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!

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)

In The Field: Week 7 (Part One)

This week the Rawah Crew went into to the backcountry of the Rawah Wilderness. Our mission was to work on the Rawah and Sandbar Lakes Trails. With towering mountains, clear blue lakes, and the occasional moose, it was the perfect place to camp and work for the week.

Monday started with a seven mile hike in. We set up camp in between Camp Lake Trail and the Rawah Trail. After setting up a bear hang and filtering water, we began our first journey. We started on the Sandbar Lakes Trail and after digging a few drains, we came upon a tree with a diameter greater than 36 inches! After some hard work and a few cuts, the tree was finally able to be removed. At the top of the trail we were lucky enough to observe a moose peacefully resting in the grass.

On Tuesday, we started up the Rawah Trail and worked on the loop by the breathtaking Grassy Pass. This day was filled with brush removal that was blocking the trail, and the repair of dips and drains, with a beautiful backdrop of the Rawah Lakes.

Meadow- Rawah.jpg A meadow surrounded by mountains in the Rawah Wilderness

Wednesday was filled with more dips and drains and illegal campfire ring removal. With the help of Geoff, who came up to join us for the day, the day was packed full. Campfire ring removal starts with the rocks around the ring are first dispersed to the surrounding area. Then the ash is sifted through for trash to be hauled out. After the ash is clean, it is also dispersed and the ring is covered with surrounding dirt to promote re-growth. After some rumbling thunder we made if back to our base camp for a dinner of burritos with fresh caught fish from the Rawah Lakes!

Geoff and Crew.jpgGeoff Elliot, and crew members Eeland Stripling and Sam Ruhaloa working and an illegal campfire ring

On Thursday, Rawah crew started working on the rest of the trail heading toward the trailhead. After base camp was packed and not a trace was left, we headed out. After filling the day with cutting trees and digging dips and drains, the crew was ready for a hot meal and a warm shower.

Crew Member Garrett Fox.jpgCrew members Garret Fox and Eeland Stripling enjoying a quick break before setting out to Grassy Pass

Rawah View.jpgThe Rawah crew enjoying the view


Gus.jpgCrew member Gus Anderson working on the foundation for a check step

– Kyrie McCullough, Rawah Crew Leader of the Week

So far this season the Kawuneeche Crew has accomplished more work then was originally planned. Therefore, this past week, the Kawuneeche Crew was split up into two different crews to better allocate the work we were doing. Dax, Tatyana and I were on the west side for most of the week wrapping up work on the comfort station. Dominick, Rachel and Adam finished an old project up and started a new project on the East side by the Fall River Entrance Station.


On Monday, the east side crew finished a project that the RMNP Project Crew had been working on earlier in the season: reopening a comfort station and replacing old tables and bear boxes in Aspenglen Campground. Dom, Rachel, and Adam made quick work of shoveling and wheel barreling ten thousand pounds of crusher into a chase between comfort station rooms. To finish of their day, they setup the scaffolding around a building that they would be shingling in the morning. On the west side, Tatyana worked on paining the new doors that were installed. Because they were brand new, they required a lot of paint to get an even coat. On the inside of the comfort station, Dax and I began putting the final wood molding up that would cover all of the gaps from earlier work and give a beautiful real wood grain look the the insides.

Rachel scaffolding.jpgCrew member Rachel Gathering some of the scaffolding frame


Tuesday for the west side was just about the same as Monday- more paining and more framing. Dax and I finished the inside molding and began working on the exterior molding that needed to be replaced and then painted. The interior of the comfort station looks so much different then it has for the past seven weeks. The real wood is fitting for this comfort station because its in the Timber Creek campground. Due to pine beetle infestations on the west side the entire campground had to be clear cut because the dead trees were far too dangerous to the visitors of the campground. I felt that the wood (I believe it is pine) being put into the comfort station is almost symbolic of the recovering pine forest in the campground.

Wood Framing.jpgFinished wood framing around all of the new windows


Both crews got a lot of work done on Wednesday. On the east side, they managed to remove the old shingles on one side and get the new ones up by the end of the day. On the west side, Dax and I finished the exterior trim work and finished reinstalling the old comfort station barriers in one room. We also put in new larger mirrors in one of the rooms. Tatyana finished the exterior painting and put caulking around all of the mounted fixtures in the comfort station.

James Roof.jpgOne of our bosses James looking over the east side crews work as they near the top of the roof


On Thursday Tatyana went over to the east side and helped Geoff out at the Field Institute. She went through all of the photos from the season so far and selected the ones for the end of the year poster. Dax and I finished installing all of the mirrors and dividers on both of the rooms and did a lot of cleanup before lunch. At this point, the only things that needs to be done are putting the door handles on and completing the plumbing, which is almost complete. One of our bosses, Bob, decided to show his appreciation for the work we completed this summer buy buying us all pizza for lunch on the east side. The other side of the roof was also stripped and shingled entirely that day. It had been one great work week for the Kawuneeche Crew. Hopefully the last week will be even better!


Dom, Ad, and Rac.jpgleft to right: Dominick, Adam and Rachel near completion of the other side of the roof.


Dax & John.jpgDax and I putting the last few screws in the room dividers. John, project boss, in the background.

– William Fazio, Kawuneeche Crew Leader of the Week

It’s hard to believe it, but there is only one week of work left in our Conservancy summer. There’s a sense of urgency in planning for the weekends. We’re constantly wondering how we’re supposed to fit in all of the possible adventures with so little time. Our free time is being filled to the brim with climbing, hiking fourteeners, backpacking, and just soaking up the scenery around us. Lucky for us, the workdays can be filled with just as much adventure and awe-inspiring scenes as our weekend trips.

This week, the Estes Crew once again had the opportunity to work with the Resources Division of Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent our week working with the Restoration Crew, who works to plant and seed land where the natural vegetation has been destroyed. One of their big projects this year is restoring land that was upturned during a water line project through some of the main campsites in the park. In the area that we worked on every day this week, a total of 8,300 plants were required to restore the area. That’s a lot of plants, and we were glad to have played a huge role in helping the restoration crew complete their project goals. The plants we planted included a number of grass species, goldenrod, sage, and cinquefoil along with native tree species such as lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce.

Necessary Tools.jpgAll of the necessary tools for planting native vegetation on a restoration site.

Plant Lodgepoles.jpgCrew members Jessa (above) plants lodgepole pines in the Glacier Basin area of Rocky.

Ben restorationCrew member Ben plants just one of the 8,300 plants that have been planted to restore the Glacier Basin campground area.

– Miranda Thompson, Estes Park Crew Leader

This week has been a very productive one for the Shadow Crew. We set out on our second-to-last backcountry hitch on Tuesday (no llamas this time) to work on clearing trees and drainage maintenance. For our first day, we set up camp at the Forest Service’s Ptarmigan work center and started working on Darling Creek Trail. Fortunately for us, we were able to recruit one of our fellow forest service OHV crew members, Devon, to help us with clearing several large trees along the trail. With Devon leading the way with the chainsaw, Shadow crew members followed closely behind, digging drains and building new tread in ingrown areas.

Ute Pass Map.jpgAmy and John scope out the Ute Pass Map.

On Wednesday, the crew had to say their goodbye’s to Devon and continue on their own onto the very steep, Ute Pass Trail. With high hopes of matching the previous day’s work, we set out with cross cut saws and hoes in tow only to be disheartened by the intense elevation gain of the first few miles of the trail. We pushed on though, drain after drain, tree after tree, until it was time to find a campsite. But, what’s this? Abigail and John were nowhere to be found! Due to their quick lopping and drain building skills, they had gotten a few miles ahead of the rest of the crew. With daylight quickly diminishing, we pushed on in hopes to find our fellow crew members and still set up camp. After many steep inclines, the crew finally found them just in the nick of time – with an established campsite and water source! We ended the late work day at Elk Campsite and celebrated our thankfullness to have found John and Abigail with a ‘Thanksgiving feast’ of mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing thanks to Toby and Amy.

Moss-tache.jpgA little moss-tache mischief at lunch.

Thursday held a lot of problem solving for the cross-cutting dream team. We worked our way back down Ute Pass and then took the junction onto Ute Peak Trail to clear as much trail as possible. The crew has now proven that they are a well oiled tree cutting, drain building machine, and very few trees stand a chance against them and their saws. A mile away from the trailhead though, we thought we had met our match. Two connected monster trees measuring approximetly 25-30 inches in diameter looked us dead in the eyes with such ferocity that we weren’t sure if we could continue on. With Amy’s determination leading the group, we were able to tag-team the trees until they were no longer blocking the trail. It was a huge victory for everyone, and even Jed the Llama would be proud.

Wililam's Fork.jpg

For the last day of our hitch, the crew got the pleasure of working on the William’s Fork Trail. This trail gave the crew the opportunity to hike on some new, refreshing terrain that included a baby Lodgepole Pine forest and endless Aspen grove. The crew ended their hitch with a total of 97 trees cut and over 150 drains built. We returned to the Forest Service Village to sharpen tools and end our night with a very much anticipated village Bar-B-Que. The Shadow Mountain Crew looks forward to working their last hitch of the season.

Final Photo

-Ashley Fox, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week

This week the Boulder Crew went back to the beautiful Ceran St. Vrain trail and worked on a retaining wall. To begin the day the crew started with a 50 minute hike into the trail to the location of the retaining wall. We began building the retaining wall on the part of the trail that merged into two separate directions, one of which allowed jeep and horse use. The side of the trail on which the trail began to be built was looking very eroded as people were seemingly walking over the side rather than around. The crew split into different jobs, most collected crush rock and boulders to stabilize and build the retaining wall. Others focused on picking away at the wall and placing the rocks so they fit nicely. The crew worked on this trail on Tuesday and Wednesday, by Thursday the work on the retaining wall was minimal so the crew split up and most went to the Jean Lunning trail. At Jean Lunning there were two bridges which had broken railings. One was about half a mile into the trail and the other was about 1 mile. The crew used wrenches to remove the railings from the bridge and picked up the wood which had already broken off. Some of the railings posed a problem since they rusted or they were buried beneath dirt, but the Boulder crew does not take no for an answer. When they were finished they hauled the wood down to the trailhead, it took a few trips but the job was done. After lunch the crew worked on digging a few drains and clearing out some which were filled in with dirt and debris. On the final day of the week the Boulder crew went to a new trail which was the Fourth of July trail.  They began the day by covering some social trails to deter hikers from going on them. These trails were very prominent and it was even difficult to tell apart the main trail from the social trails. However, after the crew was done blocking the trails with dead trees and fallen branches the trails were no longer as visible as they were. The rest of the day was spent by digging drains and the crew got about a mile and half in to the trail.


Next week the Boulder crew looks forward to their first back country work hike of the season, where they will be working on fixing a bridge. That experience will be a great way to end the season for the Boulder Crew.

-Ashley Munoz, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week

Happy Friday!

I wanted to share a few things I discovered this week with the followers of this blog and anyone else who comes across it. First off, I was informed that a Rocky Mountain Conservancy – Conservation Corps alum published a paper last year through the University of Montana about the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. The paper was her undergraduate thesis and it talks about making a connection between environmental restoration and stewardship and the role this Conservation Corps plays in connecting those dots. I have linked the paper below, as I think it is a good read and worth a look:

Linking Environmental Restoration and Stewardship in Colorado: Learning from the Rocky Mountain Conservancy

Additionally, I came across a video from The White House featuring President Obama. It addresses his relationship with and belief about the importance of National Parks. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

Enjoy your weekend! Remember to get out there and play in YOUR public lands!

Crew Members Arrive…and depart

It’s been a busy week of training, orientation, and educational activities here in Estes and now the crews are venturing off to there bunkhouses, work centers and campsites. Now we can recap the activities that prepped the crews for their field work.

The week started off with crew members arriving to Moraine Park and settling in for the week. The morning started out with ice-breakers and a game of ninja to get the crews up and moving. After logistics, paperwork and gear distribution the crews met individually to establish group expectations and goals.


Crew members start the morning with icebreakers


Crew Leaders Amy and Tom square off in a game of ninja (Amy emerged victories)

Afterwards the crew leaders led training on Leave No Trace, back country essentials, tool safety and environmental hazards. Training was followed with a relay designed to test crew members on what they had learned, they had to pack a backpack, set up a bear hang, light a whisperlite, answer Ten Essential and LNT trivia and finish as a group in lightning position.


Kawuneechee crew leader Dominic teaches his crew how to use a whisperlite


Boulder Crew leader Tom teaches the crews about tool safety.


Crew members finishing the first task of the relay


On to the second task of setting up a bear hang


Crews finishing the relay in lighting position

Leader training was followed by a trip to the Warming House for boot fittings.


Members of the Estes Crew Hunter and Ben getting fitted for boots at the Warming House

Wednesday started off with an educational program on the History of Rocky Mountain National Park led by local historian Jim Pickering. For this, the crews got out into the field to explore the makings of RMNP. After a quick lunch break the crews had Trails 101 training led by the Park Service to help understand trail design, tools, and safety.


Volunteer Trails Lead, Jesse, provide some background on trail maintenance, construction, and safety to the crews.

Thursday consisted of First Aid and CPR Training for crew members, while those who were already trained, headed to the Park to work on a trails project and prepare for National Trails Day on Saturday.


Amy, Tom, and John situate a rock for a check step.


Education Director, Rachel Balduzzi, leads a First Aid and CPR training for crew members.

On Friday the crews participated in Defensive Driver Training led by the Forest Service. Members of the Boulder Crew departed to their campsite to set up and prepare for the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance training  on Saturday.


The Boulder Crew’s new home in Kelly Dahl Campground

National Trails day marked the culmination of training week for the crews as they headed out into the Park to work with Conservancy Members on trails in Moraine Park Campground. By the end of the day, the volunteers had installed 30 steps, resurfaced 300 feet of trail, and decommissioned over 50 feet of braided social trails to restore native habitat. The trails day ended with a great picnic and some s’mores by the campfire.


Conservancy members ready for our National Trails Day volunteer project.


Field Institute Assistant, Jo Wurst, smashes rock to help resurface eroded trail.


Will and Ben move rocks to create a retaining wall for trail tread.


Amy winds up to crush small rocks while back-filling newly installed check steps.


Dom, Eeland, and a Conservancy member work to place “gargoyles” on braided trail to encourage people to stay on trail.


Nearly completed resurfaced trail tread!


Conservancy members, staff, Conservation Corps crews enjoy a National Trails Day picnic with Rocky’s trail crew to finish off the day.


With over 50 volunteers the Conservancy’s National Trails Day project was a huge success!

Now the crews are off to do field work with their agencies and will be sending posts updating on projects and trails!

-Des Otis Rawah Crew Leader

In the Field: Week 1 (Part Two)

After having to head out to the Shadow Mountain Village a day early, the Shadow Mountain Crew met with their Forest Service supervisor, Andy Borek to discuss safety and logistics for the summer to get the ball rolling for the first week of work. The crew was lucky enough to start exploring around their new home in Grand Lake. The weekend was fully enjoyed with a snowy hike in the Park up Red Mountain Trail followed by an afternoon on the water of Grand Lake. Testing frigid temperatures of the water, the crew took their first dip of the summer! Work began Tuesday with some crosscut training which continued through Wednesday. After our first meeting with the crew that will be joining Shadow Mountain for the Knight Ridge backcountry trip this upcoming week, everyone was feeling very excited to put their crosscut classroom training into full force in the field! Thursday was the first day on trail. We got our hands on the saw and bucked about 15 trees and cleared drains in and around Monarch Lake. We wrapped up the week with the completion of a buck & rail fence to prevent the public from driving across the meadow around Elk Meadow Trailhead. The crew finished up the day with a fun relay to bust in the last few pins to complete the fence! We are loving every second of our summer thus far, and extremely looking forward to a backcountry trip next week to clear trees from part of the CDT that has been unmaintained for quite some time! We will definitely start to feel even more confident in our sawing skills! This is Shadow Crew, until next time!

Putting their Crosscut Skills to work near Monarch Lake

Putting their Crosscut Skills to work near Monarch Lake

Completed Buck & Rail Fence at Elk Meadow

Completed Buck & Rail Fence at Elk Meadow

Shadow Mountain Crew on the Red Mountain Trail

Shadow Mountain Crew on the Red Mountain Trail

-MegEllen Kimmett (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

This week the Kawuneeche Crew completed a lot of training and small work projects with the special projects crew in RMNP to learn how the maintenance shop operates before we begin our big project on Little Buckaroo Barn. We attended a seasonal employee training meeting with other park service employees, park interns and volunteers to learn about what is going on in the park this season, and training for using the radio, basic work safety, and on working in a wilderness area.

Tuesday the crew headed up to Lake Irene where the Civilian Conservation Corps mess hall was built in 1926 for the crew helping to build Trail Ridge Road. The building will be getting a new roof and new rafter tails to preserve the integrity of the structure, but first we had to dig it out of 6 feet of snow in order to put up scaffolding. Shoveling snow in June was so much fun we finished the work they had planned would take us 2 days in one morning. So on Thursday, after another day of training in the classroom, we headed over to the east side of the park to do some maintenance work in their projects shop. Dhante, Joseph and Margaret also got fitted for respirator masks this week, which will be used when we clear out the inside of the barn, which has had lots of critters running around making messes in it.

Enjoying the sunshine atop the snow at Lake Irene

Enjoying the sunshine atop the snow at Lake Irene

Kawuneeche Crew working to clear snow at Lake Irene

Kawuneeche Crew working to clear snow at Lake Irene

Refinishing some picnic tables in the Project Shop

Refinishing some picnic tables in the Project Shop

-Margaret Johnson (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)