In the Field: Week 8

The Estes Crew had a great final week of work. Monday to Wednesday we worked on a very challenging project on the Wild Basin Trail just before Calypso Cascades. For this project we were replacing an old turnpike in a very muddy area. This week was by far the dirtiest we ever were this season. Everyone was covered in mud, but Emily out did us all by getting to the point that she was almost unrecognizable from being so muddy. The project required a lot of rock work. We hauled, chiseled, and crushed rocks almost constantly. In the end the trail was much easier to hike and much less muddy even though we were not able to completely finish the project.

For our final work day on Thursday we hiked up to Bluebird Lake clearing trail the whole way. We were able to take several downed trees off the trail on this thirteen mile hike.

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Everyone on the crew is looking forward to our final education week. We had a great season of work and accomplished a lot.

– Tom Derr, Estes Crew Leader

For last week in the field, the Red Feather Crew returned to the Comanche Wilderness area and spent the week working on the Zimmerman Trail. Although we had been given a list of several possible trails to cover, we found that the Zimmerman Trail was so beset with fallen trees, that there was no shortage of work to be done. In all, we bucked out about 75 trees, ranging from 4 inches to approximately a yard in diameter; needless to say, it was A LOT of sawing.

Otherwise, we had a good last week together, (and were particularly grateful for the lack of hailstorms and other fluke weather occurrences.) It’s been a great season overall, and we are thankful to have been able to spend time exploring the many different areas of the Canyon Lakes Ranger District on such a variety of trails.

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– Rebecca Ripperton, Red Feather Crew Leader

The P1020808 got a hefty amount of hazard tree felling in during their last week in the field. Tuesday through Friday, we drove out to the Fraser Experimental Forest to work on the Creekside and Flume trails, felling hazard trees within twenty yards of the trail. Day after day, each of us worked with Forest Service sawyers to knock out the dangerous sections of dead Lodgepole Pines along the trails, creating a safer path for the public and preventing trees from falling on the trail in the future. In order to keep up with our experienced supervisors with the Forest Service, we learned new cutting techniques for tough-to-fell trees, preparing us to advance our abilities after our RMCCC chapter has ended. Throughout the four days of cutting, we felled upwards of 250 trees between the six of us. Take that, trees!

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On Saturday, we teamed up with multiple Forest Service crews from the Sulphur Ranger District to remove an illegal campsite south of Kremmling, CO near the Green Mountain Reservoir. Connor, Josia, Tommy and Shelby drove up a long switch-backed dirt road in order to quickly get to the entrance of the campsite trail, and then proceeded hike 2.5 miles out to the illegal campsite. From there, they each hauled out over 80 pounds of camping gear, busting their butts to finish off the summer’s work. Meanwhile, Aidan and I hiked up the road to the campsite with the Shadow Mountain llamas (Jed and

Henry) for a total of 11 miles round trip to help carry out heavy abandoned gear from the campsite. Stubborn though the llamas are, we had a blast laughing at their silly llama-isms and dragging them through thickets and streams.

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With heavy hearts, we packed up our belongings from the Shadow Mountain Village this Sunday and headed back to Estes for Final Week. It’s been a heck of a time working with these 5 strangers for the summer, and I can’t imagine spending this summer any other way.

– Lewis Kunik, Shadow Mountain Crew Member

The Rawah Crew maintained 14 miles of the Camp Lake Loop in the Rawah Wilderness Area. In that 14 miles we had light work of 30 trees (most palm to fingertips wide). While up there we also enjoy the sights of Twin Crater Lake, possibly one of the most beautiful locations in Colorado. To finish up the week we cleaned all the tools, organized the shop, watched the gov’t vehicle, cleaned our bunk and had a friendly potluck with the hosts. All in all a good final week.

– Patrick Donaghue, Rawah Crew Leader

This week the Boulder Crew closed out a fantastic season with a bomber three-day backpacking trip to Diamond Lake.  We performed routine maintenance on the ten campsites that surround the lake, digging drains and clearing hazard trees.

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Joey checking for efficient drainage

Additionally, we each had an opportunity to practice bucking trees with a crosscut. Courtney, working on her crosscut certification, taught the crew proper technique and form.

Courtney sharing her cross cut skills

Since these designated campsites are in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, campfires are prohibited; let’s just say no campfire rings stood a chance with us coming for them! After finishing work for the day, we went fishing and swimming in the lake, cooked delicious dinners, played cribbage, and refined our rap and beat-box skills. Being detached from society and normal day-to-day amenities helped us to connect more with the nature surrounding us, and the projects we were completing. We watched sunsets and sunrises, climbed the rocks, and read mountain quotes for inspiration.

The crew above Diamond Lake

On Friday, we returned a little early to clean the Nederland Work Center for the last time of our season and go over evaluations with our Forest Service supervisor Michael.  On our final day we were able to work alongside 32 other volunteers from Teens Inc., and the Nederland Area Trails Association on the “Bus & Shack” Trail in the West Magnolia recreation area.  We all put our trail knowledge to good use and worked directly with the volunteers to teach them the art of trail drainage! It felt awesome to be on the other side, teaching others how to do the work we had been completing all summer. It felt appropriate for our last day.  We returned home for a farewell pizza dinner provided by our wonderful boss Michael, and began packing for our final week in Estes Park.  It was a great summer in Nederland Colorado, and we will miss all of our new Forest Service friends!

– Daniel Misch, Boulder Crew Member

During the last week working with NPS, the Estes Crew was back in the field literally. The crew was spraying for invasive species of thistle and mullen once again. Each of the crew members were having a fun time spraying until it came to having to carry the uncomfortable packs around all day. During this week, the crew completed little horseshoe park, horseshoe park, and a elk enclosure. The crew had the pleasure of having Geoff come out for a field visit. However a storm rolled in and we were sent to the truck to wait out the storm. It was a fun time with several laughs. The crew was invited to the “Round Table”, which is a training that the resources department have each week to refine their skills. The rest of the week was pretty slow and laid back, we finished by pulling weeds and saying our goodbyes to the exotics crew would had us under their wing for the last two weeks of an adventurous and invigorating summer.

– Jerry Gonzales, Estes Assistant Crew Leader

 

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Crew Spotlight: Shadow Mountain

The Shadow Mountain Crew took a different approach to their moment in the “Crew Spotlight.” In an effort to get everyone involved, each member and leader cited their favorite moment from the season both inside and outside of work. Enjoy!

My favorite work memory was on the third day of our backcountry trip over the 4th of July weekend. It was a physically demanding trip, and Tommy, Shelby, and I were feeling the effects of three days of strenuous hiking with fifty-pound packs. We had summited Bottle Peak earlier in the day, clearing the trail on the way up and down. By 4:30pm, we were very tired and desperately wanted to set up camp for the day. However, we still had an intimidating 800ft climb in ½ a mile to get on top of a ridge. It took us 1.5 hours and a lot of moaning and griping, but at 6:00pm we trudged over the lip of the ridge and were rewarded with one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen this summer. The ridge granted us a 360o view of the Byers Peak Wilderness that we had spent the last three days working to conserve and keep beautiful and accessible to the public. The beauty of the Byers Peak Wilderness and the reward of seeing the vast area we had worked on was the perfect reminder of why we do this work for the RMCCC.

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Tommy on the ridge overlooking the Byers Peak Wilderness.

Favorite outside-of-work memory: After work this past Wednesday, the crew played a game that was a mix of charades and catch phrase. Everyone wrote a person, place, and thing on a sheet of paper and put it in a bowl, then split into teams. The game was four rounds: in the first, we played catch phrase and had to describe the word so our team could guess it. In the next round, we played charades and had to act out the word. In the third, you could only say one word that best describes the person/place/thing so your teammates could guess it. In the fourth (and funniest) round, we could only make noises to get our teammates to guess the word. This resulted in lots of bizarre animal noises, grunts, and frantic gesturing. We were rolling around laughing the entire time, and the next day one of our neighbors chuckled as he told us that he could hear our roaring laughter from his house. We came into this summer as complete strangers, and that night showed how close the crew has become and how much fun we’ve had together this summer.

– Connor Enright, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader

 

Favorite work Memory:  Definitely our backcountry trip, camping at a beautiful lake surrounded on all sides by jagged peaks, and waking up to one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen, and being able to share it with some cool kids as well.

Favorite weekend memory: Going to Moab and getting back down to the Utah Desert was pretty awesome. We visited Arches and Canyonlands NPs, went on some amazing hikes with a combination of crews, had great times road tripping and singing about following rivers, and went swimming at some cool local watering holes. Going somewhere that cool with such a great group of people was bound to be the highlight of my summer! But actually kind of tied with another weekend where I bought a car!

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– Aidan Shafland, Shadow Mountain Assistant Crew Leader

 

Favorite work memory:  This past Friday, the Shadow Crew headed out to the Flume Trail in the Fraser Experimental Forest for our biggest day of hazard tree removal.  It was amazing to see the progression we’ve all made since day 1, through chainsaw class, all leading up to these final days of hazard tree felling.  That Friday, we all felt like professionals – it was the perfect day of trail work, and nothing is more satisfying than dropping dozens of rickety trees to the ground.

Favorite weekend memory:  Earlier this season, we decided to embark on an adventure to climb Blanca Peak – the 4th highest mountain in Colorado.  After a long day of work, the crew packed into cars and headed south to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, arriving to the trailhead around 12:45 in the morning.  We brushed our teeth, set up our sleeping bags under the desert sky, and after a whopping one and a half hours of beauty sleep, we awoke ready to conquer.  The peak took a hefty thirteen hours to bag, leaving us utterly exhausted and depleted, but we returned victorious! Bagging my first 14er with the crew was a phenomenal feat, and ever since Blanca, Shadow has been knocking off peaks like flies.

lewisPicture: Aidan, Josia, and I set up camp after day 1 of backcountry – skirting with tree line in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

– Lewis Kunik, Shadow Mountain Crew Member

 

Favorite Work Moment:

Day 3 of backcountry. We’ve been hiking for 8 hours and are now following a very rough, obscure portion of the trail with intermittent avalanche snow patches. We keep getting turned around and then spending 30 minutes of bush-wacking to re-find the trail. Our goal for the night is to get to a narrow spiny ridge about 1,000 vertical feet up to our right, but it’s late and the flat patch of grassiness we put our stuff down in to refill on water looks like a very inviting camp spot. After a vote, we decide to just push it up the last ridge. I’m in kind of a numb haze, just putting one foot in front of the other and I start to wonder who ever thought it would be a good idea to climb a mountain in general. But then I start really thinking about it, and you know what? I like when the trail isn’t totally clear, searching for the carens like a high-stakes easter egg hunt. It makes you more engaged: the frustration of being lost, but then when you finally spot a slash mark on a distant tree there’s this sense of reward; a rejuvenating burst that pushes you up the next climb.

I also think there’s a balance between living in the moment, yet having enough time to reflect, and somehow, miraculously, backpacking allows you to do that. The pounding of my heart and crunch of trail under hiking boots create a personal soundtrack that lulls me into a world of complete synchronization. My pack straps bite into my shoulders, my feet are sore and soaked, the cross-cut I’m carrying has this weird wave jiggle going on with every step, but it almost makes the moment feel more vivid, more real. Everything is raw. The trail is raw. The work is raw. The sharp, jagged horizon of mountains chiseled against the distant gray sky is raw. There aren’t very many adventures that are this inherently physical. We are climbing up the side of a mountain to stand on top–it’s the most literal representation of a goal. And when we finally push over the ridge, everything is mountains, as far as we can see. Soft, tree speckled foothills, building into enormous rocky summits on to the spiny purple-blue haze of distant ranges. It’s kind of the ultimate reward; a high feeling of extreme purpose, of teamwork.

And then we camp right on the ridge and I felt like I might roll right off the cliff all night but it’s so fresh and clean and beautiful that it doesn’t even matter.

Connor Summits the ridgeConnor summits ‘the ridge’ on our backcountry trip

Favorite outside of Work Moment:

In Moab, laying under the black canvas sky, splatter painted with starlight, stretching all the way to the jagged silhouette of plateaus in the distance. Everything is hot and sandy with sunburn and my eyes are so sticky and tired from desert air but I don’t want to close out the bright dancing so I lay on my sleeping bag until the gentle wind curls into deep dreamscapes and then morning sunrise.

– Shelby Ahrendt, Shadow Mountain Crew Member

 

Favorite Work Memory:

My favorite work memory was during our second week when we were working on the Cascade Falls trail. We did about 11 miles and did a lot of work with drainages it was also some of our first times using cross cuts and I think it was a good first experience for all of us. It is also one of my favorite hikes that we have done for work this year, the water was running high and there was still a substantial amount of snow on the side of the trail. We didn’t quite make it to the falls but we did stumble upon an avalanche area that was probably 100 yards of trail and this was really cool seeing how much damage an avalanche can do to a small area.

Favorite Weekend Memory:

My favorite weekend memory was going to Canyonlands after midweek. We got to stay at a campsite called hamburger rock. It was in the middle of the dessert and we were the only ones there and we were able to take over the camp area with almost all of the crews. We also went for a long hike to a big slot canyon where we were able to beat the heat for a little while and do some exploring otherwise known as taking a nap. It was fun getting to be around the other crews and get to know each other even more so than seeing each other during the weeks where we gather in Estes.

Favorite Photo:

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This is my favorite photo because it shows most of the crews gathered together for a night of camping by the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  This was our first weekend that we all got together to go on a trip somewhere and it was a really fun weekend with a lot of memories made.

– Tommy Egland, Shadow Mountain Crew Member

 

Favorite Work Memory: Saturday, early July. Uphill, steep, steep switchbacks, cross cut saws and pulaskis in hand. All morning, digging drains and cutting trees obstructing the trail. Eventually, the land flattens and the following stretch of trail is almost entirely concealed in the churned mud begging for a turnpike.

Trail work is a balance between the permanent and temporary, since weather and human use ultimately decide the condition and longevity of a trail. In some instances, keeping a trail free of water is as simple as clearing out the accumulated sediment from preexisting, well placed drainages. On this trail, Roaring Fork, attention is far overdue and will likely not be given for quite some time into the future, so whatever work is put in will remain potentially indefinitely.

The solution in this case? To smash crushed stones into the four hundred foot long section of trail-turned-mud so that the ground would be more stable when walked across. Which meant that for a solid chunk of time in the afternoon, I pounded collected rocks into a mud puddle. Over and over; swing, aim, drop, crack, splash, splatter. It was hard work, and with each blow a small eruption of mud water would jump at my face and clothing, making me giggle with joy. After three hours, the trail still looked a mess, but was passable without sinking six inches deep in mud, and my face was splattered everywhere except for the area around my eyes shielded by my sunglasses. Everything was right in the world.

Favorite Weekend Memory: Blanca Peak was my first ever fourteener, and it kicked my butt pretty hard. Not fourty-eight hours later, four of us decided to attempt another, Mount Massive. We woke up at 3:45 in the dark and were hiking by 4:15, which would have been reasonable for the situation except that, despite it being July, the Leadville weather system had dumped three inches of fresh snow at the trailhead, a depth that increased as we gained elevation. The approach was short and easy, but as soon as we crossed a meadow to begin the ascent, we lost the trail through the snow and it became apparent that this was not going to be the obvious hike to the summit we had been expecting. After at least ten minutes of searching along the opposite treeline, we found a place where the trail appeared to go, resulting in ecstatic shouts of relief. However, not three minutes later, it had disappeared again. This pattern repeated itself and we bushwhacked through four foot deep snowpack, over streams, trudging uphill and at one point following rabbit tracks which appeared to be going in the correct direction. By 8:30, we were well above treeline, and the wind was chilling us rapidly as we climbed up a snowy boulder field in one last push to find the trail. We were partially numb, a little disappointed, but I at least felt completely satisfied with our morning’s adventure. We had not reached the summit or made good time, but it felt real and exciting in a way that following the (as we discovered in our second attempt a few weeks later) very obvious trail was not.

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– Josia DeChiara, Shadow Mountain Crew Member

In The Field – Week 7

This week Boulder Crew went on their first overnight trip at Lost Lake near Hessie Trailhead in the Indian Peaks. We were lucky to have Geoff join us on Wednesday, He helped us break down excessive campfire rings at the nine campsites along the lake. Over the two day period we managed to takeout 30+ fire rings along the lake, which truly has only nine designated campsites. The rings had trash and broken glass in them which we collected and packed out. We also helped Paul with the removal of hazard trees around the campsites. There was a giant thunder and rainstorm that passed over the lake that night so we all got pretty soaked.

Our campsite at Lost Lake Courtney and Joey preparing dinner

Our campsite at Lost Lake Courtney and Joey preparing dinner

We were excited to watch the storm though! Some of us even went swimming in the rain. Friday we set up for a volunteer project with the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance. Prepping trees to be placed for a turnpike, many of us got extremely sappy peeling the bark! We also had to carry two logs 100+ feet down a swampy hill to be placed on the trail using four log carriers and eight people.

On Saturday morning we got right to work with the volunteers who were enthusiastic to get out in the field. The turnpike was being placed in a low laying, swampy area, so getting muddy was the only option. We made a lot of progress with the trail, which gets a ton of traffic due to its proximity to two campgrounds. We’re feeling pretty melancholy at the prospect of only one more week in Ned. It’s been such an incredible summer.

– Holly Pretsky and Courtney Ross, Boulder Crew Member and Assistant Leader

Red Feather began the week full of vigor and enthusiasm as we learned that we’d be embarking upon our very first backpacking trip of the summer. Our destination was Brown’s Lake, a beautiful location within the Comanche Peak Wilderness. Loaded down with food, water, and gear, Red Feather hiked up and down the steep terrain. After what seemed like a few hours, we arrived at our campsite. Luckily we prioritized setting up a tarp-covered kitchen area, because not ten minutes after we ended our hike did the skies open up. And I’m not talking rain. On most major news networks back home, there’s a brief interruption, usually around seven o’clock, where they announce the daily lottery numbers. Typically, there is a bunch of white balls, each with numbers on them, which are flying around a little tank. When it comes time to select a lottery winner, one ball is randomly chosen from each tank, and someone, somewhere, has a great day. Having never experienced hail before, I felt as though I was standing inside one of those tanks. The little white balls pelted the ground and punished our tarp for the better part of an hour.

Fortunately the storm passed and we were able to set up our tents before heading out to work for the remainder of the day. We split up and conquered the Beaver trail, with half of us making it all the way to the Comanche Reservoir. Clint and Rebecca prepared dinner that night, and we were glad to be dry and able to laugh about the day’s happenings.

Clint woke up early Tuesday morning to go fly-fishing in the lake, and was rewarded with a few good catches. The rest of us prepared for a full workday on the Flowers Trail. We would be hiking out of Brown’s Lake later that evening to find a new camping spot closer to the trails we were charged with repairing. But first we had work to do. After splitting into two groups (bucking group and tread group), we hiked up the Flowers trail and bore witness to the majesty of the region. It was great while it lasted. At almost the exact same time as they had the day before, the skies again opened up and dumped hail on us. It was a more powerful storm than the previous one, and we didn’t have a tarp to protect us. Separated by about a half mile, the two groups hunkered down in the trees and attempted to outlast Mother Nature. The hail was brutal, and coupled with dropping temperatures did well to make us miserable for well over an hour. When we eventually did reconvene, the prospect of returning to Fort Collins was brought up because of how bad the weather had become. After making sure there was no more lightening, we hiked out to our silver Chevy. The hike went well and the blue of the sky only spelled promise for the salvaging of our week. It was decided: we would remain in the wilderness for another day.

We were lucky enough to find a camp spot next to the road, and began to settle in for the coming night. Clint was able to build a fire using wet wood and witchcraft, while Joe suspended a huge tarp above the kitchen area. It was about seven at night and tents were being assembled. Jay and Joe were cooking tortellini on the gas stoves. There were nine minutes left on the cooking timer when it happened. The hail had been stalking us through the wilderness like a vindictive specter. It was careful not to throw itself upon us until we were entirely unprepared. The tarp was immediately ripped from the trees, exposing our unfinished meal to the storm’s wrath. Clint’s burgeoning fire was snuffed out like a…like a fire in a hailstorm. Despite being blindsided once again, Red Feather maintained its composure, recovering the tarp to at least partially conceal our kitchen and our dignity. Clint immediately declared a campsite evacuation, and called for a rapid extraction of both crewmember and gear for a hasty retreat to Fort Collins. With two minutes left on the timer, the tortellini was strained and rationed out. It was surely the fastest meal in RMC-CC history. We wolfed down the pasta, all the while engaging in a tug-of-war with the swirling winds over the possession of our tarp. In maybe 10 minutes we went from a half-assembled campsite to a completely dissembled and hastily packed up Chevy Silverado. Everyone appeared to be doing two things at once. Group Hail

Wednesday began slightly later than usual due to the events of the previous night. The day had already been declared a “safety day” where we would work from Fort Collins. We sorted out gear that had been strewed about during the madness of our frantic retreat, cleaning and repairing what needed our attention. Among these items was our Chevy Silverado, about which the crew is ambivalent. Nonetheless, it received a “deep clean” and thorough inspection. I’ll have you know it is in perfect condition and looks much better than Rawah’s. After lunch we went off to buy some more supplies. Two consecutive weeks of camping had drained us of our precious cooking gas. All in all it was a good day.

We returned to the notorious Bulwark Trail for some bucking. There was plenty of work for us to do, with situations of varying complexity satiating the crew’s thirst for problem solving. Or something like that. We done cut some trees. We done ‘em good.

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However bumpy it may have been at times, I don’t think any of us regret this week. Amongst the tribulations and times of peril were instances of triumph. Michaela in particular conquered many a physical and mental hurdle as Red Feather embarked on perhaps its most hiking-intensive week yet. It is often in the most trying of times that the greatest of bonds are forged. When the storm found us on Tuesday night, Red Feather responded brilliantly. It may have only lasted minutes, but our dismantling of camp may have been our greatest moment as a crew yet. It was honestly a bit of a blur, but looking back I think I might know why. We acted on instinct alone. There was no time for debate or discussion. None for discord or dissent. There was only a goal, and we were able to find a means to accomplish that goal with a cohesive and effective response. If our instincts did in fact give rise to what occurred in those ten minutes, then that only speaks volumes to how far we have come as a crew.

– Joe DiBello, Red Feather Crew Member

The Estes Crew had a solid week at Wild Basin putting in checks at the Sand Beach trail. We were able to finish the project that was started by the other Estes crew. We were able to put in about twenty-five wood checks replacing the old rotted ones that had been there for fifty or so years. I can happily say that the trail is now much improved and is much easier to hike as well as support itself during times of heavy erosion from rainfall. This 200 meter section of trail should be able to support itself for another fifty years.

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– Tom Derr, Estes Crew Leader

As of Monday, July 14th 2014, both Estes Crews switched roles. Delaney​’s crew would work along side the Revegetation/Exotics crew, while Tom’s crew would return to the Trails crew. As of Monday morning, Delaney’s crew would become familiar and certified in the application of herbicidal spraying. Furthermore everybody on the crew was instructed to “calibrate” their packs. This was completed in order to determine how many gallons of herbicide each individual would spray in an acre plot. This was a vigorous task due to the fact that the pack had to stay pumped up in order to continually spray. The rest of the day the crew worked on spraying invasive thistle species in Moraine Park Campground. Throughout the next two days the crew worked on spraying the Moraine Park and Glacier Basin Campground for invasive thistle species. On Thursday, there was a change of pace and the crew was instructed to help with the removal of hoary alyssum around the trails barn. It was a successful week of work and each crew member was very interested in learning more about invasive/native species of plants.

MegEllen "calibrating" her pack

MegEllen “calibrating” her pack

Jackson spraying in Moraine Park Camprground

Jackson spraying in Moraine Park Camprground

Hania spraying a huge Canada Thistle

Hania spraying a huge Canada Thistle

Jackson spraying in Moraine Park Camprground

Jackson spraying in Moraine Park Camprground

-Jerry Gonzales, Estes Assistant Crew Leader

Our Rawah Crew completed another week of backcountry work in the Rawah Wilderness. Last week, they spent their time on the Blue Lake Trail completing dozens of log outs and insuring the trail corridor and tread remained safe a sustainable for visitors.

Shadow Mountain Crew will be featured in the crew spotlight this week. Stay tuned!

With only one week left in the season, I have traveled out to see all the crews and a feeling of melancholy and surprise of the season’s end is pervasive. It has been a great season so far. I can’t wait to see what work they find themselves in this week!

 

In the Field – Week 6

The Red Feather Crew spent this work week car camping. Having set up camp in a beautiful meadow thriving with nonthreatening wildlife, with the exceptional male deer, the crew set out to explore and maintain Trap Park, Corral Creek, Big South, Peterson Lake, and Mt. Neota trails. Work this week included building and clearing out many drains, rerouting water off the trail, and bucking out a multitude of trees ranging from massive to the generic “just big enough to use a corona.” Furthermore, trail work involved uncluttering the trail corridor employing loppers, coronas, and the new favorite ‘baby’ hand axe and constructing cairns in order to establish the trail in perplexing locations.

When not working, the crew spent time chatting and joking next to the fire, prepping delicious group dinners, observing the wildlife, and preparing for the following day. In addition to the off-work tomfoolery and concentrated work effort, Red Feather spent the week engaging in an all-out war with the immense swarms of mosquitoes inhabiting the Comanche Peaks. The skirmish resulted in a sad but utterly inevitable defeat of the beloved trail crew, however they were able to take hundreds to thousands of the mosquitos’ forces down with them.

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–          Mary Weiss, Red Feather Crew Member

The Boulder Crew had a varied and exciting week of trail work. On Tuesday we spent the day with Michael starting at the Fourth of July Trailhead, one of the most popular trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness due to the short hike to reach the continental divide. We completed numerous drains and started a wilderness bridge project that will be completed later in the season. Courtney got to use her crosscut saw skills to cut down two trees with Michael that were debarked and scored the next day for the bridge. On that next day, Jake, our crew leader, got to take charge! He led us back up the trail and beyond to reach the Arapaho Pass Trail. The view was incredible once we got above tree line. It was our first time working on alpine tundra!

The rest of the week we spent the day with the district’s wilderness ranger, Mary. We worked in the Brainard Lake area from the Mitchell Lake Trailhead and Long Lake Trailhead. On the Mitchell Lake Trail we mainly shoveled snow off of the trail to minimize social trail development, but the most rewarding and fun project was to remove rocks from under a log bridge to stop the water from flowing over the top. This allowed more hikers to reach the next lake, Blue Lake. Many hikers, while waiting to cross the stream began to take photos of us working, we felt like celebrities.

On Friday we hiked up to beautiful Lake Isabelle. Holly, Jake, Joey, FS Brian and I worked very carefully to uncover a wilderness bridge that had been hidden by snow to make sure hikers crossed the stream safely. Before we uncovered the manmade bridge, hikers had just been walking over the snow bridge that had formed over the creek and was rapidly thinning as the summer goes on. Needless to say, it was pretty dangerous. It was really satisfying to know that we had made the trail so much safer and to see people benefitting from our work! Trail work is not always so satisfying however. Before starting the project Mary informed us of all the hard, frustrating work she completed on the trail last season. Due to the increasing snowfall each year, the snowfield in the area has not been melting till mid-August causing huge social trail problems. Last year she spent over 1000 hours with volunteer groups to slash in up to 100 social trails. She was disappointed to see that much of her work proved ineffective due to the overwhelming amount of traffic. Later speaking with Michael about the issue, he stated that come mid-July there are up to 300 people on the trail each day! This got us thinking about the difficult balance between preserving the wilderness and allowing people to enjoy it. Together our crew uncovered hundreds of feet of trail that day and also did some revegetation work in an area along the lake. Overall, this week was a great one. We really enjoyed ourselves and felt our work was truly making a difference to further protect and preserve our wilderness lands.

Joey, Holly, and Steph at Lake Isabelle.

Joey, Holly, and Steph at Lake Isabelle.

Snowfield Wilderness Bridge on Lake Isabelle Trail

Snowfield Wilderness Bridge on Lake Isabelle Trail

Stream Crossing Mitchell Lake Trail

Stream Crossing Mitchell Lake Trail

– Courtney Ross, Boulder Assistant Crew Leader and Holly Pretsky, Boulder Crew Member

The Shadow Mountain Crew continued to hone their chainsaw skills this week by creating a quarter-mile reroute on the Soda Pass trail just outside of Grand Lake. The old off-highway vehicle trail veered through a low swampy area, with erosion making it difficult for ATVs and dirt bikes to pass through. With the help of the Shadow crew, a few trusty forest service workers, and a bulldozer, a new trail was cleared uphill of the old trail in just four fun-filled days of trail work. Wednesday was spent using chainsaws to clear the path of the new trail by felling trees and bucking existing logs in the way of the new trail. On Thursday, the crew used hand tools to establish tread on the newly bulldozed path. For Friday’s work, the crew switched off felling hazard trees near the new trail and decommissioning the old trail. To wrap up the week, Saturday was a day of finishing off the re-routed trail with tamping as well as re-vegetating the old trail in order to finalize the Soda Pass reroute. It was a tough week of work, but Shadow Mountain crew’s high spirits can’t be felled – the crew made the best of the trail days by having races up the hill to the worksite with tools and packs, critiquing Lewis’s eating style, and jamming out to Beyoncé in the Forest Service vehicle.

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– Lewis Kunik, Shadow Mountain Crew Member

The Estes Crew working with Resource Management started this week watering the restoration areas off of the side of Bear Lake Road. These are the areas that had been torn up by the construction of the new road. The areas we water are covered in hydro seed, a type of seed that grows into a variety of native pants and absorbs water well. The rest of that Monday we spent planting at Moraine Park. Tuesday we continued planting at Moraine park for the entire day. On Wednesday we spent some time with the invasive plants crew removing weeds from behind the trails shop. The remainder of that day was spent planting at Moraine and Howell park. We finished up the week on Thursday power washing styrofoam plant containers to be recycled and also organizing pots. That afternoon we joined in on what NPS calls a round table meeting where we discussed the shifting of norms and policies in the park.

Pulling exotics near headquarters.

Pulling exotics near headquarters.

Restoring the Hollowell Park Curve.

Restoring the Hollowell Park Curve.

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-Tom Derr, Estes Crew Leader

The Rawah Crew focused this week on the central section of the Rawah Wilderness Area. This sent them out on the Rawah, Link, and Medicine Bow Trails. Along these trails they completed 20 miles of log outs with a grand total of 131 trees cut with diameters up to 32 inches. Additionally, they completed 100 feet of corridor maintenance.

Our other Estes Crew, who spent their last week with trails, continued their project of building 60+ log checks a mile and a half up the Sandbeach Lake Trail in Wild Basin. We had completed 39 at the end of the day Thursday, leaving the rest for Tom’s crew to complete next week when we trade them and start our restoration duties. This was our first project as a crew and everyone learned a good amount of new skills and are now self sufficient at building log checks, start to finish, including identifying areas that could benefit from installing log checks. We worked through some frustrating times as a crew (moving and attempting to install 7 different rocks in one spot is very frustrating and takes 7 hours) but overall had a good time.

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– Delaney Garvin, Estes Crew Leader

Crew Spotlight: Boulder Crew

It was once said in a famous poem by Robert Frost that taking the road less traveled can make all the difference. Frost left his poem somewhat open ended by not specifying what ‘all the difference’ really meant. Most agree that the poem’s main message is that we can never be entirely sure of what will result from a certain decision. Here in Nederland though, we feel that Frost’s decision to take the road less traveled is a bad message as it goes against Leave No Trace (LNT) principles. Over the course of the summer, our crew has seen first hand the impacts that social trails and careless travel can have on fragile mountain and desert ecosystems. We have come across severely braided trails, damaged riparian zones, heavily impacted tundra, and, of course, damaged cryptobiotic soil. The focus of most of the Boulder crew’s work has been to help mitigate off trail travel by maintaining sustainable and accessible trail systems in high use areas. Our work has included constructing boardwalks, creating and clearing drains, rerouting flood damaged trail, destroying fire rings, constructing water crossings, cutting out fallen trees, marking ski trails, and closing off social trails.

Putting hard work into the Boulder Ranger District’s trails and wilderness areas has given our crew a higher appreciation and respect for our public lands. More importantly however, it has made us realize that the current state of these areas is a result of decades of management and policy decisions. From camping regulations to fire protocols, each conservation decision made today will have an outcome.

Frost mentions in ‘The Road Not Taken‘ that it is impossible to travel both roads. What he means is that when faced with a decision, you must face the consequences of that decision as it is impossible to go back in time and choose the other option. If Frost’s apparent disregard for LNT is ignored, his poem nicely ties in with public lands management. Each decision made today is of utmost importance as there is no going back. The state our children find these places in will be the compilation of the ‘roads’ we choose to travel today and their consequences. This is why as citizens we must fight to ensure that decisions are made which prioritize sustainability above all else as that will make ‘all the difference’.

– Jake, ‘Nedrecks’ crew leader

In the Field – Week 5

After the holiday weekend, its time to take a look back at Rocky Mountain Conservancy – Conservation Corps’ fifth week in the field and first week returning to their work locations after midweek.

The Shadow Mountain Crew split up this week to complete two backcountry trips in the Bayers Wilderness and the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Connor, Tommy, and Shelby spent four days clearing twenty miles of trail in the Bayers Wilderness. It was an exhausting and rewarding trip; the crew battled steep elevation gains with their fifty-pound packs, but were rewarded with views like these…

Shelby, Connor, and Tommy enjoying views of the

Shelby, Connor, and Tommy enjoying views of the Bayers Wilderness

And campsites like these…

Shelby prepares some food at a backcountry campsite.

Shelby prepares some food at a backcountry campsite.

The trail work consisted of clearing over 80 trees off the Kinney Creek, Keyser Creek, St. Louis Divide, and Bottle Peak trails with crosscut saws and patrolling the trails to ensure that the public was obeying the laws of the wilderness.

Tommy works with a USFS trails member on a cross cut while Shelby uses a silky saw to limb a tree.

Tommy works with a USFS trails member on a cross cut while Shelby uses a silky saw to limb a tree.

Josia, Aidan, and Lewis spent four days working on the Caribou and Arapaho Pass trails, clearing over 150 downed trees and making 93 drainages. They spent a significant amount of time clearing an avalanche site on the Arapaho Pass trail.

Aidan and Lewis clear a tree from the trail using a crosscut.

Aidan and Lewis clear a tree from the trail using a crosscut.

Both backcountry crews returned home with a newfound appreciation for the wilderness areas in the Sulphur Ranger District. It was a special experience to live on the trail for four days, free of internet and running water, with nothing but the wilderness and your fellow crew members to keep you entertained.

– Connor Enright, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader

This week, the Red Feather Crew spent another week of working independently from our Forest Service coworkers and the Larimer County Conservation Corps Crews. We spent the week focusing our energy on the Bulwark Ridge Trail, which leads up to Signal Mountain and is located in the Comanche Peak Wilderness Area, which also meant a lot of travel time for us to and from the work site each day. After midweek, we had two more “Wait, wait… Don’t Tell Me!” episodes saved up to keep us laughing and awake during the long car rides. However, when people don’t stay awake in the truck… they end up with a stealthily taken picture of them passed out on a fellow crew member’s phone. It’s simply become a crew tradition at this point. We also had our crew evaluations from midweek fresh in our heads, and started out the week determined to use the constructive feedback we had received to grow and improve as individual members and as a collective crew.

For the first three days of the work week, we made our way up the trail from the Dunraven Trailhead. We split into two groups of three each day, sending one group up ahead with the saws to buck out any trees they found across the trail, while the other crew would follow more slowly and focus on tread work such as cleaning out and digging drainage structures, and filling in some of the many trenched out areas along the trail to make it more walkable for hikers. We also brushed in the occasional social trail, and lopped/removed any stray foliage or small logs inhibiting the trail corridor. After three days we had worked our way up and down the entire stretch of trail, which is almost 12 miles round-trip, so it was time to move on.

On Thursday, we hiked up a conjoining trail to the Bulwark Ridge Trail instead, starting at a Trailhead in the Pingree Park area. We kept with the same system of splitting into two groups, and the tread crew dug around 27 drains while saw crew bucked out an enormous tree towards the very top of the trail.

During the week, we also celebrated the last of the summer birthdays in our crew, as Mary turned 19 on Tuesday, July 1st. Her choice for her birthday dinner was Lulu’s, a lovely Asian restaurant in Old Town where we enjoyed sushi and fried rice, along with a free bowl of green tea ice cream for the birthday girl. For the weekend, many crew members had their own Fourth of July plans, but a few of us went to watch the City Park fireworks show, which had an incredible turnout and was a really fun experience. We all can hardly believe this was the end of our 7th week here! We only have 3 more work weeks to go, but the time has just seemed to fly by as we have all grown closer as a crew. Can’t wait to see what our last few weeks together will bring!

– Michaela Wilson, Red Feather Crew Member

The Estes Crew spent the week with the R0  evegetation crew. The majority of the our time was spent planting just off the side of the road at Moraine Park. We planted a variety of small shrubs and grasses on a small patch of land that was reduced of vegetation after road construction. We spent about two full days planting around 1,500 plants. We also spent a fair amount of time watering most of the sides of Bear Lake Road.

A few of our mornings were spent placing steven’s logs (logs on road sides to keep people from pulling off on vegetation) on the side of the roads. Sadly these are being removed because head NPS administration changed their minds and did not want them there after all.

On Thursday we had some excitement when the crew spotted a lightening strike, which drew smoke immediately. We were able to report the smoke in Moraine Park and fire crews confirmed there was a fire and jumped into action.

– Tom Derr, Estes Crew Leader

The Rawah Crew spent the week in the Northern Rawah Wilderness Area. After forty miles of hiking and three nights in the backcountry, the crew completed over 100 log outs and successfully cleared the McIntyre, McIntyre Creek, and Medicine Bow Trails, even opening a section of the Medicine Bow Trail that had been closed due to damage.

The Estes Crew still working with trails started a large project last week a mile and a half up the Sandbeach Lake Trail. We scoped out fallen trees at the worksite to cut out 60 four foot logs to be skinned and sized to put in log checks along a 250 ft length of tread that has been washed out and rutted. This is our first time this summer using rock bars to move and position cap stones (the large rocks on either end of the log check to keep it securely positioned on the trail.)

On Thursday we did something a little different because all of the park employees had the day off, we completed an opening run up to the beautiful Sky Pond, where you have to climb up and through a waterfall.

For the Fourth of July weekend some of us headed over to the west side of the the park for fireworks and to sped time in Grand Lake and ended up seeing a dozen moose.

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Additionally, the Conservation Corps was featured in Friday, July 4th’s Estes Park Trail Gazette. Please see the attachments below to read the article, or, better yet, go grab a Trail Gazette for yourself! img-140707081447-0001 img-140707081545-0001