Mid-Week – Conservation Corps

Mid-Week – Courtesy of Moraine Crew

Outline of the Week:

  • Monday – Career Tour of NPS and Invasive Species Management 
  • Tuesday – Educational Day – Field Classes: Alpine Ecology [Anna, Hayley, Max, Randy] Environmental Change in RMNP [Will], and Predator-Prey Relations [Barnabas]
  • Wednesday – Happy 4th of July (Day Off)
  • Thursday – Educational Day – Field Classes: Fire Ecology [Hayley and Barnabas attended], Edible and Medicinal Plants [Will attended], and Women of the Rocky Mountains [Randy, Max, and Anna attended]
  • Friday – Mid-Season Evaluations, Crew Feedback Meetings, and Poster Project

Last week was Mid-Week!!! We had a week packed full of education, personal growth, and fun.

On Monday, we participated in both a Career Tour and a conservation project with Resource Stewardship. The Career Tour was lead by the Education Director or RMC, Ms. Rachel Balduzzi. We toured different offices including the Wilderness Office, SAR Cache, Fire Cache, Greenhouse, and Office of Interpretation to learn about career opportunities with the National Park System. It was an awesome opportunity to see the wide range of careers within the NPS. After our tour, we had lunch with the all of the crews and then headed to participate in a Resource Stewardship project involving removing invasive species. We geared up with gloves, reflective vests, and shovels to extract musk thistle. It was a successful afternoon of removing invasive plants in the Park. We found an elk antler during our mission to remove all non-native plants.

elk antler

Elk Antler!

On Tuesday, we participated in education classes including Alpine Tundra Ecology. Anna, Hayley, Max, and Randy spent their day on the alpine tundra learning about the plants and animals that live there. The plants have to endure extreme weather conditions such as wind, snow and freezing temperatures, and harsh sunlight. Many of the plants have short growing seasons and take years to mature, which can easily be damaged if visitors go off trail. This class helped us understand the importance of following some park regulations that may otherwise seem silly like “keep off the tundra.


Alpine Tundra Hike

Will got the opportunity to learn about the geologic history of RMNP and how that relates to the modern vegetation communities that attracted trappers and settlers that altered the history of land use.  Activities like trapping beavers, hunting wolves and logging had had land legacy effects in changing how streams flow and altering the natural fire cycles. The effects of this land use is now something that RMNP manages to mitigate with activities like thinning forest stands to decrease fuel and implementing exclosures to allow vegetation around rivers to come back.

Barnabas was a part of the Predator and Prey class on Tuesday, learning about the relationships and the dependence predators and prey in the Rocky Mountain National Parks have on each other. A part of the program also consisted of labeling which predators and prey in the park are native or non-native, or even historically present and whether their species are endangered or not. We were taught that just because a species may have received endangered designation nationwide does not necessarily mean that the species is endangered in specific states. We hiked along parts of the montane forest and identified scats of various animals. Size, texture, color, and other factors help determine an animal’s scat. Even the season and recent meals also determining features of the scat. For example, moose in the springtime, have wetter scat due to eating from the wetlands and simply drinking more water.


Wednesday was the 4th of July, We all had the day off to enjoy ourselves and celebrate the holiday. Randy, Max and Anna went down to the Front Range to spend the day in Fort Collins and watch fireworks while Barnabas and Hayley stayed in Estes Park hanging out with some of the other crews. Will took the opportunity to do his first 14er and climbed Longs Peak with one of his high school friends from Colorado.

Thursday was similar to Tuesday with education classes, but the topics were different and included Fire Ecology, Women of the Rocky Mountains, and Edible and Medicinal Plants. Barnabas and Hayley learned about fire ecology and were able to hike part of the Fern Lake Trail to study the effects of a fire that occurred in the park in 2013. They learned about plants that are adapted to fire activity and others that do not do so well with fire. They also learned the process of fires, how they spread, how they are started, how they affect the environment they occur in, and how the environment influences fire activity. At the end of their day, they created posters that promote the use of prescribed fires or that have the purpose to alter the public’s view of fires that was created by the Smokey the Bear campaign.

Will had a great day learning medicinal uses for the plethora of native plants that can be found in RMNP. He was amazed at the amount of plants that can be used as beneficial medicine to help cure ailments from smallpox to upset stomachs and eye washes.

Friday was both a sad and happy day. It was our last day together with all the other crews, but we were able to focus on personal development and work on our crew posters that will be presented at the end of the season. We met with Tommy (Field Coordinator), Morgan(Field Coordinator), or Geoff (Program Director) to discuss our mid-season rose-bud-thorn and group dynamics. Then separately we met one-on-one to go over our personal goals, identify steps we can take to achieve these goals, share how staff can contribute to these goals, or create new goals for the second half of our season. After these meetings, we worked on our End-of-Season poster for the Moraine Crew. Anna had a creative idea to display our poster as a window sash with a different aspect of our season together expressed in each of the lights.

It is amazing to think about how we are now more than halfway done with the season! Although this week was a nice change of pace and opportunity for some R and R, we are all excited to get back to work on Monday and start some of our bigger projects for the season. These are the ADA trails at Glacier Gorge/ Moraine Park Campgrounds and the Ranger Station log replacement! See you all next week!

-Barnabas (Moraine Crew Member)

Ready, Set, Go! 2018 Season Training

Here we go again!

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

Stay tuned for more updates as the season goes on!


-Morgan Cannon and Tommy Egland, Field Coordinators


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!


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)

Off to the Work

Last week came in like a lion and out like a lamb. All thirty crew members joined the six crew leaders for a week of training and orientation and then left after a whirlwind of activity for their respective locations.

After a day filled with people checking in on Monday and picking up their gear and uniforms, Tuesday started with a morning in the office with orientation activities, team-building exercises, and preparation for the season.


Simbi gets to know the crews by sharing something about herself.

In the afternoon, the Conservation Corps was fortunate enough to get new boots to kick off the season (pun intended). A big thank you to the Warming House for their continued support and generosity in making sure the Corps is comfortable and prepared for a summer season on their feet.


On Wednesday, we had the USFS come in to guide a Defensive Driver training to ensure everyone was prepared to drive federal vehicles this summer. After a morning in the classroom, the National Park Service helped facilitate a trails training in Rocky Mountain National Park. This involved tool use, work safety, and the basics surrounding trail maintenance. A big thank you to our USFS and NPS partners for their help on Wednesday!


RMC-CC direct their attention toward NPS staff for Trails 101 training.

Thursday started out with a history class led by Estes Park Historian Laureate and Conservancy Board Member, Dr. Jim Pickering. Dr. Pickering helped place the Conservation Corps in the historical legacy of stewardship work and land protection in the Estes Valley.

When the crew returned from their time with Dr. Pickering, the crew leader stepped in to lead some specific training surrounding preparedness in the back-country, team dynamics, camp cooking, and Leave No Trace. IMG_3725


Boulder and Red Feather Lakes Crews review WhisperLite Operation for Backcountry Meals.


Estes Crew brainstorm meal ideas while sampling the crew leaders’ essential back-country spices.

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The Boulder Crew works through a teambuilding exercise.

Friday morning, we completed our crew pictures for the season and then the crews went off to complete their internship requirements surrounding goal-setting and self-evaluation.


2017 RMC-CC Crews


On Saturday, the crews hit the field for their first day of trail work on National Trails Day! The project was in Moraine Park Campground on a livery trail. With 41 total volunteers, we were able to help the Park decommission hundreds of square feet of social trail, install over a dozen log checks, and help retread nearly 100 feet of eroded trail surface!


With Training and Orientation Weeks behind us, the crews are heading out into the field for their first week of work alongside the National Park Service and USDA Forest Service. Stay tuned next week for updates from the field!

They’re Arriving!

Last week the crew leaders and I spent some time going over season logistics, meeting our agency partners, developing leadership skills and self-awareness, and establishing a vision for the season.

Monday we spent the day reviewing Conservancy expectation, going over training materials surrounding gender inclusivity and diversity, and sorting through gear. That’s not to say we didn’t have an opportunity to get outside and practice communication and tent-building skills with a series of blindfolded tent exercises.


Shelby, Red Feather Crew Leader, wrestles with the rainfly during the blindfold tent build.


Blake, Estes Crew Leader, finishes up his blindfold tent build.

Tuesday focused on developing self-awareness about personal skills, leadership tendencies, and areas of improvement. This was coupled with a visioning exercise, where the crew leaders developed there shared mission for the upcoming season. To break up the day, crew leaders got outside for a game of ninja before beginning an afternoon of vehicle training.


Crew Leaders Gus and Garret face off in Ninja

Wednesday centered around meeting with the agency partners and liaisons. This is the first opportunity for the crew leaders to meet with the National Park Service or USDA Forest Service staff they will be working with for the summer. It provides a time for the crew leader to get to know the agency folks, project planning to occur, and logistics/expectation setting to take place.

On Thursday, after a three-days of office work, the crew leads hit the trail for the day completing twelve miles round-trip on the North Fork Trail out of the Dunraven Trailhead. This allowed us to look back on some of the work completed by the RMC-CC in years past and get a taste of USFS and NPS trail systems. Initially, this was intended to be an overnight, but because of poor weather forecasts we cut it to a day. The best part…we had the trail all to ourselves!


Blake, Shelby, Izzy, Gus, Garret, and Lucas (Left to Right) enjoy a rare quiet day on the North Fork Trail.

After a long weekend in Estes, the crew leaders are back at it today welcoming their crews to Moraine Park Campground and gearing up for a summer full of conservation work! Stay tuned next week for updates on the Crew Orientation Week and National Trails Day before the RMC-CC head out to the field for the summer.

Final Week

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

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

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

-Geoff Elliot, Conservation Corps Manager

Education Week

All of the crews took a break from the field last week to return to Estes Park for Education Week. During Education Week, the crews get a chance to learn more about career opportunities in public lands and the natural and cultural history of Rocky Mountain National Park.

With Monday off in honor of the Fourth of July, the crews began their week on Tuesday with a split day. Half of the crews spent the morning volunteering alongside the National Park Service’s exotics team by helping remove invasive thistles from the Moraine Park Campground. For most of the crews this was a new side to resource management. Check out photos of them below:

IMG_1040IMG_0999IMG_1090The other half of the crews, spent the morning with Rachel Balduzzi, Education Director for Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Rachel guided them through the National Park Service headquarters area at RMNP providing insight into all of the different divisions and career pathways within the National Park Service.

For the second half of the day the two groups switched: those volunteering met up with Rachel for the afternoon, and the crews that spent their morning with Rachel headed out to manage invasive thistles.

For the rest of the week the crews were divided up taking classes on topics ranging from primitive survival skills to tundra ecology and medicinal plants to geology. I am still awaiting photos from the classes, I think the crews might have been too focused to even pull out the phones for a photo opp!