In the Field: Week 7

Week Seven, on Rawah Trail, was quite an experience for the Rawah Crews. It was a week of beautiful lakes, challenges to navigate, and some great moments as a crew. During our first day on the trail multiple crew members faced sickness, but we took the hike slow and everyone crushed it! We made it about six miles to our campsite near Lost Lake Trail. It was Stevie’s birthday and we had ravioli to celebrate.

Group pic with rawah sign

The whole crew about to cross the wilderness boundary

Day two began with the clearing of trees and drains on the Camp Lake and Upper Camp Lake Trails, as well as further up the Rawah Trail.  While some of the crew was still under the weather, everyone worked hard to accomplish their task, and we were rewarded with some beautiful views of mountain lakes and fields overflowing with wildflowers! While rain threatened to fall, the weather held back and allowed us to soak in only the scenery (and not the precipitation)! Back by popular demand, pita pizzas made another appearance as Tuesday ended.

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James and Noah sawed this tree so fast!

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Reche lopping some branches.

by a lake

James and Noah hiking past Rawah Lake No. 1

Day three, we divided into a few smaller groups to conquer the rest of the small loops and sections in this maze-like area. Nathan, Zoe, and Madison cleared all the drains on the steep climb to Lost Lake. After obliterating two campsites, they went back to a section of the Rawah trail to re-dig some drains that had started to fill and install a few new ones where necessary. Even though the drains had been dug once before this season, they felt it was important to ensure that we’re doing quality work and maintaining it when possible. Stevie, Reche, Daniel, and Jordan had a fun day finishing the Upper and Lower Sandbar Lake Trails. Every group obliterated at least a couple fire rings, but this group got the most. Apparently, lakeshores are just too tempting for campers and fire builders. Meanwhile Noah, James, and Ruby Ann had a beautiful hike further up the Rawah trail. They passed all four Rawah lakes and crossed over the alpine Grassy Pass into West Branch Valley, maintaining a total of about six miles of trail. When we regathered that evening, everyone shared stories of a wonderful day over a meal of chili mac with a ridiculous amount of cheese. Our spirits had been lifting all week and laughter abounded, but we knew we needed to go to bed to prepare for the hike out. We slept well, awaking only to a magnificent thunderstorm.

pic with flower
Jordan, Stevie, Daniel, and Reche after a good day’s work on Sandbar Lakes trails

On Thursday we packed up and bade a bittersweet farewell to the Rawah Trail.  And of course, Noah and James couldn’t resist clearing a few trees on the way out!  After sharpening tools, our work day concluded with lessons from both Noah and Nathan.  Nathan taught us about the construction of several different types of campfires while Noah gave a lesson on Four Wheel Drive operation! The forest service roads will be no match for this adventurous, off-roading crew!  In all seriousness, this week’s hitch presented many challenges that provided opportunities for growth in all of us.  While we are looking forward to a restful, community-filled weekend, we are all glad to have put boots down on the Rawah Trail one last time.

-Nathan and Ruby Ann (Crew Leaders of the Week)

The rain didn’t stop the Estes Crew this week, for we were happy to be back at it again with the NPS trail crew! Our time was challenged working with trail experts by a new and improved switchback located on the Aspen Brook trail, a trail that will forever be in our hearts. Our mission, though it seemed simple, was to construct a switchback in the trail that kept people on the track, shed water efficiently, and kept the surrounding soil from eroding. We were all surprised at how much work and attention goes into each of these larger projects, but it all pays off in the end when it all becomes unnoticeable to the naked eye. After all these trails are supposed to look as natural as possible. To build a successful switchback, we incorporated a retaining rock wall and some very large boulders to encourage people from shortcutting though natural land and keep them on the trail.

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A boulder was placed to mark the corner of the switchback.

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Many rocks of all shapes and sizes were used.

I’m happy to say that Estes crew is very honored to have such a big roll within the National Park this season. New tread construction, such as the work we have done on Aspen Brook, is an anomaly. Our hope is that stewards continue to protect the land that we love so that our new tail can last for the generations to come. “No one will remember our names, but that’s okay, because its not about us.” –  Berry Sweed NPS ranger.

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View from Aspen Brook Trail.

Estes crew has come a very long way from the begging of the summer, learning copious amount of new trades and skills, all the while living together in tents. This work and home life relationship has tested our patience and resilience to the max, but most importantly, connected us as lifelong friends and family. We are all very excited to finish out the season strong as a team!

 

–Curtis Hall (Crew Leader)

This week Shadow Mountain Crew spent their time in the Never Summer Wilderness. We hiked 4 miles up to the intersection of Parika Lake Trail and Baker Pass where we camped for our last hitch of the season. Our bodies were all really sore from a summer full of swinging tools and hiking but we were all anxious to get to work in an area that we haven’t been to yet. We were awed by the beauty of the area. Nico and I frolicked through the fields of wildflowers and everyone admired the view of Longs Peak from the lake. But despite the beauty, the trails needed a lot of care.

Flowers

Wednesday, we brushed and dug drains on Parika Lake trail. The trails were very cupped from years without maintenance but hopefully the 63 drains we dug will keep the water from causing any more damage. While eating lunch by the lake, we were bombarded by hungry marmots. They started to sneak attack Nico and Adam in hopes of getting some of their food. We tried to instill fear back into them but they were some very brave and stubborn marmots. In addition to the whistle pigs, we saw a large bull moose munching on grass by the lake. We all wanted to see it swim but had to walk away as it started to get closer. After lunch we redefined the intersection of Parika Lake and Baker’s Pass by putting in new tread.

Trail

34790633_1865126593540233_5697176476357492736_nOn Thursday a group went back to the intersection and continued to work on the tread while the rest of us did some rock work. Mary and I built a check dam and Kendra and Caitlin worked on a step. Both were put in place to try to build the trail back up where it was cupped out from water eroding away the sediment. Mary and I channeled our inner cave people as we moved the rocks and dug the hole for the check dam. The echoes of our chants could be heard by everyone in our crew.

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The final day we were all very tired and cold from the rain but we packed up camp and worked our way back to the trucks. We continued to brush and dig drains where needed until it was time to head back to the trucks. Back at the village we cleaned and learned how to sharpen our dull tools. After the long week, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to Miyauchi’s for burgers and fries.

-Emma Geverd (Crew Leader of the Week)

Boulder Crew

Welcome (back) to Pawnee!

Boulder Crew here, continuing our project on Pawnee Pass—and having a blast! Much of our past weeks here, and half of this week, were involved in clearing the trail and making it gorgeous and easy to walk on. Not that this wasn’t rewarding and important (it was!), but we all felt some relief and excitement for starting checksteps and erosion control on our lovely but steep trail this week.

Madi with Checkstep

Check Out the Checksteps

Perhaps the most interesting and unusual work for us thus far was building official cairns! The crew hiked up to the top of Pawnee Pass to build these trail markers and also found some great views. This task was yet another time to exercise our rock-work skills to build sturdy and visible structures that would aid hikers on the pass, and I’d say we fully appreciated the rarity and creativity allowed in the process.

No Cairns in the World

No Cair(n)s in the World

Pawnee Pass Pals

Pawnee Pass Pals

This was probably the rainiest week of all, but as one Charlotte would say “PMA all day, every day!” That would be Positive Mental Attitude! Though storms, hail, and pounding rain may chase us off the mountain some days, it hasn’t chased away the smiles (check out those cheesy grins) or our hard work ethic. Everyone is ready to finish off this trail strong and steady, and to get all of the possible erosion control we can accomplished.

Ready to ROCK,

Rachel (Crew Leader of the Week)

Smiles Abound

Smiles Abound

Moraine Crew

Work week seven was all that we hoped and expected it to be!

We all got reunited on Monday and went out the the solar shower (SS) to begin the trail, or path, connecting it to the nearby comfort station and parking area. We did a bit of cleanup in the area and got the logs set and leveled around the SS. The whole time we were doing this we were watching the sky as it darkened. Then right when Chuck, our boss, got gas in the chainsaw to do the cuts that make everything match up nicely it started to pour! We tried to wait out the rain and lightning in our truck, but after 30 minutes and no sign of a change in weather we had to call it and go back to the project shop and work on picnic tables. Luckily the forecast for the rest of the week was way better!

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we put the pedal to the medal and each day put in about 17 logs and hauled thousands of pounds of road base into the trail. The weather was much more favorable and we only had about 30-45 minutes of stoppage each day for heavy rain, lightning and hail.  At the end of Wednesday, we were really able to see the project coming together and nearing completion!

Randy Rebar

Randy in the front drilling a rebar hole with Max and Chuck behind
checking the level across the trail.

On Thursday we quickly finished up the log work and spent the rest of the day hauling literal tons of road base and then crushed rock into the trail. By the end of the day we were super close to finishing, only one more dump truck load of crushed rock for the final surface was needed.

Anna Chainsaw

Justin, the Young Jedi, dialing in on the final angle cut while Anna stabilizes the log.

One thing that is really nice about this project is that people have been going out of their way to walk over and thank us for putting in the solar shower. I never knew how much people enjoyed having access to this campsite amenity. This project is without a doubt increasing the quality of visitors experiences at Rocky Mountain National Park!

Solar Squad

The “Solar Squad” reunited at last!

-Will (Crew Leader)

 

 

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