Final Week

Last week all of the crews returned to Estes Park for our final week of the season. The week was filled with wrap up activities, career development, and bittersweet feelings.

To kick the week off, the Corps was all hands on deck for the Annual Conservancy Member Picnic on Saturday, August 6th. At this event the Corps plays a critical role in set-up, take-down, and picnic logistics. Fortunately, its not all work for them. They all get a chance to interact with members, staff, and donors of the Conservancy, enjoy delicious barbecue, and present their experience. Despite the dreary conditions, it was a great day.IMG_1336IMG_1341IMG_1363IMG_1372IMG_1373IMG_1388IMG_1408IMG_1440IMG_1446IMG_1441.JPGIMG_1452On Sunday, the crew were back out in the field for their last day of work. This time they were joined by Conservancy members and the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers who were guiding the project. We worked on the upper section of the Lion Gulch Trail, which was heavily damaged by the 2013 floods and continues to be closed for repairs. The work consisted of establishing new trail tread, clearing corridor, and constructing retaining walls to hold in new trail. IMG_1479IMG_1468IMG_1463IMG_1550IMG_1490IMG_1574With Monday as their only day off, many of the crew members took advantage of the opportunity to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. The leaders were occupied by the incredible opportunity to summit Longs Peak via the historic Cables Route with the Colorado Mountain School. lp2lp3For most of the remainder of the week, the crews invaded the Field Institute for a days of resume building and reflection writing, with two exceptions. On Wednesday, we partnered with the National Park Service to lead a Junior Ranger Day on Leave No Trace. IMG_2927IMG_2929IMG_2930And to finish out he week, the Corps hiked “CCY” in Rocky Mountain National Park to celebrate the successful season. DSC00244.JPG

With the season all complete, I am left with a quiet office wishing to be back on trail with these thirty-six inspiring young people. Now onto reading their reflections and compiling our end-of-season portfolio and stats. Stay tuned for our annual slideshow and report!

-Geoff Elliot, Conservation Corps Manager

In the Field: Week 8 (Part Two)

This week the Shadow Mountain Crew backpacked across the 27 mile South Fork loop of the Williams Fork Drainage.  Led by the gung-ho Miles Miller armed with a chainsaw, Shadow Mountain Crew tackled over 200 downed trees on the trail.

The first day we started work on the South Fork trail, we carried crosscut saws, as we are not chainsaw certified.  We removed about 60 fallen trees from the trail that day.

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This monstrous tree bound our crosscut saw so tightly Ashley and Abigail had to free it with nothing but their Corona hand saws.

The second day we covered much more ground and removed many more trees.  Miles Miller was equipped with a chainsaw and our llamas carried some of our camping equipment, which allowed up to move at a quicker pace.  After a long day of hiking, digging drains, and bucking trees we had traveled about eight miles and set up camp near a gurgling stream.

On the third day of our hitch, we hiked about another eight miles.  We started on the South Fork of the Williams Fork drainage and after traversing a few ridges ended on the Main Fork drainage.

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Amy letting Two Socks and Oreo rest at the top of a steep hike.





After climbing up our first ridge of the day we break for lunch and watch hundreds of elk in the valley below us.



Nearing the end of a long work day, Ashley sits near a creek letting the llamas drink.



The final day of our hitch may have been the roughest day of the entire season.  We got an early start on the trail knowing we had to cover over ten miles in order to finish the trail.  As we struggled across the many stream crossings, no pair of boots escaped the cascading, frigid waters.  After only working for a few hours we lost the trail at a river crossing.  We scattered to find the trail and stumbled upon what we thought may be the trail although it appeared to not have been maintained or used in many years.  With some doubts we continued to follow the ever-confident Miles Miller as he cut through one hundred fallen trees.  Some time after lunch, in the pouring rain, Miles Miller succumb to the doubts that we may not be on the real trail.  Again we scattered to find the real trail.  After vigorous searching, Amy found finally found the trail and John found a safe way for the llamas to get down to the trail.  Once we were all walking on the actual trail, we still had many fallen trees to remove.  With soggy feet, soaking pants, and shivering cores we persisted through the pouring rain, removing tree after tree.  At 7:30pm joyous screams echoed around the mountains as we finally saw our trucks parked at the trailhead.

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Izzy and Ashley ecstatic to have dry clothes and looking forward to warm Chinese food from the one and only Pearl Dragon (which ended up being closed when we finally arrived there).




Although we faced many challenges our last day, our crew stuck together and maintained calm, positive attitudes in the face of fear, stress, and discomfort.

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-Abigail Bearce, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of our last week

For our final week in red feather are crew got the opportunity to work on a variety of different trails,and see a lot of cool country. It was a bitter sweet experience knowing that are time in red feather is up but it was definitely a good week to end on. We had a lot of fun and got to see a variety of unique things such as this massive pine tree that crew member Diana and crew leader Grant are hugging.rf 3.jpg

One of my favorite things this week was having lunch above timberline on Montgomery pass. We were blessed with great weather and a fantastic view, which made for a very enjoyable lunch, and a nice brake from trail work. Helping to put everyone in a great mood as you can see in the picture above with Sabrina posing on a rock.

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For one of the last lessons of the year I got to tech my crew members my lesson on fly tying. Each member of the crew took terns tying there own fly to take home. Everyone did surprisingly well for there first fly tying experience but the true natural of the group was Sabrina who tied a nearly perfect streamer on her first try. Although it might not have been the most exiting lesson every one stayed interested by playing with feathers, as you can see on Arin’s face.

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It was sad to see our last week at red feather fly by, but we had a lot of fun and enjoyed it down to the last minute. We all were very great full for the experience, and the memories we made together will last a lifetime. Throughout the summer we were all brought closer together as friends, and for me it was one of my most memorable summer’s ever.

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-Wyatt Johnson, Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week

In the Field: Week 8 (Part One)

For the season’s last hitch, the Rawah Crew focused their efforts towards completing maintenance on the McIntyre trail. Monday was spent hiking along McIntyre creek which brought about a reminiscence of earlier in the season. This favored trail was their first dose of work in the Rawahs, and now their last. After traversing for approximately 5 miles, the crew set up camp on top of a hill just above Housmer Park’s meadows.

Fetching water on Tuesday morning wasn’t a hassle at all, since the dewy meadow always offers an admirable beauty. McIntyre’s last section of trail follows an old state road which retired in the early 1900’s, so the trail’s grade remained fairly even throughout its duration. Considering, water mitigation was especially necessary for preventing the tread from eroding away.

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Garret carves yet another flawless drain.

This late in the season, obstacles on trail cannot phase the Rawah crew. As head sawyer for the hitch, Gus graciously carried the cross-cut and single bucked fallen trees when necessary. Despite an ample amount of trees and a dire need for drainage structures, the crew managed to finish the entirety of their work on McIntyre trail.

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Gus and Garret pull ribbons with the cross-cut.

On the last morning, just minutes before the 5:30 alarm went off, the Rawah crew was awakened by the howls and yelps of a nearby coyote pack. In awe of the wilderness and the closure of such an amazing experience working in it, the crew took Wednesday’s hike out with a sincere sense of gratitude.r 4

-Sam Ruhala, Rawah Crew Leader of the Week

It’s hard to believe that this is my last week of trail work, my last blog post, my last week of living in the Chamberlain, and my last week as a leader and member of the Estes Crew. My time with the Conservancy has been a whirlwind. These two seasons have drastically changed me as a person, for the better. This program has showed me the undeniable importance of stewardship, education, and leadership in conserving our environment. I hope that at any point in my time as a leader I have made some sort of positive impact on another person and helped foster excitement about conservation.

Not only was this our last week, this week was one of our most physically challenging weeks. The physical aspect of trail work has always been one of my favorite parts of this field, and this week definitely challenged me. Monday took us up the Boulder Brook trail, one of the steepest in the park, for a maintenance run. Then on Tuesday we hiked 4 miles up to Lake of Glass, while carrying tools and pounds of rebar that we removed from an old work site on the trail. The week ended with a workday at Bierstadt Lake, where we spent the day carrying 50 foot downed Lodgepole Pine and peeling all of the bark off of them in preparation for a future project.

Now it’s time for final week- one of the most fun and bittersweet times of the year. All of the crews return for one last week of stewardship work, career building, and fun times reminiscing on the glorious summers we’ve all had here in Colorado. It’s going to be hard leaving- driving away from these mountains once again- but my heart is reassured knowing that the future of these beautiful places is in good hands here with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy.

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-Miranda Thompson, Estes Crew Leader

This week the Kawuneeche Crew completed multiple projects assigned to us this summer. Although it was our last week of work was coming to a close we still had finishing touches to a variety of different areas.

On Monday, the group split into three groups of two to handle all of the different sections of work. Will and Adam stayed at the main project in Timber Creek campground to finish the comfort station. They completed the painting, started the light fixtures, and electrical systems. Dominic and Dax traveled to the East side of the park to finish up a few projects.  At first we installed an ADA handicapped accessible campfire ring at a picnic area at Copeland Lake inside the Wild Basin area.  After that, Dax and Dom went to the headquarters and picked up materials needed to restore a solar shower in Moraine Park campground.  Lastly, Tatyana and Rachel went to McGraw Ranch and was assigned to paint the cabins that researchers were staying.

Tuesday, Adam and Will continued to work on the comfort station and focused specifically on the electrical systems. Both Dax and Dom worked all day on the solar shower project.  They weeded the area and dug a section around the project for a new walk way.  Along with that, they scraped and repainted to entire structure as well and got done just before a storm rolled in.  In McGraw Ranch Rachel began to graze the cabins with stain. Tatyana was on the same cabins, however she was painting the doors and windowsills green.

Our work Wednesday took on a similar structure compared to Tuesday.  Will and Adam stayed back at the comfort station and finished our work in Timber Creek Campground.  Dax and Dom went back to Moraine Park and expected to finish the solar shower.  However, another storm rolled in around lunch and cut down our work time.  So we headed back to the projects shop and put up our season’s tools.  In McGraw Ranch, Tatyana continued to paint doors and windowsills green. Rachel remained staining the cabins.

Thursday was our very last work day for the Historical Preservation team.  Since our main project was completed, Will and Adam teamed up with Rachel and Tatyana at McGraw Ranch.  That morning, the group dusted, scraped, and tapered one of the main buildings. Shortly after that was done another group of volunteers joined them and together they successfully repainted and stained the entire building. Around noon the second volunteer group left. Adam, Will, and Rachel stained the remaining cabins while Tatyana painted the doors and windowsills. During break and lunch the caretaker of the ranch Bill provided fruit, cheesecake, and green chili cornbread.  Dax and Dom finished up the solar shower projected by setting new logs for the walkway and filled it in with road base and crusher gravel.  After that, we regrouped with the rest of the team at McGraw Ranch and headed back over to our bunkhouse on the West side for the last time.  Luckily enough there was plenty of cornbread leftover for a Trail Ridge snack.  The ending of the summer has not only brought the Kawunechee group together; it has also taught us the value of reserving historic areas. Understanding the time and skill it took to build these areas you can appreciate why people reserve such areas. We all learned a lot this summer and it was an amazing experience!


-Dax DeShazo and Tatyana Mosley, Kawuneeche Crew Leaders of the Week

For our final workweek, the Boulder Crew completed its first ever backcountry hitch on Buchanan Pass, located right outside the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The objective of our four-day hitch was to remove a displaced bridge and build a new one utilizing the natural resources at our disposal. To commence our first day, we began with a three-mile hike to our worksite, following with the task of locating a satisfactory campsite and ending our workday with the first steps of our week’s task. Since the first stages of bridge building are rather slow and tedious, our Forest Service leaders, Cait and Greg, worked on finding a suitable tree to saw down that would serve as our bridge while the rest of the crew completed dips and drains up and down trail of our primary worksite. On Wednesday, our second day of work, we began sculpting the framework of our bridge by marking, debarking, and crosscutting each individual piece of the bridge. While some crewmembers worked on sculpting the bridge so to make it functional, others simultaneously worked on clearing an area on each side of the river for the sills to sit, allowing support for the bridge. Although the amount of wood worked on was little, debarking, crosscutting, and sculpting each individual piece proved to be an all-day affair. On our third day, we began to see the development of the bridge finally coming together. For the first half of our day, we completed the framework of our bridge and were able to place and structure the bridge over the river by embedding the sills on each side of the river and while placing our wooden bridge parts on top. Although this task was physically taxing, it tied together the main structure of the bridge, pushing us to the final stage of our project. Finally, on our last day, we disassembled our campsite and hiked down to the worksite to complete our project of the week. To finish up, the Boulder Crew worked on securing the bridge by screwing the individual pieces together and adding large rocks around to create a coordinated and operable bridge. After establishing the bridge, we cleared the old bridge from the river and added the finishing touches to our newest one. Because the project was completed within the first half of the workday, we concluded our workweek with a beautiful group hike into the Indian Peaks Wilderness and back to the base of Buchanan Pass. This final workweek, although proved to be challenging, was an extremely rewarding and memorable experience for the Boulder Crew.Processed with VSCO with c1 presetProcessed with VSCO with g3 presetProcessed with VSCO with g3 presetIMG_2920IMG_2907.JPG

-Milda Kristupaitis, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week



In the Field: Week 7 (Part Two)

This week the Red Feather Lakes Crew worked on Lion Gulch Trail over in Lyons, demonstrating a culmination of all the skills we have acquired over the course of the season, with a hybridization of maintenance and construction. The Lion Gulch took extensive damage in the flooding of 2013, where the trailhead in its near entirety had washed away and was forced into closure. Extensive reconstruction was in the works that was a bit out of our qualifications, so we were extensive reconstruction was in the works, so we were sent up to its end and worked down. Our first day on location we had learned this for ourselves, but if anything it gave us an idea of what we would be taking on as we progressed through the week. The legend Wyatt Johnson (below) eased the stress of this situation by an entertaining hand fishing confrontation with a brookie.

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On Tuesday, our work consisted of routine trail maintenance and construction- your standard drainage work and trail sustainability including checks and dams. Covering a good amount of ground with the assistance of USFS contacts Chris and Matt before having to locate and unpack a basecamp. We found a perfect location for basecamp with a view of a sprawling meadow. I myself found a scenic space tucked away atop a small hill that overlooked our camp. From here we gazed in enchantment upon a setting red sun tinted and sharp from the smoke of a distant fire.

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The second day brought us great strife and a Sisyphus complex as we were tasked with filling in a 7-foot trench that washed out the tread with boulders and pebbles alike. To start, we had to move an arguably massive beast of a rock where the force of 8 men and 3 rockbars were just enough to topple it into the pit. The completion on said rockwall was an enormous victory for our progress on the trail considering the will resourcefulness of our small crew. With half of our work day still ahead of us, we moved through it with relative ease.

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Ahead of us on Thursday was the clear aftermath of natural devastation, where the original trail had fallen away into the floodpath of the gulch. We were content with attacking the 200 feet of new tread within 5 hours. Within the last 50 feet we were threatened by a massive storm that seemed to be rolling in. Under the pressure of time and low morale, with the help of determination and energy drinks, we completed our goals and set out back home.

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