Crew Spotlight: Shadow Mountain Crew

MegEllen Kimmett (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

Bowen Pass

Bowen Pass

This past summer I was lucky enough to spend four days in the backcountry doing 4th of July patrols in the Never Summers Wilderness with two other crew members. We were able to see three beautiful lakes. My favorite part of the patrol was scattering campfire scars and destroying illegal campsites. It was a different kind of service that felt incredibly rewarding. The physical aspect of this trip was also some of the most difficult backpacking I have ever done and at the end of every work day, dinner never tasted so good and felt so well deserving! This has easily been my favorite memory of the summer.
Alongside with my favorite memory, I have another awesome experience that includes my favorite work project. This was being a part of clearing the knight ridge trail that is a 3 mile section of the CDT. It was the most amazing feeling seeing two through hikers pass by and give us the biggest thank yous for allowing them to stay on trail.

Amy Sullivan (Shadow Mountain Crew Member)


This is a photo of me trudging through the tundra atop Mt. Ida, on a weekend hike we took in the park. In the background are the Never Summers, which are part of the Sulphur Ranger District of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. I like this photo because it shows what a vast and beautiful area we got to work around this summer, and how small we are in comparison.

One of my favorite memories from this summer is each time we had to hang our food during our backcountry hitches. With anywhere from 3 to 15 people in our camp, It was a difficult task to find trees capable of holding all of our food without sagging. We always had a laugh trying to untangle miles of paracord and make sure our food was “safe”.

My favorite work project of the summer was our last hitch, on the Devil’s Thumb trail in the western Indian Peaks Wilderness. Working with another conservation corps (the RMYC) as well as a packstring of mules was a really unique experience that I will not soon forget! We did a lot of really valuable work on the trail that will hopefully hold up for many years to come. Also, it was definitely one of the most beautiful work sites we were in, given its location on the continental divide.

Jordan Carper (Shadow Mountain Crew Member)


The most unique and spectacularly beautiful work site we found ourselves in this summer was on the Devil’s Thumb trail. For five days and four nights we camped at the base of an alpine bowl that led up a steep incline to Devil’s Thumb Pass. We built check dams, cleared the path of imposing willows, built new tread, and worked with the USFS specialty stock string. Our tents were set up at tree line and our worksite was in the high alpine region that consisted of sweeping views of both Grand and Boulder counties. The alpenglow against the cirque at dusk was so vivid and dramatic that it led our supervisor to proclaim: “This is the most beautiful place I have ever played dominoes.”

The memory of this season that I hold in highest regard is when the wilderness trail crew accompanied on a steep couloir climb after a longs days work on Columbine Lake Trail. The climb was slick, vegetated, and very, very high off the valley floor; I was frightened nearly the entire way up. I remember being so extremely relieved and proud of myself upon reaching the top and seeing the lake. Nothing like a severe mountain pitch scramble to bring out your fear of heights.

Rachel Dorencz (Shadow Mountain Crew Member)


My favorite memory from the season was working with the Rocky Mountain
Specialty Packstring on our final hitch to Devil’s Thumb. We had the
opportunity to observe the lively mules and their packer at work as
they carried buckets of rock up and down the beautiful tundra
landscape. The mules kept us on our toes, and were often caught
sneaking away from camp with tortillas hanging from their mouths . On
the final day, the mule’s packer let me sit on top of a mule and
observe the world from a totally new perspective.

My favorite camp site was situated beside Caribou Pass during our
Fourth of July patrol of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. When we first
approached the pass to descend to camp, we were sidetracked by a game
trail and ended up walking in the wrong direction. Later, once we set
off on the correct trail, we came across snow fields stretched out
across the entire trail. It appeared the only way to get safely down
the pass was to scramble straight down the rocky talus slope to camp.
Once we arrived, the views of the pass and the nearby Caribou Lake
were astounding.

Blake Crossland (Shadow Mountain Crew Member)


This is my favorite photo of the season simply because it captures how spectacular of a place we got to work in this summer. The photo was taken in the Indian Peaks near Crater Lake on our crews Fourth of July backcountry patrols, during which my team spent the week decommissioning illegal campsites and conducting general trail maintenance in the area.

My favorite memory of the season actually happened the night before this photo was taken. We spent the day clearing a massive tree off of the Pawnee Pass trail a few miles from Crater Lake. The weather was beautiful all day and there wasn’t a drop of rain- that is until our hike back to camp. It started to rain about a half mile from Crater Lake and it continued to rain harder and harder until it finally turned into marble size hail as we arrived at our campsite. We were drenched head to toe and took shelter from the hail for the next 20 minutes or so under some skimpy subalpine trees. Anyone else might have found themselves slightly miserable in such conditions, but we could help but to laugh and make the best of it. The sky finally cleared and left an inch of hail on the ground and a massive puddle under our tent, which was nothing a simple drain and hot dinner couldn’t fix.

My favorite work project of the year was our final backcountry hitch near Devil’s Thumb to restore a severely eroded portion of the Continental Divide Trail. It was a particularly memorable project because we got to work above tree line for the entirety of the trip with amazing views of the Fraser Valley. We also got to work with a specialty pack string of mules that helped us with much of the project’s heavy lifting. By the end of the week the trail showed incredible improvements and left us feeling extremely satisfied with the work we’d done and the skills we’d acquired throughout the season.

Crew Spotlight: Boulder Crew

Reid Grinspoon (Boulder Crew Leader)

My home for the summer

My home for the summer

(Pictured above is my home for basically all of this summer).

My favorite project this summer, by far, was our backcountry hitch to fix a bridge on the Buchanan Pass Trail. The 8 days we spent in the backcountry were hard and physical, but the outcome was so satisfying. We knocked out our bridge in four days and got to spend the rest of our time exploring and improving the beautiful trails just south of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Our crew really came together during these 8 days, and the hitch was filled with laughter, delicious camp food, and some seriously hard work. Our 8 day hitch was the best possible way to end our summer, and I cannot wait to come back and show people the bridge I built in the wilderness.

Andrew Martin (Boulder Crew Member)


My true highlight of the season was having access to such amazing public lands and seeing as much as I could of those lands with my crew. The crew was a highlight as well, and I couldn’t have hoped for a more friendly, as well as adventurous group to be around for the summer, and hopefully on adventures in the future. As far as projects, I was pleased with our boardwalk and turnpike near Buchanan pass which I was able to proudly show my parents and girlfriend.

Dana Chafetz (Boulder Crew Member)


Favorite work project: We had an eight day backcountry hitch where we camped in the wilderness and built a bridge. The trails around us were beautiful. The project we the most rewarding and we got to see a few hikers use our work. We really got to appreciate the work that goes into such a simple structure because we weren’t allowed to used mechanized equipment to persevere the wilderness.

Favorite Memory: We had just finished a day of work and we were at red deer lake, a beautiful lake in the mountains by glaciers. Almost everyone jumped in and some of the crew fished (and caught the first fish of the summer). It was super fun and a great way to end the day.

Chivithaya (Chivi) Xiong (Boulder Crew Member)


This photo was taken at Backcountry Pizza the day we returned from our eight day backcountry hitch. The distorted picture shows us devouring the much anticipated meal. The eight day hitch was tough, but the end result of our hard work made it all worth it.

One of my favorite memories was walking on the bridge that took us five days to build. The feeling of accomplishment was priceless. The bridge was definitely my favorite project.

James “Jimmy Bobby” Hanks (Boulder Crew Member)


This summer has been full of great memories and projects that will be on my mind forever and also serve as tokens to exemplify the great life I am so privileged to experience! The Boulder crew has been very close the whole season, so the best memory I have with the crew has to be when we were together on the eight-day backcountry hitch, camping and completing an awesome project! The photo submitted was shot on the last day of the hitch at the bottom of Elk Tooth Mountain, where we hiked with our Forest Service supervisors and now friends, Paul and Cait, to have a great, last hike together as a trail crew! The laughter of the group filled the air, and the realization that the summer was coming to an end was a little disheartening, but I’ve been told that the great moments often come to an end but always assimilate in your conscience as a great experience! The sturdy backcountry bridge, which we built in a rather quick three and a half days on the hitch, is also my favorite project because we used teamwork and the skills we have learned throughout the season to construct a long lasting structure that will aid adventurous hikers looking for a wilderness experience for many years to come. Our crew and myself are very proud of our work this summer, and I love the fact that this internship opportunity has improved my ability to work as a team and also my character!

Annie Makuch (Boulder Crew Member)

Favorite picture:


Top of James peak. This very accurately describes the dynamic of our crew.

Favorite project: obviously our big projects, such as the bridge and Boardwalk, were fun to work on and we used as a template to show off our skills. However, sometimes the little projects are the most impactful. My absolute favorite project was a culvert that my USFS supervisor Cait and I worked to reset. It turned out to be incredibly difficult, taking two days to complete, but once it was done the sense of pride and accomplishment was completely worth it..

Favorite memory: at the end of the 8 day hitch, we were all exhausted, yet plowed our way through the 5 miles hike…with out stopping. When I arrived at our meeting spot, I was greeted by sweaty, smiling faces and the promise of pizza and wings. The car ride back was giddy and exhilarating, as we realized we just did an incredibly difficult hitch with ease. It made me realize how strong our crew was and how much we had grown as a team.

Crew Spotlight: Kawuneeche Crew

Margaret Johnson (Kawuneeche Crew Leader)


My favorite work project by far this summer has been the Little Buckaroo Barn. It was a new experience for me, doing construction and carpentry on historical buildings, and also working in one place for an extended time. I loved seeing the changes in the valley over the last two months, and since the barn is nestled right in the middle of Kawuneeche valley at the base of the Never Summer Mountains, it was the perfect place to witness the sequence of wildflowers blooming in the meadow and the ebb and flow of the Colorado River.

My favorite memory of the entire summer would have to be backpacking in the Never Summers with Jenna and Kris the weekend of the blue moon. It was Kris’ first backpacking experience, which was awesome to be a part of, and we had a spectacular camp site for watching the moon rise in a clear sky. We had been planning and dreaming of hiking into the bowl we could see everyday on our drive to work, and we finally made it into that gorgeous cirque.

Kristina Kurelja (Kawuneeche Crew Member)


It was taken on my first backpacking trip, when Margaret, Jenna and I started at the Bowen-Baker Trailhead and hiked a few miles into the Never Summer Wilderness to camp, then hiked to Parika Lake the next day. It also happened to be the night of the Blue Moon, or the second full moon of the month. After I started a fire, we sat and watched the moon rise like the sun over the Kawuneeche Valley. It was absolutely gorgeous, and we slept under the stars and the moon to fully appreciate its beauty. This experience was a close second to my favorite memory of the summer.

My favorite project would have to be the Little Buckaroo Barn. It was my favorite because, well, we were the work crew. Just the six of us.

We had some assistance from our supervisors, but it was primarily putting their advice and teachings into our own work. The satisfaction that we were there to experience every bit of the progress and finally its completion was unbelievably rewarding. With no construction or carpentry experience, we were able to complete a project our supervisors didn’t even think we could finish. It was sad too, knowing that our work there was done. I loved working at the barn, it was unbelievably picturesque with the old barn itself, the Never Summer range as a backdrop, the abundant moose, the colorful wildflowers, the Little Colorado River weaving just beside us…it was the most breathtaking office I can imagine.

My favorite memory of the summer was probably one of our trips to Winter Park for free music. Most of our crew was able to go, and we listened to the Boogie Boys, a Polish cover band that put on one of the best free concerts I’ve ever been to. I got Dhante and Joe to go up to the stage with me and we had a blast dancing and singing with the band, surrounded by lots of retirees having the time of their lives. It was so much fun, and I thought we bonded quite a bit over the experience.

Logan Douglas (Kawuneeche Crew Member)


The first day at Lake Irene we had to scoop snow from the back of the building and I went to a tall part in the snow and dug straight down. I kept digging and digging and digging. Finally, I hit the bottom and found some dirt. So I jumped down in the whole. Needless to say the whole was deeper than I expected. I am about 6’ 3” and about 6’ 4” tall in the boots i was wearing and my head was barely sticking out.

LD_workMy favorite work location was Lake Irene.  I loved Lake Irene because it was a beautiful aegean and had nice cool air so it wasn’t too hot.  I also liked it because there were tons of tourists and they all wanted to talk.  I am not a very shy person so it was always fun for me to tell people what we were doing.  Also, I liked using power tools and putting up the cedar shingles….one by one.

LD_memoryMy favorite memory was working with the past program.  Rich (man on the right) was from Cape Cod and he was a very funny man and was hard working.  Rich was also very patient and showed us his way of doing stuff. Also, he taught us the “Cape Cod Cut.”  It turned out to be just a normal cut but we went along with it.  When we worked with the past program, there were many laughs and fun times.

Dhante Stroud (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

We encircled our worksite through a meadow of dew frosted grasses, an elusive rainbow arched over our dirt path allowing us to peer at the historic Little Buckaroo Barn it its natural state, so primitive, so isolate, and so hauntingly beautiful.

We encircled our worksite through a meadow of dew frosted grasses, an elusive rainbow arched over our dirt path allowing us to peer at the historic Little Buckaroo Barn it its natural state, so primitive, so isolate, and so hauntingly beautiful.

Favorite ProjectAs part of the Kawuneeche Crew I had the opportunity to aide in the restoration of two historic buildings throughout the summer season, a 1926 CCC Mess Hall and the Little Buckaroo Barn built in 1942. The barn was definitely my favorite of the two due to the fact that it resides in proposed wilderness land and therefore must be treated as wilderness, meaning no mechanized tools were allowed to be used during restoration. This detail added a fair amount of struggle (and usage of a few choice words) in causing the crew to hand carry all materials in each day and rely on pure carpentry skills to restore the building to a preserved state. Our jobs were to replace the three-tab asphalt roof, many rotten wood siding panels, almost all of the rafter tails that hung out past the roof edge which had been degraded by the elements, and improve overall stability of the barn. By far my favorite lunch spot the barn sits in a meadow of wildflowers where animal life crosses at all hours of the day. Both a challenge and a masterpiece the barn was completed way ahead of schedule.

Favorite MemoryMy summer working with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy is full of many memories. My favorite experience with the Kawuneeche Crew was a yoga lesson taught by Jenna Mulligan, a fellow crew member, where in which we all stretched our bodies in strange new ways. Jenna adjusted our form and we laughed as we all attempted to hold our balance, many of us slipping on the carpeted floor. After moaning and groaning we all lay in savasana, our final resting state feeling joined as a group in euphoric content.

Jenna Mulligan (Kawuneeche Crew Member)


My favorite photo is from a backpacking trip up to Parika Lake on the last weekend in the west side of the park. We camped down in Bowen gulch and had a front row seat for a beautiful blue moon.

My favorite work project was the cedar shake shingling and log replacement at the Lake Irene mess hall. This work was really detailed, and our speed and quality of work improved as we got higher and higher on the roof. During the shingle removal, we could see through to the inside of the cabin and the curtains and dressers that were left behind. By the end of the project, the building looked polished and the improvements were really evident.

My favorite memory from the year was the hike that the entire crew took up to the continental divide past Millner Pass. All six of us made it up to the tundra, and it was a blast to spend some time all together on the trail.

Joe Cordova (Kawuneeche Crew Member)


Favorite project: Working on the “Little Buckaroo Barn” because this property was in proposed wilderness, which for the crew meant no power tools or vehicles allowed. This was a challenge for us because we had been used to mechanical means in our other projects. The best thing was being able to appreciate how things were done in a time not that long ago, by using a hand drill and hand sawing everything was really cool!

Favorite memory: Climbing Longs Peak with the Conservancy. Being at the top, I felt nothing but freedom and accomplishment. Also, Being at the end of the picnic and talking to all of our members who were just so happy to find out how our summer was and learn about all of our projects. They really loved the posters that all the crews had made showcasing their experiences, which really made the day that much better for me seeing how much they appreciate our work.

Crew Spotlight: Estes Crew

Bryce Goldade (Estes Crew Leader)

Favorite Picture:


This is a photo of us working on a culvert at Lilly Lake. It is my favorite photo because to begin with, we could not get any of the logs to line up, fit in, or lay the way we wished around the culvert. Taking much longer than expected, after we took some time to clear our minds and think of new ways to attack this project, we all worked together to compress the logs together with rock bars and ratchet straps. It was a struggle at first, but we figured out the project together.

My favorite work project was the two day Lawn Lake trail maintenance runs. We maintained the 16 mile trail beginning at Lawn Lake trail head, ending at the lumpy ridge trail head. Being a returner from last year, I had done this trail before. Last year we did the 15 mile run, with 12 people, and we had to hike out early, not finishing the last 3-5 miles of trail. Doing the run this year, with 6 crew members as opposed to 12, we finished the whole trail, and that’s when I knew, this crew was dedicated, for real, and can do great things when we are focused.

My favorite memory from the year was a recreational hike that about 8 of the members did through the lion lakes, up hourglass ridge, up to mount Alice. As we got closer and closer to Alice, we realized the mountain wasn’t what we expected. On either side of the mountain there were straight vertical cliffs, with in between a less vertical section, maybe a 70 degree angle scramble that was seemingly the only way to ascend. Looking nearly impossible and scary, we attacked it and had no issues making it up the climb, where the top was very rewarding.

Andrea Dumais (Estes Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:


I am really passionate about environmental education, and I would love to pursue that as a career in the future. Some kids walked by while we were rehabbing a site, and we helped them plant a few things. The parents were excited to bring the kids back in a few years to look at the plants. This photo reminds me of the positive impact we can have on kids and their outlook on the environment around them.

My favorite memory is from our last day of work. We did a 17 mile maintenance run to lost lake. Everyone was in a great mood, and it was a perfect way to end the season. It helped me reflect on everything we did, and appreciate how great of a summer it was. I’m so thankful I got to spend my summer with my crew, as well as Dave and Matt from NPS.

My favorite work project of the year was working on the trail at cow creek. We got to work with llamas, which was a blast. It was also amazing to see the change in the trail from start to finish. The trail is a busy one, and our work made it much more accessible. I learned a lot of new skills on this project as well, including how to put log checks in, and how to retread a trail.

Chandler Eaton (Estes Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:


This is my favorite photo. Crew Leader Bryce is standing over Arrowhead Lake, which seems so untouchable from Trail Ridge but here Bryce has conquered it.

My favorite memory of the summer has been volunteering on Fridays in the Back Country Office of the park. It was wonderful working one on one with visitors and becoming closer with park employees.

My favorite part of work was maintenance runs on the trails. We explored so many trails together as a crew and enhanced the hikers’ experiences.

Jeremy McDowell (Estes Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:


This is my favorite photo because I think it sums up the camaraderie we had on the Estes crew this summer. We always worked very well as a team and we could make practically whatever situation we were in humorous. In this picture we were working with the park service on a bridge that was washed away by flooding. We had to collect large rocks in order to make the abutment for the bridge. It is hard work but we we’re laughing and joking through it practically the whole day.

My favorite memory this year was the family dinners our crew had every week. Every week, the guys on the crew would cook on Mondays, and the girls would cook on Wednesdays. It was a great way to save money on food and to get more variety in our diet. We came up with some very interesting culinary creations such as grilled cheese doughnuts. Overall, I feel like the Estes crew bonded and made fantastic memories by sharing meals with each other twice a week.

My favorite work project this year was working at Tuxedo Park with the Park Service’s restoration crew. The area had been disturbed by the construction of a shuttle bus shelter. We started off by removing any invasive species in the disturbed area. We then planted a variety of native plants for the rest of the week. It was amazing to see the area get a second chance and I think one could get the feeling that they were making a positive impact on the Park. It was very educational to learn new native species of plants. Since I was assistant crew leader that week, I got to do an educational presentation on edible and medicinal plants that are found in Tuxedo Park. I really enjoyed talking about these amazing plants and their uses throughout history and in modern herbal medicine.

Miranda Thompson (Estes Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:


This was probably my favorite work photo. This was one of the most fun days of work along with feeling like we actually got a lot of work done, working to clear a pile of logs away where a landslide washed out a trail. We worked really hard as a team that day rather than just digging drains individually.

My favorite work project was actually Lily Lake. I know a lot of people seemed to not like it because it was so front country and Lily Lake isn’t as glamorous as doing all 15 miles of Lawn Lake. But I thought it was an extremely worthwhile project that required several different skill sets and lots of problem solving as well as teamwork. So it wasn’t necessarily as fun as a maintenance run but I thought it was the most rewarding

My favorite memory was the Ida trip. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t fun the whole time but I still liked hanging out as just the Estes crew in the wilderness.

Derek (Blue) Moon (Estes Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:


My favorite photo was us at the top of Forrest Canyon after a long, wet, and tiring overnight trip. It was the hardest I ever worked for a photo.

My favorite work projects were Maintenance runs/opening runs. It is great to have a week of work where you work and hike at the same time

My favorite memory was jumping into some of the lakes we hiked to, including lawn lake and lost lake. They were cold, but always refreshing and fun to look at a map and point to where I have swam.

Crew Spotlight: Red Feather Crew

Tommy Egland (Red Feather Crew Leader)

Favorite Picture:


This photo is from the Comanche Peak wilderness week. And is from the third day on the hitch where when we were on the Browns Lake trail.

My favorite project this summer was the working on the Killpecker Trail. This was my favorite trail this summer because of the peak we were able to get on top of. We were able to look out over the whole Red Feather area and we got to the top of one of the tallest peaks in the area. It was nice to have a trail that went to a view rather than end at a random spot or at a road. This was also the most difficult trail in the area by far and it was nice to have a challenging day on trail.

My Favorite memory from the summer would have to be from the first week. We went to Rattlesnake Canyon outside Fruita and Grand Junction and attempted to go on a backpacking trip. This ideas was thwarted however by the fact there was no water, so even though we ran out of water we made it to the arches and eventually hiked out and a seven mile day turned into a 14 mile day with some of the best views I have ever seen.

Maggie Bolger (Red Feather Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:


Favorite memory: My favorite part of my experience this summer was getting to know my crew over the few months that we spent working and living together. I especially enjoyed our time together after work watching movies, having fires, making food for my crew and walking down to West Lake to fish and watch the sun set.

Favorite work Project: One of my favorite projects this summer was when we went back to North Lone Pine to clear the nine down trees that we left. We finally got to put our cross cutting skills to use. I enjoy using the cross cut because it takes team work and it is a task that takes thinking through and strategy.

John Lunzer (Red Feather Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:


Favorite picture: Picture of me and Maggie after we finished cross cutting the huge tree at the end of the lone pine trail.

Favorite moment: Second trip to lady moon when we were walking through the huge field. The wind was blowing the grass and the surrounding landscape was incredible. Made me realize how happy I was to be there.

Favorite work location: Swamp creek trail. Finally felt like we were getting out there and got to enjoy the trail in the middle of nowhere. The solitude was a nice change and the scenery was awesome.

Cortney Dodge (Red Feather Crew)

Favorite picture:


Crossing the continental divide on top of flattop mountain then to the North Inlet trail to go camping in Grand Lake for the Fourth of July weekend. At the time it was the longest hike I had ever done and the most satisfying at the end of the day to finally take off my boots, eat an entire pizza myself, and sleep

Favorite memory: One weekend I went backpacking with a few members of the Estes crew. We trekked 6 miles and over 3,000 vertical feet up to the Boulderfield on Long’s peak. Exhausted when we arrived, one of our tent poles snapped while we were setting up at 9:00 pm. Our tent was in rough shape and would have collapsed had the wearer been anything but perfect. Luckily the night remained clear despite predicted storms at 11:00 pm.  In the morning we picked our way through the boulders to summit Storm Peak and then Mt. Lady Washington to get some unique views of the park. Afterwards we went down the other side of Mt. Lady Washington to Chasm Lake. The down climb  was the most sketchy and exciting thing I’ve ever done. Rocks and skree were shifting beneath my feet, threatening to send me into the lake below. You had to constantly think about your next move and the two hour ordeal was overwhelmingly mentally taxing. Looking back up the slope we came down made my head spin with awe and a fresh, profound respect for the Mountain.

Favorite work experience: Working backcountry in the Comanche Peak Wilderness with the Rawah Crew was without  a doubt my favorite work experience. I had never been backcountry before and up until that point, I had a mild fear of it. But camping next to the reservoir  on forest service land, pumping water every morning and working/exploring the alpine trails in the area quickly whipped away all my fear. The trails themselves were incredible, with views of the Rawah Wilderness as well as several of the mountains in Red Feather where we had been working all summer. One day after work a few of us summited a rolling peak above tree line to get a 360 panoramic of the Mummy Range, Rocky (we even saw trail ridge road on one of the mountains!), the Never Summer range, the Rawah Wilderness, the Poudre Canyon, Red Feather, and way off in the distance, a mountain range in Wyoming. Before working there I had no idea that such a compete view of northern Colorado’s mountains existed, and the memories I made camping and working on the trail with our two crews will stick with me for a lifetime.

Galen Elisha (Red Feather Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:


Favorite memory: On the Fourth of July weekend this year I hiked up and over the continental divide, from Estes Park to Grand Lake, for a backpacking trip.  This hike was 18 miles and required I bring at least 40 pounds of gear with me.  A mixing of the RMC’s Estes crew and Red Feather Lakes crew made the journey. The trip consisted of several obstacles to overcome.  The first being that, on the morning before the journey I had discovered my backpack had a torn shoulder strap.  Being the resourceful type (sort of) I grabbed my 11th backpacking essential (duct tape) and made some emergency repairs.  These repairs were quick and not the most well oriented, but they more or less worked.  The only issue with them was that it left my bag hopelessly unbalanced, meaning I had to put in much more effort on balancing my pack on my shoulders than hiking.  This did slow me down, but I persevered and pushed through.

My second challenge for the day was the honey (for my sandwiches) spilling on the inside of my bag.  This left most of my gear a sticky mess.  While this wasn’t much of an obstacle for hiking it certainly didn’t help morale.  This leaves the final obstacle for hike, a very large bull elk right in the middle of the trail.  The elk remained on trail for a solid 45 minutes.  He was a rather inspiring sight; however his presence put the trail on hold and put our crew behind schedule (a problem when your schedule includes hiking for 9 hours, just hoping for the chance to have a feast in Grand Lake).

Combining all three of these obstacles, I was certainly hurting at the end of the hike.  However every ache and pain was worth it.  I had such a sense of accomplishment and pride.  I knew I had done something great and felt incredible.  We all collapsed at the end of our trail and basked in the glow of our achievement.  To finalize our goal we worked up the last of our strength, got up, and strolled into to town to find some of the best pizza of our lives (more so from the exhaustion than the pizza itself, but nevertheless it was amazing)

Favorite work experience: The Comanche Peak Wilderness was, without a doubt, the best experience of the summer.  That week will forever remain as a vivid memory etched into the back of my skull.  Working for the Rocky Mountain Conservancy resulted in a lot of scenic views and that is what made the job worth all of the sweat and hard labor.  The second to last week of the internship the Rawah and Red Feather Lakes crews collaborated on a back country hitch in the Comanche Peak Wilderness and I was lucky enough to join this expedition.  All around me was lush forest, majestic views, and fresh air.  Out of all of these views, one stands above the rest.

On the Wednesday of that week the crews went to work the Browns lake trail.  The trail took a steady ascent past Browns Lake into the alpine tundra. By following this trail, the tundra pointed to a peak that stood above a wide open valley.  Without hesitation we continued working the trail, knowing we would be rewarded heavily at the summit.  Once on top we were gifted with a view like no other.  The summit allowed us a three hundred sixty degree view, where we could see the Rawah Mountains, the Bald Peaks, the Mummy Mountain Range, and Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was like standing above giants and existing on a plain of existence that is incomparable to others.

As far as the eye could see, there were picturesque mountains that were so awe inspiring that everything else seemed to fade away.  The pain in my legs was but a distant memory. The cold wind against my face felt distant and unimportant.  Every one fell quiet and just enjoyed ourselves.  This was the kind of view that leaves the mind blank, except for an extreme sense of joy and an overwhelming feeling of just how lucky one person can be.  This view was by far my favorite experience while working.

Dominic Rickicki (Red Feather Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:


My favorite memory from the summer is going out on a backcountry hitch wth the Rawah crew. We spent a lot of time with them throughout the summer because they were so close to us and we also did our training with them. We became so close in fact that we created the name “Redwah” as if our crews were one. During that hitch we were able to cover a lot of miles of trail and drain a lot of muddy sections of trail, all while keeping our sense of humor and having a great time.

My favorite project from this summer was the turnpike we built on the Mt. Margaret trail in Red Feather. It was one of the first projects that we had done, but despite our inexperience we fixed a heavily damaged section of trail. About a month and a half after completing the turnpike I went on a bike ride down the trail after work and was pleased to see it had settled and was holding up to a lot of abuse from stock and cattle.

In the Field: Week 8 (Last Week of Field Work)

The Kawuneeche Crew’s last week with the special projects crew was highly productive and bittersweet. Monday we finished everything at the Lil’ Buckaroo Barn, and hauled out all of the tools and scaffolding, closing the doors and boarding up the windows for winter. On Tuesday, Jenna and I went over Trail Ridge Road to the Kaley Cottages project, putting up cedar shingle siding and weaving them on the corners. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see the end of that project, but luckily we did get to see the finished barn, as well as the Mess Hall at Lake Irene, which the crew primed and painted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Our fantastic projects crew supervisors, Bob and Chuck, gave us a pizza lunch on Wednesday too, and Geoff even joined us for painting. Over the course of the week, we used 10 gallons of primer and 20 gallons of Historic Dark Brown paint!

The finished south side of Lake Irene Mess Hall with new shingles, rafter tails, and paint.

The finished south side of Lake Irene Mess Hall with new shingles, rafter tails, and paint.

Dhante, Kris, and Jenna applying new mortor to reseal the Mess Hall

Dhante, Kris, and Jenna applying new mortor to reseal the Mess Hall

Joe and Logan priming the new log ends.

Joe and Logan priming the new log ends.

Jenna working to assimilate new logs into the historic structure.

Jenna working to assimilate new logs into the historic structure.

  • Margaret Johnson (Kawuneeche Crew Leader)

This last week the Red Feather Crew started off by heading back to the North Lone Pine Trailhead. We cleared nine down trees that were left, as we did not have a cross cut on our first maintenance run up the trail. The crew was excited to finally get to use their cross cutting skills. Along with clearing down trees we cleared drains, put in check dams, and removed duff form the trail.
Later in the week we spent a day working on the Kill Pecker Trail. As we made our way up the trail, we cleared drains, bucked out four down trees, and put in a few check dams to help with trail erosion. Lastly on our way out, with the whole teams effort, we made a safer river crossing by adding a log to the already existing bridge.
On our last day in the field we went back to the Mount Margaret Trail. We widened and reinforced the first turnpike we made of the summer to allow for easier travel and to assure its durability through the next few seasons. After we hiked a few miles to clear a down tree near the summit of Mount Margaret. Later in the day we sharpened tools and cleaned the bunkhouse in preparation for our departure to Estes Park for final week.


Galen and Cortney use a crosscut saw to clear a downed tree.


The crew on top of Mount Margaret


Dom and the bridge crossing before the log addition.


The widened and stabilized bridge crossing.


Clearing drains on the North Lone Pine Trail

  • Tommy Egland (Red Feather Crew Leader)

For our final weekend on the west side, some of the Shadow Mountain Crew attempted to hike the local mountain of Grand Lake, Mt. Craig, located just up the East Inlet trail. After hiking for 7 hours, we decided to summit the unnamed peak just east of Mt. Craig instead. The bushwacking and ridge climbing was enough of an adventure that we decided Mt. Craig was for another time. After a 15-mile day of hiking we enjoyed some ice cream at our favorite snack shack in town!

The Shadow Mountain Crew wrapped up their summer building a turnpike on an urban trail that was adopted by a fellow citizen who bikes the trails almost every other day with his wife. These trails were very highly populated by mountain bikers. At the end of the day, Elias, MegEllen and Andy went to check out the project site for our last day. On our way out of the forest we smelt a fire burning, found the campsite where someone left an unattended fire burning and were able to save the day by putting it out! It was fun to act on it fast!

After we completed the turnpike, our supervisor graciously held a “box social” for our last night in town. Andy graciously hosted the 6 of us, our other two supervisors, Kendra and Cory for a party full of cheese, dough and all the toppings you could ever imagine! After we stuffed ourselves with pizza, we gave Cory one last goodbye, as we had to send him off for a fire. The next day it felt as though we were missing a huge part of our crew. It was unfortunate to not have Cory be there on our last day with the Forest Service because we formed great relationships with these guys! We want to give all three of them; Andy, Cory and Kendra a huge thank you for an awesome summer.

We were still able to have a blast building our very last buck and rail fencing up at East Elk Meadow. We finished our season with the same task that we had at the very beginning of the summer, and we were lucky enough to be in the same area as the first buck and rail fence that we built. We were able to Elk Meadow at the end of the day and were able to compare our early work to our most recent.

The summer is now coming to an end as we spend our last week in Estes with the rest of the crews. It is starting to feel a little surreal! This is shadow, thanks for reading all summer! Much love from the entire crew!

  • MegEllen Kimmett (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

The previous week Boulder Crew spent camped beneath the southern facing cliffs of St. Vrain Mountain, just south of the park, in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. With packs stuffed to the point of exhaustion, and spare hands carrying tools they hiked up to the junction of the Buchanan Pass Trail and the St. Vrain Glacier Trail. After struggling with hanging eight days worth of food for eight people, and setting up a tarp for their “kitchen”, they crawled into their tents for the long week ahead.

The second day half of the crew found suitable trees to structure a new bridge to replace the dilapidated bundle of boards held together by a dog leash. The other half of the crew hiked back to Camp Dick and retrieved more tools and supplies. By the time both crews reunited in the afternoon, there were two logs almost ready to be moved to the bridge. The first night cook groups were established and everyone became familiar with backcountry foods, instant mashed potatoes, instant pasta, and instant rice.

The third day there was more prep work to do on the first two logs and the next two logs were felled. Near lunch logs were placed near the bridge and a rock sill was constructed to tie the first logs into. The second pair of logs was larger and required much more effort to prepare but the crew was rewarded with a maintenance run up to Red Deer Lake where our day ended and some went for a dip in the chilly water. While continuing on the second pair of logs the following morning, a sill was made for the center point of contact of the bridge with reclaimed pressure treated wood. The first pair of logs was tied in and shaped with an axe to be flush and level.  On the southern side of the bridge a sill was made out of a square of logs. After notching the second air of larger logs to fit flush and level upon placement, the whole crew worked to move the behemoth logs into place with hand tools.

The next day some of the crew put finishing touches on the bridge and the other half of the crew worked their way up the St. Vrain Glacier Trail, trimming trees and brush and digging drains.

With the bridge finished there was time the sixth day to work up to tree line on the Buchannan pass trail. Near the top of the trail we encountered a jungle of willows at points. The pass provided quite the view, keeping the crew in high enough spirits to sing the whole way down the trail to camp.

The seventh day we built a rock pathway to the south end of the bridge and cleared the St. Vrain Mountain Trail of incredibly old trees. This must have been the most intense work day, with one group crosscutting most of the day and the other group hauling and placing huge rocks to keep hikers dry.

On our final day, not only of the hitch but of the season with the Forest Service, we scoped out the rest of the St. Vrain Glacier Trail and packed up and hiked out midday. Though we had less food than we had started with, we surely had more weight in tools to make up for it. Most of the crew hiked out the nearly six miles without stopping in hopes for a quality meal soon after. After some closing meetings with our Forest Service supervisors and a hasty unloading of the trucks we were taken out to dinner at the local pizza joint in Nederland, thus ending our awesome 8 day backcountry hitch.

Deconstructing the old bridge.

Deconstructing the old bridge.

Annie digging a drain on the Buchannan Pass Trail

Annie digging a drain on the Buchannan Pass Trail

  • Andy Martin (Boulder Assistant Crew Leader of the Week)

For our last hitch, the Rawah Crew headed up the Rawah Trail to work in the Sandbar and Rawah Lakes area and up the Blue Lake trail to finish maintaining trail that was covered with snow earlier in the season. Since the Sandbar lakes is one of the more frequently visited areas in the Rawahs our focus was on removing illegal campsites (those within 200 feet of water or the trail). In addition to this we worked on maintaining trail. The first day we hiked 7.5 miles up the Rawah trail towards the lakes to set up our base camp. After setting up camp we headed up the trail towards Big Rainbow and Upper Sandbar Lakes. Once we got up to the lakes we worked on removing illegal fire rings, dispersing burnt rocks, removing trash, dispersing the ash and duffing the area. Between lakes we worked on dips and drains to help keep water from eroding the trail.

The second day we headed from camp back to the Rawah Trail towards Rawah Lakes number One and Two. We worked on dips and drains up to the lakes where we began to assess the campfire situation. We spent the day working on fire rings around the lakes and then packed up camp and headed down the Rawah Trail to do maintenance. We worked on dips and drains down the trail, focusing on areas that were heavily saturated with water.

The third day we hiked the Blue Lake Trail where we worked on maintaining 3 miles of trail that had previously been covered with snow earlier in the season. We worked up the trail the Blue Lake then headed off trail to Hang Lake where we looked for illegal fire rings. That wrapped up our backcountry hitches, after a few initial cloudy and rainy days on the Rawah Trail; we finished up with a beautiful day of work at Blue Lake.

Crew Member Brian taking apart a fire ring at Big Rainbow Lake

Crew Member Brian taking apart a fire ring at Big Rainbow Lake

Crew members Johnny and Gus working to Upper Sandbar Lake

Crew members Johnny and Gus working to Upper Sandbar Lake

Rawah Crew having a chilly start to the morning on the Rawah Trail

Rawah Crew having a chilly start to the morning on the Rawah Trail

— Des Otis (Rawah Assistant Crew Leader of the Week)

This week was the perfect bookend for the Estes Crew’s season. Monday we were back at Lilly Lake working on the handicap trail, and had quite a productive day, which set us up to finish the trail on Tuesday. This was the project that we began on our all crew work day during midweek, and am now finishing it after working on it with other volunteer groups throughout the second half of the season. The other large project we worked on this season was at Cow Creek with the Llamas. Wednesday, we finished up the log check project near the Cow Creek trail head. The llamas took a great load off of us as they hauled the many truck loads of rock and dirt up to our checks. Seeing these two projects to completion was satisfying and meaningful to us all. Thursday was a great last day, as we did a maintenance run beginning at the North Fork trail head, hiking to Lost Lake, a 17 mile day. Crunched for time, we pushed a fast pace, and made our last day with Dave and Matt awesome.

Lost Lake Trail

Lost Lake Trail

Volunteer work day with Conservancy Members and Poudre Wilderness Volunteers

Volunteer work day with Conservancy Members and Poudre Wilderness Volunteers

Andrea at Lily Lake

Andrea at Lily Lake

-Bryce Goldade (Estes Crew Leader)

Crew Spotlight: Rawah Wilderness Crew

As we enter the final week of the season, each crew will be recounting some memories and highlights from their season from each crew members and leader’s perspective. These will come in the form of pictures and stories from both their work completed and their time in Colorado. First up for the week is the Rawah Wilderness Crew!

Courtney Ross (Rawah Wilderness Crew Leader)

Favorite Picture:

Rawah Crew on the Big South Trail

Rawah Crew on the Big South Trail

Favorite Memory: Going along with my favorite photo, our first backcountry hitch on the Big South Trail was one of my favorite work adventures. The trail was challenging and mosquitoes quite vicious but hiking along the Poudre River Canyon provided us with some unforgettable views!

Favorite Work Project: The Rawah crew did trail maintenance on most of the trails in the Rawah Wilderness, so we didn’t devote a ton of time to project work. With that being said, we were able to build a few rock walls on the Roaring Creek Trail, which was really rewarding. The trail was rather steep and rocky with few drains, which likely caused the eroded sections. Hopefully our work will make the not so friendly trail safer and easier to travel!!

Johnny Iglesias (Rawah Crew Member)

Favorite Photo:

One of my favorite parts of doing trail work is cross cutting fallen trees off the trail. This moment was captured on the McIntyre trail in the Rawah Wilderness.

One of my favorite parts of doing trail work is cross cutting fallen trees off the trail. This moment was captured on the McIntyre Trail in the Rawah Wilderness.

Favorite Memory: Over the course of this summer, the majority of our work weeks took place camping in the back country of the Rawah wilderness. My favorite experience cannot be narrowed down to one moment but a several. At the end of almost every trail we worked we either reached a mountain lake, peak or pass that were all breath taking and special in their own ways. Reaching these sought out for destinations made our long work weeks feel that much more rewarding.

Favorite Work Project: My favorite project this summer was building water bars which would act as a funnel to channel water off the trail. While we could not see the functionality of the water bars when we first installed them, as the summer continued and we revisited some of the trails we could see that our water bars were indeed working. One in particular was a water bar I built with Gus Waneka on the McIntyre trail. When we hiked by it several weeks after building it, it looked like it’s been there for years and it was a reassuring sign that it would be there for years to come.

Tom Enright (Rawah Crew Member)

Favorite Photo:

This photo took place on a backcountry trip up to Twin Crater Lakes in the Rawah Wilderness. Geoff was able to join us on this day of trail work. Nothing especially remarkable happened on trail that day, but the photo captures our hike leading up to an incredible area of the Rawah Wilderness. I think the photo captures the essence of our crew and the Rawah Wilderness while also displaying the beauty of our everyday job this summer.

This photo took place on a backcountry trip up to Twin Crater Lakes in the Rawah Wilderness. Geoff was able to join us on this day of trail work. Nothing especially remarkable happened on trail that day, but the photo captures our hike leading up to an incredible area of the Rawah Wilderness. I think the photo captures the essence of our crew and the Rawah Wilderness while also displaying the beauty of our everyday job this summer.

Favorite Memory: My favorite memory of the summer was jumping in Blue Lake with our crew in the Rawah Wilderness at the conclusion of our final day of trail work.  We actually worked a different portion of the Blue Lake trail at the start of the season in June when much of the upper part of the trail was covered in snow and the lake was still covered in ice.  I really enjoyed this day early in the season because it was the first time we had worked a trail up to a beautiful alpine lake.  I never expected to return to Blue Lake during work, and it seemed fitting that we concluded our season by jumping into the now thawed lake as a crew.  Our crew become close friends while working in the Rawah Wilderness, and jumping into Blue Lake as a conclusion to our summer’s work will always be a lasting memory of the great times we shared together while maintaining trails.

Favorite Project: My favorite project I completed this summer occurred on the Medicine Bow Trail in the Rawah Wilderness.  The project involved clarifying the trail corridor in a section of trail immediately close to a creek crossing that had become overgrown to the point where it was nearly impossible to identify where the trail led.  In fact, on a recreational weekend hike I took with my fellow crewmember Gus Waneka earlier in the season, we got lost at this section when we couldn’t find the trail after crossing the creek from the other side.  It was snowy and wet at the time of the recreational hike in mid-June, but I still immediately recognized the area where we had lost the trail.  I really enjoyed digging a new trail, especially given the frustration I had personally experienced in getting lost at this junction earlier in the summer because of an unclear corridor.  The personal connection I held with this section of trail made the work we did to clarify the trail corridor all the more fulfilling because I knew fellow hikers in the future will not become lost as Gus and I had in June.

Desiree (Des) Otis (Rawah Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:

Storm clouds rolling in at Island Lake

Storm clouds rolling in at Island Lake

Favorite Memory: It was our first entirely backcountry hitch after mid-week and we headed out from the West Branch trailhead. On our last day we headed up towards Carey Lake, which is in alpine. We worked up the trail and were planning on making and enjoying our dinner when we got to the lake later that day. Once we made it to Carey Lake we began to set up for dinner and a huge storm cloud rolled up on top of the ridge above the lake. There hadn’t been any thunder so we had no idea it was coming and weren’t sure if it would actually culminate in a storm. We began to pack our things and decided since we were above tree line it was better to head down as opposed to waiting to see what happened. We were putting our raingear on when it started to hail and it was time to start moving. We were making our way out of the alpine when we heard a huge clap of thunder right above us, which prompted us to get low and run. We made it down below tree line before we heard any more thunder and the rain wound up holding off for the rest of night and we made dinner along a creek down the trail. This was my favorite experience because of the way we worked as a crew together, even though we were not doing trail work, it still involved making quick decisions and we didn’t let the weather dampen our dinner.

Favorite Work Project: My favorite project was on the McIntyre trail where there was a section of trail that had been flooded out from river runoff. It was our first big project as a group and we went back to it a couple of times to see if what we had done to keep the water off was holding and the build up the trail from where the water had rutted it. At first we built a rock wall where the creek was flowing onto the trail to keep the water off it, then we drained the standing water from the trail back into the creek about 20 feet down trail from the wall. This took a significant amount of time because the water was so high from snow melt at the beginning of the season a lot of work had to go into making sure the wall would hold. The next hitch we went back and added rock checks and built up the trail where water had rutted out the dirt, making it difficult to walk on and very dangerous for stock to travel on. This was my favorite project because it was our first opportunity to work on trail as a crew and start learning about how things were going to work for the rest of the season. The project went really well and the wall is still holding and although our first project may have not been our strongest, it was a great learning building experience.

Brian Eachus (Rawah Crew Member)

Favorite Picture:

The crew being a little goofy while hiking out from our first 3 day back country trip of the season on the Big South trail.

The crew being a little goofy while hiking out from our first 3 day back country trip of the season on the Big South Trail.

Favorite Memory: My favorite moment of the season was the first back country trip that we took. It was pretty early in the season, however I had been waiting since I was accepted to the program to get back out to Colorado and do some back country trail work on the Big South trail that runs in a canyon along the Poudre River. The trail is 7 miles long, and we spent the first part of our first day hiking into the trail about halfway and setting up camp and one of the many designated camp sites. The trail is pretty remote, but throughout the trip, we saw a ton of people out enjoying hiking and fishing along the trail. It was a really great first backpacking trip of the season that I had been waiting quite a few months to go out on. Big South was a beautiful trail to work, following the Poudre River all the way up the canyon, with lots of awesome wildlife flowers and wildlife along the trail as well.

Favorite Work Project:

On our joint backpacking trip with the Red Feather crew, we set up a base camp right before the trail forked off. Right before the fork there was a broken bridge over a creek that was quite unstable that we crossed everyday working the trails. On our last day of the 4-day trip, a group of us stayed behind to repair the bridge. We spent the morning crosscutting a few trees and gathering rocks to make steps and wedge the logs together and make snug. After some puzzles with getting the rocks to fit and finding the right place on the creek to put the almost too short logs, we got the bridge stabilized and wide enough to cross safely. It was the first major project of the season that I had done, since a lot of my crews work included general trail maintenance (clearing drains and trees as well as tread work). It was pretty cool seeing it go from just a few flimsy logs across a creek to a quite stable bridge that will hopefully last for quite a few years!

Gus Waneka (Rawah Crew Member)

Favorite Photo:

This photo is one of my favorites. In this photo the crew is boiling water on a very cold morning in the backcountry. I love this photo because it shows our crews ability to make the best out of every situation. Even though our water filter had just broken, we were all thirsty and tired, and the temperatures were frigid, the crew was upbeat and joyful about the work day ahead.

This photo is one of my favorites. In this photo the crew is boiling water on a very cold morning in the backcountry. I love this photo because it shows our crews ability to make the best out of every situation. Even though our water filter had just broken, we were all thirsty and tired, and the temperatures were frigid, the crew was upbeat and joyful about the work day ahead.

Favorite Memory: This summer I learned how to fly fish.  In the Rawahs, I had plenty of opportunities to fish in both rivers and mountain lakes.  I really enjoyed spending time on the beautiful Laramie River in particular, where I was able to catch some larger rainbow trout.  My fellow crew members who fished were great resources for learning and were all eager to help me hone my skills.  I’m glad I have had the opportunity to fish as much as I did this summer and I hope that fly fishing will be a hobby for the rest of my life.

Favorite Work Project: My favorite project this summer was getting to complete tread work on the West Branch and Rawah trails.  As a Fort Collins local, I’ve had ample opportunities to hike these trails over the years and they are some of my favorite in the state.  It felt good to work on the trails that have carried me over miles of good memories.  I know that when I hike these trails in the future I will always remember all the hard work I did to make them better.