In the Field: Week 5 (Part One)

After a week spent on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park for RMC-CC’s educational mid-week, the Kawuneeche Crew returned to the beautiful Kawuneeche Valley. On Monday, we arrived at our comfort station and were pleased to see that in our absence our NPS supervisors replaced nearly all of the windows. After admiring the glimmering glass, we jumped right back into work. In the morning, the crew prepped an area outside the comfort station for a concrete (or as we’ve learned is often called “mud” in the business) sidewalk to be poured later in the week. Prepping the area for concrete included digging out the area four inches deep, and creating a border using wooden boards and stakes. Once this was completed, the rest of our day was spent framing the new windows (to ensure that they stay in place), using wooden boards, a nail gun, and a lot of precise measuring. While half of the crew spent the afternoon doing this, the other half worked on removing grout from the comfort station’s tile floors, via a rotary tool equipped with a specialized and extremely sharp blade.

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Crew leader Dom and crew member Dax examining and working on the area outside the comfort station to be filled with concrete.

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Crew member, Will, working on placing a border around the area outside the comfort station for the concrete sidewalk.

Tuesday brought more window work. In addition to continuing to frame the windows, the crew also replaced the remaining few windows, which are the windows that can be opened and closed to the outside world. (It is also worth noting that we now no longer have to board up the windows before leaving for the day…which is very exciting for us!) In the afternoon, we framed these windows and also worked on removing more grout from the tile floors. Tuesday further consisted of chinking at the Mess Hall up at Lake Irene. And after work on Tuesday afternoon, I, as the assistant crew leader of the week, taught the crew a lesson on making art from nature. After I spoke about some of the history and theory behind nature art, the crew created their own pieces of art from the nature found in our backyard, and explained their pieces to the rest of the crew.

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Crew member, Adam, displaying his nature art, in the form of a mandala, to the rest of the crew.

On Wednesday, the crew completed even more grout work. Not only did the crew finish removing the grout (a much more difficult and time consuming task than you might otherwise think, and hence why it took nearly three days to complete) from the women’s side of the comfort station, but crew member Dax and crew leader Dom also grouted the women’s side. This, too, was another time consuming task, as it involved a great deal of waiting for various steps to be completed, namely the washing and drying of the tiles before and after the grout had been placed. Lastly, the other half of the crew spent the day chinking at Lake Irene, working primarily on the corners of the building; and we came incredibly close to completing the project.

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Crew Member, Adam, using the rotary tool to remove grout from the comfort station’s tiles.

            Our last work day of the week, Thursday, was an exciting and busy day for the Kawuneeche Crew! While half of the crew spent the day at the comfort station, the other half headed over to the east side of the park to help transport materials for a project next week. At the comfort station, Dom and Dax spent the morning hauling and dumping wheel barrels of concrete from a truck to the area for the sidewalk. Once the concrete was dumped, our NPS supervisors Bob, Chuck, and John spread and evened the concrete into the area. The exterior of the bathroom continues to progress, and now that it has a brand new sidewalk, it looks wonderful! Once the sidewalk was completed, Dom and Dax spent the rest of the day doing (you guessed it!) more grout work. In the meantime, the rest of the crew, including myself, Adam, and Will loaded our work truck with all of the shingles remaining from the re-shingling of the comfort station’s roof a few weeks back. After loading the shingles, we headed up to Lake Irene to finish up chinking the last corner of the Mess Hall. An hour of work later and we were proud to have finished this project for the summer, and it looks fantastic! We then headed over Trail Ridge Road with the shingles (just imagine driving over a curvy, mountain road with a huge, weighted down truck) and unloaded them near the park headquarters. Next, we loaded James’, one of our NPS supervisors, truck with logs and drove to a picnic area near the Wild Basin area to drop them off. Because we needed to take forty logs to this area, we ended up taking two trips. And while we spent a good deal of our day driving, the scenery was beautiful and was a great way to end the start to the second half of the season!

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Crew Leader, Dom, admiring the newly poured concrete sidewalk.

            Next week, we are looking forward to making more progress on the comfort station and to some new projects on the east side of the park!

-Rachel Eckert, Kawuneeche Crew Leader of the Week

One of my favorite things about the Estes Crew is that we are given opportunities to work in other areas of the park outside of trails. Don’t get me wrong- I absolutely love trail work. However, trail work is not something that everyone is interested in turning into a life-long career. So this week, the members of Estes Crew got to work with the Resource Stewardship division of Rocky and explore more options for future jobs or careers. This week, we worked with a crew that manages the flora of the park by removing invasive plants.

Today, invasive species are one of the largest threats to native plants and wildlife all across the globe, and the culprit is often humans. Rocky Mountain National Park has a huge diversity of plants from the montane life zone all the way to the tundra. This diversity even earned them recognition as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. However, it is the beautiful landscape that affords the park recognition and attracts the people that bring with them invasive weeds such as Musk Thistle and Cheatgrass. This is where crews like the one we worked with this week step in.

The main methods for removing invasive weeds are manually removing them and using herbicides applied with a backpack sprayer. Herbicides can sound like a scary thing, right? With some of the invasive species in the park, using herbicides is the best viable option for their removal. For example, simply pulling Canada Thistle does not work, because the roots will then sprout several more plants in the same spot. I can assure you that the NPS employees who manage the plans for invasive weeds rely heavily on the best science available, only use them if they are the best option, and hold their crews to the highest safety standards. The chemicals used in the park are specific to certain plant families, and don’t stay in the environment long. The use of backpack sprayers allows only certain plants to be targeted and there are strict guidelines on where the use of herbicides is allowed. If you would like more information on the use of herbicides in parks, I have provided links at the end of this post.

Thanks for checking back in with our RMC crews! It’s now the weekend and we’re all off to hike, climb, and float the beautiful land that we’re living in.

Rocky Mountain NP Environmental Assessment- Exotic Plant Removal

Yosemite NP Treatment of Invasive Plants

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 The Estes Crew, along with the Park Service employees, work through a field looking for Musk and Canada Thistle.

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 Estes Crew members Jessa and Yuritzi head back to the car at the end of our workday.

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  Crewmember Jessa sprays Canada Thistle in the thickets of the Sheep Lakes area of Rocky.

-Miranda Thompson, Estes Crew Leader

Over the course of the last week, the Boulder Crew worked on three main projects. The first of these involved constructing a turnpike within James Peak Wilderness, just south of Nederland. On the first day, we were joined by Geoff Elliot who aided us in the construction of the turnpike. For construction, we spent a great deal of time collecting rocks of all shapes and sizes. The perimeter of the turnpike consisted of very large rocks that required two or more people to carry with the help of a rock austin. Once the outside perimeter of the turnpike was complete, the crew had to line the inside of the turnpike with large rocks followed by smaller rocks, a layer of dirt, more small rocks, and then a final layer of dirt. Having good clean dirt was essential in construction. Crew Leader, Tom Enright, proved to have a true natural ability in selecting the site to borrow dirt from. Tom spent the better part of two days sifting through dirt, removal large impurities, to ensure that we have a pure final product. Way to go Tom! One of the more interesting things we saw while working in James Peak Wilderness was a man walking his three goats on the trail. The most exciting thing we usually see, as far as domesticated wildlife goes, is an abnormally large dog, so it was pretty special to see a small herd of goats.

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Tom excavating the turnpike section.

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Dalton creating the edge for the turnpike.

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Hailey removing loose soils from the turnpike area.

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Milda and Tom using rock bars to unearth rocks.

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Milda and Tom work together to carry a large rock to the worksite.

On the final day of the work week, the crew split with half of us going into Brainard Lake to work on the Long Lake Connector and the other half traveling to Ceran St. Vrain to construct a rock retaining wall. At Brainard Lake we spent the entire day removing hazard trees and other trees that were in the corridor of the connector. The connector is going to be crucial to the Brainard Lake area because it will provide an off-road alternative to walking the road from the main parking area in order to access some of the more popular trailheads. The work at Brainard Lake was taxing at times but the need for the corridor kept the crew engaged. At Ceran St. Vrain, the other half of the crew spent their day building a rock retaining wall in an effort to reduce erosion near the trail. It seemed that the general theme of the week was rock collecting, with this half of the crew spending the majority of the day once again collecting rocks of all shaped and sizes.

This week was a little more interesting than usual due to the Cold Spring Fire. The fire started just north of our work center and spread south skirting the east side of Nederland. On Saturday, the fire spread quickly and due to the proximity of the fire it was a major topic of conversation whether we should relocate where we were staying for the week. But thanks to the hard work of our wildland firefighters, the fire was contained within a few days, and our home within Kelly Dahl Campground was safe along with the rest of Boulder County. By the time the blaze reached 100% containment five homes had been destroyed and a little more than 500 acres of land were burned.

-Dalton Moore, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week

This past week the Rawah and Red Feather Crews partnered up with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WLRV) back at Young Gulch. Here is each crew’s account of the work completed!

After a great weekend trip to Moab Utah, the Rawah Crew was ready to head back to Young Gulch with Nate, our Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WLRV) contact and the Red Feather crew. This week had hazards that we discussed every morning before starting our day. Hazards like Rattlesnakes, Poison Ivy, the heat, and tool safety. Both crews did a great job at be spatially aware of each other and being safe of these hazards.

We widened and adjusted the tread of the trail that we established from the week of June 13th. The Wildlands Restoration Volunteers created a switchback turn in previous weeks, and several members of the Rawah Crew lowered the height, made the slope more gradual and widened the tread of the turn. This allows for future mountain bikers and hikers to have an easier transition up or down the trail.

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Rawah Crew Member Gus lowering the slope using a Pick Mattock

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Rawah Crew member Garret adjusting the height of the trail.

Rock walls are a way to support the trail. Three new rock walls were established on the trail, and several more were readjusted to make sure they work effectively. Looking for large flat rocks in tall grass with rattlesnakes around is not fun, but all crew members were safe, vigilant and enjoyed finding rocks that worked well. In order for the rock wall to be stabilized, smaller rocks or “crush” was used to fill in the negative space of the rocks.

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Gus wearing his personal protection equipment to create crush for a rock wall.

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Creating rock walls are fun! Des smiles as Geoff is impressed with the rock wall.

Both crews were able to create a quarter mile more trail after the gulch crossing. Poison Ivy was abundant. However, crew member of the week, Sam Ruhala, used a McCloud to clear away any on or close to the trail. He helped keep both crews safe. The Red Feather crew did more creation, as the Rawah crew did the rock walls and maintenance of the old trail. Being on the Rawah trails can get quite lonely. Aside from the crew, we see very few people on trails or anywhere while we are working. That being said it is always a pleasure working with another crew. Especially one as fun and productive as Red Feather. One of my favorite quotes is by Simon Sinek and it is “If you have the opportunity to do amazing things in your life, I strongly encourage you to invite someone to join you”. At the end of the week we all felt accomplished and proud of our maintenance and creation of the Young Gulch trail. Nate, our WLRV contact, surprised us with two big watermelons to thank us for our work.

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Rawah crew members Kyrie and Sam pose for a picture after a day of work.

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Red Feather crew member Sabrina enjoys the watermelon at the end of a hot, hard week.

-Eeland Stribling, Rawah Crew Leader of the Week

This week July 11th-14th the Red Feather Lakes crew collaborated with the Rawah crew at Young Gulch in the Poudre Canyon. This was the second time the Red Feather Lakes crew has worked with the Rawah crew in Young Gulch, the first time the crews joined forces was the first week when all of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy crews dispersed to their permanent residences until the end of the season. Due to severe floods the Young Gulch has been closed since 2013 and not set to reopen until 2018. Once a very popular hiking and biking trail on the 14 highway west of Fort Collins, the trail was damaged by the high park fire in 2012 and only days after reopening in September 2013 until the torrent took out majority of its trail. The two crews, Red Feather Lakes and Rawah, have been working with the forest service to rebuild a new route that is more sustainable.

Our objective, this week, in Young Gulch was to reinforce and fine tune sections that had been previously worked on. We did this by back sloping and leveling out the tread and inaugurating a drainage grade. Section notes were provided to both crews which helped immensely. Each section was cut into 100 foot long blocks of which there were 23 blocks that we worked on, that’s close to half a mile of work done in 4 days. A lot of what we did consisted of hauling many loads of dirt and transferring from different sections of the trail. We stored much of the trail materials into designated piles consisting of rock piles, mineral soil piles, and organic soil piles. Our biggest concerns with the trail were the rattle snakes, which we saw several in a days’ work and the poison ivy that the crews had cleared out to create pathway.

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The picture above is the adventurous Wyatt from the Red Feather Lakes crew holding a bull snake that he found on the trail. Wyatt is fearful when it comes to finding wildlife, but his curiosity supersedes his fear of handling the wildlife. The Young Gulch has a mélange of wildlife from shrubs, ponderosa pine, juniper and Douglas fir along its’ hillsides. Along with the vegetation Young Gulch also has different breeds of snakes, fish, and deer.

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The picture above (from left to right) is Wyatt, with the Red Feather Lakes crew, Sam, with the Rawah crew, and Daina, with the Red Feather Lakes crew. All three of the crew member’s just completed a drainage grade by carefully selecting melon-sized rocks and by depositing each one along the inside of the turn and finishing it off by adding crushed rock in between the larger ones to hold them into place. The Drain was made because the natural flow of water ran right in that section of the turn so the drain keeps the trail from eroding.

Many of the crew members agree that working in Young Gulch has been their favorite project yet because they are able to see a brand new trail put in with their very own efforts and this give everyone a great sense of achievement. Everyone has worked adamantly to create this trail and you can see that the work that was put into it was made carefully and diligently.

-Daina Daniels, Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week

I was fortunate enough to make it out to the Young Gulch project this past week and took some photos of my own. Here they are:

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Crew Spotlight: Kawuneeche Crew

Margaret Johnson (Kawuneeche Crew Leader)

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My favorite work project by far this summer has been the Little Buckaroo Barn. It was a new experience for me, doing construction and carpentry on historical buildings, and also working in one place for an extended time. I loved seeing the changes in the valley over the last two months, and since the barn is nestled right in the middle of Kawuneeche valley at the base of the Never Summer Mountains, it was the perfect place to witness the sequence of wildflowers blooming in the meadow and the ebb and flow of the Colorado River.

My favorite memory of the entire summer would have to be backpacking in the Never Summers with Jenna and Kris the weekend of the blue moon. It was Kris’ first backpacking experience, which was awesome to be a part of, and we had a spectacular camp site for watching the moon rise in a clear sky. We had been planning and dreaming of hiking into the bowl we could see everyday on our drive to work, and we finally made it into that gorgeous cirque.

Kristina Kurelja (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

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It was taken on my first backpacking trip, when Margaret, Jenna and I started at the Bowen-Baker Trailhead and hiked a few miles into the Never Summer Wilderness to camp, then hiked to Parika Lake the next day. It also happened to be the night of the Blue Moon, or the second full moon of the month. After I started a fire, we sat and watched the moon rise like the sun over the Kawuneeche Valley. It was absolutely gorgeous, and we slept under the stars and the moon to fully appreciate its beauty. This experience was a close second to my favorite memory of the summer.

My favorite project would have to be the Little Buckaroo Barn. It was my favorite because, well, we were the work crew. Just the six of us.

We had some assistance from our supervisors, but it was primarily putting their advice and teachings into our own work. The satisfaction that we were there to experience every bit of the progress and finally its completion was unbelievably rewarding. With no construction or carpentry experience, we were able to complete a project our supervisors didn’t even think we could finish. It was sad too, knowing that our work there was done. I loved working at the barn, it was unbelievably picturesque with the old barn itself, the Never Summer range as a backdrop, the abundant moose, the colorful wildflowers, the Little Colorado River weaving just beside us…it was the most breathtaking office I can imagine.

My favorite memory of the summer was probably one of our trips to Winter Park for free music. Most of our crew was able to go, and we listened to the Boogie Boys, a Polish cover band that put on one of the best free concerts I’ve ever been to. I got Dhante and Joe to go up to the stage with me and we had a blast dancing and singing with the band, surrounded by lots of retirees having the time of their lives. It was so much fun, and I thought we bonded quite a bit over the experience.

Logan Douglas (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

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The first day at Lake Irene we had to scoop snow from the back of the building and I went to a tall part in the snow and dug straight down. I kept digging and digging and digging. Finally, I hit the bottom and found some dirt. So I jumped down in the whole. Needless to say the whole was deeper than I expected. I am about 6’ 3” and about 6’ 4” tall in the boots i was wearing and my head was barely sticking out.

LD_workMy favorite work location was Lake Irene.  I loved Lake Irene because it was a beautiful aegean and had nice cool air so it wasn’t too hot.  I also liked it because there were tons of tourists and they all wanted to talk.  I am not a very shy person so it was always fun for me to tell people what we were doing.  Also, I liked using power tools and putting up the cedar shingles….one by one.

LD_memoryMy favorite memory was working with the past program.  Rich (man on the right) was from Cape Cod and he was a very funny man and was hard working.  Rich was also very patient and showed us his way of doing stuff. Also, he taught us the “Cape Cod Cut.”  It turned out to be just a normal cut but we went along with it.  When we worked with the past program, there were many laughs and fun times.

Dhante Stroud (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

We encircled our worksite through a meadow of dew frosted grasses, an elusive rainbow arched over our dirt path allowing us to peer at the historic Little Buckaroo Barn it its natural state, so primitive, so isolate, and so hauntingly beautiful.

We encircled our worksite through a meadow of dew frosted grasses, an elusive rainbow arched over our dirt path allowing us to peer at the historic Little Buckaroo Barn it its natural state, so primitive, so isolate, and so hauntingly beautiful.

Favorite ProjectAs part of the Kawuneeche Crew I had the opportunity to aide in the restoration of two historic buildings throughout the summer season, a 1926 CCC Mess Hall and the Little Buckaroo Barn built in 1942. The barn was definitely my favorite of the two due to the fact that it resides in proposed wilderness land and therefore must be treated as wilderness, meaning no mechanized tools were allowed to be used during restoration. This detail added a fair amount of struggle (and usage of a few choice words) in causing the crew to hand carry all materials in each day and rely on pure carpentry skills to restore the building to a preserved state. Our jobs were to replace the three-tab asphalt roof, many rotten wood siding panels, almost all of the rafter tails that hung out past the roof edge which had been degraded by the elements, and improve overall stability of the barn. By far my favorite lunch spot the barn sits in a meadow of wildflowers where animal life crosses at all hours of the day. Both a challenge and a masterpiece the barn was completed way ahead of schedule.

Favorite MemoryMy summer working with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy is full of many memories. My favorite experience with the Kawuneeche Crew was a yoga lesson taught by Jenna Mulligan, a fellow crew member, where in which we all stretched our bodies in strange new ways. Jenna adjusted our form and we laughed as we all attempted to hold our balance, many of us slipping on the carpeted floor. After moaning and groaning we all lay in savasana, our final resting state feeling joined as a group in euphoric content.

Jenna Mulligan (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

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My favorite photo is from a backpacking trip up to Parika Lake on the last weekend in the west side of the park. We camped down in Bowen gulch and had a front row seat for a beautiful blue moon.

My favorite work project was the cedar shake shingling and log replacement at the Lake Irene mess hall. This work was really detailed, and our speed and quality of work improved as we got higher and higher on the roof. During the shingle removal, we could see through to the inside of the cabin and the curtains and dressers that were left behind. By the end of the project, the building looked polished and the improvements were really evident.

My favorite memory from the year was the hike that the entire crew took up to the continental divide past Millner Pass. All six of us made it up to the tundra, and it was a blast to spend some time all together on the trail.

Joe Cordova (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

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Favorite project: Working on the “Little Buckaroo Barn” because this property was in proposed wilderness, which for the crew meant no power tools or vehicles allowed. This was a challenge for us because we had been used to mechanical means in our other projects. The best thing was being able to appreciate how things were done in a time not that long ago, by using a hand drill and hand sawing everything was really cool!

Favorite memory: Climbing Longs Peak with the Conservancy. Being at the top, I felt nothing but freedom and accomplishment. Also, Being at the end of the picnic and talking to all of our members who were just so happy to find out how our summer was and learn about all of our projects. They really loved the posters that all the crews had made showcasing their experiences, which really made the day that much better for me seeing how much they appreciate our work.

In the Field: Week 8 (Last Week of Field Work)

The Kawuneeche Crew’s last week with the special projects crew was highly productive and bittersweet. Monday we finished everything at the Lil’ Buckaroo Barn, and hauled out all of the tools and scaffolding, closing the doors and boarding up the windows for winter. On Tuesday, Jenna and I went over Trail Ridge Road to the Kaley Cottages project, putting up cedar shingle siding and weaving them on the corners. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see the end of that project, but luckily we did get to see the finished barn, as well as the Mess Hall at Lake Irene, which the crew primed and painted on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Our fantastic projects crew supervisors, Bob and Chuck, gave us a pizza lunch on Wednesday too, and Geoff even joined us for painting. Over the course of the week, we used 10 gallons of primer and 20 gallons of Historic Dark Brown paint!

The finished south side of Lake Irene Mess Hall with new shingles, rafter tails, and paint.

The finished south side of Lake Irene Mess Hall with new shingles, rafter tails, and paint.

Dhante, Kris, and Jenna applying new mortor to reseal the Mess Hall

Dhante, Kris, and Jenna applying new mortor to reseal the Mess Hall

Joe and Logan priming the new log ends.

Joe and Logan priming the new log ends.

Jenna working to assimilate new logs into the historic structure.

Jenna working to assimilate new logs into the historic structure.

  • Margaret Johnson (Kawuneeche Crew Leader)

This last week the Red Feather Crew started off by heading back to the North Lone Pine Trailhead. We cleared nine down trees that were left, as we did not have a cross cut on our first maintenance run up the trail. The crew was excited to finally get to use their cross cutting skills. Along with clearing down trees we cleared drains, put in check dams, and removed duff form the trail.
Later in the week we spent a day working on the Kill Pecker Trail. As we made our way up the trail, we cleared drains, bucked out four down trees, and put in a few check dams to help with trail erosion. Lastly on our way out, with the whole teams effort, we made a safer river crossing by adding a log to the already existing bridge.
On our last day in the field we went back to the Mount Margaret Trail. We widened and reinforced the first turnpike we made of the summer to allow for easier travel and to assure its durability through the next few seasons. After we hiked a few miles to clear a down tree near the summit of Mount Margaret. Later in the day we sharpened tools and cleaned the bunkhouse in preparation for our departure to Estes Park for final week.

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Galen and Cortney use a crosscut saw to clear a downed tree.

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The crew on top of Mount Margaret

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Dom and the bridge crossing before the log addition.

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The widened and stabilized bridge crossing.

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Clearing drains on the North Lone Pine Trail

  • Tommy Egland (Red Feather Crew Leader)

For our final weekend on the west side, some of the Shadow Mountain Crew attempted to hike the local mountain of Grand Lake, Mt. Craig, located just up the East Inlet trail. After hiking for 7 hours, we decided to summit the unnamed peak just east of Mt. Craig instead. The bushwacking and ridge climbing was enough of an adventure that we decided Mt. Craig was for another time. After a 15-mile day of hiking we enjoyed some ice cream at our favorite snack shack in town!

The Shadow Mountain Crew wrapped up their summer building a turnpike on an urban trail that was adopted by a fellow citizen who bikes the trails almost every other day with his wife. These trails were very highly populated by mountain bikers. At the end of the day, Elias, MegEllen and Andy went to check out the project site for our last day. On our way out of the forest we smelt a fire burning, found the campsite where someone left an unattended fire burning and were able to save the day by putting it out! It was fun to act on it fast!

After we completed the turnpike, our supervisor graciously held a “box social” for our last night in town. Andy graciously hosted the 6 of us, our other two supervisors, Kendra and Cory for a party full of cheese, dough and all the toppings you could ever imagine! After we stuffed ourselves with pizza, we gave Cory one last goodbye, as we had to send him off for a fire. The next day it felt as though we were missing a huge part of our crew. It was unfortunate to not have Cory be there on our last day with the Forest Service because we formed great relationships with these guys! We want to give all three of them; Andy, Cory and Kendra a huge thank you for an awesome summer.

We were still able to have a blast building our very last buck and rail fencing up at East Elk Meadow. We finished our season with the same task that we had at the very beginning of the summer, and we were lucky enough to be in the same area as the first buck and rail fence that we built. We were able to Elk Meadow at the end of the day and were able to compare our early work to our most recent.

The summer is now coming to an end as we spend our last week in Estes with the rest of the crews. It is starting to feel a little surreal! This is shadow, thanks for reading all summer! Much love from the entire crew!

  • MegEllen Kimmett (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

The previous week Boulder Crew spent camped beneath the southern facing cliffs of St. Vrain Mountain, just south of the park, in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. With packs stuffed to the point of exhaustion, and spare hands carrying tools they hiked up to the junction of the Buchanan Pass Trail and the St. Vrain Glacier Trail. After struggling with hanging eight days worth of food for eight people, and setting up a tarp for their “kitchen”, they crawled into their tents for the long week ahead.

The second day half of the crew found suitable trees to structure a new bridge to replace the dilapidated bundle of boards held together by a dog leash. The other half of the crew hiked back to Camp Dick and retrieved more tools and supplies. By the time both crews reunited in the afternoon, there were two logs almost ready to be moved to the bridge. The first night cook groups were established and everyone became familiar with backcountry foods, instant mashed potatoes, instant pasta, and instant rice.

The third day there was more prep work to do on the first two logs and the next two logs were felled. Near lunch logs were placed near the bridge and a rock sill was constructed to tie the first logs into. The second pair of logs was larger and required much more effort to prepare but the crew was rewarded with a maintenance run up to Red Deer Lake where our day ended and some went for a dip in the chilly water. While continuing on the second pair of logs the following morning, a sill was made for the center point of contact of the bridge with reclaimed pressure treated wood. The first pair of logs was tied in and shaped with an axe to be flush and level.  On the southern side of the bridge a sill was made out of a square of logs. After notching the second air of larger logs to fit flush and level upon placement, the whole crew worked to move the behemoth logs into place with hand tools.

The next day some of the crew put finishing touches on the bridge and the other half of the crew worked their way up the St. Vrain Glacier Trail, trimming trees and brush and digging drains.

With the bridge finished there was time the sixth day to work up to tree line on the Buchannan pass trail. Near the top of the trail we encountered a jungle of willows at points. The pass provided quite the view, keeping the crew in high enough spirits to sing the whole way down the trail to camp.

The seventh day we built a rock pathway to the south end of the bridge and cleared the St. Vrain Mountain Trail of incredibly old trees. This must have been the most intense work day, with one group crosscutting most of the day and the other group hauling and placing huge rocks to keep hikers dry.

On our final day, not only of the hitch but of the season with the Forest Service, we scoped out the rest of the St. Vrain Glacier Trail and packed up and hiked out midday. Though we had less food than we had started with, we surely had more weight in tools to make up for it. Most of the crew hiked out the nearly six miles without stopping in hopes for a quality meal soon after. After some closing meetings with our Forest Service supervisors and a hasty unloading of the trucks we were taken out to dinner at the local pizza joint in Nederland, thus ending our awesome 8 day backcountry hitch.

Deconstructing the old bridge.

Deconstructing the old bridge.

Annie digging a drain on the Buchannan Pass Trail

Annie digging a drain on the Buchannan Pass Trail

  • Andy Martin (Boulder Assistant Crew Leader of the Week)

For our last hitch, the Rawah Crew headed up the Rawah Trail to work in the Sandbar and Rawah Lakes area and up the Blue Lake trail to finish maintaining trail that was covered with snow earlier in the season. Since the Sandbar lakes is one of the more frequently visited areas in the Rawahs our focus was on removing illegal campsites (those within 200 feet of water or the trail). In addition to this we worked on maintaining trail. The first day we hiked 7.5 miles up the Rawah trail towards the lakes to set up our base camp. After setting up camp we headed up the trail towards Big Rainbow and Upper Sandbar Lakes. Once we got up to the lakes we worked on removing illegal fire rings, dispersing burnt rocks, removing trash, dispersing the ash and duffing the area. Between lakes we worked on dips and drains to help keep water from eroding the trail.

The second day we headed from camp back to the Rawah Trail towards Rawah Lakes number One and Two. We worked on dips and drains up to the lakes where we began to assess the campfire situation. We spent the day working on fire rings around the lakes and then packed up camp and headed down the Rawah Trail to do maintenance. We worked on dips and drains down the trail, focusing on areas that were heavily saturated with water.

The third day we hiked the Blue Lake Trail where we worked on maintaining 3 miles of trail that had previously been covered with snow earlier in the season. We worked up the trail the Blue Lake then headed off trail to Hang Lake where we looked for illegal fire rings. That wrapped up our backcountry hitches, after a few initial cloudy and rainy days on the Rawah Trail; we finished up with a beautiful day of work at Blue Lake.

Crew Member Brian taking apart a fire ring at Big Rainbow Lake

Crew Member Brian taking apart a fire ring at Big Rainbow Lake

Crew members Johnny and Gus working to Upper Sandbar Lake

Crew members Johnny and Gus working to Upper Sandbar Lake

Rawah Crew having a chilly start to the morning on the Rawah Trail

Rawah Crew having a chilly start to the morning on the Rawah Trail

— Des Otis (Rawah Assistant Crew Leader of the Week)

This week was the perfect bookend for the Estes Crew’s season. Monday we were back at Lilly Lake working on the handicap trail, and had quite a productive day, which set us up to finish the trail on Tuesday. This was the project that we began on our all crew work day during midweek, and am now finishing it after working on it with other volunteer groups throughout the second half of the season. The other large project we worked on this season was at Cow Creek with the Llamas. Wednesday, we finished up the log check project near the Cow Creek trail head. The llamas took a great load off of us as they hauled the many truck loads of rock and dirt up to our checks. Seeing these two projects to completion was satisfying and meaningful to us all. Thursday was a great last day, as we did a maintenance run beginning at the North Fork trail head, hiking to Lost Lake, a 17 mile day. Crunched for time, we pushed a fast pace, and made our last day with Dave and Matt awesome.

Lost Lake Trail

Lost Lake Trail

Volunteer work day with Conservancy Members and Poudre Wilderness Volunteers

Volunteer work day with Conservancy Members and Poudre Wilderness Volunteers

Andrea at Lily Lake

Andrea at Lily Lake

-Bryce Goldade (Estes Crew Leader)

In the Field: Week 4 (Part One)

The Rawah Crew had a week full of problem solving and new projects. On Sunday, we went out on the Roaring Creek trail expecting to camp out for a night about 3 miles in. Unexpectedly, the small flat area that was our only option for camping did not meet LNT guidelines being too close to the trail and water. We found a fire ring in the middle of a meadow so Des taught the crew how to tear it down, sift through dirt for micro-trash and rehab the area. We decided to hike out at the end of our day, and return the next when Geoff had planned to join us for work. Together, we completed three rock wall projects, a total of about 30 ft placed to prevent further erosion of the steep trail.

The next two days were spent on the upper portion of the McIntyre Trail where we ran into some pretty beat up sections. The McIntyre Trail is heavily used by horse travelers seeking to reach the Continental Divide at Ute Pass. With at least 700 ft of muddy sections in need of turnpikes and 300 ft of washed out/rooted tread we were unable to complete large projects, given we were only on a two day hitch and were not aware of it’s rough condition. We decided that a general maintenance run would suffice for now (clearing trees/drains and removing berm) but we would hopefully return to the trail later in the season, or next summer’s Rawah crew would be able to return to the project sites. Left with some time at the end of our hitch, we started a 20 ft rock wall section, re-establishing 60 ft of widened, muddy trail.

Fire ring before

Fire ring before

Fire ring after

Fire ring after

Rock wall on Roaring Creek Trail

Rock wall on Roaring Creek Trail

Rock wall on Upper McIntyre

Rock wall on Upper McIntyre

-Courtney Ross (Rawah Crew Leader)

Monday, Wednesday and Thursday brought the Kawuneeche Crew back up to the mess hall at Lake Irene, where we were able to finish 3/4 of the roof with hand-laid cedar shingles. In roofer’s terms, the roof is a little less than 12 squares (one square=100 square feet). In layman’s terms, it’s a pretty medium sized roof for a 3 room building, and the light purple chalk lines complement the orange tinged shingles quite nicely. Tuesday the crew drove over Trail Ridge into Estes Park to join the projects crew and the buildings maintenance crew for a scaffolding training, useful information for when we have to set up the second half of our scaffolding on the barn! Thursday was also a half day for the NPS, so the crew were sent on a hike for the afternoon, up to gorgeous Milner Pass. A great way to start the holiday weekend! Happy Fourth of July from the Kawuneeche crew!

– Margaret Johnson (Kawuneeche Crew Leader)

Continuing work with the Rocky Mountain National Park Trail’s crews, the Estes Crew began this week with trail maintenance runs around the Park. By this time in the season, the populated trails have already been completed, leaving this week to improve and explore the Park’s nooks and crannies. They completed over 14 miles of trail work including North Longs Trail and Hollowell Park.

The remainder of the week was dedicated to projects. Building the bridge at Boulder Brook was an insightful experience to share. Almost all of the bridge materials are gathered on site. Logs that once clogged the trail were cut and debarked. Boulders for the rock wall are collected from the river bank. Among the many miles and hard work, the Estes Crew is learning about land ethics.

Jeremy brushing

Jeremy brushing

Estes near Alberta Falls

Estes near Alberta Falls

Doing our best not to get lost

Doing our best not to get lost

Chandler showing the rock who's boss

Chandler showing the rock who’s boss

Teaming up to move a rock at Boulder Brook Landslide

Teaming up to move a rock at Boulder Brook Landslide

– Chandler Eaton (Estes Crew Member)

Teamwork. The larger the project, the more teamwork is needed. This past week the Red Feather Crew collaborated with the Forest Service and the Larimer County Conservation Corps on the North Fork Trail. This was different from the past few weeks because instead of just the six of us there were now 15 in the project. This was necessary for the massive re-route that was going to be under taken.

The re-route was intended as a method of flood relief, as the trail has been closed for two years now. The goal was to re direct the Big Thompson river away from where the edge of the new trail would be and then re-establish a trail for this popular hiking area.

In order to perform this rocks and fallen trees were pushed along the river, this was necessary to move the river to a safe area for people as well as the trail. Once this has been achieved, a retaining wall was developed that turned out to be around 12 feet. To insure stability of the wall, we made sure there was no organic, or loose materials around the trail. With collective efforts we were able to finally cut out the new trail that would be as to be used by other people and stock alike.

This was a huge project and without the collaboration of the LCCC, RMC-CC, and the Forest Service we would not be able to have triumphed over the North Fork trail re-route.

Cutting back the eroded bank to expand flood plain

Cutting back the eroded bank to expand flood plain

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Crew working with Geoff to manage safety while removing the bank

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Knocking out the overhanging slope

Blown out section of the North Fork Trail

Blown out section of the North Fork Trail

May the force be with you all,
Red Feather

In the Field: Week 3

My apologies for the late update this week! I spent much of my weekend out in the field catching up with the crews. Hope you enjoy this weeks updates from the field!

The first half of week 3 brought the Kawuneeche Crew over Trail Ridge Road to Estes Park. We helped the Projects crew build a set of stairs at a bus shelter on Bear Lake Rd, and cut and paint stairs from lumber for the mess hall at Lake Irene. Moose count for the morning commute from the west side of Trail Ridge: 7! Wildlife jam count made by tourists gawking at elk in the afternoon commute from Estes: 4. We assembled the logs for the stairs after they were cut by chainsaw, screwing them together, then securing them to each other and to the slope with pieces of 2 foot rebar, then filled them in with dirt. It was a satisfying and much-needed set of steps for this trafficked, eroding hill at the beginning of a trail that connects the bus shelter to the stock trail used by horses and hikers.

The second half of the week brought the crew to Lake Irene, to begin the roofing rehab process. Wednesday was spent removing the cedar shingles with roofing shovels, from the scaffolding and from chicken boards placed 1/3 and 2/3 the way up the roof to reach the top. We also installed the set of lumber stairs we had cut on Monday, for the backside of the mess hall. We also started attaching the new cedar shingles on the first side of the roof, using chalk line to mark a straight edge, and nail guns. Then the crew headed back down the mountain for family dinner of pita pizzas, a delicious way to make your own personal pizza because you can stuff the crust AND pile the toppings on top of the pita pocket. Thursday was more de-shingling of side 2 of the roof, which Geoff got to help out with, and adding more layers of shingles to side 1. We celebrated the end of a successful week with a trip over to Winter Park for their weekly free outdoor music concert!

Single-jacking rebar into log steps on Monday

Single-jacking rebar into log steps on Monday

Stair installation on Bear Lake Road

Stair installation on Bear Lake Road

The finished steps

The finished steps

Removing old shingles from the chicken board at Lake Irene

Removing old shingles from the chicken board at Lake Irene

New teps at Lake Irene Mess Hall

New teps at Lake Irene Mess Hall

Deshingling the Lake Irene CCC Mess Hall

Deshingling the Lake Irene CCC Mess Hall

– Margaret Johnson (Kawuneeche Crew Leader)

After another week of shoveling, picking, and hauling, the members of the Boulder Crew are lounging in Nederland’s finest coffee shops for some well-deserved rest. Reflecting back on the previous week, we accomplished more than expected. While our main projects include improving drains, we also reset culverts, trimmed trees, cleared trails. The biggest project we are working on is a 35ft boardwalk, set to span over a series of drains. This type of work requires a lot of communication and collaboration, as it’s impossible for one crew member to lift a 2000lb log on their own. Through this work, we have become stronger as a group, and more prepared for the obstacles that trail work inevitably brings.

The Boulder Crew slightly stands out due to our unique living conditions. We currently reside in small campground, right outside of the city of Nederland. The center of our site contains a large, yellow tarp, strung between two trees, to shelter our picnic table from the Colorado elements. We fondly refer to this area as the dining room. The rest of our homely abode has earned names as well. Our living room is the campfire ring, our tents the bedrooms, and the trailer is dutifully our kitchen. After three weeks of living here, we have become quite fond of our open home. It has undoubtedly brought us closer together. Plus, there’s something to be said about sleeping under the stars and waking up to the sound of chirping birds. While the rain can be bothersome and mosquitos the worst of pests, we conquer trails with optimism, knowing we wouldn’t trade our camp for anything else.

– Annie Makuch (Boulder Crew Member)

This week the Rawah Crew worked on the Big South Trail, McIntyre trail and assisted the Stub Creek Volunteers with raising the American Flag in front of the Ranger Station. The crew was very excited upon receiving their crosscut saw on Monday and cleared 5 fallen trees off the McIntyre trail, in addition to improving a 50 foot washed out section of trail. On Tuesday, the Crew headed out on their first backcountry hitch on the Big South trail. During the two night, three day hitch, 7 miles of trail were maintained. After an exhausting yet satisfying week, the crew repaired over 200 drains, cleared 3 fallen trees and removed 300 feet of berm on the Big South Trail.

Courtney and Gus clearing downed trees on Big South Trail

Courtney and Gus clearing downed trees on Big South Trail

Rawah Crew hiking out after backcountry hitch on Big South Trail

Rawah Crew hiking out after backcountry hitch on Big South Trail

New flag pole at Stub Creek Bunkhouse

New flag pole at Stub Creek Bunkhouse

Johnny on the crosscut

Johnny on the crosscut

– Johnny Iglesias (Rawah Crew Member)

Early Monday morning we headed out to the Lady Moon trail head directly across the street from the Mt. Margaret trail head we worked on last week and only five minutes or so from our bunk house. There we met Geoff who was to work with us for the day and together we took approximately two steps on the trail before being met with the worst kind of slimy black muck that sucked you in to your ankles. The trail was a wreck for nearly 400 feet with standing water, mud and more mud. As the trail went through cattle range land it clearly had been used by ranchers for vehicle access as evident by the deep wheel wells cutting through the grass and grime. Just to the left of the trail a social trail had been formed on high ground which appeared to be a much nicer route to pass over the wet spots. But it was directly under some power lines and was not a designated trail so we had no choice but to try and fix the actual trail.

It called for another turnpike, adding to the ones we had already completed at Mt. Margret, but this would be the longest one yet by a long shot. Several of us began putting in drains to try and clear out some of the standing water while the others collected baseball sized rocks to start the turnpike. When all the smaller rocks had been exhausted from the slopes we began smashing larger rocks against bedrock to make our own. It was slow, tedious, and draining work. Come noon Monday Geoff actually ended up going to the Ace Hardware in Red Feather to buy us a sledge hammer as we were not supplied one by the forest service. After that the work went quite a bit farther and by the end of the day we had about 10 feet of turnpike completed and more than double that graveled.

The rest of the week proceeded in much the same way with Tuesday being devoted exclusively to collecting rocks, smashing rocks, and moving them on to the turnpike. We didn’t leave sight of the parking lot the entire week and the work was highly repetitive and strenuous and I had my doubts that we would be able to finish the entire turnpike but by Thursday afternoon 360 feet of dry trail rose from the standing water. It was a lot of work and very tiring at times but what we did was most certainly a feat to be proud of.

Making use of the new double-jack

Making use of the new double-jack

Lady Moon Trail Before

Lady Moon Trail Before

Lady Moon Trail During

Lady Moon Trail During

Completed turnpike section

Completed turnpike section

Crew carrying gravel to turnpike

Crew carrying gravel to turnpike

Lady Moon Trail After

Lady Moon Trail After

– Tommy Egland (Red Feather Crew Leader)

The third week out Shadow Mountain Crew was at it again, cross cutting the remainder of the unmaintained section of the CDT. We were once again boated across Lake Granby to McDonald Cove to attack the dead trees on the western side of the Knight Ridge Trail. After finishing the job earlier than we expected on the second day, we took a rinse in the lake and watched as two hikers exited the (now) maintained trail. Following our cold swim, we devoured a celebratory dinner provided by crew member, Amy. Warm and worcestershire flavored bowls of gumbo were cooked over camp stoves, the perfect meal for heating our sore sawing muscles. After coming to decisions that our goals for Knight Ridge were fully accomplished, we discussed further plans to head up the Roaring Fork trail. We hiked out the next morning of McDonald Cove to the Roaring Fork trail head, where we quickly packed our packs for one night in the backcountry. Saturday was spent with our Manager, Geoff. While clearing trail up to Watanga Lake we ran into a few blown out bridges, where we needed to collaborate together to get across the river somehow, to continue work. This week had been crammed with different projects to complete, however we were able to accomplish much more than expected and we all felt great about it! We are now ready to enjoy some time off and prepare for our Fourth of July backcountry patrols! Thanks for reading, this is Shadow!

Amy cooks Gumbo for the crew

Amy cooks Gumbo for the crew

Completed Knight Ridge work

Completed Knight Ridge work

Knight Ridge before

Knight Ridge before

Rachel, Jordan, and Megellen after Knight Ridge

Rachel, Jordan, and Megellen after Knight Ridge

Elias and Blake pump water for a long day of work

Elias and Blake pump water for a long day of work

Lunch at Watanga Lake

Lunch at Watanga Lake

– Megellen Kimmett (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

This week, Andrea, was the Estes Crew assistant leader of the week, where she was in charge of the radio, driving the work truck to the trailheads, and helping to cut many of the trees with the crosscut.

Monday and Tuesday of this week we maintained the Lawn lake lake trail, a 14 mile trail. Monday we cleared trees and dug drains to Lawn lake, then hiking out in the afternoon. Tuesday we hiked up 6 miles to the lawn lake junction where we begun clearing trees and drains on the Black Canyon Trail, to Lumpy Ridge. We hiked 25 miles those first two days.

Wednesday and Thursday we were back at Cow Creek Trail Head working with the pack Lamas retreading the trail and putting in Log checks.

The crew also stayed very busy this weekend as well, going on hikes, fishing, tubing in Moraine Park, and Jeremy even took a class through the Conservancy, Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rocky Mountains.

Cow Creek Trail Before

Cow Creek Trail Before

Cow Creek Trail During

Cow Creek Trail During

Cow Creek Trail After

Cow Creek Trail After

Bryce teaches a geology lesson to the crew

Bryce teaches a geology lesson to the crew

Resting for lunch at Lawn Lake

Resting for lunch at Lawn Lake

– Bryce Goldade (Estes Crew Leader)