Believe it or not, Rocky Mountain Conservancy – Conservation Corps’ season is half over. This past week all of the crews returned to Estes Park for Mid-Week. For the readers less familiar with our program, mid-week sits right in the middle of the season. The crews have been in the field for four weeks and will return into the field for four weeks. The focus of this break in the season is education; however, the week always begins with an all-crew work project in Rocky Mountain National Park. This year that brought us down to Wild Basin to help the National Park Service with the Ouzel Falls Bridge Project.
With seventy-eight hands on deck for the project, between the thirty-six crew members and Field Institute staff, the National Park Service was very grateful for our support. We spent the day dispersing material from past Ouzel Falls’ bridges that had been deposited just off trail in a huge mound further into the backcountry to expedite decomposition of the wood and create a space for the new bridge materials to be dropped and assembled.
Along with the day being full of fire lines shuttling material up away from the trail, we were forced to problem solve at times when removing log jams from the North St. Vrain River created by broken bridge materials using earthen levers and reading stream flows, when working to dislodge non-natural materials, like bolts, nails, and washers, from planks they had been wedged in for years, or when challenged to have eighteen people move a six-foot piece of pressure treated wood using only one-finger each.
As the work day came to an end, we all hiked up above Ouzel Falls to commemorate the day with a group picture…
And a snowball fight.
Tuesday and Wednesday were our education days. Both days each crew member had a choice of three different field classes to attend to learn more about Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding areas. On Tuesday, we had Vince Matthews, State Geologist of Colorado, lead a class on geology and glaciology; Walt and Marlene Borneman, historian and naturalist, lead a history of mountaineering hike along the Longs Peak Trail; and a number of crew members came out with me for a class on the history of stewardship in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Wednesday’s lineup brought the crew members through headquarters of Rocky Mountain National Park on a behind the scenes tour with Rachel Balduzzi, Education Director for Rocky Mountain Conservancy, offered others an opportunity to explore the Tundra with Interpretive Ranger Cynthia Langguth, and provided others with a natural history hike down the historic Ute Trail.
The week finished up on Thursday morning with a number of crew meetings checking in on the season’s progress, evaluating individual goals, and assessing the needs for each crew as we move into the second half of the season.
All in all, it was a great week. I enjoyed having the crews back in Estes, but am looking forward even more to visiting them in the field over the next few weeks!