In The Field: Week 3

Estes Crew

This week the Estes Crew changed things up from the normal trail work routine and joined Rocky Mountain National Park’s “Veg Crew” to help with a variety of projects. On Monday they helped restore the Bear Lake road reroute area. In 2012 one mile of Bear Lake road was rerouted away from Glacier Creek in order to prevent impacts to wetlands and riparian habitat, and the crew spent all day planting trees, grasses, forbs, and shrubs on the old road. With the new soil and vegetation, the road should begin to look like the surrounding habitat in a couple years!

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Working hard in the hot sun!

On Tuesday the crew worked on a similar project at the Aspenglen campground. One of the campsite’s restrooms was recently renovated, and the construction caused major erosion and soil compaction in the surrounding area, killing almost all of the vegetation. To help restore the area the crew planted over one thousand plants, which will help stabilize the soil and prevent further erosion!

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Wednesday was quite the day for the Estes crew! They were recruited by one of the park’s wildlife teams to resolve a sticky situation on the west side of the park. Over the winter two female moose and one calf somehow managed to get into one of the Kawuneeche Valley vegetation exclosures (a fenced off area used to keep wildlife from feeding on aspen and willow). It was the crews job to “herd” the moose and get them to exit the exclosure via a gate in the fencing. It was undoubtedly a hazardous task, but the crew went through a lengthy safety briefing and successfully got all three moose to leave safely and peacefully! Now the park can continue to monitor how vegetation grows in the valley in the absence of large herbivores, and the moose can roam the park freely. With the remainder of the day the crew planted trees at the Timber Creek campground to help regrow the forest that had been devastated by the mountain pine beetle outbreak.

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The crew lined the bank of the Colorado River to keep the moose from crossing to the other side.

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Crewmember Simbi Umwali planting a young lodgepole pine at the Timber Creek campground

Thursday! The crew spent the final day of the workweek using their trail work skills to help the veg crew build a rock retaining wall. The park designated a space in one of its utility areas to build a large garden (about a quarter the size of a football field), which will be used as a seed source for future restoration projects. The garden is divided into two tiers, and the crew was tasked with building a retaining wall between the tiers to prevent erosion. They spent most of the day gathering large rocks, and were able to build 15 feet of wall before the day ended. There’s still about 50 feet of wall to go, but they definitely gave the veg crew a good start!

 

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Crewmember Sal Sharp digging out a spot to place the final rock of the day!

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All smiles for the Estes Crew!

 

Next week the crew will be back with trails and will begin project work! Though working with the veg crew was a nice change of pace, the crew is eager to get back on the trails and continue learning new skills and perfecting the art of drain digging. Stay tuned for more fun from the Estes Crew!

-Blake Crossland (Estes Crew Leader

 

Rawah Crew

The Rawah Wilderness crew started off their week by finally moving up to the
Stub Creek Work Center, after two weeks of bunking with the Red Feather crew. The
crew was excited to move into their home for the rest of the summer, start working on
their own trail system, and most of all start watching some movies from the awesome
VHS collection at Stub.

The crew started working on the Link trail, and encountered a plethora of fallen
lodgepole pine trees. A couple of big storms this past winter may have caused the
larger than average number of trees, and kept the crew busy working on the cross-cut
saw. Within the first four miles of the trail, the crew cut out or removed a total of 161
trees!

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(Crew members Jordan Voght and Jacob Ng continue to buck out a fallen tree after placing a solid wedge.)

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(Crew member William Scarbro shows of his fashion sense and proper risk management, wearing both his hard hat and sombrero for maximum safety and style)

After spending two days working hard and cutting lots of trees on the Link trail, the crew moved onto the McIntyre trail on Wednesday. Working alongside the high waters of the creek, the crew cut out more trees and repaired or cleared out over 80 drains. The crew took advantage of working next to the creek by dunking in their heads to cool off during breaks.

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(Crew Leader Gus Anderson was extremely stoked to encounter a sweet single under-bucking cut with a built-in rest for the saw.)

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(Crew Leader Gus Anderson does some blister repair on crew member Jordan Voght’s stinky feet.)

The crew finished off their last day of work for the week on the Rawah trail. The crew worked hard all day, cutting out many more trees, digging plenty of dips and drains, and only got lost once for a little bit. The Rawah trail was by far the busiest trail the crew worked on this week, encountering two different hikers over the course of the day! Although we don’t get to see many people, the views, hiking, and wildlife more than make up for the lack of company.

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(Crew member Noah Landguth looks out towards Wyoming while taking a well deserved break)

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(The whole crew, minus photographer Jacob Ng, gets in some quick beauty sleep during their afternoon break)

It was an awesome first week in the Rawah Wilderness; this place truly is special and we all feel extremely grateful to call it home for the summer. We’re working hard, having fun, and loving life way up in our own little slice of heaven. That’s all from the Rawah Crew this week.

Over and out.

-Gus Anderson (Rawah Crew Leader)

Red Feather

This week the Red Feather crew worked on the Red Feather Lakes trails. Starting on Monday they worked at the Lady Moon and Molly Lake trails. Hiking about 10 miles total, they preformed maintenance and took note of what projects could be done to make the trails better for those using it.

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Shelby and Abby Construct a Stepping Stone Crossing on Lady Moon

On Tuesday, they took to adventuring on Mount Margaret trail and the back half of the Frog Pond trail. Where they preformed mostly maintenance it he trails. They hiked about 10 miles clearing drains and trails.

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Abby Using Her Pulaski Skills

On Wednesday, They traversed to Swamp Creek trail, then later that day they continued onto the front half of Frog Pond trail and the West Dowdy trail.  Traveling about another 10 miles, they finally got to crosscut some trees while preforming their maintenance.

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Strolling Down East Dowdy Trail in the Red Feather Trail System

On Thursday, they got to head back down to Big south trail where they worked about 5 miles into the trail. There they took the trees in the way and cut them down to size while preforming their regular maintenance on drains and trail clearing.

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Shelby Cutting a Downed Tree on Big South

Friday they took at trip white water rafting down the Poudre river. In the freezing water some members felt as though they were freezing and others decided to jump ship and swim a little bit. Overall Red feather had a productive week and hope to continue doing so until he future.

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Group Whitewater Rafting Featuring Connor—our guide

-Davina Spears (Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week)

Kawuneeche Crew

Monday

Morning was warmer than most early mornings had been so far in the season: the air lacked its usual chill. We first reported to the project garage, where we met Wilson, a seasonal employee who will be working with us on projects this summer. Wilson has worked for the National Park service for decades, and recently has focused on construction and historic building preservation.

With Wilson, we returned to the Leifer Cabin to resume “mothball” preservation work on the first floor.  By midafternoon, we had successfully finished chinking on the first floor plywood window coverings and front door covering.

Then we set up scaffolding in preparation for our work on the second floor. As a team, we worked together to assemble components. Then, we began measuring the second story windows for coverings. After, with Wilson’s instruction, we learned how to pattern the siding with shingles spaced in a way that mimicked the wall around where the coverings would be hung. We completed two shingled window coverings before our work day ended.

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The completed first floor of the cabin. Note the logs arranged on plywood to mimic the house’s original siding.

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Garret takes measurements in order to cut plywood window covering.

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A completed, chinked door covering

Tuesday

Once again, we drove to the Leifer Cabin. We worked on putting shingles on more plywood coverings for the second floor. We first cut plywood in the right window dimensions, then stained the plywood, then began attaching shingles with a nailgun. This is a labor intensive process that demanded careful, meticulous work, and thus took a long time to complete few coverings.

In the afternoon, we headed back to the projects garage. Wilson taught us to glaze windows, a process where individual glass panes are reattached to their original wooden sash after time and the elements have degraded the original glazing. Lastly, we learned how to cut glass in the right shapes and dimensions for window panes using class cutters.

 

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Kawuneeche crew members deaden nails on the back of a plywood covering.

Wednesday

In the morning, we finished measuring the upper story windows to make more coverings. We then cut more plywood, stained, and shingled. We climbed the scaffolding to attach the coverings. This process took most of the morning, due to its labor intensiveness. Later, we moved scaffolding around to other sides of the cabins and took more measurements to create more scaffolding. Late in the day, we ran out of shingles and had to place an order for more. The job will be finished next week when the rest of our necessary supplies arrive.

Thursday

On Thursday, our workday’s main task was completing five new picnic tables for employee housing in the park. We divided up into groups. The first group drove to “Tortilla Flats” to pick up parts from old picnic tables that had rotted wood but intact metal frames. The metal frames were removed with wrenches and the screws and nuts kept. These components would be used for the new tables. Another group began work on sanding fresh wooden beams to make the table and seat parts for the picnic tables. They used hand planers to created rounded edges on the beams.

We began assembling the benches with the separate parts. We used clamps to hold the components together while we screwed the new parts together. After each table was completed, some crew members started work on staining. Unfortunately a late afternoon thunderstorm prevented us from staining all the tables before the end of the day.

Week three brought new experiences and new skills to be learned. It was a good week, and after the weekend, we will be refreshed and ready for more.

 

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Wilson instructs crew members on the process for glazing historic windows

Thursday

On Thursday, our workday’s main task was completing five new picnic tables for employee housing in the park. We divided up into groups. The first group drove to “Tortilla Flats” to pick up parts from old picnic tables that had rotted wood but intact metal frames. The metal frames were removed with wrenches and the screws and nuts kept. These components would be used for the new tables. Another group began work on sanding fresh wooden beams to make the table and seat parts for the picnic tables. They used hand planers to created rounded edges on the beams.

We began assembling the benches with the separate parts. We used clamps to hold the components together while we screwed the new parts together. After each table was completed, some crew members started work on staining. Unfortunately a late afternoon thunderstorm prevented us from staining all the tables before the end of the day.

Week three brought new experiences and new skills to be learned. It was a good week, and after the weekend, we will be refreshed and ready for more.

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Crew Members at work on benches

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Staining Benches

-Kyle Desrosiers (Kawuneeche Crew leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

Checking in from the west side this week, otherwise known as the best side! On Sunday, we began our week by showing the Boulder crew the amazing village in which we live in here at Shadow Mountain. We went swimming, sunbathed by the dock, and then went out for some amazing and local pizza! It was quite the day.

On Monday, we went on an 11 mile trek through Doe Creek where we swamped and maintained the trail with our awesome Forestry friends, Kendrya and Amy. On the way up, we spotted a deserted and rustic truck in the middle of a pocket off the side of the trail. It was quite a random spot but nonetheless an awesome exploration opportunity.

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Will and Mary checking out the random and deserted truck found off of Doe Creek Trail.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we traveled to Kremmling in order to build log-checks in areas that have been heavily eroded by water at the Bill Miller Trailhead. The goal of the log checks was to slow down the water as it traveled down a rather flat trail in hopes of the water settling on the checks so the debris is able to settle and naturally refill the gullied out trail with soil.

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Putting in some awesome log checks.

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Will, Curtis, Elise, Mary, and Forest Service Employee Andrew Otter

After our workday on Tuesday, the Shadow Mountain Crew was rewarded with a feast of homemade pasta alfredo with broccoli made by yours truly, Anna. We then had an in-depth discussion about proper nutrition and diet led by crew leader of the week, Elise. In honor of the summer solstice on Wednesday, a BBQ was hosted by other members of the village where we enjoyed the beginning of the beautiful summer season and indulged in a plethora of delicious food.

We were rewarded on Thursday with not only the presence of Geoff Elliot but also the task of climbing Devils Thumb, a nearly 12,000 foot mountain, for a routine maintenance run and with the goal of summiting in order to check up on a previous project and its durability. We were blessed with a beautiful morning which was fitting since it was Mary’s 20th birthday on Thursday! After escaping a tremendously brutal afternoon storm, we were rewarded with homemade cake and cheesecake in order to celebrate Mary’s birthday! The celebration continued on Friday when we were blessed with the arrival of various other RMC crews who wanted to check out our sweet setup and bring Mary further gifts of appreciation! It was overall a great and productive week and we are so excited to be going on our first hitch next week!

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Views from the top of the Devils Thumb hike! It was quite the climb but luckily there wasn’t too much snow along the way.

-Elise Parker (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week)

Boulder Crew

Good day dear reader. This week was a nice deviation from the, now normal, weekly rhythm we had formed. After an extended weekend of mountain biking, hot springing, and cold water swimming in Steamboat Springs, we returned back to Homestead Ned (the name we affectionately call our home/campsite just outside of Nederland, CO) by Tuesday evening. We were surprisingly quite vacationed-out by Tuesday evening and ready to get back in the working groove.

Upon waking up for work at 6am Wed morning we immediately wished for the long weekend back, but shook off our vacation brains and quickly returned to work mode. At about 6:30am that same morning I remembered that we were to begin our “leader of the week” part of the program. “Leader of the Week” is where a different crew member steps up each week to take on additional leadership tasks; therefore, Brendan was volun-told that fine morning that he was to get everyone in the car by 7am, get to work, and lead our week’s projects (spoiler alert: he passed with flying colors).

This week we were headed to the Rainbow Lakes to close down some trail widening, build new tread (the walking surface of a trail), and put in a few check steps (rock steps meant to fill in eroded trail with new sediment). To throw even more variation in the mix, our fearless leader Geoff Elliot (RMC-CC Manager) joined us to try out his trail legs as well as make sure we were all still alive and well. We spent the entirety of the day digging extremely rocky water drains and narrowing the crisscrossing trail from about 10 feet wide to 2-foot-wide single track. Hopefully you can see the huge difference from the before and after pictures.

Thursday we moved further up trail to begin work that was very similar to the previous day’s project. We were joined this day by the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance (IPWA) interns, Jake and John. Once again, the extra hands were much appreciated. Ally, Andrea, Ryan, Louisa, and Brendan all tackled building new tread and putting up a fantastic rock wall for most of the day while I popped an excessive amount of rocks from new trail with the interns further ahead. To be frank, we kicked some major butt that day and got a ton done.

Friday we finished up our work form the previous day and bumped further ahead to close down more social trails (un-official trails made by hikers), install rock steps, and re-route a stream off of the trail. We finally made it to the Rainbow Lakes that day with high hopes of seeing the dead moose mentioned by a passing hiker; unfortunately, we did not find said moose, but dang, if we didn’t build some beautiful rock steps.

As I’m writing this on Saturday, we have just completed day one of our two-day crosscut saw training course. Crosscut saws are essentially those big, two person saws that you imagine when you think of old-school loggers in the Pacific Northwest. According to the Wilderness Act, the use of mechanized devices are prohibited in wilderness areas, therefore, one must use old-school crosscut saws in place of chainsaws. Not going to lie, you feel pretty dang cool using them. Today was all classroom work at the District Ranger Office in Boulder, so, needless to say, we’re pretty excited to get into the field tomorrow and use the saws.

Week 3 (almost) down, and one more to go until midweek! It’s hard to believe that we have not slept under a roof for a month now, but so cool to see how normal it has become. And the trail goes on!

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Until next time,

-Lucas McClish (Boulder Crew Leader)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the Field: Week 6

Over the past four days, the Red Feather and Rawah crews went on a backpacking hitch together in the Comanche Peak Wilderness. We started our trek, with high spirits and overflowing packs, from the Beaver Creek trailhead and set up our base camp near the Comanche Reservoir. For the next three days, we would be performing maintenance runs up different trails to elevations as high as 11,500 ft.  After setting up camp we continued up the trail and eventually turned south toward Comanche Lake where we cleaned out drains to help water move more easily off of the soggy trail. Arin Leopold carried the cross cut saw for the entire day and yet there was not one tree to be removed. That evening, we were gifted with a beautiful sunset as the full moon began to rise. It was off to bed at 8:30pm for the two crews because we needed to be up at 5:45am to make it on time to work the next day.

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Above: The end of a sunset as the full moon began to rise over Comanche Reservoir

On the second day in the Comanche Peaks, Rawah and Red Feather hiked the Beaver Creek Trail for five miles, heading above tree line and into the tundra. As we panted our way up the trail, we worked on many different drainage structures, cleared small trees and branches off the trail with loppers, and even built a small bridge. We ran into a small snowfield at higher elevations and were eventually chased below tree line by a dark and looming storm.

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Above: A small bridge was constructed out of materials found near the trail

Below: Red Feather crew members Arin Leopold and Otieno (James) Fisher enjoy the predicament of having to repair a trail covered in snow

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Above: The twelve member crew snaps a quick photo just as a large storm rolls in

Day three in the Comanche Peaks consisted of a steep hike up to Browns Lake and Timberline Lake. Along the way we performed the usual maintenance sweep, cleaning out and adding drains to improve the trail water removal. We also closed down multiple “social trails” or offshoots of trail from the main trail that should not be there.  We took one of our breaks next to the beautiful Browns Lake and Eeland Stribling took advantage of the opportunity to get in a few casts and caught three fish (pictured below).

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On day four, the two crews packed up camp and hiked all the gear back out to the Beaver Creek Trailhead. Along the way we perfomed routine maintenance on the trail while carrying our packs full of gear. However, the loads were much lighter than on the way in because we must have each eaten nearly ten pounds of food. Overall, it was a beautiful week in the Comanche Peaks which brought the two crews close together as  we struggled with the challenges of backpacking while simultaneously doing trailwork.

-Sabrina Farmer, Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week

This week, the Estes Crew was reunited with the National Park Service trails crew after having spent the week before with the exotics crew. We were all excited to enhance our trail maintenance skills and explore new trails of Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

We were mainly stationed half a mile up on the Sandbeach Lake trail, located in the Wild Basin area of RMNP. After packing in a variety of tools, the Estes crew began working on installing log checks in a particularly steep section of trail. NPS Trails crew members helped members of the Estes crew initially with the technical aspects placing log checks, but soon we were working in groups to install the checks. One of the new aspects about this series of checks was that were using were logs from trees found in near the trail that had died due to beetle infestation. Members of the Estes crew accompanied a NPS Trails crewmember as they scouted the hillside for trees that would work well for the log checks. Jesse, Ben, and Hunter also learned the valuable lumberjack skill of debarking trees! Estes Crew members also enhanced their skills in measuring, crushing rock, and, perhaps the most exciting for Ben and Hunter, rolling boulders down hill in order to use them to pin the ends of the logs into the trail.

 

We continued to work on the log checks through Tuesday. On Wednesday, we were given the task of hiking the entirety of the Sandbeach Lake trail for a maintenance run. On our second day of work of the summer with the Trails crew, we had completed a maintenance run up a mile away from the lake, so it was an exciting hike as we were able to hike up to all the way up to the lake while finishing the drains on the last third of the trail. And we definitely enjoyed Sandbeach Lake! There was a wonderful view of Mount Meeker and the water was just warm enough for a quick dip! We also had a little bit of extra time, so Ben and Hunter gave the rest of the crew a lesson on skipping rocks, while Ritzi and Jesse led the crew in some serene yoga poses. We all felt very centered afterwards.

 

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Hunter and Ben enjoying Sandbeach Lake

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Ben creating crush to help set the log checks.

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Yuritzi checks her log with the line level to ensure proper placement.

On Thursday, Estes Crew finished the log checks on the section of the trail that we had been working on earlier in the week. Ritzi, Jesse, and NPS Trails crewmembers hiked a mile up the trail to work on another section of log checks that needed finishing touches. They also learned how to use the microblaster, a device that is uses a small explosive charge to fracture large rocks! It was all very exciting.

 

Next week, the crew looks forward to learning about revegetation in RMNP as we work with the Revegetation Crew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Estes Crew thanking all of those who make their work possible!

                This week with the Kawuneeche Crew consisted of two major projects. The crew for this week was split into two different groups. On the west side was the continuation of restoring the comfort station at timber creek campgrounds. Monday consisted of removing grout so that the team may apply new grout to match with the grout added in the previous weeks.

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Crew member Tatyana removing grout between the tiles in the comfort station at Timber Creek Campground

The other group visited the east side’s Wild Basin picnic area. This week was different from what the group had been experiencing throughout the season. The crew worked on creating a new wheel chair accessible lane from the parking lot, to a picnic table, to the bathroom. A large portion of the day was preparing at the Projects shop. Grabbing shovels, rakes, pick mattock, axe, double jacks, and mcleods for establishing new lanes. The initial step was digging out the old logs so that we were able to set in the new ones brought in last week.

Tuesday wasn’t anything extraordinary for Tatyana and I on the west side. At some points we thought that we would have to remove grout for the rest of the week because of the unexpected amount of time needed to take out the old material. But when we were finished, putting in the new grout was like putting icing after removing the burnt crust off of a cake.

On the other side, Dax and Will were working on a retaining wall for the bathroom so that water can be diverted when it rains. Rachel and Dom were resuming work on the path from the parking lot to the picnic table. After finish laying in the log, they applied road base and crusher between the logs and using the tamping machine, they were able to be done with the first trail.

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Crew member Rachel and crew leader Dom working on the new path from the parking lot to the picnic table

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Crew members Will and Dax working on the retaining wall for the bathroom

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From left to right: Bob, Rachel (Kawuneeche Crew Member), Geoff, Rachel (RMCC Faculty), Dom

All working on the path from the parking lot to the bathroom

Wednesday morning, the group members on the east side were able enjoy the company of Geoff and Rachel. The objective of that day was to create the second path from the parking lot to the bathroom.

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The afternoon west side with Geoff consisted of washing the tiles, moving dirt and applying another coat of gloss to wooden boards.

Thursday was finishing up on the east side. Applying both road base and crusher and packing it with the tamper was all that was needed to finish up the last lane of the site. New fencing along the side of the bathroom and a handicap accessible parking pad were inserted. The most difficult part of the week for the crew on the east side was trying to adjust to the new tools and tasks that were required (Rachel’s was hammering the rebar).

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Crew leader Dom using the tamping machine to compact the road base

Tatyana and I were focusing on installing the new doors for the comfort station. We had to remove the previous frames that kept the old doors in. That allowed for us to adjust to the right size for the current doors. After putting them up, we painted the doors and the new frame to match the color of the building. We also laid more grout into any spots that still displayed dark patches to get a uniform color in the interior of the bathroom.

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Crew member Tatyana painting one of the new doors

-Adam Nguyen, Kawuneeche Crew leader of the Week

On July 19th-22nd the Boulder crew helped with the new long lake connector trail which took all week working on it. On the first day of working with the connector trail at long lake the crew split into two teams, one staying behind and cutting trees that were dead or on the trail, the other team helped with rock work. On the second day working at the connector the process of completing the trail still continued. Trees were still being cut down out of the way of the trail and the clearing of top soil and duff continued. The trail was being fixed by removing big boulders out of the way, making the trail 4 feet wide, and making it clear for people to see the trail. On the third day we were working faster since the crew did not have to split into two teams. The Boulder crew was working all together on the same side of the trail knocking down the work that needed to be completed. We also had a chance to work with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps which was a larger group than ours, having this team up helped the process of the trail closer to completion. Not only were we closer to the completion of the connector but the Boulder crew and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps become closer with each other. The last day on the new trail the bridge and rock work was completed and even though we did not get all the way through the trail with 4 feet of clearing duff. The Boulder Crew was well appreciated to help and be a part of the construction of the new long lake connector trail. The work was seen as quality rather than quantity.

-Gustavo Balderas, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week

This week, the Shadow Mountain crew was not unlike young bats, of whom have just left their parents after a short 3 weeks, as our forest liaison and supervisor was on leave. Fortunately crew leader Amy and forest service employee Lauren stepped up to fill the leadership void in our lives. After two consecutive backcountry spikes and the RMC midweek, we finally had a week to work out of Shadow Mountain Village, sleep in our beds, create culinary compositions, and work on the 1500 piece puzzle Amy found at a thrift store.

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On our first day of work, Geoff joined us to complete a retaining wall turnpike combo that we started a month prior on the Grand Lake East Shore Trail. Our group waited at our meeting spot while Llamas were wrangled for the Student Conservation Association’s back country hitch. Its not clear what the delay was, but word on the street is there were kicks thrown, exclusively by Llamas. Once we got to work, the magic started happening. Because of how deftly we handled carrying rock, placing stepping stones, and tamping dirt we finished ahead of schedule. The turnpike was successfully tested by numerous hikers, though many preferred to tiptoe along the side of it for some reason. While some of us sharpened tools, John and Lauren took the Jed the Llama for a long lakeside stroll in the pouring rain, no kicks thrown this time.

The next day we were enlisted by the OHV(off highway vehicle) trail crew to help with one of the motorized vehicle trails in Stillwater Pass. We rehabilitated a section of ATV revenged trail by fixing the grade and placing pavers in eroded sections, all while dodging ATVs and dirt bikes. We used a lot of McLeods, Pulaskis, and hoes. The OHV crew was blown away by the power of youthful enthusiasm. It was fun to do a completely new kind of trail work, hopefully next time we can drive the ATVs ourselves.

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Toby putting in pavers

            Our final day of work was a return to our bread and butter; cutting fallen trees. After weeks of project work, cutting tread, and decommissioning trails, it felt good to grow our beards, put on flannel, and get to sawing trees and covering trail. We cut roughly 30 trees, and by sticking to the theme of the week, finished our tasks by lunchtime. While it was encouraging getting things done so efficiently, we do not enjoy the feeling of not having a project to do. Fortunately this feeling did not last long–we high tailed it up to Wolverine Pass and cleared trail up to a picturesque meadow, of which all agreed is an ideal spot to frolic, if thats your thing.

Overall a great week for Shadow Squad, and I enjoyed being the assistant crew leader, although nobody (including myself) followed my one new rule, which was no quesadillas.

-Toby Martin, Crew Leader of the week, Shadow Mountain Crew

 

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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In the Field: Week 4

The Red Feather Crew worked to complete maintenance runs on the Killpecker and North Lone Pine trails over the past we week. The water damage turned the North Lone Pine trail into a soupy mess towards the end of the system, but with hard work and good music we were able to take the soupy mess and turn it more into a hearty stew, worthy of walking on. All in all we were able to complete the maintenance runs on both trails and help alleviate the swampy problem that is the last half mile of the North Lone Pine trail.

Most of our work consisted of clearing and building drains, with the occasional tree clearing. The maintenance runs were on the shorter side of what we usually do, but the change in elevation helped keep us humble. One cannot help but contemplate what it means to be in shape when they are trying their best not to fall over backward from the combination of exhaustion and a crosscut saw pulling them back as it bounces behind their shoulder.

On Monday we experienced a unique situation with an injured dirt biker. The biker and his friend were just finishing up their ride as we were headed back to the bunk house. They passed us on the road as we stopped to clear some limbs and trees that blocked part of the drive. A few minutes later we came upon the two riders on the ground, one of them had hit the forest service gate that blocked the road. Fortunately three of the six of us have our Wilderness First Responders and were able to help the biker with his wounds and provide him with a ride to his vehicle.

We were visited by our manager, Geoff, on Tuesday and were able to put him to work helping us limb and clear downed trees that blocked the trail. In the large gaps of trail between downed trees we were able to employ him as a porter of sorts for our crosscut saw, with the promise of a meal at the end of the day. Little did Geoff know that the meal that day was an improvised effort by me and Otieno, put into effect after learning that yes, Geoff will be staying for dinner.

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IMG_2616.JPG-Arin Leopold, Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week

For Estes Crew, we ended the first half of the summer with a completely different type of trail work. Instead of going out on maintenance runs, we worked on a trail revitalization project in the Tuxedo Park area of Rocky. This trail is used frequently by the public and by groups from the YMCA- including large groups on horseback. Due to the frequent use by people and the impact from horses, the trail has been heavily rutted out and the wooden log steps have been damaged. This is where we can step in and work to improve this trail so that it is easier for people and horses to use and lasts for decades to come.

The kind of work involved in this project is very different than simply going on a maintenance run. Trail improvement projects are often centered on a much smaller area and require thinking more strategically than digging drains on several miles of trail. The main component of this project that we worked on was installing log checks. Log checks are first and foremost used as erosion control structures and also as steps on steep grades. The process of installing a log check involves using math (wasn’t expecting to need that this summer) to calculate the grade between each step, moving boulders and positioning them just right to secure the logs, crushing rocks using double and single jacks, and then filling them in with wheelbarrow loads of dirt.

The crew thoroughly enjoyed the project that we worked on this week and it was fulfilling to see the constant progress as we worked. It was definitely an excellent way to end the first half of our week season. Now, we look forward to the educational portions of the upcoming midweek along with getting to reunite with the other crews and find out what everyone else has been up to for the past month.

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Hunter and Ben loading up the wheelbarrows full with new tread for our trail

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Jessa and Jesse get to show their intensity when smashing rocks with single jacks.

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Some of the boulders we moved were massive, but the payoff is a stronger log check and stronger muscles.

-Miranda Thompson, Estes Crew Leader

This week, the Boulder crew continued their work at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, swamping out a future trail, constructing drains, doing some crosscut work, and breaking down an area that had been dammed up with debris. It was a productive work week leading up to mid-week.

On Tuesday, the crew continued their work in the high country above 11,000 feet. The work that was conducted the majority of the day was drain constructing. The entire crew worked along Sourdough Trail for the first half of the day. Shortly after lunch, the crew split up into two different groups. One, continuing their work on drains, while the other of the group started swamping out a future trail. When swamping out a future trail, the group follows a Sawyer, who cuts down larger trees with a chainsaw. The cut trees are carried to areas from 50 to 100ft away where they cannot be seen from the trail.

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On Wednesday, the crew split up into two separate groups. One group continued swamping the future trail while the other traveled to Jean Lunning trail to take care of a tree that had fallen onto the boardwalk. The group that worked on the new trail got an exponential amount of work done, getting halfway through the trail. The second group had a lot of work ahead of them. The tree that had fallen was about 30 inches in diameter and needed to be cut a certain way so that it wouldn’t damage the boardwalk. The first cut was a challenge and took more time than expected, but the team worked together to get the job done. They proceeded on the trail to remove snow that had collected in the pathway. The two groups reconvened after lunch; finishing the day off with some crew swamping.

 

On Thursday, a larger number of combined crews split up into two groups. The first group finished swamping the future trail. The second, smaller group broke off and went to check out what work needed to be done on a separate trail. As the day carried on, so did the weather. Both groups received quite a bit of rain accompanied with some pea sized hail. The larger group finished swamping out the  new trail, which began winding its way through the lush green landscape. The trail leads through a more scenic route between the Mitchell Lake trail head and the Isabelle Lake trail head.  The two groups reconvened and started their work on a different trail that needed their attention. The trail was needing some work in the drain area. As the rain continued, so did the crews effort in insuring that the water would quickly be led off of the trail. The crew ended their day with the sharpening of their tools and the cleaning of their work vehicles.

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The crew split into two different groups on Friday. One working on a dam that had been created at Mitchell Lake; clearing fallen trees and debris of plants that had been taken with the water from the melting snow caps. The other group worked on the Isabelle Lake trail, creating drains to maneuver the water off of the trail as quickly as possible. The crew ended the day, wishing everyone an enjoyable Fourth of July weekend.

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The fourth week, overall, for the Boulder Crew, was filled with conservation work that ranged from clearing small bushes to moving 1000lb trees. It was a very productive week that many of the first time crew members will certainly remember as they will take with themselves much gained experience.

-Hailey Frost, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week

The Shadow Mountain Crew completed our first backcountry project this week! We built a turnpike on the High Lonesome Trail, camping out by Hamilton Creek. The High Lo Trail is a section of the Continental Divide Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Over the course of the week, we met quite a few thru hikers from a variety of places, including Korea and Germany.

On Tuesday (the first day of our wacky work schedule), we hiked all of our tools and gear to the campsite. We decided to hike from a road instead of the trailhead, which meant the distance was shorter but we were also hiking through some unmaintained swampy areas. We made it to the campsite, set up camp by the creek, and checked out our worksite – an 100-foot-long marsh with a view of the mountains. The crew was definitely feeling tired, and Amy’s dinner of kale gumbo was physically and emotionally revitalizing.

Kendra + Amy Crew leader Amy and Forest Service liaison Kendra survey the marsh and determine where to build the turnpike

On Wednesday, we got to work. We spent most of the day debarking logs with draw knives, digging trenches to set the logs in, and collecting rocks for crush. Wednesday was also Abigail’s 19th birthday, which we celebrated with cookie and frosting deliciousness following some yummy burritos.

It rained all day on Thursday, but we kept our morale up and made a lot of progress on the turnpike. Toby figured out how to communicate with Jed, our pack llama.

Toby talks to Jed Toby learns to speak llama

Jed the llama Jed, the most beautiful llama in the world

We spent all of Friday gathering and crushing rock. We finished peeling and setting the logs, setting and nailing in the Geo Tech, and laying over 300 square feet of crush. We nourished ourselves with some delectable tuna mac ‘n cheese for dinner.

Crush rockCrew members set up rock crushing stations, using single jacks and double jacks.

On Saturday, we hiked back out to our worksite for the last time, dug barrow pits for soil, and filled in the top layer of the turnpike. After celebrating our success with some locals who crossed the completed turnpike on their morning hike, we broke camp and headed back to civilization. After another couple trips of wet hikes through the swamp, we made it back to the truck. Feeling dirty, tired, and accomplished, we celebrated the week by going out to Miyauchi’s Snack Bar, a local favorite in Grand Lake. Toby truly outdid himself by ordering enough food to warrant a box.

Overall, it was a great week! We worked hard, learned a lot, and had fun. The crew is looking forward to a week in Estes Park before heading out for another backcountry hitch in mid July.

-Izzy Owen, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week

As we start mid-week soon, us over at Kawuneechee are glad to have gotten a few jobs done at the comfort station that set us up to leave it alone for a week. On Monday half of the crew hung FRP board on the walls of the comfort station. To hang this it has to be precisely cut with a skill-saw so that it fits the wall and is aesthetic. After it is cut an adhesive is spread on the back with a special trowel and then it is placed on the wall, no nails are needed.

While half the crew worked on this the other half went to the east side and helped put new picnic tables in at Longs Peak Campground. There used to be a bunch of wooden tables there but we put in new concrete tables that will last longer and also are harder to move away from sites. They weigh 1800 pounds so we had to place them with a front end loader to lift them up. We dug the ground away to level them and then set them in place.  We also replaced a bear bin at Aspen Glen campground.

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Dax and James, NPS Staff, contemplate how to move this rock to set the table.

On Tuesday the two halves of the crew switched places and one crew got their chance to hang the FRP board in the women’s side of the comfort station. The other half of the crew went up to Lake Irene and worked on chinking at the mess hall that we have intermittently worked on throughout the season.

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A good reminder to be responsible at your campsite! (Observed at Timber Creek Campground)

On Wednesday one half of the crew began tiling the inside of the comfort station. The entire floor was not re-tiled, but places where the toilets once were needed to be re-tiled and the sides of the back wall needed to be re-tiled. The other half of the crew went back to the east side to help them cut out plywood for cage Windows that will go in at the mess hall at Lake Irene. We also set up for the Conservancy sponsored lunch for the park service. The Conservancy provided us with pulled pork from Smokin’ Daves in Estes and put on a great lunch for the park. It was much appreciated.

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The Kawuneeche Crew appreciating the wildlife and views on Trail Ridge Road

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Dax cutting plywood to re-frame windows on the east side.

On Thursday myself and Dax Deshazo stayed at the comfort station to grout the tiles. Grouting is long process that takes some patience to do. Our day was mostly consumed with this work as we learned the process and did our best to keep everything clean. The rest of the crew went back up to Lake Irene to do more chinking for the day. In the late afternoon we cleaned up the comfort station and closed it up in preparation for mid-week.

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Dax grouting tile with the newly placed FRP on the wall to his left.

 

 

-Dominic Rickicki, Kawuneeche Crew Leader

After tackling the Link and McIntire trails and starting work on the Rawah Trail in their first week in the Wilderness, the Rawah crew switched gears and started this week on Blue Lake Trail. With a picturesque alpine lake and paved road access to draw in the crowds, it was the first time the crew saw more hikers than moose on trail. Geoff Elliot, the Conservation Corps Manager, met the crew at the trailhead first thing Monday morning and helped them start off their week strong.

rawah 1Geoff and the Crew relax on a cairn at the top of Blue Lake Trail.

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The Rawah Crew above Blue Lake

After a hard day of digging drains, cutting trees, and lopping willows the crew returned to the Stub Creek Workstation to eat a final meal with Geoff and to wish him farewell as he departed for Red Feather.

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Geoff and the crew enjoy some homemade pizza at the Stub Creek Workstation.

Tuesday morning brought the crew back to Blue Lake as they continued work on the lower part of the trail. With multiple mud-ridden sections and a few hefty crosscuts, the five and a half miles of trail took the crew two more days of tough work to complete.

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Crew Member Kyrie trudges through snowpack on Blue Lake Trail

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Crew Member Gus digs out a drain on Blue Lake Trail.

After spending three days on Blue Lake Trail, the Rawah Crew finally returned to the Rawah trail on Thursday to continue their work there.  While the rest of the crew continued work on the rockbars they began last week, Crew members Sam and Garret worked their way up the trail cutting and clearing freshly fallen trees. By the end of the day, the crew had completed two major rockbars and cleared three and a half miles of trail. With two full weeks of work in the Rawah Wilderness, the crew returns next week to Estes Park and cell phone coverage for Midweek.

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Crew member Eeland crosses a creek on the Rawah Trail.

 

-Garret Fox, Rawah Crew Leader of the Week

In The Field: Week 3

The Boulder Crew spent most of their week in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, working in the snow pack while enjoying beautiful 80 degree weather. It was pretty novel work for most of the crew members!

On Tuesday, the crew started their first work of the season in the high country above 11,000 ft.  Our focus on Tuesday revolved around clearing snow off the Mitchell Lake Trail to clarify the trail corridor.  The ultimate goal of this work was to assure that hikers do not attempt to skirt around the snow and create large areas of impact on social trails.  This work is particularly important given the high usage of the Brainard Lake Area and the fragility of the vegetation in this season of rapid snow melt.  The crew was able to take their lunch break at the beautiful Mitchell Lake and then begin to work up the trail towards Blue Lake in the afternoon. This environment provided a beautiful change of scenery and started off the week on a high note!

On Wednesday, Conservation Corps Manager Geoff Elliot joined the crew in the field as we undertook similar work on the Long Lake trail towards Lake Isabelle.  In addition to digging out the snow on trail, we also worked on some minor drainage work to direct the flow of snow melt off trail. Our work in the field on Wednesday concluded with a project at Lake Isabelle to clarify the trail on a large snow field with a stream running beneath it.  After taking in the stunning view of Lake Isabelle, we hiked out and returned to the work center to sharpen tools to prepare for the remainder of the week.

Thursday morning started with a much needed bit of maintenance work at our campground at Kelly Dahl.  Our Forest Service partners arrived with a truck to reposition our trailer to a more level area.  Cooking on our propane stoves in the trailer had been complicated thus far because the trailer sat at an uneven angle.   Thanks to the help of the Forest Service, we’re now able to cook on a level service for the rest of the season! After the up keep work in the campground, we returned to the Brainard Lake area to work on the Beaver Creek, Long Lake, and Jean Lunning Trails.  The crew split ways at the trail head so half could return to the Long Lake Trail and Jean Lunning Trail with a crosscut saw to clear out fallen trees blocking trail.  The other half of the crew worked up the Beaver Creek trail to work on drainage work and to undertake a larger project involving rehabilitating a broken retaining wall.  After pausing in the late afternoon to allow a lightning storm to pass over, the two groups reconvened and worked on drainage work together on the Beaver Creek Trail to end the day.

The crew split into two groups on Friday as well, with one group focusing on clearing down trees and snow off the Jean Lunning trail and the other crew continuing the work started the day before on the Beaver Creek trail.  After finishing up work on the trail, our week concluded with a separate project involving loading and transporting buck and rail fencing from the work center to the Camp Dick area.

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As a whole, the third week of work together provided the Boulder Crew a change of pace by undertaking a new type of conservation work in the beautiful high country of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.  The combination of beautiful mountain lakes and a new type of work will certainly make this week a highlight of the first half of our season!

– Tom Enright, Boulder Crew Leader

It’s week three and the Estes Crew is continuing to cover many miles of trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. We’re not even half way through our summer work and we’ve dug drains and brushed vegetation on 55 miles of trail. While it’s great to look back on all we’ve accomplished, we definitely feel the hard work in our legs and arms and feet. Fridays are always welcomed with open arms and a guarantee of sleeping past 6 am, finally.

This week, we covered a total of 39 miles of trail and had the opportunity to work alongside National Park Service employees each day. Monday took us to Flattop Mountain, which despite being flat offers spectacular views from the Front Range to Grand Lake. On Tuesday, we trekked 9 miles from Moraine Park to Fern Lake, Odessa Lake, and Bear Lake. Wednesday we worked with the Larimer County Conservation Corps on a maintenance run to Thunder Lake. At 12 miles, Wednesday was our biggest day yet. Along with getting to see the spectacular Thunder Lake, we were glad to have had the opportunity to work alongside another conservation corps with similar values and goals as the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Finally, we ended our week with a light maintenance run on the Fern Lake trail.

As we approach the end of the first half of the summer, we are all starting to understand the importance of our work. It’s especially easy to see when we work in Rocky Mountain National Park, where 4 million people visited in 2015 and people are frequently asking what we’re doing and thank us for our work. The Rocky Mountain Conservancy attracts interns from all over the country and from all different outdoor experiences. We all come from different backgrounds, but when placed in the setting of the Rocky Mountains, it’s easy to gather around the idea that our work is meaningful and that these lands are worth conserving.

Well, as always, the workweek is tough, but that won’t stop us from hitting the trails this weekend! Who knows where our plans will take us but it will likely include a combination of hiking, climbing, and sleeping.

Ben Longs.jpgBen with a view of Longs Peak from our maintenance run.

Down from Flattop.jpgUs and some of the NPS crew making our way down from Flattop Mountain.

Hunter Odessa.jpgHunter hanging out at Odessa Lake during lunch break.

Ritzi.jpgRitzi making her way across a snowy pass

Hunter Handy.jpgHunter admiring his handy drain work on the Fern Lake trail

Jesse Odessa.jpgJesse on the Odessa Lake trail

Thunder Lunder.jpgA very serious group photo at Thunder Lake

– Miranda Thompson, Estes Crew Leader
This week the Kawuneeche Crew would like to begin by taking a moment to dedicate this blog to our French press. Since most of our jobs require little to no hike in, we have the luxury of not worrying about the weight of our packs. So we carry in our French press and make ourselves some fresh cups of Joe on break or at lunch to keep us fired up and working hard on our projects. Thank you, French press.

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The French Press

Moving on to what we completed this week; Monday, Geoff came to visit us and helped as we finished painting the outside of the comfort station at Timber Creek Campground. Throughout the day, we were able to put on two coats of paint and finish that project.

On Tuesday, we hung sheets of OSB on the inside of the comfort station. Figuring out angles for our cuts to match the ceiling proved to be challenging at first, but after a little reminder of middle school mathematics, we found our groove and got the sheets hung properly. Hanging these sets us up to hang FRP board next week, which is a fiberglass material that can be hosed off if it needs cleaning. This allows for easy cleaning of the bathroom.

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Wednesday was a lot of prep work for painting the inside of the comfort station: we replaced some plywood sheets that we had removed earlier to take out windows, we replaced the trim around the windows, and cleaned the walls. We set up tarps and sorted through our gear so everything was organized and easy to move once we started painting.

On Thursday, we began by painting inside the comfort station. We used an epoxy paint that required us to mix two different cans of paint that activate the epoxy. After careful mixing, we were able to spend the morning putting on the first coat. While we waited for the paint to dry, we went back to the little buckaroo barn and set the nails we used to put in the windows. We used a tool called a ‘nailset’ that sets the nails deep into the wood so we can later cover them up. After doing that we went back to the comfort station and finished up our second coat of paint. The comfort station is getting close to completion!

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Dominic enjoying his cup of joe while jokingly commanding his crew members.

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– Dominic Rickicki, Kawuneeche Crew Leader

After three weeks of car camping  and couch surfing, the Rawah Crew finally made it to their designated workstation at Stub Creek. Excited but exhausted, the crew hit the hay early upon arrival in preparation for their first day of work in the Rawah Wilderness. McIntyre Trail was first on their list.

With rolling terrain and a creek side view, McIntyre proved to be a beautiful yet challenging introduction to back country trail restoration. Their leader cycled each member through their first cross cut use on trail. In the meantime, clogged dips and drains were restored and crew members solidified their familiarity with trail maintenance. By the end of their first day, the Rawah crew cleared over four miles of trail that was scheduled to take them two days to complete.

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Crew member, Sam, admires the cross cut.

Cross Cut teamwork.jpgCrew members, Gus and Garret, master their cross cut skills.

With their routine already set in stone, the crew immediately began work on their next task: Link Trail. The ambitious bunch hiked five miles in, then worked back down the trail. By Wednesday afternoon the crew removed 76 trees and cleared over 95 drains, completing their work on the Link trail, yet again, ahead of schedule. That evening, they trucked on over to the Rawah Trail for some more maintenance work.

Mosquitos and Lunch.jpgThe crew enjoys lunch and the mosquitos enjoy theirs – not so pleasant.=

The Rawah Trail posed much less trees early on, as the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers seemed to have already handled the task. There were, however, an ample amount of grade dips and drains that kept the crew busy through Thursday morning. The final afternoon of this week’s work was spent on a gnarly section of corroded tread about three miles up the trail. A braided path of erosion defied most of the previously installed drainage structures. Shaded under an aspen grove, the crew began to reroute drainage by installing a series of massive rock bars. New tread has been planned and this project will surely meet completion early on next week.

– Sam Ruhala and Garret Fox, Rawah Wilderness Crew Members