tactics.
Off the clock the Red Feather Crew continue to enjoy crew dinners, outdoor activities, ice cream, and bowling.
Both Estes Crews started the week by attending a training. The crews learned about plant species and wildlife in the park, safety concerns, defensive driving, and standard operating procedure of the National Park Service in Rocky. In the afternoon, we did a quick maintenance run on a .5 mile section of trail.
On Tuesday, I was able to join the crews in the morning on a maintenance run of the Cow Creek Trail. We primarily cleared drains and did some limbing on the trail up to and just past Gem Lake.
Tom clearing a drain on the Cow Creek Trail
Estes Crews at Gem Lake
On Wednesday the crews split up. Six attended crosscut training and the other six completed a maintenance run. The crew on the maintenance run teamed up with Larimer County Conservation Corps on the Deer Mountain Trail.
Estes Crew on Top of Deer Mountain
The other six attended a two day cross-cut sawyer training. On Wednesday, they spent much of the day learning the safety concerns, proper handling procedures, and correct implementation of a Cross-Cut Saw on the trail. With this new knowledge the crews set out on Thursday to clear trees from some trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. This included the 5-mile Wind River Loop and the first mile of the Lawn Lake Trail.
Using their new Cross-Cut Skills
The other half of the crew completed the Lumpy Ridge Loop to finish off the trail we began work on on Monday.
Assistant Leader of the Boulder Crew, Courtney, provided a full update of the crews activities from this last week. Please see below for her reflection on the crew’s second week in the field.
After a long four day weekend Boulder Crew hit the trail again on Wednesday and Thursday to finish up our work on the Ceran St Vrain Trail. Jake, Steph and Danny worked hard at building a rock wall and completing tread work towards the trailhead while Joey, Holly and I worked on a stream crossing, helped remove hazard trees, and also finished tread work up the trail. In five days our eight person crew completed 1.9 miles of heavily flood damaged trail!
Courtney and Steph widening eroded trail.
Jake clearing brush to build a rock wall.
Boulder Crew after completing the work on the Ceran St. Vrain.
After completing the Ceran St. Vrain trail we moved farther north to the Dry St. Vrain Trail on Friday. The main work on this trail was completing drains. In one day we added over 20 drains in heat and sun!
On Saturday, we celebrated National Trails Day by working on a more heavily used trail, the East Portal Trail in the James Peak Wilderness. The morning started off quite chilly but they warmed up right away digging borrow pits to fill in turnpikes that Paul (USFS Trails Supervisor) had started on, but not finished last season. Finishing that project up quickly, we moved on to a very muddy portion of the trail. Ankle deep in mud we made several drains to draw the water off the trail and placed heavy rocks on the extremely muddy sections. Danny was the most enthusiastic about this project. Having studied soil science at Purdue University, he shared his knowledge of the different soil types with us.
Danny and Chris (USFS Trails) Digging Drains
I have a blast working with the crew! Some days are long and repetitive, digging out drain after drain but we have found many ways to entertain ourselves. Passing by each other, moving onto the next project, we say hello in funny accents; Danny has quite the Russian accent. Holly and I have made it a goal to master beat-boxing by the end of the summer, and Joey has been quite the model, striking poses in hilarious nature shots.
Joey deliberating with the Spruce
Also, we have been trying to identify as many plants as we can by looking at my plant guide. There was one that we could not identify on the Dry St. Vrain Trail, so I showed it to my bunkhouse roommate Emily, who is on the weeds crew for the Forest Service, and she was able to ID it right away.
Shadow Mountain Crew began the week with USFS Orientation, but quickly transitioned into trail work on Wednesday through Friday. On Friday, Rachel and I were able to join the crew in the field for some work on the Roaring Fork Trail in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Within the half-mile of trail, we encountered a downed log on the trail. Josia and Lewis were quick to assemble to Cross-Cut Saw and clear the trail.
After hiking through a series of steep switchbacks, we were able to catch up to the rest of the crew as they sorted through a puzzle of hazard trees. Connor, Aidan, and I were able to clear the area with a Silky Saw.
Aidan using the Silky to remove a hazard tree.
The next section of trail brought a few more downed trees, and quite a bit of drainage work. We all worked to dig drainages and clear culverts.
Tommy and Shelby digging a drainage to divert water from the trail.
This afternoon I am heading out to catch up with the Rawah Crew during their work day tomorrow, but this doesn’t mean they weren’t out on the trail last week. On Monday, they maintained three miles of the Big South Trail to standard by digging drains, removing hazard trees, and clearing the trail. Tuesday brought them to the Roaring Creek Trail, where they completed over four miles of trail work, bring over 2.5 miles up to USFS standard in the process. Before returning to Fort Collins for USFS Orientation on Thursday, they spent Wednesday on the Link Trail completing 3.5 miles of trail and 50 log outs of trees from 8-16″ in diameter.
It was a great week for Rocky Mountain Conservancy – Conservation Corps. I had a blast joining the crews and participating in the work they are completing. Everyone is learning a lot and having a lot of fun along the way!