Conservation Corps – In the Field: Week 5

After a week back in Estes Park with all of the crews participating in behind-the-scenes career tours, educational programming on natural resource management, service projects with the fire fuels division, and mid-season check-ins, they have returned to their respective locations with energy and excitement for the second half of the season.

This week the Moraine Crew started each morning the same way we’ve been starting every morning this season, by building some picnic tables! On Monday morning, we stained some boards, which always takes a while since we have to wait for them to completely dry before we can give them a second coat. After staining for a couple of hours, we headed down to Moraine Park Campground to keep on working on the project from the week before midweek, working on the comfort station! We started by removing some invasive species from the side of the comfort station by digging them up, taking the dirt and invasive species in wheelbarrows and loading them onto a truck, in which afterward we dumped off at the dumpsite. After cleaning up and improving the slope, we split up into groups of two and worked on different tasks around the comfort station. Nick and Jake worked on breaking up the asphalt from the walkway from one of the bathrooms to the outside sink. While they were going to work on that, Davina and Nate started digging in front of the comfort station. They dug a trench in order for the NPS electrician, Lance, to start working on getting the electricity ready for the bathroom. Meanwhile, Ben and I were in charge of painting. We primed the area for the outside sink and around the doors. On Monday we also started helping Tom and Dolly (NPS staff) repair and refinish the windows.

On Tuesday, we started off our morning by staining and building picnic tables. Ben, Jake and I were in charge of staining some boards, meanwhile Nate, Davina, and Nick were in charge of building a picnic table since we had enough boards to build one (5 boards). Afterward, we split up again. Nate, Davina, and Ben went with Chuck and Bob to complete some concrete work in the NPS utility area. 

Two men working on a concrete patio in front of a house.
Pouring concrete pads for new housing units in RMNP

Meanwhile, Nick, Jake and I went to Moraine Park Campground with Tom and Dolly to keep on working on the comfort station. We finished painting the outside and prepared two walls for texturing by masking. The rest of the day we worked on small tasks. Some of us caulked, some of us helped Tom and Dolly with the windows, and Davina got the opportunity to texture one of the walls! 

A room is being remodeled with drywall and paint.

On Wednesday, Ben and Nate got the opportunity to hike up to Thunder Lake to fix some shingles on a Ranger Cabin with Will! They hiked a total of about 15 miles that day and had some great views along the way!

A log cabin sits on top of a snowy mountain.
Repairing the roof of the Thunder Lake Ranger Cabin

Meanwhile back at the project shop, we finished staining some boards for the picnic table. After doing so in the morning, it was back to the comfort station at Moraine Park Campground! We did some more caulking and painting! We finished painting the walls that were textured and caulked around the windows and outside. We also painted some quarter round trims that were going to be placed in on Thursday. We finished up by helping Tom and Dolly with the trim work around the windows.

On Thursday, the crew started by staining and building some more picnic tables! We’re going to need some more boards soon! After the typical morning, the crew headed back to Moraine Park Campground and started working on the comfort station. We replaced some boards on the pathway around the comfort station, placed in all of the quarter rounds trims that were painted the previous day and finished painting (for now!) A bathroom with white tile and a window.Next week, we get the opportunity to do some tile work and work on some exciting side projects, so stay tuned!

-Jazmin, Moraine Crew Leader of the Week

This week over on the west side the Shadow Mountain Crew worked on two different trails. We spent half of our week at Strawberry Lake Trail doing maintenance runs. We dug our fair share of drains and removed an incredible amount of rocks from the trail!

A man in a hard hat working on a trail with a shovel.

On Friday we made it up to Strawberry Lake. It was beautiful! The lake was surrounded by wetlands and snowcapped peaks in the distance. We decided it would be a wonderful spot to have our weekly community meeting and cool off after a long day of digging drains in the hot Colorado sun.

Two men sitting on a dock.

The other half of our week was spent preparing and participating in a volunteer trail project in Winter Park. The Meadow Trail in Winter Park is a popular destination for hikers, bikers and all members of the community. Situated in a residential area the trail receives quite a bit of traffic throughout the year. A collaborative effort between the Forest Service and trail sponsors helped to make the volunteer weekend possible. The objective of the weekend was to create a more sustainable and long lasting trail. They had 80 plus volunteers come out to construct over 70 feet of turnpike and build more than 2,000 feet of new trail to reroute the existing trail. We helped by prepping the native timber felled by our Forest Servive partners. We hauled lots and lots of heavy logs down the trail using timber carriers. Once we hauled the logs to the worksite we used drawknives to peel the bark to get them ready for the turnpikes!

A group of people working on a log in a grassy area.

Another component of the project was clearing the corridor for the new trail. So Malyce got to spend the day ‘swamping’ (moving more heavy logs) for our Forest Service partner as she cut away trees from the new trail. We also helped to dig new tread and build a very special mountain bike trail structure. Zeke, our expert mountain biker led us in building a berm for bikers to turn onto the trail. We finished up the week with some tool maintenance and our daily rose, bud, thorn debrief.

A man riding a bike on a dirt trail.

In addition to our work this week we took advantage of our luxurious kitchens and created some culinary masterpieces for our group dinners. Some notable highlights were spaghetti squash, stuffed sweet potatoes and chicken alfredo. Also our avid fishermen and woman spent a couple nights out on Shadow Mtn Lake perfecting their casts. And crew bowling on Sunday! Thanks for reading!

-Dana, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader

Anxiously waiting for the next days of trail work after a week off, the Rawah Crew was pumped to finish our rock work at Young Gulch! Unfortunately, we had a last minute change of plans, and off to the Rawahs for maintenance runs we went! The first day we were out on the Rawah Trail digging drains, defending against mosquitoes, and just as we get comfortable Mother Nature roars! Lighting position ready, we waited out the storm for about 2 HOURS! We became fairly acquainted with our friend, Doug the fir. He kept us relatively dry as we ate our lunch on this eventful Monday. The skies eventually opened up, we warmed up by digging drains and hiked out to enjoy our wonderful campsite in the meadow, BUT this wasn’t a normal night! It was Nidya’s 21st birthday! The rain try to threaten us again, but fear not we had a wonderful night munching on some homemade sushi thanks to Sarah. That is what we call “Backcountry Boutique”!

Three people sitting under a green tarp.
Nidya, Sarah, and Nathan enjoying the yummy sushi

On Tuesday, we headed back to the Rawah Trail without a cloud in sight. It was a frigid morning, so instead of doing our job hazard analysis in the parking lot, we hiked up to warmth and sunshine to an overlook of the Rawah Wilderness. It was a very productive day fixing 104 drains, and we end the day relaxing at our campsite.

A group of hikers on a rocky trail.
The crew enjoying the sunshine and sights out on the ridge

Wednesday we left the Rawahs and headed down the Poudre Canyon to Dadd Gulch trail! On this fortunate day we were joined by our trusty field coordinators, Gus and Mary! This is a beautiful 3.4 mi trail bursting at the seams with wildflowers and butterflies. It was a great day to stop and smell the roses. By lunchtime we topped out the trail in drain repairs! For the second half of the day, we embarked on projects that included adding a mega drain in a very steep area with a water bar and cutting off two social trails that traveled along the trail for about 300ft. Feeling accomplished we headed back to our humble abode, the Hunker Bunker.

A group of people working on a trail.
Covering the social trails and Blake and Miles redirecting the trail for better user experience

Thursday was our first and last opportunity this season to explore and work on the trails around Red Feather and the Hunker Bunker. We headed out the trails of Elkhorn Creek and Lady Moon. We were mystified at the differences from the trails in the Rawahs and Poudre Canyon. It was refreshing to see wildflowers and plants we had never seen before as we dug through the dusty trails.

On Friday, we were invited to Fort Collins for a career tour of the USFS Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests Office. We were introduced to staff members across many different fields. It was amazing to see the variety of jobs the US Forest Service can offer, and many of us are really intrigued in the next few years to have a plethora of seasonal jobs in many spectacular places across the US!

Rawah Crew is looking forward to next week as we embark on an eight day mega-hitch in the Rawahs fixing our favorite trails!

-Amelia and Mario (Rawah Crew Leaders of the Week)

This week, the Estes Crew was involved with an awesome NPS project located right past Jewel Lake. The bog bridges on the trail have started to rot and sink into the wet ground, so the NPS and Estes Crew is working on replacing those bridges with round log supports and decking planks. The tiring work was constantly rewarded with awesome views of the Mills, Jewel, and Black lakes.

On Monday we began our new routine by hiking in about 3 miles from the Glacier Gorge trailhead to get to the start of the construction site, using a challengingly steep fire trail as a shortcut that quickly whipped us back into shape after our education week. We then arrived at the materials site, where about 40 round logs and 100 decking planks were located. Each of us grabbed a decking plank and headed another 0.75 miles up the trail to reach the cache site, where the bog bridge construction was located. Once we dropped off our decking there, we headed back down to the materials site. This time, we hiked up 2 planks in frame packs on our backs and 1 plank in our hands, and we continued making rounds from the materials site to the cache site throughout the day.

The Estes crew also spent time stripping bark from the trees cut down by the NPS trail crew so that the logs could be used for the new bog bridges. Stripping the bark ensures that the logs will not hold as much water and won’t be as prone to sinking, cracking, and rotting. In addition, the crew helped move newly cut trees off of the trail.

Monday definitely set us up for the work planned out for the rest of the week. Each day, the fire trail hike became a little easier, and we continued to hike in our first decking plank on our way up to the cache site. On Tuesday, we completed the same tasks of hiking decking up to the cache site, stripping trees, and hauling logs off of the trail. Wednesday, the crew did a whole day of log stripping, as the NPS crew began to build the bog bridges and were constantly in need of more construction materials.

Finally, on our last day of the work week, we began hiking in round logs to the cache site, which were much heavier than the planks. After hiking 1 in each on our way up the trail, the team split into 2 groups, with one stripping more trees and the other continuing to hike in round logs (1 at a time in our frame packs). The hiking team felt like celebrities when they were stopped to have their picture taken not once but twice on the trail. Thursday also consisted of an awesome lunch break at the beautiful Black Lake.

The Estes Crew is excited for yet another week with the NPS trails crew and will hopefully be a little more in shape next time you see us! Catch you later!

-Nick, Estes Crew Member

This week was a big week for the Boulder Crew because we made it through our first backcountry hitch. We were excited but we were also worried about the unknowns of backpacking. We learned to ration our food, filter water from streams, hang food from trees, pack limited clothing, along with many other skills that we’ll carry with us.

The Boulder Crew stayed on the South Boulder Creek trail and got a surplus of work done. This was our second week on this trail so we started Monday by polishing drains and water bars. Throughout the week all of us immersed ourselves in Mother Nature’s dirt and cold streams. We worked on a section of the trail that was all stream, and during this work we gained some interesting names. Sam, Daniel, and I got covered in mud and got the name “Mudder Pudders”, while Rose, Soph, and Luke hauled massive rocks, by then getting the name, “Rockin’ Rollers”.A man in an orange hat is bending down on a rocky trail.

As the week continued we dug a total of 8 drains, 8 water bars, 5 check steps, and 8 steps. With all the rock work we’ve done so far, we hope to further our skills by learning how to make stair cases. Rock work gets us hype! We’re ready to see what the rest of the hitches hold for us.

A group of hikers on a trail.

-Bre, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week

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