NEW Blog Page

Check out the Rocky Mountain Conservancy-Conservation Programs new blog page! You can find it at the Conservancy website at the following link:

Conservation Programs Blog

Moving forward, this page will no longer be used to provide updates on the Conservation Corps, High School Leadership Corps, or Volunteer Stewardship projects. Please find all further updates at the link above!

End-Of-Season Portfolios

After each season, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy compiles reflections from crew members, data about work completed, and photos of the season to create End-of-Season portfolios for the Conservation Corps and High School Leadership Corps.

These portfolios provide a glimpse into the experience these program provide and the valuable work the crews complete. Check out the 2018 End-of-Season Portfolios below:

2018 Conservation Corps Portfolio

2018 High School Leadership Corps Portfolio

National Public Lands Day 2018

On National Public Lands Day, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy hosted 32 volunteers for a litter clean-up at Beaver Point in Rocky Mountain National Park (just outside the Beaver Meadows Entrance).

In less than two hours, volunteers collected over 160 lbs of trash from the area. This included construction materials, vehicle parts, abandoned camping gear, cigarette butts, and lots of plastic containers and wrappers!


Volunteers ready to go collect some trash!


Volunteers proud of their work and the impact on public lands!

National Public Lands Day is a nationwide celebration of OUR public lands. On the third Saturday in September, thousands of individuals across the country get out and celebrate public lands through volunteer projects, community events, and recreational offerings! On top of all of this, it is a fee-free day at most public land sites, making it a great opportunity for everyone to get out and enjoy these beautiful places!

National Day of Service and Remembrance

The Conservation Corps season may be over, but that doesn’t mean the Conservancy has wrapped up its field season!

Today, Conservancy staff and local volunteers joined the Rocky Mountain National Park Wildland Fire Crews to complete some fire fuels reduction. The project was organized on the National Day of Service and Remembrance to honor the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those who rose up in service in response to the attacks.

The project focused on reducing the fuel load available for future wildfires. The work included collecting downed limbs and trees, previously cut by NPS staff, into slash piles (see photos). These piles are constructed during the summer and fall and then burned during the winter, when the conditions are correct. These projects remove potentially hazardous fuels from areas close to roads, trail heads, and campgrounds. By removing the fuel, volunteers are helping protect wildland firefighters from erratic fire behavior caused by excessive fuel loads and ladder fuels, which allow low-intensity ground fires to move up into trees.

Today, September 11, 2018, eight volunteers joined National Park Service fire crews and completed 10 slash piles. Each of which held more than 2000 cubic feet of fuel. Check out photos from the project below:

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-Geoff Elliot (Director of Conservation)

2018 Season Photos

The Corps season wrapped up just over two weeks ago. As we clean gear to put it away for the season, we have the chance to look back and remember all of the trails maintained, structures restored and built, and lives changed. Take a moment to check out some of these highlights from the season!

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Stay tuned as we prepare reports on the impacts to the trail systems and public lands, as well as the AmeriCorps members that participated this summer!

-Geoff Elliot (Director of Conservation

In the Field: Week 8 (Last Week)

The Boulder Crew finished up the season on hitch in our favorite spot- Pawnee Pass! The consistent pattern of rain from last week came to an end, and we were greeted with clear skies all week. The sunshine made work infinitely more enjoyable! Our tasks for the week consisted of continuing to clear the trail of large rocks, roots, and other obstacles to make it smooth and beautiful, as well as easier to walk on. Using rock bars to remove boulders from the trail is no easy feat, but Boulder Crew has become quite proficient at it.


Freshly cleared trail- all shiny and new!

Then, we installed many more rock check-steps and water bars into the newly cleared trail to control water flow and mitigate erosion. Setting rocks into the trail can be frustrating and tedious, but the struggles are worthwhile after a structure is complete.


Break time!

While we may not be professional trail workers yet, the whole crew has made significant progress in rock work throughout our season, as well as gained some serious muscle! It is safe to say that all of us were heartbroken to be finished with such rewarding work, as well as to be leaving such a beautiful place.


Goodbye, Pawnee Pass!

Peace from Boulder Crew!

-Charlotte (Crew Leader of the Week)

We did it! After many weeks on the Aspen Brook Trail, the Estes Crew has finally wrapped up a variety of projects that help make up the new trail. Thoughout this project, we’ve come to know many wonderful trail crew members including a variety of unique volunteers and conservation crews. We’ve spent time managing NPS pack horses, controlling and surveying invasive species, and taking part in several outdoor adventures.


Estes Crew 2018



Rock wall construction – After

I’m very grateful for all the time that we have alongside each other, growing together, testing one another, laughing as we make our dad jokes. This season will be missed, but I know that we are all encouraged to keep moving forward on to greater opportunities, things such as education, peace corps, new and exciting jobs, and other leadership rolls. Hopefuly we will all see each other again in the near future so we can then share our stories.


Rock wall construction 1.0

-Curtis (Crew Leader)

Moraine Crew

For the past couple of weeks, we have built a solar shower, and afterwards, we began to build a turnpike that went from the parking lot, and then split to go to the nearby bathrooms and the solar shower. On Monday, July 30th, we put more crusher on top of the crusher that was already there, and began to really solidify this turnpike. Some people shovelled from a pile of crusher and put them into wheelbarrows, then carrying it and piling it onto a place on the turnpike that needed it. Others raked the crusher in places that were too low, and overall, just adding another layer of it since it was needed. Once it seemed level enough, one person would water the turnpike to make sure it was wet enough so it could be tamped down correctly and then another person got the plate compactor and tamped down the crusher. Once it dried, it began to truly look like a turnpike!

After the solar shower was completed, we shifted our focus to restoring a rotted sill log on the Glacier Basin Ranger Station. This was supposed to be one of our bigger projects of the year, but unfortunate time constraints only afforded us a few days to work on it. Regardless, our last week was spent under careful guidance from shop foreman Chuck Tubb striping replacement logs of bark, fitting replacement crowns, and hollowing out the rotted log for replacement. While we only had a few days working at the Ranger Station, our crew really hit the ground running. In true historical preservation style, we spent our days working hard with draw knives, timberslicks, axes, and chisels to tackle the prep work that would proceed the log’s actual replacement.

It was also during this time the crew received unexpected praise for their work on the solar shower. A ceremony organized by the Glacier Basin volunteer camp host recognized the project shop for their hard work with a ribbon cutting and barbeque attended by both park employees and campers.

Spirits were high during the final days of work, despite the sadness of leaving. Project Crew shirts were made up, commemorating our season of hard work and the Moraine crew departed the shop for the final time on Thursday afternoon with heads held high.

-Max (Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah Crew

We wrapped up our last week of work Rawah style on the McIntyre Trail. Earlier in the season, we worked on McIntyre for a day and got about 4.5 miles in: it was a day full of accomplishment and hard work! On Monday, we spent most of the day hiking to the junction of McIntyre. Even though it was a tiring day for everyone, we did not give up and kept hiking up until we found a beautiful meadow that lead up to a nice woody area where we set up camp. After we set up camp, we decided to wrap up the day with some fun lessons! There were three different lessons that were all fun, but we also learned a lot. Zoe did her lesson on how to French braid hair; this lesson was not easy for the boys, but they tried until they got it! The French braiding lesson was followed by Jordan’s lesson on how to belly dance. It takes a lot of hip control to belly dance and a lot of practice, but we all got the moves down! After both fun lessons, Reche finished up the day and taught us French! We learned how to count, our body parts, colors, and some very famous food like “fromage” (cheese). Monday was a day full of accomplishments and fun lessons!


Madi and Zoe ready to hike.


On Tuesday, we split up into small groups to hit the McIntyre Creek and McIntyre trails. After morning breakfast and JHAs, we had two saw crews out on McIntyre because we were informed that there were 55 trees that needed to be cleared so we got our best saw to get to work! As the crew separated and said their goodbyes for the day, Reche, Zoe and James got ready to work on McIntyre Creek trail. It was a long walk before they got to their first drain, but as soon as they arrived at their first drain, it was only a matter of time until that trail would be cleared. Reche, James, and Zoe finished the McIntyre Creek trail that was very steep, but also beautiful on the eyes. The drain crew on McIntyre was Jordan, Ruby Ann, and Stevie. They also had a very successful day, they ended up digging 86 drains and getting 2.5 miles up the trail. When they first started they thought that there would be a long hike between drains, but after break they reached the part of the trail that was previously an old road. On the road, the drains were about five feet apart from each other. Tuesday was another successful day for the Rawah Crew.


Daniel and Madi  having fun on saw!

On Wednesday, the crew all decided to reunite and finish McIntyre together, so that they could hit Medicine Bow as well. As usual, we started our day with breakfast and JHAs. As the Rawah crew was in the middle of a stretch, they heard a pack of coyotes howling. It was a cool experience, but also a scary one. After finishing up McIntyre trail, the crew decided to split up once again so that we could get as far as possible on the Medicine Bow Trail. With Reche and Ruby Ann crosscutting, and Noah, James, and Nathan on drains, the South trail of Med Bow had a successful day. We also had Jordan and Stevie on the other saw. They finished cutting the rest of the trees on McIntyre and started working on the north part of the Med Bow. Zoe, Daniel, and Madi worked on drains alongside Jordan and Stevie.  There weren’t many drains for them to dig, so they decided to put in new drains in spots where the trail was really rutted up.  Even though we did not finish the Medicine Bow trail, we successfully cleared some trees from the trail and dug many awesome drains!


 Stevie and Jordan reached the Med Bow!!

On our final day of hitch, we were all tired, but we had to hike out early because we had to pack and clean the bunk house, so that we can leave early Friday morning. It was a sad morning knowing that it was our last time hiking out with each other, but we all decided to cherish the moment and had an amazing hike out. We also met up with Tommy and Morgan on the way out and they joined us back at the bunkhouse for lunch. After we got to the cars we headed back to Stub to sharpen tools for one last time. We wrapped up the season with one last amazing week. We have done some incredible work this past summer and accomplished a lot as a crew. These past 10 weeks we have grown from a crew to a family.  No matter where life will take the ten of us, we will always be the DARN TOUGH RAWAH CREW!!!!!


-Stevie and Reche (Crew Leaders of the week)

The Shadow Mountain Crew embraced their last week in Grand Lake. We spent our Tuesday working again with Vicki Burton, installing, removing, and updating trail signs for mountain bikes in the Winter Park area. This project, called Trail Smart Sizing, is a huge undertaking by the Sulphur Ranger District to improve marking, maintenance, and marketing of the trails available to users. It was a successful day, installing three brand new, accurate signs, as well as taking steps to decommission user created trails. We also bumped into a local woman with her horse named Crackers and friendly conversation ensued. She also let the Shadow Crew pet Crackers, which was a highlight of the day for many crew members.

Wednesday, we set out to tackle some unfinished business. Earlier in the season, we attempted to crosscut nearly 17 miles of the High Lonesome Trail in a single day. Unfortunately, time did not permit, and we had to forgo cutting 10 trees.  Lucky for us, the section we couldn’t do that day was close to the Monarch Lake Trailhead, and by lunchtime, 9 of the leftover trees were cleared from the trail. The one that was left had, well, some problems. Mary and Adam started cutting it, and about halfway through, noticed a surprising increase in bees fluttering around the saw. They stopped cutting, and Mary decided that she was going to try and kick the tree and run away from the bees. The top half of the tree came off, with some effort, and so did the bees (then, we all discovered they were wasps). RUN! We frolicked up the trail, leaving the wasps to make their home in a tree, now halfway crosscut in the middle of the trail. Lesson learned: make sure there aren’t critters making their home in the tree before you open it up!

Thursday, we didn’t run into any wasp issues! Instead, we ran into a lake, specifically, Columbine Lake. We hiked up to the cirque, and by the time we got there, we were ready to eat lunch! After we stuffed our stomachs full of trail snacks, we walked to a section of tread that needed to be rerouted. We worked in the area, decommissioning braided social trails and defining the tread on which the true trail. As our last day of “real” trail work with our crew, we took a lot of pictures to document the season (featured below).

On Friday, the whole crew, Amy and Kendra included, got together for a pot luck breakfast. We had blueberry pancakes, cinnamon rolls, watermelon, apple juice, and plenty of coffee.  The crew bonded over reflection of the past events of the summer in preparation to say goodbyes. We spent the rest of the day cleaning our houses. In the evening, we came together for one last Shadow Mountain Movie Night, a screening of Brother Bear, projecting off Adam’s laptop upon the coffee table, as we all crammed together on the couches to see the screen.

Saturday morning, we jumped (slowly) into our cars, said final goodbyes to our homes, and made our way to Estes Park for one last week in the mountains.


Sometimes, you just need to embrace your inner koala. Sometimes, we also do trail work.


Amy, Mary, and Kendra go on an adventure, and naturally, flying on their tools is the way to get where they need to be.


The Shadow Mountain Crew at Columbine Lake.

-Mary (Crew Leader)


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.


James and Noah sawed this tree so fast!


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)



In the Field: Week 6

Moraine Crew

This was a long week for the Moraine crew. It was full of ups and downs but ended on some pretty high notes. Throughout the week we remained split up into two or three groups to finish up the solar shower project at Glacier Basin Campground and the ADA pathway at one of the Moraine Park Campground comfort stations.

Max, Anna, Randy, and I worked on completing the frame for the path using some of the beams that we stained earlier in the season. Once this frame was completed we packed down about an inch or more of a clay, sand and pebble mixture, known as road base, using a motorized compacter. This gave us a smooth and even surface to lay the asphalt on. Unfortunately, the compactor we used for the road base was not heavy enough to pack down the asphalt layers. This was a big hiccup and slowed our project down a lot because we had to find a larger, and harder to operate, asphalt compactor. Also this thing weighed about 500 pounds making it very hard to transport requiring some creative thinking and clever engineering to both load and unload it from the dump truck. But it was well worth it in the end because after about 10 passes with this we had made a nice hard layer that can be used for years to come.


ada trail

Randy using the small compactor on the final layer before we brought on the large compactor for the finishing touch!

Over in Glacier Basin Campground the solar shower was well on its way to total completion before Thursday. It only needed a bit more on the final coat of paint and the doors that Anna built with Wilson needed to be hung. But mother nature did not care about our plans. On Monday and Tuesday painting got derailed because of rain storms, and the rain caused paint from the morning to run and dripped onto the pavement! Little hiccups like this are a major pain because we had to take over an hour to scrub and clean the paint up. Also, the wind caught one of the doors before the stabilizing spring was put in place and broke the hinges causing another partial day setback. But just like in the rest of our lives we need to learn to work with the unexpected and try to make the best of it.


Finished door set in place with most of the final coat of Park Service Brown painted on the rest of the Solar Shower.




Our excitement with the completion of these projects was partly because we got them finished and get to see the final product but we are also excited for the next project to start! Next week we will all be working together on building over 150 feet of elevated turnpike style trail to connect the new solar shower with a parking lot we will construct and the nearby comfort station. This will provide a durable and long lasting surface to access these amenities and allow for vegetation to regenerate and thrive in the area.

Aside from work this week we all got together for Randy’s lesson on Wednesday night. We had to wait until after dark for this one because Randy would be teaching us how to orient with the stars! We all learned how to identify the constellation Ursa Major, or the big dipper, and use it as a reference to finding the North Star. Once you know where it is you can extrapolate out the other cardinal directions.

Also Moraine Crew got a visit at the Kelly cabins by a local bear! Luckily it did not break into any of our cabins, but it did try to get into our neighbor’s cabin and checked some of our car doors which were locked! Hayley woke up in the middle of it happening and spooked the bear off after getting this picture from the safety of her room.


-Will (Crew Leader)

Boulder Crew 

The dawn of our big project is finally upon us! This week, Boulder Crew packed up camp and headed to Pawnee Pass to do some critical trail repair. We found ourselves challenged, intrigued, and extremely satisfied by the past week of work.

Working on Pawnee Pass meant that our crew was allowed to camp in an area that isn’t open to normal recreators. We felt extremely lucky to be allowed to stay in such a pristine and beautiful place.


Home away from home!

From our little camp, we had an incredible view of the massive alpine lake nearby. With wildflower season peaking, and plenty of wildlife around, there was no shortage of eye candy during the week. We even had a curious coyote approach camp one evening!


Crew and a view

Our work consisted primarily of removing obstacles from the trail so as to create a more even and accessible surface. Some of the objects removed include: massive rocks, huge rocks, and really big rocks. We also spent considerable time trimming brush along the trail, and installing rock steps. This type of work is exceptionally satisfying as one can see improvements become immediately beneficial.


Rachel working hard to make the trail beautiful

Having the opportunity to work in the high alpine is an awesome way for the crew to round out the season. We are looking forward to our next two weeks of work, hoping to finish strong!


Taking lunch break with a view

-Zach (Crew Leader)

Estes Crew

This week, (B)estes crew worked alongside the Vegetation Crew in RMNP for the duration of the week. Monday through Wednesday we had the opportunity to walk the meadows around the park and spray some invasive species on the west side and east side of the park. We sprayed leafy spurge, Canadian thistle, hock weed and a few other plants that were non native to the park. The real fun came on Thursday as we drove up trail ridge road to recover some old fencing that was dropped off by helicopter in the 90’s. The intended purpose for the fencing was to make some enclosure to study tundra ecology, however this never happened and the fencing was left to sit. The “Veg” crew decided they could make use of the fencing and decided to take a day to retrieve it. We rolled five 400lb rolls of wire up a mountain to our trucks and then hauled them back to headquarters. The work was hard but incredibly rewarding! While we only were able to work two weeks with veg crew, it was jammed packed with tons of learning and valuable experience.12.jpg22.jpg41.jpg37.jpgmax shovel5

-Nate (Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah Crews

During our sixth week of work, the Rawah Crews spent some quality time in the Comanche Peaks Wilderness. We returned to the Big South Trail to pick up where we left off a couple of weeks earlier. On Monday, most of our day was spent hiking six miles to set up our back-country base camp for the week. For some of our crew members, this was the farthest backpacking trip they had embarked on (carrying tools no less). This trail follows the meandering Poudre River in a wilderness travel zone, which made for a beautiful week of work. When we arrived at campsite sixteen we were greeted by remnants of campers-past. We decided that we would do a thorough camp clean-up to start the next day.

Tuesday morning, we were greeted by a curious moose strolling the perimeter of our camp. After a morning trash pickup, the crews split in half to work on the Flowers and Big South trails. This was the first time we had split our ten person mega-crew this summer. The Flowers crew would soon experience a merciless calf workout. This trail had few, if any, switchbacks and even fewer drains so much of the day was spent constructing new ones. That afternoon, the saw team encountered a large and difficult tree that had fallen on the trail. On the hike down the drain crew came onto the scene and as a team, all five crew members conquered the task and were able to hike back to camp as a family. The Big South crew had an exciting start to their day with a river crossing. This was a great way for our crew to work together as a team and create a plan of action for crossing with packs and tools. Soggy feet could not dampen our spirits, and the crew went on to dig many drains and cut many trees.

Wednesday the crews did a switcheroo to experience and finish up the two trails. After successfully crossing the Poudre, the new Big South crew went on to finish the trail, landing them out of the wilderness and into Rocky Mountain National Park. This felt like a major accomplishment connecting the northern woods of Colorado to the glory of the national park. The new Flowers crew spent the day climbing 2000 vertical feet into alpine, marking the completion of maintenance up to the Mirror Lake Trail junction. Reche and James bucked 14 large trees while the drain team cleared drains to treeline.

Thursday, we packed up camp and finished the 2.5 miles of trail on the way back to the trailhead. This week was full of exciting challenges! From river crossings to calf-destroying climbs, each member of the crew had to meet the challenges that these trails presented. We were all thrilled about finishing the trail. Each of us are grateful to be a part of a team that cleared the way for people to enjoy their national forest. Our hard work has made this beautiful walk into Rocky Mountain National Park accessible once again.

Campsite hike

Rawah mega-crew hiking to our campsite.


Zoe ready to conquer drains on Big South!

Big Soutyh

Wednesday’s Big South crew after completing the trail!


Daniel and Nate in alpine on Flowers trail.

-Madi & James (Crew Leaders of the Week)

Tuesday morning, we were up and gathered around with the team, ready to start stretch and safety when special guest Geoff Eliot arrives. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to enjoy Geoff’s presence for two of our team members were to work with another team that specializes in building fences that prevent unauthorized vehicles on trail. Regardless of the separation, we all had the opportunity to hear the sound of Geoff’s spirit animal, a river otter. The rest of our team worked on the Strawberry Lake Trail doing the normal routine of brushing and digging drains. With Geoff in our presence, the day seemed to go a lot faster.

On Wednesday, the team was all together, we hopped into Bruce(the forest truck) and drove to Rogers Pass, the trail we would be working on. The drive seemed pretty chill at first, until we drove up a dirt road. This road had rocks, rocks big enough to make the truck dance. We were bouncing up and down, left to right, it was like a mosh pit inside the truck. It was not fun for the poor soul that had to use the restroom. We finally arrived at the trailhead, grabbed our tools, and began to hike. We hiked and hiked, not a single stop to brush. We stopped a couple of times to clear the trail of fallen tree but that was it, the trail was in great condition. On the other hand, the trail was different from past trails I’ve worked on. With unstable rocky ground, strong winds, and heights that can end it all with the roll of an ankle, what can go wrong? Absolutely nothing! The hike was amazing! It had great scenic views and the wind was powerful enough to cool you down.

Thursday we were split up again, but we were essentially on the same trail. We worked on the High Lonesome trail. One half worked on the beginnings of the trail and the other half worked towards the end of the trail. We split up to cover more ground and it worked. We brushed most of the trail but unfortunately we didn’t complete the whole trail due to time. The trail itself was really peaceful, we had a great time.

Finally, Friday comes around and we are back together as an entire team again. Friday was different from other days. We worked on the Knight Ridge Trail, but we didn’t drive to the trail, we sailed the waters of Lake Granby on a speedboat to get to our location, we had a blast! Our goal was to get rid of as many fallen trees as we could, so we brought our cross cuts and got to work. In total, we got rid of a of 27 trees, it doesn’t seem like much but for hand to hand labor it was plenty. Although the sail to our location was fun that was not the highlight of the day. We sat down and had lunch and not one, not two, not three, but four moose walk in our lunch break one by one. We were surrounded by four large male moose, fortunately they were more interested in their organic, non-GMO, all natural, gourmet vegan grass than our generic sandwiches. No one was hurt that day and we all sailed back home in peace.

-Rick (Crew Leader of the Week)

In The Field: Week 5 – Shadow Mountain Crew

Over the past week, the Shadow crew was in the wilderness area near Devil’s Thumb. We hiked on trail for about a mile and a half and then an additional mile and a half or so off trail up to a cabin. This cabin was likely built by hauling materials like the wood stove, cabinets, and solar panels up on snowmobiles. The finished product as we found it was about 300 sq feet, had a full kitchen, two wood stoves, two swings, a snowboard, three sets of skis, and countless other household items. The Ortovox and skis we found, along with the epic peaks nearby led us to believe that it was likely used as a ski cabin in the winters. We were able to demolish the whole cabin in one day and created a burn pile that a crew will come back in the winter to burn. Not only would it be unsafe to burn in the middle of the summer, but our district is also on a stage 3 fire ban, related to the nearby Sugarloaf Fire.

Destroying the cabin was hard and potentially dangerous work, but for most of us it was a welcome change to digging drains and clearing corridor on trails. It gave us an opportunity to gain experience with tools we don’t use often such as drills, crowbars, and Emma’s favorite, sledgehammers. The roofing was resting on a net of chicken wire that was stapled into the roof poles. Nico, Caitlin, and Adam got to spend hours on top of the roof with our Trails Coordinator, Miles Miller, using wire cutters to clip off the chicken wire and roll it into piles to be hiked out.

The last two days of our hitch were spent hiking out the material from the cabin that did not go in the burn pile. Among our crew of six, our 2 Forest Service supervisors, our Trails Coordinator, the three Student Conservation Association interns, and our two llamas, we hiked out about 3000 lbs of garbage and building materials. During one of the hikes we had a massive afternoon thunderstorm that dropped some heavy rain and even hail. Our crew got drenched and we had to hide out in our tents for a few hours that afternoon. Thankfully Mary cooked us an excellent dinner that night that warmed us all up, two pots worth of Gato Gato! 20180710_18465220180712_14004520180712_140241

-Caitlin (Crew Leader of the Week)