Conservation Corps – In the Field: Week 1

The Estes Crew kicked off the season working with the NPS Resources Team tackling all things plants! Monday morning began with each of us being calibrated for herbicide backpack sprayers. Calibration ensures that we all spray the appropriate amount of herbicide – enough that the invasive plant dies, but not so much that it will run off into groundwater or harm other species. After that, we were equipped to take on the invasive Leafy Spurge. Over the course of the week, Estes Crew sprayed over 2,250 Leafy Spurge stems! Our main target areas were near the Fall River Visitor Center and Upper Beaver Meadows, so it is safe to say our break time views were never disappointing!

A group of people holding a bunch of keys.
Leafy Spurge Tally Counters ft. dirty hands
A grassy field with mountains in the background.
Welcome to our office!

Our mornings were spent backpack spraying, and our afternoons were spent in the greenhouse, where we weeded pots and transplanted seedlings. We transplanted over 100 grass seedlings that will later be used for re-vegetation on Long’s Peak. After long hours of spraying for invasives, working in the greenhouse was a relaxing way to end our day.

A sign that says sundew whirlpools in a field.
Slender Wheatgrass transplants

As our crew got into the routine of working 10-hour days, we loved coming home to beautiful Glacier Basin Campground! Although managing invasive species can be tedious, we took pride in knowing that our work was environmentally beneficial.

We’re looking forward to a full week of trail work beginning this Monday. The summer for Estes is off to a great start! Peace from Estes Crew!

A group of people standing on a dirt road with backpacks.
Purge the Spurge

-Charlotte (Estes Crew Leader)

The Rawah Crew transitioned from Estes Park to Red Feather Lakes after the picnic on Saturday. The Rawah home base for the summer is the infamous “Hunker Bunker,” which has a charm unmatched by any other forest service housing unit. We spent Sunday in Fort Collins running errands to prepare for our hitch as well as being spoiled by Mario’s parents. They welcomed us into their urban garden homespace and fed us a gigantic, unforgettable farm-to-table lunch. We’ll be talking about it for the rest of the summer.

Sunday night was a late one as we sprawled out four days of food and gear throughout the Hunker Bunker. The air was thick with pre-hitch excitement and everyone was in the zone. We closed the doors of our govies (government vehicles) at 7AM and skedaddled over to Young Gulch. Young Gulch is a trail that has been closed for a number of years due to a fire in 2012 and then a flood in 2013. Many RMC crews have worked on Young Gulch over past seasons, and our crew will be working hard this season to help finish the trail before the project funding runs out at the end of the year.

A tent is set up in a burned area near a mountain.
Base Camp

Our first day was spent hiking in to the base camp around mile 3 of the ~6 mile trail. We were joined by two of our Forest Service partners and spent a good portion of the day talking through trail theory and training. We bucked a couple of trees with pulaskis and everyone got an opportunity to get a feel for swinging their tools safely.

A group of people sitting on the ground next to a stream.
Our pile of water bottles and Nate’s very fancy filter!

The second day was particularly exciting as everyone finally got to meet Nate, our partner with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers. He has spent years designing Young Gulch and working on countless other restoration projects in Colorado and Wyoming. Everyone was feeling inspired and empowered after his lessons on sustainable trail-building and conservation. We dug some new tread and began a huge rock project on a gnarly switchback.

A woman is holding a bug in her hand in a grassy field.
Angelee with one of her many moth friends.

Day three was a huge day for our crew. We hiked to some rock projects near the end of the trail which were unfinished from our crew last year and spent some time building on to those. One of our field coordinators, Gus, joined us for the day and gave a ton of great advice for our rock work. Mid-morning Nate showed up and assisted with the rock work as well. After a while he pulled us aside and said we were going to set up a zipline to pass rocks 200 feet across a creek for some future rock projects. Gleaming with excitement and unable to stop smiling, we helped him set up the zipline and called the crew over for our first send. After some trial and error, we were passing rocks to the other side and starting our big pile for the massive banked switchback.

A group of people laying down in the woods.
Sending rocks across the zipline!

Our final day was very rewarding. Angelee, Mario, Nathan, and James completed a huge section of rock work they had poured their hearts into. The rest of the crew sent countless rocks across the zipline for our future switchback project. We broke down camp and hiked out, then drove back to the Hunker Bunker with a post-hitch glow consisting of smiles, dried sweat, and dirt. James led a lesson on tool sharpening and we spent the final bit of our day working out the kinks in our pulaskis and shovels. For the weekend we are visiting Zoe’s friend in Laramie and exploring southern Wyoming. We’ll be heading back to Young Gulch next week to continue crushing rocks!

Three people in hard hats running down a rocky trail.
Mario, Nathan, and Angelee celebrating the completion of their retaining wall!


-Zoe and James (Rawah Crew Leaders)

The Boulder Crew kicked off the season at  the Ceran St. Vrain Trail. Our Forest Service partner Aggie was extremely helpful and shared her wealth of knowledge with us. We learned about basic trail maintenance and how to safely use the tools.

A group of people working on a trail in the woods.
The crew learns from Aggie!

By the end of the week, we had dug over 40 drains, which helped to mitigate erosion on the trail. In addition, we were able to widen and support the tread by installing retaining walls. This was a strenuous but rewarding project.  Finally, we constructed water bars and check steps to keep the trail accessible for years to come.

A man holding an ax on a trail.
Luke showcasing the pulaski.
A woman kneeling down in the woods with a log.
Sophia happy to have the root removed from her drain
A group of people smiling in the back seat of a car.
The Boulder Crew

As a crew, we have been bonding over nightly campfires and eating copious amounts of peanut butter. Special thanks to Mary, who stepped in as our leader and guided us through the first work week! We are excited to be welcoming Daniel to the crew as our leader for the season.

As a whole, the trail work may be (drain)ing but the Boulder Crew is ready to rock. 

-Sam, Boulder Crew Member

This week the Shadow Mountain Crew moved into our beautiful homes in Shadow Mountain Village. We are all in awe of the wonderful accommodations and incredible views. We started off work by participating in the Forest Service Wilderness Ranger Academy. We learned all sorts of great skills, such as map and compass navigation, axe use and maintenance, how to tie knots, and more! It was an honor to be part of the event and we all enjoyed meeting Forest Service employees from across the region. We made great connections and got an inside look at what a career in the Forest Service is like. We finished up the week by getting our federal crosscut certifications! We spent two days in the Indian Peaks Wilderness learning and practicing our bucking skills. On our very first day in the field, we were cutting trees at 9,000 ft elevation in patches of snow! A group of people working on a trail in the woods.

A man working on a fallen tree.

A group of people clearing a fallen tree in a wooded area.The snow was unexpected but welcomed by the whole crew. We all were so excited to finally get out on the trails and work together. We are all now proud to say that we are certified crosscut sawyers! It was a successful week here, over on the wetter, West side and we are looking forward to what next week has in store for us.


-Dana, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader

This week started off slow as the Moraine Crew was moved into our housing for the summer. Everyone was very excited to be moved in! We began with some safety training and a “get to know tools” hour with our agency members. While day 1 was slow, everyone had a peaked interest in what was to come in the following days.

On Tuesday we began our work at Moraine Park Campground. At site 143 there had been significant flooding that was washing away the parking space and the tent pad. Our goal for the remaining 3 days was to place a French drain in the site, redo the parking spot and uncover the tent pad. With a mini excavator (used by our mentor) a 2 ft deep trench was dug around the front of the site. We placed gravel, fabric, and a porous tube within the trench to help with water flow. Nick had a grand time laying out packing dirt and using the gas powered compactor to level out the parking spot!

A man standing on top of a rock.

Davina had a great time learning to use the bobcat to move gravel and park it away from our work site when not being used. The remaining crew members shoveled gravel and dug out the parking site.

On Wednesday, we continued our work finishing the campsite in 1.5 days. It was ready for use, and everyone was very proud of the work we accomplished. The remainder of the day was used to tow the mini excavator and the bobcat back to the project shop. Thursday was spend adding our final touches to the tent pad. We used two 10 ft log polls and built up the corner to help stop the flooding. We were also given the chance to fix and replace the doors to the solar showers within the D loop at the campground!

A white rv parked in a wooded area.
BEFORE – MPCG Site 143 Restoration
A group of workers are working on a road.
DURING – MPCG Site 143 Restoration
A group of people are walking down a gravel road.
AFTER – MPCG Site 143 Restoration

We learned a lot of new skills this week and all of us are excited to continue learning and implementing what we have learned.

-Davina, Moraine Crew Leader

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