Crew Spotlight: Kawuneeche Crew

Margaret Johnson (Kawuneeche Crew Leader)

Three people in yellow jackets standing by a mountain lake with green hills and patches of snow in the background.

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

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

Kristina Kurelja (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

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

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

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

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

Logan Douglas (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

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

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

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

Dhante Stroud (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

A foggy morning scene with the sun shining behind a rustic barn and a pine tree, creating a serene, silhouetted landscape.
We encircled our worksite through a meadow of dew frosted grasses, an elusive rainbow arched over our dirt path allowing us to peer at the historic Little Buckaroo Barn it its natural state, so primitive, so isolate, and so hauntingly beautiful.

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

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

Jenna Mulligan (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

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

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

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

Joe Cordova (Kawuneeche Crew Member)

Four people in white hazmat suits standing against a wooden building

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

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

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