In the Field: Week 1

Boulder Crew

The Boulder Crew’s first week away from Estes Park was filled with hard work, new places, and new faces.

The week started off with the crew’s big move from Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park to Kelly Dahl Campground in Nederland, CO. Within only a few hours, Kelly Dahl quickly felt like home. Lovingly, we decided to call our little patch in the woods the “Ned and Breakfast”.

On Monday, we met up with our Forest Service coworker and trail guru, Agatha (Aggie). Throughout the day, Aggie taught us how to properly build trail drainage, clear trail corridor, and construct water bars/check steps. We finished off our afternoon with a quick hike up to Timberline Falls on the St. Vrain River.

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Taking a rest at Timberline Falls

Tuesday was our first day of truly tough trail work. We spent the day constructing water bars and check steps. Since this was many of our first times doing rock work, Aggie was there to guide us with her wisdom. Perhaps the highlight of the day was the plethora of hikers with dogs enjoying the trail. Throughout the day, we stopped to chat with hikers, and play with their dogs. I began to dub these little dog breaks “dog-stractions”.

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Beautiful dog enjoying the trail

On our next day of work, we were visited by our wonderful Field Coordinator, Morgan. The rest of the day was spent building check steps out of massive rocks. We all enjoyed wrangling rocks into perfect spots, and getting muddy all the while.

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Jess partaking in his favorite aspect of trail work—rock smashing

The crew wrapped up the week by cleaning up the trail and adding our finishing touches. Overall, we were highly satisfied with the quality of work we produced. At the end of it all, we maintained roughly 15 drains, constructed 10 check steps, and 3 water bars. Thanks to Aggie, we all learned a lot about trail work and safety.

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Boulder Crew happy to have completed their first trail together!

-Zach (Boulder Crew Leader)

Rawah Crews

Week one of work was a success! The two Rawah crews worked together this week (which will most likely happen all summer) on the Young Gulch Trail in the Roosevelt National Forest.

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Nawah (Rawah Crew – Noah Lead) and Jawah (Rawah Crew – Jordan Lead) combine for a family photo after our first day of work.

In 2013, the Young Gulch trail was wrecked by a massive flood and has been closed since then.  The Wilderness Restoration Volunteers (WRV) and other conservation corps have been working hard since then to open the trail back up.  During our week there, we dug new tread and built a ton (actually several tons) of new rock walls to help support the trail.

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James and Nathan posing before they CRUSH this rock wall.

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Stevie and Ruby Ann establishing new tread.

Throughout the first two days, Nate (aka Trail Jesus), from the WRV, was kind enough to hang out with us and teach us the best ways to create new trail and build strong rock walls.

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Our spirit guide and trainer Nate of WRV (aka Trail Jesus) providing guidance.

This first week was pretty unique because it was also our first hitch.  However, we got lucky and were able to camp in the parking lot at the trailhead, which meant port-a-potties and potable water across the street! Additionally, we cleansed ourselves of dirt in the nearby creek at the end of each day and one day we looked for the watermelon that Nate supposedly “floated” for us, but we never found it…

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This is how we roll (burritos)

Until next week,

-Jordan and Noah (Rawah Crew Leaders)

Shadow Mountain Crew

This week, the Shadow Mountain Crew moved out to Grand Lake, Colorado to embark on the most glorious adventures! But first, the crew worked with the Sulphur Ranger District of the US Forest Service to get acquainted with the village in which we live and everyone who works on the district, even those outside of trail crews, including the District Ranger, firefighters, wildlife biologists, safety personnel, and the Statewide Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) crew. Once we adapted to village life, the crew attended S212, a class designed to introduce us to crosscutting and chainsaw usage. The crew learned about tree binds, safety precautions, and MUCH MORE.

Thursday and Friday were spent on trail, doing project and maintenance work. On the Doe Creek trail, the crew enjoyed a beautiful walk through a wide open meadow to our work site, where we installed nearly 80 feet of trench to facilitate water drainage, as well as dug 10 feet of tread to reroute the trail around a muddy area bogged down with seepage.

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The Crew walks to Doe Creek.

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The newly dig trench helping keep water off trail to prevent erosion and trail braiding.

During lunch, we had an intriguing conversation about what air tasted like (feel free to comment your opinions below). In addition to this, with a bit of extra time at the end of the day, the crew cranked out 6 check dams. These were put in place to prevent further gullying of the trail, and topped off with a layer of fresh soil to ease travel.

Friday, the Shadow Mountain Crew made their way to the Williams Peak Trail, a long drive, but aided with a great jam session in our beloved Forest Service truck, Bruce. We had a great time, clearing almost three miles of overgrown corridor and reinventing drains and trenches in particularly tricky spots. The lunch break of this day was also notable, as the crew pondered ant exoskeletons, found a frog, named them Michael, and, of course, ate food. We reached a creek just as our turn-around time encroached, and paused for a quick splash to relieve the heat of the sun, much appreciated for the walk back to the car. This weekend, we travel back to Estes Park to climb mountains and take CPR/First Aid training and rejuvenate ourselves for another week of hard, rewarding work in the field!

 

-Mary (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

Estes Crew

6/4/2018 – A strong start for the RMC-CC Estes Crew! The work day starts with an early morning meet and greet at the National Park Service Trail Shop at 7:00 AM. The crew was introduced to 30 other professional trail workers including their NPS ambassadors, Marieke and Jessie. We can tell already that we are welcomed and expected to work hard. Next, we moved on to clean the horse stables, a 30-minute task that takes place every morning. Shoveling hay and horse poop is a great way to warm up the muscles, meet the pack horses, and get to know the NPS staff, who also participate in this daily activity. The rest of the day was spent at Aspen Brook, a trail that was destroyed during the floods of 2013. We restored around 100 yards of tread (trail surface) by removing 30 feet of berm that was causing water to flow onto the trail rather than off it. We also helped by moving unwanted rocks from the trail, some weighing up to 300lbs. Cora spent her time cutting new tread insuring that the back slope was properly cut at the correct angle. We covered the existing trail that was there before with sticks and pine needles, so the public will be encouraged to use the new tread, also known as brushing in or duffing. Another part of the day consisted of moving rocks to a section of trail that had been rutted out by rain fall. Adding large and crushed rock to these areas raises the tread up out of the gully and insures that water runs off successfully. After lunch, we spent the rest of the day clearing the slough, a mixture of small sticks, rocks, and pine needles that accumulates on the trail. This widens the trail and prevents people from walking out on the critical edge.

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6/5/2018 – The day was spent with NPS trail crew member Ben, who took the crew back out to Aspen Brook. The crew spent the entire morning removing half a mile of slough from the trail. Clearing slough is beneficial for many reasons, one being that it creates a safer environment for backpackers and horseback riders by erasing trip hazards from the trail. Crew member Nate spent his time down trail moving rocks in preparation for new and improved tread. During lunch, we learned about the historical value of the Aspen Brook trail. It turns out, this was one of the first roads that lead to Boulder, with tea houses along the way. The afternoon consisted of a walk through on how to detonate rocks safely with small amounts of TNT. However, due to the softness of the rock, the explosion had very little impact. We instead used a double jack and a single jack to slowly chip away at the large rock.

6/6/2018 – On Wednesday, the 6th of June 2018, Estes crew set out to provide support on a future bridge project. We spent the day peeling logs of its bark, just like potatoes. Using proper body mechanics and draw knives, we were able to perfectly strip large chunks of bark off at one time. It’s important to strip bark from the logs before a project because it will decompose much faster than the wood itself, making weak spots in the structure. Once the logs were peeled, it was time to move them to their new location. We were able to move the logs around 50 meters with 8 people and 4 straps that were placed evenly down the log. Each log weighed around 700lbs, so we were only able to move them a few feet at a time. This required extreme teamwork and communication throughout the process. Later in the day we also observed while Marieke fell two trees, giving us some insight on tree safety.

6/7/2018 – We spent the day participating in SAR training (search and rescue). After meeting the other members of the course, we split into 4 groups that would rotate throughout multiple stations. The stations included patient packaging, navigation, GAR scale, and check-in and check-out procedures, each of which are important steps in a SAR situation. Then after lunch we assessed in a mock rescue situation. During this scenario two groups responsible for locating an injured hiker, assessing the situation, packaging, and finally moving the patient. We as the Estes crew are now able to assist in search and rescue operations.

-Curtis (Estes Crew Leader)

Moraine Crew

WOW! What a first week for the Moraine Crew. It is amazing how quickly four days can go when you are having a blast! After getting settled into our “bunk houses”, which are actually very homey cabins, over the weekend we were ready to get working.

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View from the Moraine Crews Cabins

Monday started off with getting to meet our supervisors, Chuck and Bob, as well as the rest of the employees that we will be working with over the summer. Then, we were each given our tool buckets and were sent up to an area called Tortilla Flats to break down and reclaim the metal from old and broken picnic tables. This gave us all a chance to get tools in our hands and start learning how to use them. By the end of the day we were working together like a NASCAR pit crew breaking down tables in mere seconds.

Because most of our big projects this summer take place in campgrounds throughout RMNP, we do not want to start making noise and disturbing campers at 6:30am, so in the morning we will be working on side projects, like using the reclaimed metal to make new picnic tables for visitors to use for decades.

Tuesday started off by visiting the local lumber yard and learning how to assess lumber quality when buying the boards that will be used for the new tables. Once we had gotten enough high quality boards to start building tables we went back to the shop and learned how to use a router to bevel the boards, power sanders to make a smooth surface, stain to make the wood resistant to weathering/ rotting, and the intricate process of assembling a picnic tables (it is a lot harder then it may seem). By the end of the day we had about twenty boards finished and ready to be made into tables and one table near completion, building a picnic table is a bit trickier then one might first imagine.

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Moraine Crew staining boards for picnic tables.

Wednesday morning after completing another table and finishing more boards we headed out to the Moraine Park Campground comfort station that we will be continually improving through the season. Today our task was to dig a 45 feet long and 18 inches’ deep trench to allow electricity to be hooked up to the comfort station improving visitors experience. Although it was a hot day and we were all in the sun for hours, we all had a blast! The entire time we were working together laughing, joking and making the best out of what many would see to be hard work. During that time Hayley ended up finding her passion for digging trenches ensuring that her section was a perfect 18 inches deep with steep parallel walls. After the trench was complete and the electrical lines laid we replaced the soil and scattered forest litter to help the area recover and maintain the aesthetics of the area.

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Moraine Crew showcasing their success in digging trenches!

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The “Trench” after the area was restored.

On Thursday, or as we call it Friday, we began prepping boards that will become the border for our accessibility path at the same Moraine Park Campground comfort station. The objective of these accessibility, or ADA, paths are to allow individuals with mobility impairments to utilize our facilities and enjoy the same comforts other campers have. The boards were anywhere from 10 to 22 feet long and required mutable coats of stain to insure they will last decades in the ground. Around lunch time while we were outside staining boards we saw the Estes park crew walking up to say high while they were on their lunch break during their search and rescue training. We had not taken our lunch yet so we decided to join them and put our brand new picnic tables to the test. It was very nice to get to use what we had been building all week and share some food and conversation with our coworkers. After lunch we continued our staining project and finished about 1/3 of the boards, which is good considering the surface area of the wood we have to stain is over ¼ of a football field and we are doing at least two coats!

All in all, the old saying time flies when you are having fun definitely applies to this first week of work. We all cannot wait to see what is coming next!

-Will (Moraine Crew Leader)

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In the Field: Week 8 (Part Two)

This week the Shadow Mountain Crew backpacked across the 27 mile South Fork loop of the Williams Fork Drainage.  Led by the gung-ho Miles Miller armed with a chainsaw, Shadow Mountain Crew tackled over 200 downed trees on the trail.

The first day we started work on the South Fork trail, we carried crosscut saws, as we are not chainsaw certified.  We removed about 60 fallen trees from the trail that day.

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This monstrous tree bound our crosscut saw so tightly Ashley and Abigail had to free it with nothing but their Corona hand saws.

The second day we covered much more ground and removed many more trees.  Miles Miller was equipped with a chainsaw and our llamas carried some of our camping equipment, which allowed up to move at a quicker pace.  After a long day of hiking, digging drains, and bucking trees we had traveled about eight miles and set up camp near a gurgling stream.

On the third day of our hitch, we hiked about another eight miles.  We started on the South Fork of the Williams Fork drainage and after traversing a few ridges ended on the Main Fork drainage.

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Amy letting Two Socks and Oreo rest at the top of a steep hike.

 

 

 

 

After climbing up our first ridge of the day we break for lunch and watch hundreds of elk in the valley below us.

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Nearing the end of a long work day, Ashley sits near a creek letting the llamas drink.

 

 

The final day of our hitch may have been the roughest day of the entire season.  We got an early start on the trail knowing we had to cover over ten miles in order to finish the trail.  As we struggled across the many stream crossings, no pair of boots escaped the cascading, frigid waters.  After only working for a few hours we lost the trail at a river crossing.  We scattered to find the trail and stumbled upon what we thought may be the trail although it appeared to not have been maintained or used in many years.  With some doubts we continued to follow the ever-confident Miles Miller as he cut through one hundred fallen trees.  Some time after lunch, in the pouring rain, Miles Miller succumb to the doubts that we may not be on the real trail.  Again we scattered to find the real trail.  After vigorous searching, Amy found finally found the trail and John found a safe way for the llamas to get down to the trail.  Once we were all walking on the actual trail, we still had many fallen trees to remove.  With soggy feet, soaking pants, and shivering cores we persisted through the pouring rain, removing tree after tree.  At 7:30pm joyous screams echoed around the mountains as we finally saw our trucks parked at the trailhead.

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Izzy and Ashley ecstatic to have dry clothes and looking forward to warm Chinese food from the one and only Pearl Dragon (which ended up being closed when we finally arrived there).

 

 

 

Although we faced many challenges our last day, our crew stuck together and maintained calm, positive attitudes in the face of fear, stress, and discomfort.

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-Abigail Bearce, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of our last week

For our final week in red feather are crew got the opportunity to work on a variety of different trails,and see a lot of cool country. It was a bitter sweet experience knowing that are time in red feather is up but it was definitely a good week to end on. We had a lot of fun and got to see a variety of unique things such as this massive pine tree that crew member Diana and crew leader Grant are hugging.rf 3.jpg

One of my favorite things this week was having lunch above timberline on Montgomery pass. We were blessed with great weather and a fantastic view, which made for a very enjoyable lunch, and a nice brake from trail work. Helping to put everyone in a great mood as you can see in the picture above with Sabrina posing on a rock.

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For one of the last lessons of the year I got to tech my crew members my lesson on fly tying. Each member of the crew took terns tying there own fly to take home. Everyone did surprisingly well for there first fly tying experience but the true natural of the group was Sabrina who tied a nearly perfect streamer on her first try. Although it might not have been the most exiting lesson every one stayed interested by playing with feathers, as you can see on Arin’s face.

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It was sad to see our last week at red feather fly by, but we had a lot of fun and enjoyed it down to the last minute. We all were very great full for the experience, and the memories we made together will last a lifetime. Throughout the summer we were all brought closer together as friends, and for me it was one of my most memorable summer’s ever.

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-Wyatt Johnson, Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week

In the Field: Week 8 (Part One)

For the season’s last hitch, the Rawah Crew focused their efforts towards completing maintenance on the McIntyre trail. Monday was spent hiking along McIntyre creek which brought about a reminiscence of earlier in the season. This favored trail was their first dose of work in the Rawahs, and now their last. After traversing for approximately 5 miles, the crew set up camp on top of a hill just above Housmer Park’s meadows.

Fetching water on Tuesday morning wasn’t a hassle at all, since the dewy meadow always offers an admirable beauty. McIntyre’s last section of trail follows an old state road which retired in the early 1900’s, so the trail’s grade remained fairly even throughout its duration. Considering, water mitigation was especially necessary for preventing the tread from eroding away.

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Garret carves yet another flawless drain.

This late in the season, obstacles on trail cannot phase the Rawah crew. As head sawyer for the hitch, Gus graciously carried the cross-cut and single bucked fallen trees when necessary. Despite an ample amount of trees and a dire need for drainage structures, the crew managed to finish the entirety of their work on McIntyre trail.

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Gus and Garret pull ribbons with the cross-cut.

On the last morning, just minutes before the 5:30 alarm went off, the Rawah crew was awakened by the howls and yelps of a nearby coyote pack. In awe of the wilderness and the closure of such an amazing experience working in it, the crew took Wednesday’s hike out with a sincere sense of gratitude.r 4

-Sam Ruhala, Rawah Crew Leader of the Week

It’s hard to believe that this is my last week of trail work, my last blog post, my last week of living in the Chamberlain, and my last week as a leader and member of the Estes Crew. My time with the Conservancy has been a whirlwind. These two seasons have drastically changed me as a person, for the better. This program has showed me the undeniable importance of stewardship, education, and leadership in conserving our environment. I hope that at any point in my time as a leader I have made some sort of positive impact on another person and helped foster excitement about conservation.

Not only was this our last week, this week was one of our most physically challenging weeks. The physical aspect of trail work has always been one of my favorite parts of this field, and this week definitely challenged me. Monday took us up the Boulder Brook trail, one of the steepest in the park, for a maintenance run. Then on Tuesday we hiked 4 miles up to Lake of Glass, while carrying tools and pounds of rebar that we removed from an old work site on the trail. The week ended with a workday at Bierstadt Lake, where we spent the day carrying 50 foot downed Lodgepole Pine and peeling all of the bark off of them in preparation for a future project.

Now it’s time for final week- one of the most fun and bittersweet times of the year. All of the crews return for one last week of stewardship work, career building, and fun times reminiscing on the glorious summers we’ve all had here in Colorado. It’s going to be hard leaving- driving away from these mountains once again- but my heart is reassured knowing that the future of these beautiful places is in good hands here with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy.

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-Miranda Thompson, Estes Crew Leader

This week the Kawuneeche Crew completed multiple projects assigned to us this summer. Although it was our last week of work was coming to a close we still had finishing touches to a variety of different areas.

On Monday, the group split into three groups of two to handle all of the different sections of work. Will and Adam stayed at the main project in Timber Creek campground to finish the comfort station. They completed the painting, started the light fixtures, and electrical systems. Dominic and Dax traveled to the East side of the park to finish up a few projects.  At first we installed an ADA handicapped accessible campfire ring at a picnic area at Copeland Lake inside the Wild Basin area.  After that, Dax and Dom went to the headquarters and picked up materials needed to restore a solar shower in Moraine Park campground.  Lastly, Tatyana and Rachel went to McGraw Ranch and was assigned to paint the cabins that researchers were staying.

Tuesday, Adam and Will continued to work on the comfort station and focused specifically on the electrical systems. Both Dax and Dom worked all day on the solar shower project.  They weeded the area and dug a section around the project for a new walk way.  Along with that, they scraped and repainted to entire structure as well and got done just before a storm rolled in.  In McGraw Ranch Rachel began to graze the cabins with stain. Tatyana was on the same cabins, however she was painting the doors and windowsills green.

Our work Wednesday took on a similar structure compared to Tuesday.  Will and Adam stayed back at the comfort station and finished our work in Timber Creek Campground.  Dax and Dom went back to Moraine Park and expected to finish the solar shower.  However, another storm rolled in around lunch and cut down our work time.  So we headed back to the projects shop and put up our season’s tools.  In McGraw Ranch, Tatyana continued to paint doors and windowsills green. Rachel remained staining the cabins.

Thursday was our very last work day for the Historical Preservation team.  Since our main project was completed, Will and Adam teamed up with Rachel and Tatyana at McGraw Ranch.  That morning, the group dusted, scraped, and tapered one of the main buildings. Shortly after that was done another group of volunteers joined them and together they successfully repainted and stained the entire building. Around noon the second volunteer group left. Adam, Will, and Rachel stained the remaining cabins while Tatyana painted the doors and windowsills. During break and lunch the caretaker of the ranch Bill provided fruit, cheesecake, and green chili cornbread.  Dax and Dom finished up the solar shower projected by setting new logs for the walkway and filled it in with road base and crusher gravel.  After that, we regrouped with the rest of the team at McGraw Ranch and headed back over to our bunkhouse on the West side for the last time.  Luckily enough there was plenty of cornbread leftover for a Trail Ridge snack.  The ending of the summer has not only brought the Kawunechee group together; it has also taught us the value of reserving historic areas. Understanding the time and skill it took to build these areas you can appreciate why people reserve such areas. We all learned a lot this summer and it was an amazing experience!

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-Dax DeShazo and Tatyana Mosley, Kawuneeche Crew Leaders of the Week

For our final workweek, the Boulder Crew completed its first ever backcountry hitch on Buchanan Pass, located right outside the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The objective of our four-day hitch was to remove a displaced bridge and build a new one utilizing the natural resources at our disposal. To commence our first day, we began with a three-mile hike to our worksite, following with the task of locating a satisfactory campsite and ending our workday with the first steps of our week’s task. Since the first stages of bridge building are rather slow and tedious, our Forest Service leaders, Cait and Greg, worked on finding a suitable tree to saw down that would serve as our bridge while the rest of the crew completed dips and drains up and down trail of our primary worksite. On Wednesday, our second day of work, we began sculpting the framework of our bridge by marking, debarking, and crosscutting each individual piece of the bridge. While some crewmembers worked on sculpting the bridge so to make it functional, others simultaneously worked on clearing an area on each side of the river for the sills to sit, allowing support for the bridge. Although the amount of wood worked on was little, debarking, crosscutting, and sculpting each individual piece proved to be an all-day affair. On our third day, we began to see the development of the bridge finally coming together. For the first half of our day, we completed the framework of our bridge and were able to place and structure the bridge over the river by embedding the sills on each side of the river and while placing our wooden bridge parts on top. Although this task was physically taxing, it tied together the main structure of the bridge, pushing us to the final stage of our project. Finally, on our last day, we disassembled our campsite and hiked down to the worksite to complete our project of the week. To finish up, the Boulder Crew worked on securing the bridge by screwing the individual pieces together and adding large rocks around to create a coordinated and operable bridge. After establishing the bridge, we cleared the old bridge from the river and added the finishing touches to our newest one. Because the project was completed within the first half of the workday, we concluded our workweek with a beautiful group hike into the Indian Peaks Wilderness and back to the base of Buchanan Pass. This final workweek, although proved to be challenging, was an extremely rewarding and memorable experience for the Boulder Crew.Processed with VSCO with c1 presetProcessed with VSCO with g3 presetProcessed with VSCO with g3 presetIMG_2920IMG_2907.JPG

-Milda Kristupaitis, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week

 

 

In the Field: Week 2

This week proved to be a productive week for the Boulder Crew both on and off the trail.  After enjoying a four-day weekend, the crew got right into trail work on Tuesday morning at the heavily-used Ceran St. Vrain Trail.   The entirety of the Ceran St. Vrain Trail follows the river, providing the crew with a beautiful work environment.  Tuesday involved adding numerous new drainage structures to the first few miles of trail.  Beyond honing our skills in the art of digging effective and sustainable drains, we also were able to practice some new skills, such as the removal and rehabilitation of illegal fire pits.  On Wednesday, we returned to Ceran St. Vrain to once again go over the drainage structures dug on Tuesday to critique and improve upon them.  Beyond the standard focus on drainage, Wednesday’s work on the trail also included rehabilitation of illegal fire rings and brushing and limbing vegetation along the trail.

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On Thursday, the crew began their day with a trip down the canyon to the Boulder Ranger District Office to participate in the monthly district meeting.  The meeting afforded the crew the opportunity to learn more about the organizational structure of the US Forest Service and the current concerns and goals of the district.  After spending the morning in the meeting, the crew drove  back and began work for the afternoon on the Buchanan Pass Trail, where we had worked on extensively last week.  Given the abbreviated day in the field, the crew focused only on digging drainage structures on the next mile and a half of trail for the afternoon.

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The week closed out on a high note as we undertook work on the Forsythe Canyon Trail. Much like the Ceran St. Vrain Trail, this trail follows water and provides a very peaceful atmosphere.  The trail required the installation of many new dips and drains, as well as some extensive brushing and rehabilitation of large illegal fire rings.  After finishing up work on the trail a little early, the crew returned to the work center to do a little cleaning of the work trucks and public areas at the work center.

Off the trail, the crew has been enjoying our space at Kelly Dahl Campground more and more. Our spacious alcove now feels like home as we add new touches to our space for our enjoyment like hammocks, solar showers, and stumps around the fire.  We’ve established a meal and dishes routine as well for our nightly group dinners.  On Wednesday, we cooked brats over the fire—a tasty meal with minimal dishes! All in all, the Boulder crew enjoyed another week of work and recreation in the beautiful natural areas of the Boulder region!

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– Tom Enright, Boulder Crew Leader

 

It’s the second week of trail work for the Estes Crew, and we’ve begun covering a lot of miles in the park. On Monday and Tuesday, we worked on the Deer Mountain Trail, clearing brush and digging drains on 3 miles of trail. On Wednesday, we worked along the extremely popular Fern Lake trail, clearing 2 miles. This allowed us to talk to many hikers, including Conservancy members, about the trail work we were doing in the park. Working on popular trails can make the work crowded, but it’s so rewarding when people are interested in what we’re doing and thank us for our work. Finally, we ended the week with an amazing trail run up the North Longs Peak trail. The trail had a lot of uphill and it was a hot day, but we all kept good attitudes as we adjusted to altitude and hiking with heavy packs and tools. I am a firm believer that every hike is worth it when the destination offers a view. The North Longs trail did not disappoint in this manner and our lunch spot on the tundra offered a panorama view of Longs Peak, the Mummy Range, and many other peaks in the park.

We’re becoming more and more comfortable going on trail maintenance runs, but there is still so much to learn. We’ve been learning new skills daily. A trail maintenance run consists of digging drains to prevent water from eroding the trail, cutting back vegetation to open up the trail corridor, and using a crosscut saw to remove large fallen trees.

As always, a hard week at work calls for a fun and adventurous weekend. Crew members got out on the trails this weekend and hiked to Blue Lake in the Never Summer Wilderness and Sky Pond in RMNP. It’s impossible to be bored out here and we can’t get enough of these mountains.

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Our lunch spot from the North Longs trail.

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Our group that hiked to Sky Pond

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Glissading down from Sky Pond

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Lunch from the summit of Deer Mountain

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Jesse and Jessa with brushing tools on the Deer Mountain Trail

– Miranda Thompson,  Estes Crew Leader

 

This week the Kawuneechee Crew started off on a high note: we finished the roof at the Timbercreek Campground by the end of the day on Monday. This allowed for us to move onto other projects within the comfort station. We removed all of the windows, framed the inside walls, and put in a new support where the inside concrete wall needed to be removed. These many small jobs took us through the rest of the week until Thursday when we started painting the outside. We were able to complete two coats on one side of the building. It looks like we will be painting the rest of it throughout next week.

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National Park Service staff and crew members complete the roof on Monday.

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The completed roof at the Timbercreek Campground comfort station!

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Another view of the completed roof

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Adam works to paint the comfort station at Timbercreek Campground

Along with the work we did at the comfort station, we also worked on other projects around the park. On Monday, a couple of us went back to Lake Irene to work on the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) Mess hall by continuing to chink logs. On Thursday, we hiked to the little buckaroo barn near the Bowen Gulch Trail and put in new windows. This building is an old historic site from the ranches that used to exist in this area.

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Adam replaces a window at the Little Buckaroo Barn

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Rachel helps replace a window at the Little Buckaroo Barn

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A view of the Little Buckaroo Barn

After another successful week, we look forward to completing more projects. This next week looks like a lot of painting at the comfort station and possibly more progress on the Lake Irene CCC Mess Hall.

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Crew member and leaders enjoy their weekend with a hike in the Never Summers

– Dominic Rickicki, Kawuneeche Crew Leader

 

This week, the Shadow Mountain Crew started out with crosscut saw training led by our district’s Rec Planner, Miles Miller. We spent one day in the classroom learning about saw technique and history, followed by a day in the field on the Knight Ridge Trail. We had hoped to spend most of the day crosscutting, but ran into more trees outside the Indian Peaks Wilderness boundary than we expected, which meant that we spent much of the morning assisting with the removal of those trees with chainsaws.

The Knight Ridge Trail was the focus of a large clearing project in the summer of 2015 that was performed in part by last year’s Shadow Mountain Crew. We knew that this year there would be fewer trees down, but since the trail is in an area exposed to high winds, there were still plenty of trees to clear. As part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, the Knight Ridge is an important section to keep open for the many through hikers that come through the area each summer.

The rest of our week was spent on maintenance runs on the Cascade Creek Trail (a popular trail out of the Monarch Lake Trailhead) and the Strawberry Lake Trail. We also were able to start taking out our pack llama, Jed, out for walks so he will be strong enough to carry equipment for us soon!

After a 5-day week of work, we are enjoying a long weekend of hiking, spending time with visiting family, and road-tripping to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Next week, we look forward to more maintenance runs and preparing for our first backcountry hitch!

Cross Cut.jpgToby looks on while John and Ash get some crosscut saw practice on the Knight Ridge Trail.

Abigail.jpgAbigail looks out over Lake Granby from the Knight Ridge.

Strawberry.jpgShadow Crew members take a relaxing lunch break on Strawberry Lake, looking towards the Indian Peaks.

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– Amy Sullivan, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader

 

This week, Rawah and Red Feather Crew morale was good and a lot was accomplished. It was extremely hot, but 3-6L of fluids were consumed by every crew member daily: an incredible feat! We build 0.2 miles of trail from scratch and fixed, widened, or improved another 0.2 miles of trail in Young Gulch. This was a cool experience for all to see trail from start of flagging to finished product. We also were reminded how to respect nature. We got rattled at and warned by six Western Diamonback Rattlesnakes either on the trail or just to the side near where we were working!

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Using the GPS App ‘Strava’, I mapped what our work looks like now and annotated it. We are 0.4 miles in, with 2.25 miles to go to the halfway point, when one half of the trail will reopen, and work will commence from the other side of the trail until the trails join. USFS employee, Kevin Cannon, has mapped and flagged the proposed trail route using GPS. You can clearly see the drastic route change from the old Young Gulch Trail. Circled in blue are turns that will be constructed next weekend by the ‘turn crew’. In black is a bridge and horse crossing coming in this Fall. In pink is the trail that we built from scratch (removing vegetation, rocks, leveling trail, building 3 retaining walls of rock, 6 check steps, widening previously initiated trail sections, and correctly backsloping).

All-in-all, it was a good week and lots of progress was made.

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Crew members Sam and Kyrie work on outsloping the tread surface on first switchback.

20160615_135552_HDR.jpgRosa Carolina identified on the side of the trail. Spring is a great time in the mountains.

– Grant Crist, Red Feather Lakes Crew Leader

 

In the Field: Week 1

The Rawah and Red Feather crews spent this week being trained by their Forest Service supervisors and getting a feel for the trails they will be working this season. Monday started with reviewing basic trail maintenance techniques and tool safety. For the second half of the day the crews headed to the Lone Pine Trail to scout work projects for later in the week. Tuesday the crews returned to Lone Pine to get in some practice with their supervisor and one of the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers. We practiced building waterbars, clearing the trail corridor cleaning out dips and drains and cutting out small trees from the trail. Wednesday the crews went through their crosscut saw training and received their certifications as sawyers at the end of the day. With training and certifications completed, Thursday, the crews headed to the Big South Trail to work on their recently learned skills. The crews maintained two miles of trail, drained a flooded fifty-foot section of trail, and maintained twenty-eight water bars. After a week of training the crews are excited to get into the field and start working on some trails. Next week both the Rawah and Red Feather crews will be working at the Young Gulch trail doing project work with some other volunteers. Stay tuned for updates!

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Forest Service supervisor Chris Klingbeil teaches crosscut training

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Red Feather crew member Arin works on a downed tree in the trial

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Rawah Crew member Sam handsaws a downed tree with the Poudre Wilderness volunteer

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Rawah and Red Feather crew members go over approaching a cut

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Rawah crew members Kyrie and Eeland get some practice time with the saw

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Rawah crew member Eeland feeling pretty good about his first cut

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Crew members work on draining flooded sections of trail

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Rawah and Red Feather Crews wearing their carhartts for Carhartt Tuesday

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Rawah crew leader Des works on the flooded section of trail

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Eeland catches fish for a group dinner of fish tacos

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On off time Rawah crew member Eeland teaches Sam fly fishing techniques

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During lunch Rawah members Des and Gus plan for the up coming weekend

-Des Otis, Rawah Crew Leader

After participating in a volunteer orientation at the Boulder Ranger District Office on Saturday of last week, the Boulder Crew jumped right into trail work with the Forest Service on Monday morning.

The crew focused its work on the Buchanan Pass Trail along the Middle Saint Vrain Creek this week.  Trail work commenced Monday morning with a few short demonstrations regarding safe use of tools and the fundamentals of maintaining drainage structures on trail.  With that basic orientation, the crew members tried their hands at digging drainage structures on trail in pairs at first and later on their own.  In the afternoon, we then hiked back to critique and improve upon the drains they had already dug that morning.  All in all, the work on Monday afforded the opportunity to enjoy some time on trail together while learning how to recognize drainage issues on trail and then mitigate those problems with quality trail maintenance techniques.

The crew encountered an unexpected delay and team building activity on Tuesday morning when a truck got a flat tire on the way to work.  After working together to change the tire, we returned to Buchanan Pass Trail to continue the drainage work remaining on trail and to implement newly learned maintenance techniques such as brushing.  By early Wednesday morning, the crew had completed basic maintenance on the first section of the trail and then turned its attention to a project adding more retainers and dirt to an overly steep ramp after a boardwalk.  Crew members dug borrow pits to collect dirt, collected smaller rocks to be added to stabilize the tread on the ramp, found and transported large (and heavy) rocks to be used as stepping stones at the end of the ramp, and skinned the logs to be added as extra retainers and railings along the boardwalk.  It was quite the project!

Thursday’s work focused on finishing up the project we had done all the prep work for on Wednesday and working up trail to continue maintenance and to remove roots on trail that presented tripping hazards.  By the end of the day, the ramp project was complete and the crew could appreciate the fruits of their labor!

As a whole, this first week of trail work exposed the crew to a variety of techniques they will be using for the remainder of the summer.  The skills learned this week will continue to be honed and expanded upon as the crew tackles a new trails and projects in the coming weeks.  Off the trail, the crew has made our campsite at Kelly Dahl Campground home.  We have a large tarp for rain cover, a picnic table, a fire pit, a trailer equipped with a stove and plenty of room for storage, and many other amenities at our disposal; we’re certainly living large for living in tents for the summer (the view of the sunsets over the mountains certainly makes the site a little sweeter too)!  With one week of living and working together under our belts, we’re all looking forward to the weeks to come enjoying one another’s company and the beauty of the mountains!

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The Ramp (Before)

 

 

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Hailey and Milda stand proudly over the ramp after completing the rehab.

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Dalton working to remove roots for the trail.

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Gustavo skinning a log for the ramp

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Dalton tamping down new tread on the ramp.

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The Boulder Crew was challenged by a flat tire on the way to work this week.

-Tom Enright, Boulder Crew Leader

The first week of trail work has come and gone for the Estes Crew. The verdict is that our legs are a little sore, but we’re no less stoked to enjoy the mountains on our days off. It doesn’t take long to realize the beauty of the mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park and the adventures that are possible among them.

This week we received Search and Rescue training from NPS employees and additional trainings from other departments such as Natural Resources and Cultural Resources. These trainings allow us to be more aware of what we can do to keep Rocky a safe and functioning park. We ended the week with maintenance runs to Deer Mountain and Sandbeach Lake, for a total of 10 miles maintained. So far we’ve been clearing drains to help prevent erosion by water on the trails. Trail work, along with the semi-truck full of hay bales we unloaded for the mule and horse pack teams, left our muscles sore but that didn’t stop our crew from heading out to the trails this weekend.

As a crew leader, it feels great to see my crew getting along so well even though we’ve only known each other two weeks. It makes me so happy to see them excited about trail work and excited about playing a role in the conservation of our public lands. As a crew we are beyond excited to keep working hard on the trails and getting out to hike, run, and climb on the weekends here in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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-Miranda Thompson, Estes Crew Leader

One week down in the Kawuneechee Valley and our crew wasted no time! Day one involved a few brief introductions before we all headed up to Lake Irene to shovel the snow out from around a CCC Mess hall located right off of the parking lot. This mess hall helped feed CCC workers during the construction of trail ridge road, but has seen little use since that time. Last summers crew was able to redo the roof with new cedar shingles, which still look great after a winter at 10,000 ft. This summer our crew will be continuing their work by chinking (a caulk like substance used to seal logs on a log cabin) between the logs of the mess hall, to help prevent rodents.

On Tuesday we went to an all crew training on the east side of Rocky, where we learned about safety, wildlife, invasive species, and other important topics for our summer in the park.

Wednesday we began restoration work on a comfort station at Timber Creek campground. We began by tearing off all the old shingles on the roof and removing old bathroom fixtures from the work site. After this our supervisors taught us the ins and outs of cedar shingle placement and we began laying down the new roof. After a few mistakes and some “aha” moments we found our groove and started laying down shingles with speed.

Thursday, half of the crew began work on the roof again while the other half went back up to Lake Irene to chink. We were able to chink a good portion of the parking lot side of the building, but the work is slow and precise so many more days will be spent here. The other half of the crew made good progress on the roof and it looks like we are about halfway done! Hopefully next week sees the completion of this project as we move on to more restoration jobs throughout the park!

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Dominic, Kawuneeche Crew Leader, cuts shingles to size.

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Rachel, Kawuneeche Crew Member, sorts through shingles to find the right size.

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Adam, Kawuneeche crew member,nails down some shingles at Timber Creek campground.

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Dax, Kawuneeche crew member, applies a fresh layer of chink to the CCC mess hall.

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Dax uses the magnet to pull nails off the roof after removing the shingles.

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Tatyana, Kawuneeche crew member, pulls nails out of the roof to prepare for new shingles.

-Dominic Rickicki, Kawuneeche Crew Leader

The Shadow Mountain Crew started out the week by moving into our housing for the summer in the Shadow Mountain Village and Work Center, near Grand Lake.

Having lived in Moraine Park Campground for training week, this move was much anticipated. After some cleaning and paperwork with the housing manager, we were able to settle in to our two 1940s era houses, which have already started to feel like home!

Our first week with the Sulphur Ranger District of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest has been a good exercise in flexibility. Our previously scheduled crosscut saw training was postponed, but this meant that we were able to dig right in and get some maintenance runs in on the Doe Creek Trail, the Roaring Fork Trail, and the Cascade Creek Trail. Much of our work this week was done with a Student Conservation Association (SCA) crew that will be patrolling in the wilderness on our district this summer.

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Amy and Forest Service employee Lauren buck out a downed tree on the Cascade Creek Trail in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

 

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John and SCA crew member Jake get some crosscut saw practice in on the Roaring Fork Trail in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

In addition to our first maintenance runs, we’ve also spent time loading our crew truck with tools, learning about tool sharpening and other tool maintenance, and attending a district-wide safety meeting. As part of the Non-Motorized Trail Crew (NMTC), we work with Forest Service employees Kendra and Lauren, who, along with the members of our crew with trail work experience, have been helping to get everyone up to speed on the techniques and tools of trail construction and maintenance.

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Ashley models our crew truck before we load it up with shovels, picks, Pulaskis, hoes, hammers, and plenty of other trail tools that we’ll be using this season!

 

When we’re not working, we’ve been able to spend time with the nearby Kawuneeche crew, even winning a round of trivia at a local restaurant! We love our fire pit in the backyard and convenient access to canoes for paddling on Shadow Mountain Lake. We’ve made many wildlife sightings in the Shadow Mountain Village, including pelicans, osprey, moose, and even a coyote.

Next week, we’ll be back at it with more maintenance runs and crosscut saw training!

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The Shadow Crew (Ashley, John, Toby, Izzy, Amy, and Abigail) celebrates the National Park Service Centennial on our way over Trail Ridge Road to get to our housing and work area.

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When not performing excellent trail work, Izzy and Abigail enjoy sleeping in their hammocks.

-Amy Sullivan, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader

 

 

 

 

 

National Trails Day Photo Gallery

As you may have read in the previous post, the Conservancy hosted its second annual National Trails Day volunteer project and picnic this past weekend to celebrate the trails of RMNP and give back to their ongoing sustainability. With over 50 volunteers, the event helped Rocky Mountain National Park install 30 check steps, resurface 300 feet of trail, and decommission 50 feet of social trails on the heavily used stock trails around Moraine Park Campground. Check out the photos from the day below!

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Here we go!

They’re back! The leaders spent this past week up in Estes Park preparing for the upcoming season with training sessions and pre-season meetings. We started out the week with some background orientation and planning for crew member training week.  Here are some photos from the week:

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Crew leaders working together to develop training activities for their crews.

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Miranda, Grant, and Des get ready to test their tent-building skills.

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Crew leader use their communication skills to help each other build tents blindfolded.

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On Friday morning, we decided to start the day with some field scenarios up at Mills Lake

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Crew leaders playing Ninja during an afternoon break.

Stay tuned for updates and photos from crew member training week!