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.
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!
– 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.
Picture: 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 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.
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.
– Josia DeChiara, Shadow Mountain Crew Member