In the Field: Week 3

Estes Crew 

Crew Leader of the Week: Maximo T. Bye

Week Of: 6/18/18

Monday, 6/18/18:

The week started strong with a typical Monday morning. Estes Crew and the National Park Service had our Monday meeting about this week and quickly got to work with the horses. We were to brush Finch Lake today. Brushing consists of taking out small trees, branches, or plants that are growing in the trail or onto the trail.  We finished around 2.3 miles of the trail. The hike was amazing and featured a steep climb to start, an aspen forest, and even a forest of Ponderosa in such little time. Thanks to the rain over the weekend, the day was humid and every branch we cut let loose a small collection of water droplets that kept us cool through the day.


Looking out at Longs Peak

Tuesday, 6/19/18:

Tuesday was a lot less hiking. We were given the task of hauling old wood used for fencing from Sprague Lake to Bone Yard, a place where old wood and tools go to die. In addition to this we brought A-frames to Sprague Lake that will eventually be new Buck and Rail fencing. It quickly became apparent that we needed more logs to make A-frames with, so we quickly hiked out to Bierstadt where we collected 20 more logs that were suitable for the job. Everyone worked together to bring the logs down to the Bierstadt parking lot for pickup after they were cleaned up. Before long, the day was coming to an end and Estes Crew prepared for the next day.


Unloading Buck & Fence at boneyard

Wednesday, 6/20/18:

Another job of brushing for Estes Crew! We were grouped with about 12 other people to conquer Andrew’s Glacier. Everyone hiked out from the Bear Lake Trail Head towards our work place. The plan was to take a fire trail to shave off an extra mile on our hike. Soon enough we had made it to our destination where we split into two groups, one starting at the top of the trail and the other starting from the bottom. Quickly, we worked towards each other. Before we knew it, we had met in the middle and hiked to the top for a break by the snow. A few snowballs were tossed, and many attempted sliding down the snowy hills. After our lunch we had finished all of Andrew’s Glacier and needed more work. We hiked back to Bear Lake where we embarked onto the other side of Bierstadt. The rest of the day was working on this trail. By the end of the day, over 10 miles had been hiked by the crews.


Thursday, 6/21/18:

Closing the week with some more brushing! This time the crew headed to our day’s scenery, Fern Lake. Jovonna was given a separate task for the day, she was sent to join the Moraine Crew! She painted and worked on picnic tables for the day. We worked from the pool towards Cub Lake, eventually ending at the Cub Lake Trailhead. The day started nice and cool, but slowly heated up. We did our best removing everything that was impairing hikers from hiking the trail, or that would shortly grow to impact the trail negatively. The views from the trial highlighted the mountains that surrounded us, snowy peaks shined in the sun as we took a morning break. Like all breaks though, it soon ended, and we worked to preserve this moderately popular trail. Many people stopped and thanked us for the work we were doing, it made everyone happy to be complimented for the hard work we love. We all enjoyed the view of Cub Lake and its lily pads as we worked. Eventually, we finished the trail and headed back to the vehicles. Our day was not done, and we headed to a pull off near Hollowell Park where we talked to one of the wilderness firemen, Doug. He told us all about his job, his life, and his love of wilderness fire. He said he had been “bitten by the Fire-Bug” and couldn’t stop what he wanted to do. In addition to this he told us about how fires work, the ways forests defend themselves from fires, when they burn the burn piles so many visitors ask about, and the history of how people fought fires. Everyone learned so much from Doug and thanked him for his time. This concluded our work day and week. This weekend we rest and prepare for next weeks challenges and surprises.


Clearing Brush

-Maximo Bye (Estes Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah Crews

Hello again! As the first half of the season begins to wind down, the Rawah Mega Crew has only been winding up. Week three was quite an interesting week in the Rawah Wilderness. On Monday, we returned to the Link trail for a second day packed full of drain digging, trail clearing, and what some might consider a fair amount of hiking. After ten hours of work and nearly eighteen miles of round trip hiking, the resiliency of the crew really began to shine. Despite an exhausting and demanding day, the crew was able to bounce back after an evening spent with our boss, Geoff, who came up from the mother ship to pay a visit.


Noah taking care of Ruby Ann’s blister.

Tuesday marked the first day of maintenance on the Rawah Trail and what a wild ride it was. Not only were we blown away by all the traffic we encountered (three separate groups of people!), we were able to embrace the mailman way of life by working through rain, sleet, snow, and sunshine.


The crew enduring a light blizzard during lunch

Pre-Thursday was a special day for us as our beloved crew member, Reche, returned to work after time spent with family. The Rawah crew was in full force for a second day on the Rawah Trail. With the return of Reche, we were able to properly surprise a soon-to-be twenty-one-year old Zoe with a birthday cake and great company.

Thursday may have been the fourth day of a long and exhausting week, but that didn’t stop us from having fun and working hard. This day was rather unique in terms of some work we were able to do, including both obliterating an illegal campsite and fire ring as well as mitigating the effects of water run-off from a waterfall. In addition, our crosscut coach, Chris, surprised us at lunch and took a break from official business to visit us for a bit.


Until next week!

-Noah and Jordan (Rawah Crew Leaders)

Boulder Crew

Week three flew by as we spent our second week at the South Boulder Creek Trail in the James Peak Wilderness! Although it was supposed to rain, the good weather was in our favor and the sun shined every day!

us on turnpike.jpg

This week we continued our turnpike construction and finished up our fourth turnpike on the trail to mitigate water erosion damage. Just like last week we spent our days collecting rocks, dirt, and more rocks! As most of us are new to turnpike construction, last week was a learning period for us. However, by the end of this week we consider ourselves professionals.

madi and jess

Hard at work

charlotte swingin

Charlotte swingin’


A completed turnpike!

On Thursday, we headed to the Boulder Ranger District for a meeting with the U.S. Forest Service about the importance of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and how to check the vitality of the equipment. It was great to meet everyone and talk to them about their careers and the path they took to get there. Especially since many of us hope to be in their positions in our future careers.

We wrapped up the week by visiting the Shadow Mountain Crew to spend time with everyone by the water and in the town of Grand Lake!

group pic

Camping in Grand Lake

-Hannah (Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

West Side Best Side

We started off this week heading to the Strawberry West Trailhead where we met friend of the forest and hut builder, Andy Miller. He showed us where he had done a short reroute and shared some of his plans for building a new hut. After parting ways we did our stretch and safety circle and contemplated whether we would rather have dustpan hands or sweat jelly. In the end, team dustpan took majority with an astounding switch of teams from Kendra after a four year run on team sweat jelly.

Having adequately stretched and exhausted our job hazards we shouldered our full packs and walked the mile and a half in to the junction of Strawberry West and Caribou trail where we set up camp. We brushed for a few hours before we called it a day and headed back to camp for rose, bud, thorn and tacos made by Caitlin. Rose, bud, thorn is our end of the day ritual where we each talk about the good parts of the day, what wasn’t so good, and what we’re looking forward to the next day. Most of us are always looking forward to the getting horizontal part (sleeping).


Shadow Crew’s home for the week, featuring the dynamic duo of alpenglow and an evening thunderstorm.

In the mornings, there was a fine layer of frost covering our tents and the grass. Adam, being the first one up, would build a fire in the pit for us all. We would eat our oatmeal around it and stare at the flames in an early morning daze.

On Wednesday, Amy and Kendra showed us how to make drains well so that they wouldn’t need much maintenance other than debris removal every once in a while. So we spent Wednesday walking down Caribou brushing in pairs and putting in drains as necessary. A little after 3 in the afternoon we spotted a moose not far off from the trail so we backed down for fifteen minutes until he wandered off in his majestic moose way. While we waited we talked about the possible damage a moose could do if angered and what an angry moose looks like. Adam wanted to test our moose friend and see if he could knock over a tree. Mary assured him he didn’t need to test it.

On Thursday, Kendra and Amy walked with us and pointed out the good things of the drains we put in and helped us to make them better if necessary. We parted ways around 10, leaving us to brush as they took the llamas and the chainsaws off to clear more of Strawberry West. We cleared all of Caribou and made it part way up Strawberry West. Towards the end of the day we started putting in some tread near an unnamed peak on Strawberry West. We were about a half hour into the work when it started to drizzle and the thunder cracked. Mary decided it was best to head down the mountain. We played a riveting game of contact on the way back, in which I had them stumped for half the walk with the word paratrooper. Pro-tip: use words with common prefixes.


The process of constructing a reroute for a muddy section of the Strawberry West Trail

We started the day on Friday sharing what we thought Mary would be like at the age of thirty in honor of it being her 21st birthday. Then we did a cinnamon roll hug in despite the stank of our sweat that only trail crews will know. We brushed for an hour on Strawberry West before the trail became a beaver dam lake. So we turned back and packed up camp. Since we had a bit of time and our campsite was a well used one we spent a while picking up a trash compactor bag of garbage to haul out. We brushed on the way back to the trucks as Amy and Kendra cut trees that had fallen across the trail. After lunch we put in tread on the reroute that Andy Miller had made. It was pretty cool to put work in on a new trail and know that we were part of making a better experience for users. At the end of the day we walked to the High Lonesome hut, sat in the shade and did rose, thorn, bud.


Trail Work Ahead? I sure hope it does!

By the way, did you know owls have legs?

-Nico (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week)

Moraine Crew

This week we wrapped up our first big project and got setup for next weeks’ solar shower project while continuing the Quarters Five project and picnic table construction.

On Monday we all returned to McGraw ranch to continue window work on the main building. We did not get as much done as we wished because we spent a bit of time fixing small errors made the previous week. These little errors like moving sashes before they are completely dry resulting in marks and scuffs took almost as much time to fix as painting an entire window sash. From this we learned that working patiently to get the job done right the first time saves a lot of time in the backend of the project.

On Tuesday Will, Hayley, Max, Randy, and Anna returned to McGraw ranch to start work on the last, and largest, set of windows that needed to be restored. By this point we all knew what needed to be done and how to do it right. While Anna and Hayley worked on scraping and calking the windows in preparation for painting the rest of us had an assembly line system for prepping and paining the sashes. Max was on scraping and priming duty Randy was cranking out almost all of the finishing paintwork. Will was hopping between tasks managing the process to avoid the damage to finished sashes that kept occurring the previous week, finishing touchups, and cleaning the glass that had not been cleaned in years! Barnabas attended a First Aid class for a majority of the day to learn about assessing and treating injuries that may occur in the field, he was able to join us near the end of the day and help paint window sashes.

On Wednesday Will, Randy and Hayley got to see the completion of their first big project, the windows at the McGraw ranch. It was a little bittersweet because we do not have any plans to return to the ranch, and the tranquil landscape that it is set in for the rest of the season.

It was very rewarding to look at the results of our hard work! While they were at the ranch Anna and Barnabis were working at Quarters Five, one of the historical homes on the east side of the park. Their day consisted of patching rotting window frames that will eventually lead to severe building damage. Max was off by himself working with Wilson to move the redwood we stained last week to the site it will be installed into. He also learned to to remove glazing from windows for them to be chemically stripped and restored.

At the end of the day Geoff met us at McGraw Ranch as we were competing the window restoration project. He was accompanied by Robert Burkhart, a writer from the local Estes park newspaper, who is putting a column together about important NR work being done around Estes park. He interviewed us with questions regarding why we are working for the RMC and how the work we do plays into the big picture of conservation and preservation. He also interviewed Barnabas, Anna and Max at their work site.

On Thursday we took on one more crew member, Jovonna from the Estes crew. Earlier in the week she took a fall during trail work and was not feeling ready to go back on trail but still wanted to work. So we adopted her for the day and she helped us start another round of picnic tables.  Earlier in the week Chuck and Bob went to the lumber yard and got 25 boards, enough for five more tables that will be used. During the day we completed the preparation of all the boards and began the assembly of one table. Every one we make has been looking better then the last! We can’t wait to see what the last one of the season will look like, it will probably be a museum piece.

Max set posts for the solar shower project at Wild Basin with Bob, Chuck and Wilson from the projects office, we all can’t wait to get more involved in this project in the coming week. Meanwhile Barnabas and Anna worked with Dolly to complete the window restoration project at Quarters Five. It was a stressful day for them because after adding new coats of paint the the windows in the building did not fit anymore and had to be trimmed down with the table saw in the shop requiring lots of back and forth. Little hiccups like this are very frustrating but need to dealt with regardless of how much it may stink.


Max and Randy working the assembly line of sash painting.


Hayley finishing up the prep work before painting the last set of windows. In the back left you can see the completed sashes that have been reinstalled.


Crew Leader, Will, battling the chilly morning with a puffy, beanie and layer of warm coffee.

At the end of the week we all look back in awe at how fast time flew by, its amazing we have all been living and working together for a month now.

-Will (Moraine Crew Leader)

In the Field: Week 2

Boulder Crew

Time flies when you’re smashing rocks! Week two for Boulder Crew gave us an opportunity to showcase how hard we can work, and what we can achieve as a team.

(Insert img5 caption: Boulder Crew, best crew!)

This past week, we spent our time at the South Boulder Creek trail in the James Peak Wilderness. Our focus for the week was the construction of a turnpike (raised section of trail intended to mitigate water erosion damage). To properly improve the section of trail we were working on, we were required to build a massive turnpike, roughly 40 ft and counting! Although turnpike construction may sound simple, it requires significant time investment in materials gathering. We spent the majority of our days collecting dirt, and hauling massive 100 lbs plus rocks. Overall, the construction of a turnpike of this magnitude was highly rewarding for all involved—many thanks were received from hikers, and of course their dogs!


Terrific turnpikin’


Jess and Rachel practicing the arduous yoga pose: gopher form


Dead tired from dirt collecting.


Perhaps the most exciting aspect of working on the South Boulder Creek trail is the abundance of historic artifacts in the vicinity. This trail starts at the Moffat train tunnel, which travels roughly six miles through a mountain. The tunnel was built in the 1920s, and greatly influenced historic human activity around the James Peak Wilderness. Within only a few miles of the trailhead, there are about six historic structures. A hiker that had grown up in the area took some time to share what she remembered about it from her childhood. According to her, one of the old cabins along the trail was built in the 1890s, and was the birthplace of the local sheriff that worked during her childhood! She also shared with us that the site we were working around was the old Jenkin’s Saw Mill, constructed and operated to provide wood for the Moffat train tunnel. Furthermore, we learned that there used to be botany researchers based out of the valley working throughout the mountains. After learning of this, we began to piece together what the little human made items we found were used for. Among interesting things that we found were: leather work gloves, moccasins, whiskey bottles, leather fittings, square head nails, glass scientific apparatuses, and metal cabinet handles.

We rounded off this already full week with a little mini vacation to the Sangre De Cristo range in southern Colorado. Friday morning, we summited Humboldt Peak, enjoying the beautiful views of the many rugged peaks around. We played as hard as we worked this week and had a great time doing it. Cheers to many more successful weeks for Boulder Crew!

-Zach (Boulder Crew Leader)

Rawah Crews

The Rawah Mega Crew started week two off sharp. Chris from the USFS Canyon Lakes Ranger District Trail Crew commuted to Stub Creek on Monday and Tuesday to train and certify the crew as type II crosscut sawyers. Training consisted of two scenarios of bucking (sawing fallen trees) to ensure that our crew’s abilities are up to par.


The mega crew hiking out after a day of training on the trail.

Following our two days of training, we began work in the Rawah Wilderness on the McIntyre Trail.  To start work, we had two sets of crosscut teams, as we expected to encounter many down trees.  The other six crewmembers were given the task of repairing drainage structures on the trail to mitigate water erosion.  IMG_2752IMG_2806


Zoe, James, Noah, Stevie, and Jordan crosscutting.

As the week progressed, we were able to get ahead of schedule.  We had originally intended to be on McIntyre for two days, but due to the distance covered in our first day we decided to start the Link Trail on Thursday. Because of this, we had to do a little bit of midweek planning, as pictured below.  wf17FuHIRDeBLXPUSBZHyQ


Crew Leaders Jordan and Noah prepare for the coming week.

Overall, we had a successful week here in the Rawah Wilderness and our expectations were exceeded! To wrap up a week of hard work, the mega crew is heading to Laramie, WY to visit and explore the area and then to Steamboat Springs, CO to enjoy some hot springs.  ehEOxHGmSz+rSL38b2gCHg


Crew member Nathan celebrates a trail well-cleared.

Tune in later for next week’s adventures!

-Noah and Jordan (Rawah Crew Leaders)

Estes Crew

Purge the Spurge! This was the motto of Monday as we walked through a large field near Fall River Road. Our day started out in the NPS greenhouse meeting with the vegetation crew to talk about their goals for the week and safety. We then met with Glenn, expert herbicide sprayer and vegetation crew technician, at the Moraine “boneyard” to calibrate our spray packs. Our crew couldn’t help but sing the Ghostbusters theme song as we walked around spraying water out of large white packs on our back. The purpose of this was to see how much liquid was used when spraying a certain area. If too much or too little water got used, we had to adjust the drop size and how quickly we were moving. This helps insure that the invasive plants will die, but not too much herbicide will be used.

Maximo, Nate, and Sydney looking at mountains-min

Who you gonna call? Estes Crew!

After calibrating our sprayers, the Estes crew moved to a field next to the Fall River entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Our goal was to spray the invasive species, Leafy Spurge, with herbicide. This species loves wet soil and sunlight. As we scanned the field for Leafy Spurge, the vegetation crew was able to teach us about other types of plants, such as wallflowers and lupins. At certain points we had to dodge through Aspen Trees to look for spurge. By the end of the day 7.5 acres of land had been covered.

Nate and Glenn walking through trees-min

Nate and Glenn walking through the trees.

Vegetation crew and Estes crew walking with packs-min

The vegetation and Estes crew joining forces!

Tuesday was a training day for us. Our crew had the opportunity to join the National Park Service seasonal training day at the YMCA of the Rockies. In the morning, we learned about the different branches of service, safety, harassment, and park rules. One of our groups favorite quotes of the morning came from Barry Sweet, a worker in the wilderness office, referring to the Rocky Mountain Nation Park:

 “We continue to protect this treasure and people won’t know our names, but that’s okay because it isn’t about us.”

In the afternoon, the seasonal workers were given an orientation around the National Park Service headquarters. Groups rotated stations to learn about each division and what kind of service was provided there. We learned about the museum, the greenhouse, the research center, the search and rescue cache, the fire station, as well as the trails and signs building.

Llamas from Trails Crew-min

Llamas are used by trails crew because they can carry up to 100 pounds and do well on uneven terrain and high altitudes.

At the end of the day we went back to the greenhouse and weeded through baby Ponderosa pine and willow trees.

Cora, Sydney, and Jovonna working at green house. -min

Cora, Sydney, and Jovonna weeding at the greenhouse.

The next two days were spent working on a wetland mitigation project by Sprague Lake trailhead. Over a 100 years ago the area was a wetland, but soon got converted to a horse stable. Since then the stable was moved across the lake, leaving the old wetland empty and full of dry soil.

Our job was to seed and blanket the soil in hopes that one day a healthy wetland would grow there. On Wednesday we carefully raked the slope of the land to help make an even terrain for the seeds to be thrown down on. Nate, Maximo, and Curtis worked a trench that was to hold the top of the erosion blanket.

Nate, Maximo, and Curtis working on trench-min

Nate, Maximo, and Curtis working hard to dig a trench.

We then began to lay out the erosion blanket, cutting it to perfectly match the slope. Laying down the fabric is important because it will allow the seed to grow while being protected from large gusts of wind, storms, and erosion.

The next day, we were finally ready to seed. This consisted of throwing down grass seed across the slope, then going back and raking it. Afterwards the pre-cut erosion blanket was laid down and staked it to the ground. As our crew dug and hammered away, we sang songs that ranged from 50’s bebops to early 2000’s rap music to keep the energy up. Soon our work was finished, and it was time to head home.

Sydney Securing Trench

Crew member Sydney securing the erosion blanket.

Our time with the vegetation crew was not only educational, but enjoyable; we cannot wait to see them again!

-Cora Starke (Estes Crew Member)

Moraine Crew

This past week, the work of the Moraine crew shifted. The second week of the season has come to a close and crew members are beginning to settle into their roles within the project shop and are looking forward towards their future projects. Mothballing, the picnic-table restoration, and housekeeping business of the previous week is wrapping up. This past week’s work was split between a preservation project at the famous McGraw Ranch on Monday/ Wednesday and a Park Service orientation for fresh-faced seasonal employees on Tuesday.

The McGraw Ranch, originally homesteaded in 1884, was transformed from a cattle/dude ranch to the Continental Divide Research Learning Center after its 1988 acquisition by the National Park Service. Now accommodating field scientists and researchers, the site strives to maintain its original architecture and facilities. The Moraine Crew this week helped to further this tradition through the restoration of original windows by using historically accurate preservation techniques. On Monday the crew removed and began stripping the old crumbling paint from the windows, green on the removable storm window and white on the window on the house. It takes a lot of time and patience to first find all the loose paint bits to remove, and give an even coat all while avoiding the original log work millimeters away from some section. We got about 1/5th  of the house done after Wednesday, and that is a success considering there are about 35 windows on the house! We’re not too upset about spending more time out at the McGraw Ranch later in the summer. This new paint will prevent the original windows from rotting away and preserve the original structure of the building.

range - 1


range - 2


The NPS orientation on Tuesday also proved to be enlightening and educational, as the crew was introduced to the rich history and wide scope of Park Service operations. Presentations by employees and a tour of NPS facilities highlighted a sense of community and pride from regular public land stewards and extended the sentiment out to those working under more temporary circumstances. We also got randomly assigned seating and were able to talk to other employees such as interpretive rangers, law enforcement, and climbing rangers to name a few. This helped us see a lot of different opportunities and potentials niche in the NPS.

The crew ended their week with an exciting look forward. Thursday morning began with a briefing of upcoming projects and safety meetings exploring the potential hazards of each. Crew members showed enthusiasm towards their future work constructing Solar Showers and replacing sill-logs at Glacial Basin Ranger Station, and were quick to key in on safety concerns, as both projects require heavy machinery and face the potential for unwanted interference by a curious public. After this the crew split up with Randy, Hayley and Max finishing redwood staining while Barnabas and Anna went to continue striping windows but at a new location. While all this was going on Thursday, Will had to remain home because he had a severe case of dehydration that had onset through the week, but is following proper rehydration recovery and will be back to work on Monday!

-Will (Moraine Crew Leader)

Shadow Mountain Crew

Our first full week of work brought us just a few minutes down the road from Shadow Mountain to Roaring Fork. First spike of the season; what better occasion to pull out the cross-cut saws and clear some trails. I personally still prefer my silky.

Footnote 1: “Silky” is code talk for a much more compact hand saw.

Before we settled at camp, we spent that Wednesday limbing and bucking an armada of trees at another site further away; a great precursor to what would soon be the great war against tree pollen, saw dust, and sap. We are still fighting.

Wednesday came and went before we knew it, a hard day of work indeed, but a productive one. We all made it safely to our camp site that evening and had a restful night. Well, almost all of us. Poor Ric forgot his sleeping bag at the house and was shivering his tail off all night. Bruce didn’t do a great job of keeping him warm either.

Footnote 2: Bruce is our mint-green, F-250 pickup truck.

Rumor is he will be retired at the end of the season. He’s an old dog, but he’s been treating us well thus far. Any who, Niko was gracious enough to swing by the house and grab Ric’s sleeping bag when she went back to the village with Amy to pick up the llamas. You heard right, we have llamas, two of them to be exact. Kuzco and Kuzco. I can’t remember their legal names for the life of me. They are informally known as Two Socks and Oreo, and we make them carry our tools. Poor things don’t get paid. Emma made us a kick a** dinner Wednesday evening.

Rise and shine bright and early Thursday morning, 7 am. It was about a two-mile hike in before we started emerging from our cocoons as young sawyers with our crosscuts. The two miles turned into what seemed like four miles as we progressed further down the trail. The week was incredibly hot, and my forehead had never swam in so much perspiration, but I do enjoy wearing those hard hats. They make me feel invincible with my boots, eye-pro, and ear-pro.

Footnote 3: “Pro” is short for “protection.”

Those crosscut saws are bad to the bone, they can cut through anything. It is imperative we take care of them though, as they are the last of their kind. Pretty cool feeling using those saws; almost like handling a living relic that’s still got a lot of life in it. Our great leader, Mary, cooked us a kick a** dinner Thursday evening. Ric slept nice and warm this time. The two of us heard some strange animal right outside our tent in the early hours of Friday morn. It may have just been Emma very aggressively blowing her nose, who nose..

By Friday, I had already lost track of how many trees we’ve cut. At this point, our crew is close enough to plan each other’s weddings and openly talk about our grandest poops. No footnote needed for that last word, you read correctly. I thought the week would never end, ten hours of manual labor a day takes a lot out of you. It was a great time though, and I cannot wait to pick up where we left off come this Tuesday. Hard work is good work. We’ve gotten a lot done, and there is still much to be done. We are stewards of the land, and I am sure I speak for my crew when I say that it is an honor doing what we do.

So, Caitlin decided to drive us back Friday evening. As I recall Thursday morning, I remember all the flowers we observed on our hike, and how the kinds of flowers changed as we hiked higher up the trail. The first were pink. “Pretty pink flowers, that’s the technical term for them isn’t it?” said Kendra.

Footnote 4: “Pretty pink flowers” is slang for Yellow alpine saxifrage (Saxifraga serpyllifolia), or simply, wild roses.

-Adam (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week)

In the Field: Week 1

Boulder Crew

The Boulder Crew’s first week away from Estes Park was filled with hard work, new places, and new faces.

The week started off with the crew’s big move from Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park to Kelly Dahl Campground in Nederland, CO. Within only a few hours, Kelly Dahl quickly felt like home. Lovingly, we decided to call our little patch in the woods the “Ned and Breakfast”.

On Monday, we met up with our Forest Service coworker and trail guru, Agatha (Aggie). Throughout the day, Aggie taught us how to properly build trail drainage, clear trail corridor, and construct water bars/check steps. We finished off our afternoon with a quick hike up to Timberline Falls on the St. Vrain River.


Taking a rest at Timberline Falls

Tuesday was our first day of truly tough trail work. We spent the day constructing water bars and check steps. Since this was many of our first times doing rock work, Aggie was there to guide us with her wisdom. Perhaps the highlight of the day was the plethora of hikers with dogs enjoying the trail. Throughout the day, we stopped to chat with hikers, and play with their dogs. I began to dub these little dog breaks “dog-stractions”.


Beautiful dog enjoying the trail

On our next day of work, we were visited by our wonderful Field Coordinator, Morgan. The rest of the day was spent building check steps out of massive rocks. We all enjoyed wrangling rocks into perfect spots, and getting muddy all the while.


Jess partaking in his favorite aspect of trail work—rock smashing

The crew wrapped up the week by cleaning up the trail and adding our finishing touches. Overall, we were highly satisfied with the quality of work we produced. At the end of it all, we maintained roughly 15 drains, constructed 10 check steps, and 3 water bars. Thanks to Aggie, we all learned a lot about trail work and safety.


Boulder Crew happy to have completed their first trail together!

-Zach (Boulder Crew Leader)

Rawah Crews

Week one of work was a success! The two Rawah crews worked together this week (which will most likely happen all summer) on the Young Gulch Trail in the Roosevelt National Forest.


Nawah (Rawah Crew – Noah Lead) and Jawah (Rawah Crew – Jordan Lead) combine for a family photo after our first day of work.

In 2013, the Young Gulch trail was wrecked by a massive flood and has been closed since then.  The Wilderness Restoration Volunteers (WRV) and other conservation corps have been working hard since then to open the trail back up.  During our week there, we dug new tread and built a ton (actually several tons) of new rock walls to help support the trail.


James and Nathan posing before they CRUSH this rock wall.


Stevie and Ruby Ann establishing new tread.

Throughout the first two days, Nate (aka Trail Jesus), from the WRV, was kind enough to hang out with us and teach us the best ways to create new trail and build strong rock walls.


Our spirit guide and trainer Nate of WRV (aka Trail Jesus) providing guidance.

This first week was pretty unique because it was also our first hitch.  However, we got lucky and were able to camp in the parking lot at the trailhead, which meant port-a-potties and potable water across the street! Additionally, we cleansed ourselves of dirt in the nearby creek at the end of each day and one day we looked for the watermelon that Nate supposedly “floated” for us, but we never found it…


This is how we roll (burritos)

Until next week,

-Jordan and Noah (Rawah Crew Leaders)

Shadow Mountain Crew

This week, the Shadow Mountain Crew moved out to Grand Lake, Colorado to embark on the most glorious adventures! But first, the crew worked with the Sulphur Ranger District of the US Forest Service to get acquainted with the village in which we live and everyone who works on the district, even those outside of trail crews, including the District Ranger, firefighters, wildlife biologists, safety personnel, and the Statewide Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) crew. Once we adapted to village life, the crew attended S212, a class designed to introduce us to crosscutting and chainsaw usage. The crew learned about tree binds, safety precautions, and MUCH MORE.

Thursday and Friday were spent on trail, doing project and maintenance work. On the Doe Creek trail, the crew enjoyed a beautiful walk through a wide open meadow to our work site, where we installed nearly 80 feet of trench to facilitate water drainage, as well as dug 10 feet of tread to reroute the trail around a muddy area bogged down with seepage.


The Crew walks to Doe Creek.


The newly dig trench helping keep water off trail to prevent erosion and trail braiding.

During lunch, we had an intriguing conversation about what air tasted like (feel free to comment your opinions below). In addition to this, with a bit of extra time at the end of the day, the crew cranked out 6 check dams. These were put in place to prevent further gullying of the trail, and topped off with a layer of fresh soil to ease travel.

Friday, the Shadow Mountain Crew made their way to the Williams Peak Trail, a long drive, but aided with a great jam session in our beloved Forest Service truck, Bruce. We had a great time, clearing almost three miles of overgrown corridor and reinventing drains and trenches in particularly tricky spots. The lunch break of this day was also notable, as the crew pondered ant exoskeletons, found a frog, named them Michael, and, of course, ate food. We reached a creek just as our turn-around time encroached, and paused for a quick splash to relieve the heat of the sun, much appreciated for the walk back to the car. This weekend, we travel back to Estes Park to climb mountains and take CPR/First Aid training and rejuvenate ourselves for another week of hard, rewarding work in the field!


-Mary (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

Estes Crew

6/4/2018 – A strong start for the RMC-CC Estes Crew! The work day starts with an early morning meet and greet at the National Park Service Trail Shop at 7:00 AM. The crew was introduced to 30 other professional trail workers including their NPS ambassadors, Marieke and Jessie. We can tell already that we are welcomed and expected to work hard. Next, we moved on to clean the horse stables, a 30-minute task that takes place every morning. Shoveling hay and horse poop is a great way to warm up the muscles, meet the pack horses, and get to know the NPS staff, who also participate in this daily activity. The rest of the day was spent at Aspen Brook, a trail that was destroyed during the floods of 2013. We restored around 100 yards of tread (trail surface) by removing 30 feet of berm that was causing water to flow onto the trail rather than off it. We also helped by moving unwanted rocks from the trail, some weighing up to 300lbs. Cora spent her time cutting new tread insuring that the back slope was properly cut at the correct angle. We covered the existing trail that was there before with sticks and pine needles, so the public will be encouraged to use the new tread, also known as brushing in or duffing. Another part of the day consisted of moving rocks to a section of trail that had been rutted out by rain fall. Adding large and crushed rock to these areas raises the tread up out of the gully and insures that water runs off successfully. After lunch, we spent the rest of the day clearing the slough, a mixture of small sticks, rocks, and pine needles that accumulates on the trail. This widens the trail and prevents people from walking out on the critical edge.

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6/5/2018 – The day was spent with NPS trail crew member Ben, who took the crew back out to Aspen Brook. The crew spent the entire morning removing half a mile of slough from the trail. Clearing slough is beneficial for many reasons, one being that it creates a safer environment for backpackers and horseback riders by erasing trip hazards from the trail. Crew member Nate spent his time down trail moving rocks in preparation for new and improved tread. During lunch, we learned about the historical value of the Aspen Brook trail. It turns out, this was one of the first roads that lead to Boulder, with tea houses along the way. The afternoon consisted of a walk through on how to detonate rocks safely with small amounts of TNT. However, due to the softness of the rock, the explosion had very little impact. We instead used a double jack and a single jack to slowly chip away at the large rock.

6/6/2018 – On Wednesday, the 6th of June 2018, Estes crew set out to provide support on a future bridge project. We spent the day peeling logs of its bark, just like potatoes. Using proper body mechanics and draw knives, we were able to perfectly strip large chunks of bark off at one time. It’s important to strip bark from the logs before a project because it will decompose much faster than the wood itself, making weak spots in the structure. Once the logs were peeled, it was time to move them to their new location. We were able to move the logs around 50 meters with 8 people and 4 straps that were placed evenly down the log. Each log weighed around 700lbs, so we were only able to move them a few feet at a time. This required extreme teamwork and communication throughout the process. Later in the day we also observed while Marieke fell two trees, giving us some insight on tree safety.

6/7/2018 – We spent the day participating in SAR training (search and rescue). After meeting the other members of the course, we split into 4 groups that would rotate throughout multiple stations. The stations included patient packaging, navigation, GAR scale, and check-in and check-out procedures, each of which are important steps in a SAR situation. Then after lunch we assessed in a mock rescue situation. During this scenario two groups responsible for locating an injured hiker, assessing the situation, packaging, and finally moving the patient. We as the Estes crew are now able to assist in search and rescue operations.

-Curtis (Estes Crew Leader)

Moraine Crew

WOW! What a first week for the Moraine Crew. It is amazing how quickly four days can go when you are having a blast! After getting settled into our “bunk houses”, which are actually very homey cabins, over the weekend we were ready to get working.


View from the Moraine Crews Cabins

Monday started off with getting to meet our supervisors, Chuck and Bob, as well as the rest of the employees that we will be working with over the summer. Then, we were each given our tool buckets and were sent up to an area called Tortilla Flats to break down and reclaim the metal from old and broken picnic tables. This gave us all a chance to get tools in our hands and start learning how to use them. By the end of the day we were working together like a NASCAR pit crew breaking down tables in mere seconds.

Because most of our big projects this summer take place in campgrounds throughout RMNP, we do not want to start making noise and disturbing campers at 6:30am, so in the morning we will be working on side projects, like using the reclaimed metal to make new picnic tables for visitors to use for decades.

Tuesday started off by visiting the local lumber yard and learning how to assess lumber quality when buying the boards that will be used for the new tables. Once we had gotten enough high quality boards to start building tables we went back to the shop and learned how to use a router to bevel the boards, power sanders to make a smooth surface, stain to make the wood resistant to weathering/ rotting, and the intricate process of assembling a picnic tables (it is a lot harder then it may seem). By the end of the day we had about twenty boards finished and ready to be made into tables and one table near completion, building a picnic table is a bit trickier then one might first imagine.


Moraine Crew staining boards for picnic tables.

Wednesday morning after completing another table and finishing more boards we headed out to the Moraine Park Campground comfort station that we will be continually improving through the season. Today our task was to dig a 45 feet long and 18 inches’ deep trench to allow electricity to be hooked up to the comfort station improving visitors experience. Although it was a hot day and we were all in the sun for hours, we all had a blast! The entire time we were working together laughing, joking and making the best out of what many would see to be hard work. During that time Hayley ended up finding her passion for digging trenches ensuring that her section was a perfect 18 inches deep with steep parallel walls. After the trench was complete and the electrical lines laid we replaced the soil and scattered forest litter to help the area recover and maintain the aesthetics of the area.


Moraine Crew showcasing their success in digging trenches!


The “Trench” after the area was restored.

On Thursday, or as we call it Friday, we began prepping boards that will become the border for our accessibility path at the same Moraine Park Campground comfort station. The objective of these accessibility, or ADA, paths are to allow individuals with mobility impairments to utilize our facilities and enjoy the same comforts other campers have. The boards were anywhere from 10 to 22 feet long and required mutable coats of stain to insure they will last decades in the ground. Around lunch time while we were outside staining boards we saw the Estes park crew walking up to say high while they were on their lunch break during their search and rescue training. We had not taken our lunch yet so we decided to join them and put our brand new picnic tables to the test. It was very nice to get to use what we had been building all week and share some food and conversation with our coworkers. After lunch we continued our staining project and finished about 1/3 of the boards, which is good considering the surface area of the wood we have to stain is over ¼ of a football field and we are doing at least two coats!

All in all, the old saying time flies when you are having fun definitely applies to this first week of work. We all cannot wait to see what is coming next!

-Will (Moraine Crew Leader)

Ready, Set, Go! 2018 Season Training

Here we go again!

This past week we kicked off the 2018 season of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy-Conservation Corps by welcoming 28 new crew members and welcoming back six former crew members as crew leaders. We started out by setting up camp in Moraine Park Campground, a plethora of ice breakers, and crew introductions.

After going through gear distribution, the crews got some time to meet each other and do a variety of activities focused on establishing group expectations and setting goals. We took some time to learn about the Conservancy’s mission and programs and how the Conservation Corps fits into them. We ended the day with distributing uniforms and boot fittings. Big thanks to the Estes Park Mountain Shop for helping the Corps with boots this year!

The next day we did a trails training day with the National Park Service, practicing specific skill such as; digging drains, crushing and moving rocks, cutting brush, and practicing proper use of hand tools.


That afternoon we came back to the Field Institute where the newly minted crew leaders lead us through training on preventative first aid, how to backpack, Leave No Trace, outdoor hygiene, and how to use our backcounty cooking tools.  An additional activity included blindfolded tent building, where one crew member wore a blindfold and depended on the rest of the crew’s instruction to set up a tent.


Next, we were met by the Recreation Forester for Canyon Lakes Ranger district where we learned about defensive driving. This certification allows everybody to drive government vehicles and may even lower their insurance rates! We then attended the Volunteers In the Park, or VIP, training in the park where we learned how to properly interact with the visitors we will inevitably come across while working in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest.

To wrap up our former training’s of the week, Jim Pickering (Estes Park Historian Laureate and Board President of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy Board) led an engaging historic tour through RMNP highlighting the role the Civilian Conservation Corps played in it’s creation and maintenance. After a day of traveling through the park, crew members met at the local high school field to end the week with a friendly game of capture the flag.

On Saturday, June 2nd the Corps celebrated National Trails Day and the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails Act with an on-the-ground project. The crews were accompanied by Rocky Mountain Conservancy staff and board members as well as other members of the surrounding communities to work on trails within RMNP. The groups were led by NPS staff and taught a variety of new trail building and restoration skills.


The day was capped off with a large group cook-out and gathering to celebrate National Trails Day.  We then bid farewell to our Conservation Crews as they made plans to head off to their respective sites.

Stay tuned for more updates as the season goes on!


-Morgan Cannon and Tommy Egland, Field Coordinators