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!

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Terrific turnpikin’

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Jess and Rachel practicing the arduous yoga pose: gopher form

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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Nate and Glenn walking through the trees.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Before…

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After!

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)

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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James and Nathan posing before they CRUSH this rock wall.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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The Crew walks to Doe Creek.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Moraine Crew showcasing their success in digging trenches!

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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.

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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!

RMCCC

-Morgan Cannon and Tommy Egland, Field Coordinators

Winter Updates

As the winter wind settles into Estes Park, we are working through our preparations for the 2018 season!

That being said, before we look forward to next summer, I wanted to share a Story Map created by one of our 2017 Conservation Corps Crew Members, Ally Gustafson. Ally created the map as part of her internship requirement as she prepares to graduate from Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources with a degree from from the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources Department. The map provide a unique visual perspective on the geographic scope of the Conservation Corps’ impact during the 2017 season. Check out the map and project highlights at the following link: RMC-CC Project Story Map – 2017.

Now, let’s take a look at 2018!

First and foremost, we are excited to announce the 2018 application for crew leader and crew member positions are live as of 12:00PM on December 1, 2017 (TODAY). Be sure to share this opportunity with anyone interested in learning about the outdoors, natural resource management, and conservation work. Crew members need NO previous experience, just a desire to learn and a strong work ethic! Follow the link below for more information: https://rmconservancy.org/learn-us/rocky-mountain-conservation-corps/

Secondly, we are pleased to share that we are transitioning into becoming an AmeriCorps program. This transition will allow us to provide a greater benefit to our Conservation Corps interns in the form of an Education Award that can be applied to tuition, student loans, and other qualified educational expenses. This will allow participants to better utilize the educational benefits of the internship depending on their particular educational goals.

Lastly, as we gear up for 2018, follow our “Photo of the Season” series on Facebook and Instagram. Each installation features a photo from the 2017 season selected by a corps member with a brief description of their selection!

I’ll leave you with a photo of a recent ski trip in Rocky Mountain National Park…

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The season has officially changed in Rocky. Photo taken on November 17, 2017.

-Geoff Elliot, Conservation Corps Manager

End-Of-Season Wrap-Up

With the 2017 Conservation Corps season a month behind us, the Conservancy has had a chance to compile some of the data from the season and reflect on our successes and lessons learned. Most notably, we are excited to share our 2017 End-Of-Season Portfolio, recapping the experience of the crews, work completed, and individual reflections from the season. To view the portfolio, visit 2017 End-Of-Season Portfolio.

Over the course of the twelve week season, the Conservancy hosted 36 conservation corps interns spread across six crews. All in all, the crews contributed over 12,000 hours of volunteer service on public lands. This service equates to $289,680 contributed to the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service in Northern Colorado. During these hours on-the-ground, the crews:

  • Maintained 225 miles of trail
  • Cleared 1,452 downed trees from trail
  • Repaired or installed 1,110 drain structures
  • Built 28 check steps
  • Constructed 2.7 miles of trail
  • Constructed or repaired ten stream crossings
  • Replaced 267 feet of turnpike (raised trail through wet areas)
  • Planted 2,480 native plants
  • Decommissioned more than 1,000 feet of social trail
  • Rebuilt a 1,200 square foot deck
  • Moth-Balled a historic structure by creating 25 window coverings
  • Refinished the exteriors of five cabins
  • Installed 50 bear boxes for campsites
  • AND MUCH MORE!

In addition, the young adults developed leadership skills, learned about the natural and cultural history of the Rocky Mountains, and gained valuable jobs skills and career resources to help propel them forward in their academic and professional careers.

To see a brief recap of the season, view our slideshow at 2017 End-Of-Season Recap.

As we work through the off-season, stay tuned for posts of Corps members’ reflections and photos from the summer!

FINAL Week

Last week we wrapped up the season by bringing all six crews back to Estes Park and Moraine Park Campground for a final week of work and reflection. The week began with the Conservancy’s Annual Picnic on Saturday, August 5th. The picnic provided an opportunity for the Corps to interact with the Conservancy’s members and share their stories from a summer of work. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After a day off on Sunday, the crews were back out in the field for their last project. For this day, we all traveled over to the Sulphur Ranger District to help complete critical tread work on the Monarch Lake Trail. After 5 hours on trail, the crews had maintained nearly four miles of trail, completed a turnpike, constructed a stepping stone crossing, brushed a few 100 feet of trail, and much more! The day ended with smiling faces, as the crews finished up some of the leftover fudge from the picnic!

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On Wednesday, after a free day on Tuesday, the crews hit the ground in Hidden Valley at  Junior Ranger Headquarters to help lead activities for prospective Junior Rangers! The crews helped 80 children through activities related to Leave Not Trace, the 10 Essentials, food storage, and trail building.

Thursday brought all of the crews into the office for a day of portfolio work and career development activities, including resume workshops and a USA Jobs training. The crews wrapped up the day at the Rocky Mountain National Park Volunteer Appreciation Event.

For the last day, on Friday, we all woke up bright an early to summit Mount Chiquita in the Mummy Range of RMNP. The sun shined on us the whole hike, even if the wind was brutal. The views from the top did not disappoint. IMG_0380

Today, I move back behind my desk to begin to dig through the piles of gear and compile the results from the season. I look forward to sharing all of the season’s accomplishment soon. Aside from the quatifiable outcomes, I can tell you from experience that these young people were hard working, passionate, energetic, and altogether inspiring to all that worked with them!

-Geoff Elliot (Conservation Corps Manager)

In the Field: Week 8

Red Feather and Rawah Crews

The last hitch for Red Feather and Rawah was a combined hitch. Our goal for the week was to construct two turnpikes and a foot bridge. After a pretty 4 mile hike up the MacIntyre trail we began work on an old rotting bridge that would become a new turnpike. We removed many rotten boards, rusty nails, and some stringers (support logs for the old bridge).

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Around 11, Chris and Matt our USFS friends came to give us further direction. After a few more hours of hard work we cleaned up the worksite and went to set up camp.

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On Tuesday, the construction of the turnpike and bridge began. We replaced a rotten stringer for the new bridge and dug ditches that would act as drains underneath the turnpike.  The drain walls were lined with smaller logs on each side to assist in draining and support.  The drains then led into a trench surrounding the turnpike.  The next step was to fill the turnpike with rocks and then dirt to create a stable surface that would allow water to drain. It was beautiful.

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The bridge also required a lot of work.  Logs were chopped and nails were removed. Our fellow Forest Service friends arrived to assist in the leveling and placing of boards on the bridge. After a hard day of work and a quick jump into the river, we headed back to camp for a final hitch meal and some good old fashioned star-tipping (which involved a lot of laughing and falling over).

Wednesday was our last day of hitch ever. The crew divided up to work on constructing the final turnpike and to finish the foot bridge. The turnpike crew had a lot of work ahead of them. We worked to dig the drains in a large mud pit and Jordan took quite a tumble and ended up with a soggy bum. The small time allotment didn’t permit us to make the same type of turnpike as the day before. Using some ingenuity and a few pieces of extra rebar the final turnpike was born. The bridge was not quite finished by hike out time, but the majority was, and it looked great.  It should be finished in the coming weeks by Chris and Matt

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Our final week was a fantastic, fun, and unique week. “Redwah” finished it like they started, together.

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-Abigail Wetzel (Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week)

Estes Crew

The crew started the week off as per the usual scooping poop- but unlike other days the mules made a reappearance later in the day. The team started the day by beginning construction on a stabilizing rock wall and planting rocks along the trial. Then the mules arrived!! Each of the 9(!!) mules brought two bags filled with dirt, to help build up the tread in the turnpike. The dirt was then released onto areas of the turnpike that were otherwise complete. The dirt on each side of the mule must be released at the same time, so that the mule doesn’t have an unequal balance of weight. . The team used tampers to pound the dirt into the trail. Tampers are tools with a heavy, square, base that is used to compress dirt and tread material. About 50ft of turnpike were completed and filled with tread. (Unfortunately we didn’t snap any photos).

Tuesday entailed a change of scenery. The crew headed to a horse trail behind Moraine Park Campground to build logs checks. Log checks help keep the trail in place, reduce rutting from heavy use and help with drainage.

In the afternoon Compass Coalition came to shoot some footage for a video featuring the Conservation Corps and Rocky Mountain Conservancy! The film team is shooting for a series called Park Champions. As newly designated Park Champions the crew went back to work. We were able to complete 3 log checks as well as collect a number of large “capstone” rocks. After work the film crew came over to get footage of the crew barbecuing & preparing dinner. Geoff and Tommy joined as well!IMG_1451

IMG_1453On Wednesday the crew continued building log checks in Moraine. The film crew & Geoff and Tommy joined us for most of the morning! The team de-bermed 150ft of trail, added 2 additional log checks and closed a sizable social trail using boulders and brush. After work the entire crew went up to Trail Ridge Road to watch the sunset. The Compass Coalition team joined us and got some incredible shots!IMG_1459

Although the crew enjoyed their work at Moraine, they were excited to return to their project at Bierdstat on Thursday. The day was bittersweet as it was their final day with their NPS staff members. The team spent most of the day crushing in the turnpike. They crushed in more than 100ft of turnpike log. Additionally, the team prepared and moved two more logs, planted rocks to deter horses from going off trail and re-duffed the worksite. The crew also got to share their knowledge with the Colorado Young Leaders volunteer group.

-Grace Oh-Willeke (Crew Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

Howdy everyone! Shadow Mountain crew checking in one final time for the season after an awesome last week with the Sulphur Ranger District. This week, we partnered with the Headwaters Trail Alliance for a turnpike project on Ice Hill, a popular mountain biking trail just outside Winter Park, CO. We spent the first day digging drains around the project site to lessen water across the trail, cutting down stringer trees to line the turnpike with, and gathering rocks. It was fun to work with the volunteers, especially trail dog, Holly. We de-limbed and peeled the logs, which helps to prevent the wood from retaining water and rotting. On Wednesday, we finished prepping the logs and then dug trenches and set the logs, securing them with rebar.

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Will uses a gas powered drill to make holes for rebar in a stringer log

Once the logs were set, we lined the bottom of the turnpike with GeoTech, a durable fabric. We then filled the trail in with crushed rock to elevate the tread above the water level.

On Thursday, we had just arrived at the worksite when three moose appeared from the woods! We took a break to give them space, stay safe, and (of course) take Snapchats.

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Three bull moose bless our nearly complete turnpike

After our unexpected furry volunteers left, we got back to work, digging a barrow pit and packing dirt as the final layer of tread across our turnpike. Once the turnpike was complete, we restored the work site by decompressing the grass and spreading duff.

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The crew works to rehabilitate the work site

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The freshly completed turnpike!

caption: “The freshly completed turnpike!”)

 

Overall, we had a fun final week and I’m super proud of the work we did, which will help keep hikers’ feet and bikers’ tires dry for years to come!

-Izzy Owen (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

Kawuneeche Crew

After visiting the Rawah crew in their secluded habitat for a weekend full of hiking, exploring and a whole lot of driving, the Kawuneeche crew reluctantly headed home to prepare for their last week of work in Rocky. Monday morning came early but with a cup of coffee and a rigorous round of morning stretches, the crew was ready for another rousing day of sawing, scraping, and staining.

 

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Garret and Jon feel the burn as they loosen their  lethargic legs.

While Izzy, Kyle, and Tate stayed behind to make more progress on the Alpine Hot Shot deck, Jon, Ashleigh and Garret made the long drive over to Green Mountain on the West Side to start work on staining the last cabin of the season. Both groups showed off their impressive skillsets, managing to lay 60 square feet of decking and slather on a tub and half of stain without incident. Needless to say, our park service supervisors were happier than ever.

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Nervous and startled, Jon is caught in the act of publicly scraping a Green Mountain cabin.

 

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Mr. Maitland shows his confidence in the Crew’s solid craftsmanship.

On Tuesday the split crew switched roles, with the deckers rolling out stain and the stainers rolling out the deck. With swift precision (despite the angered wasp nests), both the cabin and the decking were completed! The deck crew even had time to mix, pour and smooth concrete pads for the new handicap and ramp. Tired and hungry from all of their success, the crew went to the Stanley Hotel for their weekly dosage of 5k and free food.

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Chuck looks to Tate for guidance while Ashleigh successfully ducks out of the way.

As the cabins at Green Mountain were stained to perfection, the crew was once again united into it’s natural squad of 6.  Yet unfortunately it would be Chuck’s (one of our park supervisors) last day working with us. After a morning of sweeping sawdust and hauling wheelbarrows of landscaping rock, Bob surprised us all with a lunchtime parting pizza party! After we had our fill of pizza and playful banter, we tackled a frame construction project for the handicap accessible ramp.

 

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The Kawuneeche Crew radiates pride while standing on their new, expertly constructed deck.

Thursday was our last day of work so we woke up a bit early to indulge in a morning donut run. After sharing the crumbs with our supervisors, we started work on building new picnic tables. Four hours of sanding, assembling, and staining later we had two brand new quality tables, even if they were a bit wobbly. When we finished lunch, it was finally time to return our tool buckets. After a good scrubbing with sand paper, the pliers and cat’s paws looked as shiny as new. Bob inspected them, gave us a thumbs up and we said our goodbyes to the project shop family. It was a bittersweet drive home as thoughts turned from our memories to packing up our summer and turning out the lights for the last time at the cabins. It seemed too poetic to walk out on our porch for one of the last times and to see the end of a rainbow.

 

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 Sadly, there was no pot of gold in the Park Ranger’s cabin. We checked.

Next week is final week, which means we’re back in Moraine campground with the rest of the corps for some trail work, resume building, and emotional goodbyes. It was a summer never to forget.

-Garret Fox (Kawuneeche Crew Leader

Boulder Crew

It’s the final countdown. We recently finished up our final week of work in Nederland and it called upon all of our trail prowess that we had gained throughout the season.

This last week of work was spent “on hitch” (working and camping in the backcountry). I and the rest of the crew were very stoked for it as the chosen trail was both incredibly beautiful and in desperate need of repair. We woke up Monday morning and headed to the 4th of July Trailhead with packs nearly overflowing with food, tools, camping gear, and food. We took a lot of food.

The hike in was fairly agonizing as it’s mostly uphill and our packs weighed upwards of 40 pounds; however, we eventually made it to our beautiful camping spot situated at Diamond Lake. We unpacked camp as efficiently as possible and got to work. Our first, and biggest, project was to tear out an old bridge near a stream crossing and put in about 20 feet of rock turnpike (a raised structure used to keep hikers out of wet, muddy areas). We began tearing out the bridge and gathering massive rocks to outline the turnpike with. It was muddy, grunt-filled work, but by the end of the day we had kicked some serious booty and made a ton of progress. We headed back to camp, cooked up some smashed veggie burgers for dinner, and all read poems for our crew poetry slam (this was all Andrea’s idea).

Day two was spent finishing up our rock turnpike. This was our first real, full 10-hour day since we no longer had morning travel time in the truck. We finished the rock walls for the turnpike, filled it with crush (fist sized stones), and then capped it with dirt. It looked gorgeous. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we walked away that day both impressed and satisfied with our work. Additionally, I think I can also speak for all of us when I say that we were exhausted. We headed back to camp, toasted quesadillas, and turned in for an early night.

For our third day of hitch we split up into two groups in order to maximize our efficiency. The girls (Louisa, Andrea, and Ally) worked on creating a walk sidewalk (sunk-in rocks in which hikers can walk on in wet areas) while Ryan, Brendan, Ben (our Forest Service partner) and I tore out another old bridge and put in a turnpike. I can not speak for the work the girls did, other than that it turned out well, but our turnpike turned out to be a muddy mess. After tearing out the bridge we slopped around in about 8” of muck attempting to sink large rocks and dig drains. We changed our plan multiple times when it wasn’t panning out and, by some grace, we actually (nearly) finished the turnpike by the end of the day. It wasn’t my favorite structure we had built, but by golly, we did something that improved the trail. Once again fatigued from a full day of work, we prepared for our last night at Diamond Lake. In the middle of night, a massive lightning storm passed right through our camp; as you can imagine, lightning storms can be quite terrifying at 10,000 feet. I personally felt a mixture of both terror and awe as the lightning flashed overhead and the thunder resonated off of the peaks valley walls. Thankfully, we woke up in the morning to blue skies and regained confidences.

Thursday was to be spent packing up our backcountry camp, finishing up final projects, and heading out early to take care off final housekeeping items. Our work finished up without a hitch (pun intended) and we slogged out with heavy packs and light hearts. We stumbled out of the trailhead and rejoiced upon reaching the truck as we knew Rice Crispy Treats and Capri Sun’s awaited us inside. The rest of the work day consisted of cleaning and sharpening our tools from the season and cleaning out our faithful Forest Service truck. We bid our truck adieu  and celebrated our hitch and season with copious amounts of pizza at Crosscut (a pizza shop in Nederland) and entirely too much ice cream from the B&F Market.

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The next morning, we packed up all of our belongings at our Kelly Dahl campground and left the place that had been our home for the last 2 months. Driving away, we attempted to deal with waves of nostalgia while trucking it to Estes Park in order to begin our final, all crew week with the Conservancy.

And this is where I, and the blog for the 2017 Boulder Crew will leave you. My hope is that my, and the rest of the crew’s writings, has helped you to better understand what our life and season was like out here. I think that we all realize how truly lucky we are to get to live and experience this type of lifestyle, even if only for a few months. I know that I personally am walking away with new perspectives, skills, and most importantly, best friends.

Thanks for reading and remember to get outside!

Signing off,

-Lucas McClish – Boulder Crew Leader