The Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s High School Leadership Corps (HSLC) successfully concluded its first session on Friday, June 28th. The June Crew devoured burgers at our end-of-session cookout. Understandably so, two weeks of revegetation, field trips and lessons, turnpike construction, hiking, and bridge building would turn any person ravenously hungry.
On our first days together, the HSLC assisted the Rocky Mountain National Park Revegetation crew in the morning and participated in educational lessons with Field Coordinators Gus and Mary. Tasks included moving 430 buckets of mulch from the site of a past revegetation project to the Park’s “Mulch Mountain” and tending to overgrowth in one of Rocky’s seed plots. In these projects, HSLC crew members learned about park volunteerism, tricks and mnemonics for plant identification (sedges have edges!), and the role of resource managers like the revegetation crew.
These morning projects left us two free afternoons. On one of those afternoons, we took a hike to The Pools along the Fern Lake trail, where Gus led a lesson on Leave No Trace in a torrential downpour. On the trek back to the trailhead, the crew got to practice a newly learned Leave No Trace skill, the “rule of thumb,” when they sighted a moose along the trail!
The other afternoon was filled with leadership programming, including a leadership style “test” and a discussion about group dynamics. HSLC members learned how they can use their unique leadership style to work efficiently in their group, as well as how to apply their strengths and bring light to areas where they could refine their skills.
After these full days, HSLC took a field trip to Grand Lake! Along the way, we stopped along Trail Ridge Road, observing marmots, the alpine tundra, park history, and the beautiful snowcapped peaks of the Continental Divide. When arriving in Grand Lake, folks took the opportunity to swim in the lake, explore downtown, and definitely (nearly) finish a puzzle at the library! The whole crew enjoyed lunch at the classic Grand Lake diner: Dairy King.
Colorado weather challenged the crew on the next project. In partnership with the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance, HSLC members stuck out two days of cold and snow to complete three turnpikes. These structures, built along the South Boulder Creek Trail in the James Peak Wilderness, helped to establish an elevated trail surface for a length of 40 feet! No more soggy shoes here, folks!
A much-needed break day split up the turnpike project and the adventure into the world of bridge-building with the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers. Yet again, Colorado threw us for a loop with its weather. This time bringing full sun and midday temperatures of 85 to 90 degrees! The bridge project helped to expedite the reopening of the Young Gulch Trail, a trail closed due to extensive damage from fires and flooding since 2013. To construct the bridge, the HSLC crew carried in nearly 140 boards of lumber, ranging from two-by-fours to two-by-twelves, hauling each board .7 miles up the trail to the spot of assembly. Much of this lumber-toting was accompanied by motivational songs, including a fabulous rendition of “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” Furthermore, HSLC members helped set almost two thousand pounds of concrete into concrete pads for a second bridge, planned to be fully constructed later this season.
Within these trail projects, HSLC members took turns acting as Leaders of the Day. This opportunity gave individuals a chance to demonstrate, challenge, and hone their unique leadership skills by maintaining an orderly camp, developing evening journal prompts, and partnering with a co-leader. Journaling at the end of each day provided an outlet for reflection. From the start, the crew fostered a sense of togetherness and camaraderie, strengthened by campfire stories, humor, and challenge. The scope of conservation work was new for many folks, yet all came with willpower and left with newfound confidence.
Thank you, June Crew, for such a wonderful and unique experience! We miss you already.
-Mary and Gus, Field Coordinators/HSLC Staff Leaders