In the Field: Week 6

Moraine Crew

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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-Will (Crew Leader)

Boulder Crew 

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

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

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Home away from home!

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

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Crew and a view

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

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Rachel working hard to make the trail beautiful

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

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Taking lunch break with a view

-Zach (Crew Leader)

Estes Crew

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

-Nate (Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah Crews

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

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

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

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

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Rawah mega-crew hiking to our campsite.

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Zoe ready to conquer drains on Big South!

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Wednesday’s Big South crew after completing the trail!

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Daniel and Nate in alpine on Flowers trail.

-Madi & James (Crew Leaders of the Week)

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

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

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

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

-Rick (Crew Leader of the Week)

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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 5

Moraine Crew

Wow, it feels good getting back to work after the midweek change of pace. We hit the ground running this week by dividing into three two person teams to work on a variety of work!

Anna and Barnabas took off for most of the week and worked at the solar shower project in Glarier Basin Campground. They completed the structural supports between the main beams and put up all the walls! They even began painting, and probably would have completed it if we did not get rained out on Thursday (fresh paint and downpours of rain are not a good combination).

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Solar Shower Project coming along great! All the walls are up and painting is under way.

Hayley and Randy spent most of their week at the project shop mastering the new skill we all learned on Tuesday, glazing. Glazing is real interesting, and sometimes frustrating, because it is a very simple skill to learn but it takes a lot of practice to get good at. You must work both patiently to get nice smooth corners and no cracks, but, you also have to work fast enough so the glazing putty does not get too cold to work with.  Everyone in the crew also learned how to glaze but did not get much practice in this week, but if there is one thing we have learned its that there are always more windows to work on!

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Dolly demonstrating excellent glazing techniques with a putty knife, she makes it look easy but also has 20+ years of practice!

Max and I (Will) got our fix of digging and swinging piks this week. We spent most of our time out at Moraine Park Campground working on constructing a new ADA trail to access a comfort station and modifying the old platform around the comfort station to meet ADA standards on slope. We removed the existing asphalt pathway and started digging and grading the slope for the new trail with the help of our boss Chuck and his mini excavator. After the new tread was dug and graded we began installing the redwood sidewalls that were stained earlier in the season.

Unfortunately, we also go rained out on Thursday and were not able to get as much work done as we would have hoped, but what we did get done is looking really good! It is crazy to see that amount of work that goes into making about 60 feet of new pathway, it really gave us a sense of respect for all the paved pathways we use on a daily basis.

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Max standing atop of the asphalt he and Will removed by hand that Chuck could not reach with the excavator (not shown in this picture is the smile on chucks face as he uses his favorite toy).

Aside from the fun we had at work this week we all got together on Monday to make gluten AND dairy free pizza as our crew leader of the week Anna taught us all how to make friendship bracelets for her lesson. They are another good example of something that is simple but takes a lot of practice to get good at, she could have made each of us one before we finished our own!

Moraine crew, over and out!

-Will Fazio (Moraine Crew Leader)

This week on Boulder Crew we went on our first hitch. It was a whopping one mile hike
in to one of the most mosquito infested campsites ever. After setting up camp we
started our usual process of moving big rocks off the trail and moving even bigger rocks
onto trail to make check steps and waterbars.3

Working on this trail was a bit more difficult than the previous trails because of the crazy amount of hikers that went by. It seemed like every minute there was a new hiker
passing by causing us to get “hikernoia” which is whenever you hear a noise on trail you
think it is a hiker waiting to pass. After each day of work we would swim in the lake to
relax and wash off all the trail grime. Working on a project like this was very fulfilling
because we could see our progress on a rough trail that became less rough and had
beautiful check steps and stairs instead of ankle rolling, leg breaking rocks.

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All in all the week went pretty smooth besides a few minor hiccups. Everyone survived
and packed their backpack correctly and no one brought a shortage of food so in that
sense it was a very successful hitch. Although I am pretty sure everyone left with a few
more mosquito bites and a little less blood than at the start of the week.

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-Jess (Crew Leader of the Week

For our fifth week of field work as the Rawah Crews, we returned to the Young Gulch trail for another hitch. Instead of camping at the trailhead, we backpacked down to a forested spot next to a beautiful meadow. For several people in our crew, this was their first real backpacking experience! Nate (Trail Jesus) met us at the top of the trail and hiked down with us to show us the ropes for our first day back on the trail. He wowed us (once again) with his super-human forearms and infinite trail knowledge. He hiked out after lunch and we were on our own for the rest of the week. Our first day was a very full one. A crew member rolled an ankle but powered through the day, James felled his first tree, and Noah built a rock wall. Our job at Young Gulch was to dig new tread. It was an exciting change of pace for us where we got the opportunity to use a variety of tools and challenge different muscles. Our evening ended with a dinner of Jordan’s trail-famous pad thai.

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We realized on Tuesday morning just how hard we worked on Monday. We were sore but excited to get back to digging tread. The sun was present throughout the day, but the entire crew was resilient. We probably drank over 35 liters of water between all of us. It was a pretty standard day for most of us who were digging tread. For James and Nathan, they spent the second half of the day building a spectacular rock ramp. At this point, we didn’t have any hammers, so they were extremely crafty with the crushing of rocks. In the evening, we all had the opportunity to relax with the first part of Ruby Ann’s lesson. She taught us about making tea with foraged fruits and leaves, focusing on sustainable foraging. We collected wild raspberries, wild strawberries, mint, pine needles, bee balm, mullein, sage, juniper, and dandelion. We saved our plant mixture for the morning and ate stir fry for dinner which was prepared by Nathan, who we have deemed the cooking wizard of the group. On Tuesday night, Nathan also found some fresh bear scat right next to our camp.IMG_9917

Wednesday morning was perfect for everyone as we all prepared our foraged tea for the second part of Ruby Ann’s lesson. It was life-changing. Soon after, we were joined by Tommy and Morgan, our fearless field coordinators. The day started off with digging tread and quickly turned into a day of projects for half of the group. We came across a boulder in the middle of the trail which gave us an opportunity to work on our rock work skills. Ramps were needed on both sides of the boulder. Noah, Madison, Jordan, Stevie, and Ruby Ann took on the boulder project. The rest of us moved further down the trail to dig tread. Nathan came across another large rock in the trail and cleared all of the rotted wood (this was a feat!) to prepare the area for a future crew to do some rock work. Reche found an incredible spot next to the creek where we all enjoyed lunch and much-needed shade. After work, we all participated in Noah’s lesson of “How to Run.” It was very informative and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Ruby Ann then cooked the culminating dinner of the work week–trail burritos! Shortly after we all (influenced by our food comas) decided to go for an early night and be well-rested for our final day of the hitch.IMG_3682IMG_5107

Our final day of the hitch was our first and only day without the sun. The sky was encompassed in clouds and the endless thunder started around lunchtime. We completed one of our boulder ramps, and the other one was nearing completion when the time came to hike out. The five of us who weren’t working on the ramp projects spent the morning digging tread in a really gnarly area with lots of raspberry bushes and large rocks. We accepted the challenge and dug some beautiful tread.

We had an incredible time back at Young Gulch. The hike out was incredible as we all got the opportunity to enjoy a trail we put into place. We made it back to the cars just as the torrential downpour began. Life is awesome like that!

-Zoe & Daniel (Crew leaders of the week)

Week 7 was another rockin’ week for the Estes Crew (No pun intended)! We spent most of the week working on a switchback section of our Aspen Brook trail. The days were early, and the weather unpredictable, but was more than enjoyable with great company!

RMC Cora Morgan Curtis in Rain

Some of us huddled together to weather the storm on Thursday (Again, no pun intended).

Most of the crew was able to learn how to use a drill to remove rock from the trail. This allows for a more even tread level, as well as a safer hike for humans and horses! The crew also became proficient at moving rocks this week. We each were able to learn how to carefully move large rocks down the hill, on the trail, and towards the switchback. In order to move these massively heavy objects, we used a rock cart. This helps to distribute the weight evenly and roll the rock easily down the trail, rather than dragging it.

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Our fearless crew leader steadying a rock onto the rock cart.

All of our rock gathering abilities are helpful for the rock wall, steps, crush, and riprap that are being constructed for this trail. These will help maintain the structure and prevent erosion of the trail. We’re so excited for the structures being built on this trail, and we are more than thankful to be able to be a part of it!

RMC Group Picture in the Car

See you all next week!

-Sydney (Crew Leader of the Week)

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.

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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.

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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)

High School Leadership Corps – Year 2 (June Crew)

The first crew during year two of the High School Leadership Corps has ended!

During the month of June, the Conservancy hosted its second year of high school students in the Rocky Mountain Conservancy – High School Leadership Corps (HSLC) for 12 days. To recap, this program brings 10 high school students from around the Front Range of Colorado up to Rocky Mountain National Park where they are exposed to a variety of conservation-based practices. Over the course of two weeks, the participants learned how to camp and follow leave no trace principles, served on a vegetation management crew with the National Park Service Volunteer program, and helped to build a bridge with the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers. In addition, each project day incorporated an educational component ranging from evening journal exercise to developing leadership skills to learning about the different careers that are around Rocky Mountain National Park.

Now that the stage has been set, here’s a recap of this crew’s 12-day experience!

After everyone arrived on Monday, the crew spent the rest of the day setting up and learning about camp expectations. Tommy and Morgan, the Field Coordinators and HSLC Leaders, emphasized Leave No Trace and ‘Leader of the Day’ expectations and responsibilities. The leader of the day program gave members an opportunity to act as a leader, which entailed waking up members and preparing them for the day and being expected to step into leadership roles as needed throughout the day. They were also expected to provide a journal prompt at the end of the evening that was based on what the crew did that work day or how the lessons or camp life has affected them.

Once Monday passed and camp was set up, Tuesday was set to be the first day of work. The HSLC crew’s first task was a litter pick up. The crew spent the morning walking around the Bear Lake parking lot picking up trash left behind. When that was completed, we hiked down to the Glacier Gorge trailhead where one group cleaned up the Glacier Gorge Trailhead, while others kept moving forward until they got to Alberta Falls. During the morning litter pick up, the crew picked up seven pounds of trash ! This may not sound like a lot, but considering the majority is about the size of a gum wrapper it was a very successful day. That afternoon, after the crew ate lunch and discussed about the project, the crew went back to Bear Lake and hiked up to Dream Lake, stopping at Nymph along the way.

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Cyrus, Kinara, Nate and Odin working to collect trash on the Glacier Gorge trail.

From Wednesday through Friday, the HSLC worked with Rocky’s Vegetation Crew (Veg Crew). The crew spent multiple days working to help eradicate a few different invasive species that plague the park. On Wednesday morning, the crew met with Grace and Kate at the volunteer office where they completed introductions and learned the task for the day: pulling Russian Thistle around the Moraine Park Discovery Center. This plant is what commonly becomes tumbleweed and can spread up to 250,000 seeds per plant, so the crew’s job was to do the best we could to completely remove it from the area. After a morning of vegetation, we met with Geoff Elliot, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s Director of Conservation, and he gave us a Behind the Scenes Tour of Rocky Mountain National Park Headquarters. This allowed the crew to explore a multitude of departments housed within the National Park Service that included the Wilderness office, Volunteer In Parks office, and Law Enforcement/Search and Rescue offices, the Park greenhouse, and the Fire Cache where the crew learned a little about fire mitigation and prevention.

On Thursday, the HSLC crew again met with the Veg Crew at Moraine Park Discovery Center, but this time the group traveled to the transit station and walked up the Bierstadt Lake trail. The HSLC used a grid system to locate and eliminate invasive species. Within this system, members all spread out an arm’s length apart and worked to walk as straight as possible.  The goal that day was to pick Mullein. This is a long-stemmed plant with yellow flowers that when they mature can grow up to 6 feet high. This was a tiring project because of the uneven ground, but it was very rewarding when finished.

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Crew members working to locate the invasive Mullein within our grid pattern.

That afternoon Field Coordinator Morgan gave a lesson on plant identification around Rocky Mountain National Park where the members learned how to use a dichotomous key and specific ways in which one may differentiate different plant families.  Everyone then travelled to the Field Institute and participated in a resume workshop. The crew worked together to learn how to build a strong resume, describe their experience here in the park, and how to tailor their resumes for specific jobs. We were also able to explore conservation job boards and federal hiring resources. That evening the HSLC attended Campfire Ghost Stories with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy – Field Institute, where the members learned what life was like for a trapper in the 1800s. The story was very engaging, and the trapper ended the evening by making us a fire with flint and brush for s’mores.

Friday, the HSLC spent their last day working with the Veg Crew. This time the crew was working on the South Moraine Park trail  attacking Musk Thistle and Houndstongue. These two plants are two of the most troublesome in the park because they are transported around the park through animals. We spent all morning pulling a significant amount of these two plants over a quarter mile of trail.

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Corps member, Aiden, displaying his eradicted Houndstounge. We removed the flowering heads from the site to prevent any seed germination.

When the crew finished, they thanked Grace leading the week and went back to camp to prepare for a tour with Geoff of Trail Ridge Road that afternoon. The HSLC learned about the history of Trail Ridge Road and about the Tundra ecosystem it crosses. Geoff discussed how it can be heavily impacted by people if they are not attentive to what they are doing or where they are walking. Geoff emphasized the fragility of the system, and the kids learned first hand how harsh the Tundra winds can be. He had all the kids lay close to the ground and understand why plants can’t grow too high laterally to avoid the winds.

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The crew enjoying the mountainous view from Forest Canyon Overlook, a pitstop on our tour of Trail Ridge Road and the tundra ecosystem.

Over the weekend, to everybody’s enjoyment, they got to sleep in later than our usual 6:45am start. The HSLC went back over Trail Ridge to explore the other side of Rocky Mountain National Park and to see how the ecosystems change when you travel to the west side of the mountains. This side receives more moisture, and there was a significant shift in ecosystem types. The crew went for a short hike up the East Inlet trail to Adam’s Falls where they hung out for a while and learned a little about trail features they may see in the future. The group then drove down by Grand Lake and ate lunch and relaxed for a while. Once lunch was complete, they loaded up the cars and drove into the town of Grand Lake where everyone got to do some exploring at eat some ice cream from the legendary Dairy King. The HSLC then drove back to Estes Park and got settled for the evening and made dinner before playing a few good games of ninja and talking about what the next day and week were going to entail.

Sunday was a big day, this was the first time the members got to shower and do laundry since they had been in the program. Once everyone showered and relaxed, the HSLC headed back to the Field Institute and did a leadership test. This test was designed to use the members answers to personality questions to classify them into broad categories. This test is a good way to learn about how best to work with others, and how different personality types handle situations and problem solving. The HSCL also talked about the five stages of group development otherwise known as Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. Before starting the second week, Tommy and Morgan discussed the next week by outlining the basic project, building a bridge on the Lion Gulch Trail.

For the second week, the HSLC spent their time with the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers (PWV). The Lion Gulch Trail was heavily affected by the 2013 floods and both the PWV and the US Forest Service have been working hard to restore this trail to the public. The HSLC members were tasked with one of the final projects, a bridge to mitigate impact on the stream below. This was an amazing project that was both very rewarding and tiring. On the first day, the crew spent the morning digging sand and dirt to “armor” the trail, which means covering the rocks we gathered, cutting logs, and building rock ramps. The mighty crew also moved 23-foot logs to where the bridge was to be placed. This was very difficult and took nearly everyone on the project to carry. Once the logs were moved, the crew built the supports for the logs to sit on.

Slideshow:

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Alina, working with the crosscut saw to cut logs to length so we could use them to stabilize the bridge.

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Rylee and Larson working together to safely move rocks to the bridge in order to armor the edge and provide additional trail stability.

 

On Tuesday, the crew set the logs in place. This took some time, as the crew needed to get them properly placed and then cut notches, so the logs would sit flush. Once that was accomplished, the crew split into two groups. One group was helping to build large rock abutments to ensure the structure would be stable and strong and the other continued to notch the logs to convert the rounded surface into flat and easily walkable stretches of logs. The crew also spent significant time constructing ramps leading up to the bridge and carrying out debris that was washed down the stream from the flood.

Slideshow:

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Members Nate, Larson, and Odin using hand saws to notch the top of the bridge logs to create a walk-able surface.

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All hands on deck to use log tongs in order to lift the main stringer on top of our base.

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Jerzey using a single jack to hammer in rebar to the main logs.

On Wednesday, the HSLC crew finished the bridge! They spent the day planking the logs and pounding in the rebar to ensure that the logs wouldn’t move when walked across. The crew also spent more time solidifying the abutments and finding the proper rocks to make the walk up to the bridge safe and easy on all those who hiked on the trail in the future. Finishing the bridge was a huge accomplishment that all who helped were excited about and happy to have gotten done.

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The entire crew and our Poudre Wilderness Volunteer Lead, Mike, standing on top of the finished bridge.

When Thursday came around the crew spent the day doing more traditional trail work. This entailed digging drains and building rock structures to divert water off the trail. They also worked to close part of the old trail that has since been rerouted. This was interesting because rather than moving trees or branches off the trail, the members were putting them on the trail to make it difficult to attempt to walk across, sending people down the new rerouted section of the trail. The crew then broke into groups one group went with the PWV lead and worked on clearing and making new drains while the other stayed behind to churn up the dirt so that some future volunteers could come through and drop grass seeds and transplant native flowers in hopes of restoring the old section of the trail. This day was great as it showed the participants what a typical day in trail work is like and that it isn’t all bridge building.

The end of the day was filled with a mix of emotions as people were excited to go back to their lives but were sad that they weren’t going to be around their new friends anymore. That night the crew celebrated after dinner with a campfire and s’mores for everyone. Members spent time reflecting on our experiences and all we had learned.

On the last morning the HSLC packed up around the campsite and brought everything back to the Field Institute. Tommy and Morgan conducted exit interviews with each member, while others helped with gear clean up. The HSLC program ended with a cook out for all the participants and their families. They were able to spend time with their families and introduce each other. It was great to hear everyone buzzing about their highlights and favorite projects.

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The Conservancy would like to thank all the family and friends who supported the crew members throughout their time with us.

Additionally, thank you to all of those who have purchased the Rocky Mountain National Park License Plate. If it wasn’t for your donation, this amazing opportunity wouldn’t exist!

Thank you to all that participated!

-Morgan Cannon & Tommy E (Field Coordinators/HSLC Leaders)

In the Field: Week 4

During this past week, the crews returned to Estes Park for Mid-Week. During the week, they focus on developing an increased understanding of the National Park Service and Rocky Mountain National Park. Take a look at the crews’ previous week in the field, marking the half-way point of the 2018 season!

Boulder Crew

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To start the week off, we had some unfinished business in the James Peak Wilderness to complete. Our fourth turnpike was still in need of more rip rap and dirt, so off to the borrow pits we went! We spent the whole day digging and dumping dirt onto our final turnpike. With that done, as a crew we had completed over 50 feet of turnpikes over the course of two weeks, something the trail was in desperate need of as it was a very wet area. There was never a dull moment on this trail as it was heavily trafficked, and we would receive a lot of praise from grateful hikers.

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Completed Turnpikes

Tuesday came, and with it, a new work location. We were taken to Rainbow Lakes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area to install check steps and two rock stairwells. The crew split into two groups for efficiency. The first group installed nine check steps to help stabilize the tread and provide a better experience for the hikers. The second group worked in a steeper section of the trail, removing loose and jutting rocks to install two needed staircases. This project involved a lot of ‘rock shopping’ for big, flat rocks, which was not always an easy task. After finding a rock we would dig the tread out and place the rocks in a stairwell fashion. Again, this was a heavily trafficked trail and just about every hiker shared their gratitude. I think this is something my whole crew can agree upon; it’s a good feeling interacting with the people who appreciate your work most.

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The First Completed Stairwell

Wednesday was our second and final day in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Each of the groups finished up their tasks. All together we completed nine check steps and two stairwells; not a small task for two days.

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The Second Stairwell

On Thursday we were sent to yet another location, something quite uncommon for our crew as we usually work in the same area for at least a week. However, the variety this week was a nice change. On our final day of the work week we were sent to the Fourth of July trail in Eldora. Again, we split into two groups for efficiency. The first group stayed near the trailhead installing a rock retaining wall on a switchback to combat hikers cutting the trail short and eroding away the terrain. The second group was sent on a maintenance run to cut back brush overcrowding the trail. They hiked three miles up to the alpine, took in the view, and then began their hike down to remove brush. Crew Leader, Zach was excited to put the Silky Saw to some good use! Speaking of excitement, we saw the most unique thing on trail: a ferret! We all got to meet Oliver the hiking ferret and his wonderful owner, he had a harness and all. To make matters even better, we were excited to learn he has his own Instagram to track his adventures. It was a beautiful day, a bit on the hot side but we were fortunate enough to be in the mountains, rather than down in the front country where temperatures reached 100 degrees!

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View from the top of Arapaho Pass on the Maintenance Run

Overall, this was a great week for the Boulder Crew. We were thankful for the change of pace and different trails to work on. We are all proud of the work we completed this week and only look forward to the endless amount of rock work to come!

Peace, Madi (Boulder Crew Leader of the Week)

Estes Crew

Estes Crew Blog: Week of June 23, 2018

This week we returned to the Aspen Brook trail. We began new tread this week and worked alongside of the Larimer County Conservation Corps (LCCC). Before we began our day, we hiked down around two miles into the trail where we were assigned jobs and began the reroute. We also learned that we will be continuing our work on this trail for the rest of the summer.

On Monday, Estes Crew was first introduced to the project on this trail and everyone had a great time, we were all ready to get back to work after the weekend and at the end of the day everyone had felt like they had done a great amount of work for the first day. It seems that everyone was anxious to get to this part of the season because throughout the rest of the week everyone came back feeling great about the work and what they accomplished in the day

On Tuesday, we returned back to the Aspen Brook Trail and finished up the work we didn’t complete the day before, some members of the crew did brushing of the trail that was done the day before and collected any tools that were no longer needed. We also got down the trail a bit more! Everyone overall had an awesome day and when we got back to camp everyone was feeling accomplished and ready for the next day of work.

On Wednesday, we attended a safety meeting/training in the late morning around 11:00 and then traveled back to our work place for the week and did the same work. We were also able to meet up with the Moraine Crew during lunch since they attended the safety activity, as well, and reflected with them about how their day and work has been going so far. We’re happy to say that everyone here at the Rocky Mountain National Park is having a great time and experiencing everything they wanted and more.

On Thursday, we returned to our work and continued making new tread and working with LCCC.

-Jovonna (Estes Crew Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

The Shadow Mountain Crew embarked on many adventures this week. We began on Tuesday helping with another district project: installing signs on mountain bike trails near Winter Park. In an effort to standardize trails in the Winter Park area, a project called “trail smart-sizing,” the crew helped Vicky Burton carrying in and dig holes for signs freshly labeling trails. At the end of the day, we had hiked in four signs and carried out four others. We learned that signs are surprisingly heavy, and that they’re treated with a carcinogenic coating, which we had to be extremely careful not to touch with our bare skin. This aspect earned the signs the nickname “cancer stick.”

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The next day, we left for a three-day camping spike out in the Stillwater Pass Area. We worked to maintain a user-created trail called Wolverine Bypass that traveled unsustainably up the side of Blue Ridge. To develop a trail that would last much longer, we installed nearly 35 drains over the course of two days to facilitate water runoff, preventing gullying from extended periods of rain. During this period, we also worked to clarify trail at a rather confusing intersection. To do this, the Shadow Crew spent the morning retreading the switchback at the intersection to make the trail more obvious, taking out trees and shrubs to increase sightlines, and moving a cancer stick to more clearly denote which trail traveled what direction.

Thursday brought along a special surprise. Midmorning, our radios began to crackle. The night before, lightning had struck near the Williams Fork, about 15 miles away, and started a fire! During our breaks, the crew surrounded the radio, listening to the engines, helicopters, and Fort Collins dispatch organize units to tame the flames. By mid-afternoon, two other fires had started in the area, and the Shadow Crew gathered atop a ridgeline facing northward towards one of the starts, seeing haze fall over the Never Summer Mountain range. We pulled out our map, listening to the radio crackle GPS coordinates in an attempt to pinpoint where the fires were. It was a really unique experience and, thankfully, our crew was a safe distance away from the dangers.

On Friday, we opted to work in the same area, this time on the Lost Lake Loop Trail and the Lost Lake Access Trail, en route to Lost Lake itself. Friday demanded a lot of brushing, as well as drain work, as the east end of the Loop Trail ascended a similarly steep hill as the Wolverine Bypass Trail. We made it to the lake in time to eat lunch, and under the heat of the sun, some of the Shadow Crew jumped in to cool off. After lunch, we headed back to camp to pack up, head home, and do some quick tool maintenance before we left the west side. The crew will be spending the next week over the Continental Divide in Estes Park for midweek, as well as embarking on a select few adventures with other crews on the Corps.36414791_1896318247087734_3641515793172135936_n

Happy Trails!

-Mary Cretney (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

Moraine Crew

Week four in the field has been very busy, but as always our week starts off with the Moraine Crew waking up with the sun on a lovely Monday morning.

On Monday when we arrived to the office, we were split up into groups to work on a variety of projects such as building picnic tables (a classic), painting windows (always a favorite), and working on constructing a solar shower in Glacier Basin campground (something new and exciting). After work, chef Will cooked a scrumptious family dinner that consisted of rice noodles mixed with a coconut red curry sauce and a large dollop of peanut butter. As mix-ins, there were eggs, cabbage sautéed with onions and garlic, broccoli, and green beans. For a garnish, there were green onions, peanuts, and orange slices to squeeze on top. Will keeps us full and healthy and always asking for more. After dinner, the first “Crew leader of the week”, Hayley, gave her lesson teaching the crew how to play a card game called Shanghai. It was a very complex but extremely fun game that we will have to play on a rainy day.

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Randy painting redwood boards for the picnic tables

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Will using the force to complete a picnic table

Tuesday we were visited by a wonderful woman, Lori, who discussed ergonomics, which focuses on the importance of appropriate posture and mobility while working. Lori first talked with us about posture and body safety in the workplace, touching on some of the co-workers’ biggest problem areas involving the lower back, knees, and shoulders that are associated with mainly lifting heavy objects. Next, we warmed up with squats, hamstring stretches, and torso twists. Then we began lifting objects using correct techniques and posture or being corrected on our approach to better improve in the future. After Lori’s talk, we were split up again to the project locations from Monday. Anna stuck to painting windows on Tuesday and has become more acquainted with the little girl at the house she works at, and now their friendship is official.

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Will discovering his waistline during ergonomics training

Wednesday was staff safety training and appreciation day, which involved educational booths that discussed different safety topics that involved chemicals, fire, and the body. After expanding our safety knowledge, we had the privilege of moving picnic tables to set up for the appreciation lunch. After the lunch, it was back to work, both work and play here for the Moraine Crew.

On Thursday, we were again separated from each other. Some crew members finished up the last of the picnic tables and delivered them as gifts to different areas around park housing. Anna finished painting all the windows on the house she has been working at for two weeks. The rest of the crew members hauled 10-foot logs to the solar shower to line the paths that will be leading to both the comfort station and the solar shower. All in all it was a very successful day!

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The view from the solar shower and comfort station at Glacier Basin Campground

Next week will be a break from working at the project shop, and when we come back we plan to hit the ground running on finishing up the solar shower project as well as start any new projects awaiting us. We are all very excited for mid-week and camping with all the other crews we have missed seeing these past few weeks! There are so many adventures to come, thanks for reading.

-Hayley (Moraine Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah Crews

This week in the Rawah Wilderness was another exciting one!  We started off the week strong on the West Branch Trail with a surprise project. In the previous week, we encountered some day hikers that were forced to turn back where the West Branch Trail met the North Fork of the Larmie River. Armed with this information about the impassable river, the Rawah crew decided to take action.  After assessing the area, we decided to delegate two crew members to prepare a log to be placed across the river while the remaining eight crew members had the task of carrying on with a regular maintenance run. At the end of the day, everybody worked together to set in the prepared log across the river. It was a big success!

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Crew members James and Nate preparing the log bridge

On Tuesday we began work on the very popular Blue Lake Trail. We completed no large projects, but the day was just as productive. Although it took a bit of overtime, we were able to cover the whole five miles up to Blue Lake. Everyone had a wonderful hike down after a quick break at Blue Lake.

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Views from the Blue Lake Trail

On Wednesday we tackled the Big South trail. It was quite steep, but our entire crew did a stellar job. It was a great day of maintenance, saw work, and lots of progress. We completed a whopping 193 drains. At lunch we enjoyed a beautiful view down by the beach.

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Crew leader Noah installing a new drain while field coordinator Morgan and crew members Reche and Stevie bump up trail.

Thursday was a special day, we had visitors! We were graced with Tommy and Morgan’s presence as we maintained the Roaring Creek Trail. It was our first time on this trail and it was beautiful!

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Crew leader Jordan and crew member Daniel showing a tree some love

As it was a short day (due to accumulated overtime), we were only able to cut down five trees and cover three miles of trail.

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Crew leader Jordan and crew member Daniel showing a tree some love.

Until next week,

Noah and Jordan (Rawah Crew Leaders)

 

 

In the Field: Week 3

Estes Crew 

Crew Leader of the Week: Maximo T. Bye

Week Of: 6/18/18

Monday, 6/18/18:

The week started strong with a typical Monday morning. Estes Crew and the National Park Service had our Monday meeting about this week and quickly got to work with the horses. We were to brush Finch Lake today. Brushing consists of taking out small trees, branches, or plants that are growing in the trail or onto the trail.  We finished around 2.3 miles of the trail. The hike was amazing and featured a steep climb to start, an aspen forest, and even a forest of Ponderosa in such little time. Thanks to the rain over the weekend, the day was humid and every branch we cut let loose a small collection of water droplets that kept us cool through the day.

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Looking out at Longs Peak

Tuesday, 6/19/18:

Tuesday was a lot less hiking. We were given the task of hauling old wood used for fencing from Sprague Lake to Bone Yard, a place where old wood and tools go to die. In addition to this we brought A-frames to Sprague Lake that will eventually be new Buck and Rail fencing. It quickly became apparent that we needed more logs to make A-frames with, so we quickly hiked out to Bierstadt where we collected 20 more logs that were suitable for the job. Everyone worked together to bring the logs down to the Bierstadt parking lot for pickup after they were cleaned up. Before long, the day was coming to an end and Estes Crew prepared for the next day.

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Unloading Buck & Fence at boneyard

Wednesday, 6/20/18:

Another job of brushing for Estes Crew! We were grouped with about 12 other people to conquer Andrew’s Glacier. Everyone hiked out from the Bear Lake Trail Head towards our work place. The plan was to take a fire trail to shave off an extra mile on our hike. Soon enough we had made it to our destination where we split into two groups, one starting at the top of the trail and the other starting from the bottom. Quickly, we worked towards each other. Before we knew it, we had met in the middle and hiked to the top for a break by the snow. A few snowballs were tossed, and many attempted sliding down the snowy hills. After our lunch we had finished all of Andrew’s Glacier and needed more work. We hiked back to Bear Lake where we embarked onto the other side of Bierstadt. The rest of the day was working on this trail. By the end of the day, over 10 miles had been hiked by the crews.

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Thursday, 6/21/18:

Closing the week with some more brushing! This time the crew headed to our day’s scenery, Fern Lake. Jovonna was given a separate task for the day, she was sent to join the Moraine Crew! She painted and worked on picnic tables for the day. We worked from the pool towards Cub Lake, eventually ending at the Cub Lake Trailhead. The day started nice and cool, but slowly heated up. We did our best removing everything that was impairing hikers from hiking the trail, or that would shortly grow to impact the trail negatively. The views from the trial highlighted the mountains that surrounded us, snowy peaks shined in the sun as we took a morning break. Like all breaks though, it soon ended, and we worked to preserve this moderately popular trail. Many people stopped and thanked us for the work we were doing, it made everyone happy to be complimented for the hard work we love. We all enjoyed the view of Cub Lake and its lily pads as we worked. Eventually, we finished the trail and headed back to the vehicles. Our day was not done, and we headed to a pull off near Hollowell Park where we talked to one of the wilderness firemen, Doug. He told us all about his job, his life, and his love of wilderness fire. He said he had been “bitten by the Fire-Bug” and couldn’t stop what he wanted to do. In addition to this he told us about how fires work, the ways forests defend themselves from fires, when they burn the burn piles so many visitors ask about, and the history of how people fought fires. Everyone learned so much from Doug and thanked him for his time. This concluded our work day and week. This weekend we rest and prepare for next weeks challenges and surprises.

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Clearing Brush

-Maximo Bye (Estes Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah Crews

Hello again! As the first half of the season begins to wind down, the Rawah Mega Crew has only been winding up. Week three was quite an interesting week in the Rawah Wilderness. On Monday, we returned to the Link trail for a second day packed full of drain digging, trail clearing, and what some might consider a fair amount of hiking. After ten hours of work and nearly eighteen miles of round trip hiking, the resiliency of the crew really began to shine. Despite an exhausting and demanding day, the crew was able to bounce back after an evening spent with our boss, Geoff, who came up from the mother ship to pay a visit.

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Noah taking care of Ruby Ann’s blister.

Tuesday marked the first day of maintenance on the Rawah Trail and what a wild ride it was. Not only were we blown away by all the traffic we encountered (three separate groups of people!), we were able to embrace the mailman way of life by working through rain, sleet, snow, and sunshine.

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The crew enduring a light blizzard during lunch

Pre-Thursday was a special day for us as our beloved crew member, Reche, returned to work after time spent with family. The Rawah crew was in full force for a second day on the Rawah Trail. With the return of Reche, we were able to properly surprise a soon-to-be twenty-one-year old Zoe with a birthday cake and great company.

Thursday may have been the fourth day of a long and exhausting week, but that didn’t stop us from having fun and working hard. This day was rather unique in terms of some work we were able to do, including both obliterating an illegal campsite and fire ring as well as mitigating the effects of water run-off from a waterfall. In addition, our crosscut coach, Chris, surprised us at lunch and took a break from official business to visit us for a bit.

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Until next week!

-Noah and Jordan (Rawah Crew Leaders)

Boulder Crew

Week three flew by as we spent our second week at the South Boulder Creek Trail in the James Peak Wilderness! Although it was supposed to rain, the good weather was in our favor and the sun shined every day!

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This week we continued our turnpike construction and finished up our fourth turnpike on the trail to mitigate water erosion damage. Just like last week we spent our days collecting rocks, dirt, and more rocks! As most of us are new to turnpike construction, last week was a learning period for us. However, by the end of this week we consider ourselves professionals.

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Hard at work

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Charlotte swingin’

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A completed turnpike!

On Thursday, we headed to the Boulder Ranger District for a meeting with the U.S. Forest Service about the importance of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and how to check the vitality of the equipment. It was great to meet everyone and talk to them about their careers and the path they took to get there. Especially since many of us hope to be in their positions in our future careers.

We wrapped up the week by visiting the Shadow Mountain Crew to spend time with everyone by the water and in the town of Grand Lake!

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Camping in Grand Lake

-Hannah (Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

West Side Best Side

We started off this week heading to the Strawberry West Trailhead where we met friend of the forest and hut builder, Andy Miller. He showed us where he had done a short reroute and shared some of his plans for building a new hut. After parting ways we did our stretch and safety circle and contemplated whether we would rather have dustpan hands or sweat jelly. In the end, team dustpan took majority with an astounding switch of teams from Kendra after a four year run on team sweat jelly.

Having adequately stretched and exhausted our job hazards we shouldered our full packs and walked the mile and a half in to the junction of Strawberry West and Caribou trail where we set up camp. We brushed for a few hours before we called it a day and headed back to camp for rose, bud, thorn and tacos made by Caitlin. Rose, bud, thorn is our end of the day ritual where we each talk about the good parts of the day, what wasn’t so good, and what we’re looking forward to the next day. Most of us are always looking forward to the getting horizontal part (sleeping).

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Shadow Crew’s home for the week, featuring the dynamic duo of alpenglow and an evening thunderstorm.

In the mornings, there was a fine layer of frost covering our tents and the grass. Adam, being the first one up, would build a fire in the pit for us all. We would eat our oatmeal around it and stare at the flames in an early morning daze.

On Wednesday, Amy and Kendra showed us how to make drains well so that they wouldn’t need much maintenance other than debris removal every once in a while. So we spent Wednesday walking down Caribou brushing in pairs and putting in drains as necessary. A little after 3 in the afternoon we spotted a moose not far off from the trail so we backed down for fifteen minutes until he wandered off in his majestic moose way. While we waited we talked about the possible damage a moose could do if angered and what an angry moose looks like. Adam wanted to test our moose friend and see if he could knock over a tree. Mary assured him he didn’t need to test it.

On Thursday, Kendra and Amy walked with us and pointed out the good things of the drains we put in and helped us to make them better if necessary. We parted ways around 10, leaving us to brush as they took the llamas and the chainsaws off to clear more of Strawberry West. We cleared all of Caribou and made it part way up Strawberry West. Towards the end of the day we started putting in some tread near an unnamed peak on Strawberry West. We were about a half hour into the work when it started to drizzle and the thunder cracked. Mary decided it was best to head down the mountain. We played a riveting game of contact on the way back, in which I had them stumped for half the walk with the word paratrooper. Pro-tip: use words with common prefixes.

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The process of constructing a reroute for a muddy section of the Strawberry West Trail

We started the day on Friday sharing what we thought Mary would be like at the age of thirty in honor of it being her 21st birthday. Then we did a cinnamon roll hug in despite the stank of our sweat that only trail crews will know. We brushed for an hour on Strawberry West before the trail became a beaver dam lake. So we turned back and packed up camp. Since we had a bit of time and our campsite was a well used one we spent a while picking up a trash compactor bag of garbage to haul out. We brushed on the way back to the trucks as Amy and Kendra cut trees that had fallen across the trail. After lunch we put in tread on the reroute that Andy Miller had made. It was pretty cool to put work in on a new trail and know that we were part of making a better experience for users. At the end of the day we walked to the High Lonesome hut, sat in the shade and did rose, thorn, bud.

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Trail Work Ahead? I sure hope it does!

By the way, did you know owls have legs?

-Nico (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week)

Moraine Crew

This week we wrapped up our first big project and got setup for next weeks’ solar shower project while continuing the Quarters Five project and picnic table construction.

On Monday we all returned to McGraw ranch to continue window work on the main building. We did not get as much done as we wished because we spent a bit of time fixing small errors made the previous week. These little errors like moving sashes before they are completely dry resulting in marks and scuffs took almost as much time to fix as painting an entire window sash. From this we learned that working patiently to get the job done right the first time saves a lot of time in the backend of the project.

On Tuesday Will, Hayley, Max, Randy, and Anna returned to McGraw ranch to start work on the last, and largest, set of windows that needed to be restored. By this point we all knew what needed to be done and how to do it right. While Anna and Hayley worked on scraping and calking the windows in preparation for painting the rest of us had an assembly line system for prepping and paining the sashes. Max was on scraping and priming duty Randy was cranking out almost all of the finishing paintwork. Will was hopping between tasks managing the process to avoid the damage to finished sashes that kept occurring the previous week, finishing touchups, and cleaning the glass that had not been cleaned in years! Barnabas attended a First Aid class for a majority of the day to learn about assessing and treating injuries that may occur in the field, he was able to join us near the end of the day and help paint window sashes.

On Wednesday Will, Randy and Hayley got to see the completion of their first big project, the windows at the McGraw ranch. It was a little bittersweet because we do not have any plans to return to the ranch, and the tranquil landscape that it is set in for the rest of the season.

It was very rewarding to look at the results of our hard work! While they were at the ranch Anna and Barnabis were working at Quarters Five, one of the historical homes on the east side of the park. Their day consisted of patching rotting window frames that will eventually lead to severe building damage. Max was off by himself working with Wilson to move the redwood we stained last week to the site it will be installed into. He also learned to to remove glazing from windows for them to be chemically stripped and restored.

At the end of the day Geoff met us at McGraw Ranch as we were competing the window restoration project. He was accompanied by Robert Burkhart, a writer from the local Estes park newspaper, who is putting a column together about important NR work being done around Estes park. He interviewed us with questions regarding why we are working for the RMC and how the work we do plays into the big picture of conservation and preservation. He also interviewed Barnabas, Anna and Max at their work site.

On Thursday we took on one more crew member, Jovonna from the Estes crew. Earlier in the week she took a fall during trail work and was not feeling ready to go back on trail but still wanted to work. So we adopted her for the day and she helped us start another round of picnic tables.  Earlier in the week Chuck and Bob went to the lumber yard and got 25 boards, enough for five more tables that will be used. During the day we completed the preparation of all the boards and began the assembly of one table. Every one we make has been looking better then the last! We can’t wait to see what the last one of the season will look like, it will probably be a museum piece.

Max set posts for the solar shower project at Wild Basin with Bob, Chuck and Wilson from the projects office, we all can’t wait to get more involved in this project in the coming week. Meanwhile Barnabas and Anna worked with Dolly to complete the window restoration project at Quarters Five. It was a stressful day for them because after adding new coats of paint the the windows in the building did not fit anymore and had to be trimmed down with the table saw in the shop requiring lots of back and forth. Little hiccups like this are very frustrating but need to dealt with regardless of how much it may stink.

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Max and Randy working the assembly line of sash painting.

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Hayley finishing up the prep work before painting the last set of windows. In the back left you can see the completed sashes that have been reinstalled.

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Crew Leader, Will, battling the chilly morning with a puffy, beanie and layer of warm coffee.

At the end of the week we all look back in awe at how fast time flew by, its amazing we have all been living and working together for a month now.

-Will (Moraine Crew Leader)