In The Field: Week 2

Shadow Mountain Crew

Howdy everyone! Shadow Mountain crew just wrapped up an awesome week of work. On Monday, we trekked up the Roaring Fork Trail and continued developing our crosscut skills. It was steep going and, after cutting 25 plus trees, we had to turn around when we hit the snow line. We spent Tuesday morning at the monthly Sulphur Ranger District meeting at the Grand Lake firehouse, discussing safety and getting to check in with some of the forest service employees we’d met a week earlier at district orientation. After lunch, we got out into the field, spending the afternoon learning how to dig drains, clear brush, and re-tread trail on the Knight Ridge Trail. We had barbecue tofu sandwiches with sweet potato fries—an Owen family classic— for crew dinner Tuesday night. On Wednesday, we got to work with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) crew doing more crosscut work. We cleared sections of the Arapaho Pass Trail, High Lonesome Trail, and Strawberry Bench Trail in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Elise poses with a freshly sawed log

Thursday was an amazing way to end our work week. We started the day with a boat ride across part of Lake Granby to the Knight Ridge Trail, where we cut 118 trees off the trail! A few years ago, this section of the trail had been closed for a decade due to downed trees, so it felt especially rewarded to keep this part of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) open to through hikers.

Will shows off his Forest Service personal flotation device on Lake Granby
Will + Izzy crosscut a tree off the trail

The crew is headed our separate ways for the weekend, to see family and friends across the state, but is planning to reconvene Sunday evening to swap stories over pizza. Until then, enjoy this photo of some of our friendly neighborhood moose, snapped from the canoe on Shadow Mountain Reservoir by none other than our own Curtis Hall!

Canoe moose

– Izzy Owen (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

Rawah and Red Feather Crews

Radwah spent a lovely week transforming Young Gulch off of the Poudre Canyon into immaculate trail. The Young Gulch restoration project is a multi-year trail construction that is being tackled by multiple volunteer crews. Trail designers flagged out a new line that weaves around the gulch drainage and the new trail is being designed with techniques that make it less susceptible to flooding and washout. On Monday, Nate, member of the Wilderness Restoration Volunteers, gave us the low down on the first mile and a half of trail and then set us loose to cut new tread and firm up sketchy edges with rock walls.  The week has enlightened our trail construction skills. Crewmembers learned how to create an armored ford—a section of trail that functions both as a drainage as well as passable biking surface.

Three forest workers posing with shovels on a muddy trail

Colin, Anna, and Jacob Pose by Their Stellar Armored Ford

We also had the opportunity to flex our rock wall creation fingers. On Tuesday, another volunteer named Nick, biker extraordinaire and rock wall magician, shared his expertise in the construction of the specialty features.

Two hikers leaning against a tree on a dirt trail in a forest smiling at the camera
Davina and Shelby’s Rock Wall Creation

Gus, Zach, Anna, and Will stabilized a 17-foot section of tread with a MONSTER wall. They roughly calculated the completed feat to contain a whopping 136 cubic feet and 16,000 pounds of rock. The picture does not do it justice.

Monster Rock Wall Crew
Gus, Zach, Anna, and Will Lounge on Their Monstrous Rock Wall

We also dug approximately 1,000 feet of fresh tread and polished off 3,000 feet of pre-constructed trail. Proper Young Gulch tread should display at least 30 inches of width at a 5 percent grade.

Digging Frosh Tread
Digging Fresh Young Gulch Tread

Digging new tread also requires the removal of a copious arsenal of boulders. As we moved into completely untouched territory, these were often quite large. Abby and Jordan spent some time wrastling an unruly boulder out of the trail line.

Two archaeologists digging in a forested area with tools
Abby and Jordan Vs. Boulder

As a result of the strenuous exertion, much of the half-hour lunch break was spent speed napping.

Group of hikers resting on the ground in a forest, some with hats, surrounded by trees and grass.
Lunch Nappers

Young Gulch also sports a large amount of poison ivy and resultantly we had to wash off tools at the end of the day with a simple green solution. Zach has become a professional Pulaski scrubber.

A young man wearing a green helmet and a backpack kneels
Zach, Professional Pulaski Scrubber

All in all, it was an extremely productive and satisfying week at Young Gulch and we anxiously await our next project week on the trail in mid-July.

Happy Trailers
Happy Radwah Campers

-Shelby Ahrendt (Red Feather Crew Leader)

Kawuneeche Crew

After a weekend chock full of hiking, hanging, and hammocking, the Kawuneeche Crew went back to work feeling refreshed and ready for another round of sawing and shuttering at the Liefer cabin. Tools in the truck bed, we followed Bob and Chuck, our NPS supervisors, out of the NPS Project Shop and made our way back to our historic worksite.

A young man wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap and looking to his left
Garret, deathly afraid of the sun, readies himself for a day of work before leaving the shelter of the truck cabin.

After learning the ropes last week, constructing the shutters for the lower windows of the cabin went smoothly and without incident (minus a few stripped screws here and there). Chuck was even confident enough in our abilities to let Jon and Tate try their hands at the power saw. With four window shutters successfully and beautifully constructed and installed, we headed home with our construction abilities sharpened and our chins held high.

Three people wearing hats and gloves work together to drill into a large wooden plank
Garret and Tate brace a log slat in anticipation for Jon’s sawing brilliance.

After meeting Bob and Chuck at their office in the morning, we walked to the visitors center for a meeting for seasonal park staff. The meeting included overviews of different departments of the park and what projects they are working on over the summer. General work safety, including lightning safety, and a welcome talk by the superintendent were also parts of the meeting. Afterward, the crew returned for lunch with Bob and Chuck before heading back to the Leifer Cabin. We boarded up several more windows and began chinking between the logs of two planks which were already fastened to the cabin.

Person in a protective suit spray painting a wooden board on a table outdoors
Jon rolls up his paint suit sleeves in preparation for a plywood painting session.

After work, we took the opportunity to hike to the scenic, windy, and snowy Loch Lake trail. The hike was a nice break, and offered great views of Alberta Falls and snow topped mountains. We returned home to recharge for the next full day of work.

Five young hikers pose for a selfie in front of a snowy mountain pass
Tate, Izzy, Jon, Garret, and Kyle stop for a brief picture after hiking up the Glacier Gorge trail at a breakneck pace.

During the morning time at Bob and Chuck’s office, we loaded 15 tubes of chink for the Leifer Cabin in Juan (the government truck) and a number of ladders to facilitate the chinking process. As we headed up to cabin, the drive was sunny but there were extreme gusts of wind at the Leifer Cabin. We finished boarding up the rest of the windows, including the large window at the back of the cabin that required five separate plywood and log pieces. Even with 15 tubes of chink, it ran out quickly. Fortunately, we were let off early and were able to fit in another hike in the evening to Cub Lake. Three members of the crew went on the pleasant hike, which featured lots of elk on the trail and two moose. The last day working on the Leifer Cabin for the week ended, the next day is back at McGraw Ranch for staining cabins.

A rustic two-story log cabin with a dark brown finish
The newly shuttered Liefer Cabin in all of its rustic, impenetrable glory

The morning started a little early in order to fit in the weekly doughnut run before work. After our fill of doughnuts and checking in with Chuck, we drove back to McGraw Ranch to help Bill complete more of the painting and staining project on one of the historic cabins there. We pulled out and repainting storm windows, stained as much of the cabins as we could, and sanded and chipped old paint before repainting the windows and their sills. The day was a sunny and full day of work, but we were able to finish all of the windows and the stain the majority of three more walls. In addition to staining and painting, we took down the scaffolding and stored it near the main house at McGraw. The crew returned home tired, but ready for another busy weekend of exploring and hiking.

Three people working on a house exterior
Kyle, Jon, Tate and Ashleigh hone in on their respective painting projects.

For the weekend, we plan on hiking two fourteeners, Grace and Torres, after spending time in Boulder with several other crews.

-Garret Fox (Kawuneeche Crew Leader)

Estes Crew

It was another great week for the Estes Crew! Following a fun weekend of camping and hiking they started the week strong with a 12-mile maintenance run to Ypsilon Lake. Working alongside a park service trail crew they dug drains and brushed the trail corridor along the entire length of the trail, with the exception of the final mile, which was too snowy to do any work. The crew also got their hands on a crosscut saw for the first time! They learned some of the techniques used to “buck” fallen trees from the trail as well as some of the specific safety hazards of crosscutting.

Five people posing with farm tools in front of a corral and a mountain.
The morning routine- shoveling mule poop at the NPS trails facility.
A man using a handsaw on a tree in a forest with snow on the ground.
Crew Leader Blake Crossland crosscutting a large tree that had fallen across the Ypsilon Lake trail.

On Tuesday the crew joined over one hundred other NPS employees at a park-wide department training, in which they learned about the work various branches of the park are doing this summer. They also got to meet personally with Darla Sidles, RMNP’s superintendent! In the afternoon the crew dug drains on the popular Glacier Gorge trail, and even after the long 10 hour workday they still had enough energy to run a 5k with the Estes Park running club. After the run they got to enjoy a free dinner at the famous Stanley Hotel!

Three hikers with backpacks walk on a rocky trail in a forested area
The Estes Crew takes in the view on the Glacier Gorge trail.

On Wednesday the crew worked on the Bierstadt Lake trail with the kids from the RMC High School Leaderships Corps. With over 20 high schoolers, interns, and park employees working they covered over 6 miles of trail, cleared nearly 1,000 feet of brush, and decommissioned almost 30 social trails.  It was a great opportunity for the crewmembers to take on leadership roles and teach what they’d learned about trail maintenance to the high schoolers, and it was awesome to see the crew share their enthusiasm for trail work with everyone!

Group of diverse hikers posing with trekking poles next to a trail sign in a forest.
The Estes Crew alongside the RMC High School Leadership Corps

Thursday! On the final day of the workweek the crew set out on a solo maintenance run on the Glacier Creek trail. They expected to do a lot of brushing, but the trail was unexpectedly clear of overgrown vegetation and they ended up sharing 3 shovels to dig 107 drains on just 3 miles of trail! It was an exhausting, yet rewarding way to end the week, and with all the practice the crew is finally beginning to master the “art” of digging drains.

Five park rangers smiling standing by a lake
Ending the week at beautiful Sprague Lake

Next week the crew will be changing things up and working with the park’s Vegetation Crew to help remove invasive species and plant native vegetation in restoration areas. Stay tuned for more fun from the Estes Crew!

-Blake Crossland (Estes Crew Leader)

Boulder Crew


This week we get to work on a new trail, the East Portal to the James Peak Wilderness Area, near the Moffat Tunnel. It was highly washed out due to drainage issues and snow melt, so we would have our work cut out for us. Monday consisted mostly of rockwork, and man did this crew rock it! We collected large rocks in order build 5 rock steps. To top off our new steps, we hiked in 10 bags of gravel which would serve as backfill as well as several bags of field stones we gathered. Overall, we backfilled 12 feet of trail.

Two people wearing hard hats working on a rocky trail in a forested area
Crew member Brendan and crew leader Lucas working on the rock steps. Check out the completed steps in Tuesday’s picture!


The rockwork continued to Tuesday as we built 6 more steps and backfilled 17 more feet of trail by hauling in 10 more bags of gravel and collecting much more field stone. While it may seem like rockwork never ends, it is a nice tradeoff for several days of brushing trails. We finished off the day by beginning to reroute a stream off the trail.

Five forestry workers in safety gear discussing near a large rock in a sunlit forest.
Crew members work together to lift a large rock for the steps

Sunlit forest trail with rocks and boulders


We were halfway through a challenging week of work, but moral was high! As commonly heard on the commute to work, it was in fact “another day in paradise.” Wednesday began by us splitting into two groups. Louisa, Andrea, and I began brushing a 1.25 mile section of trail while Lucas, Ally, and Ryan finished up the stream reroute by digging 50 feet of drainage ditches and digging one new drain. After meeting up for lunch, we switched up groups. This time Lucas, Louisa, and I closed off 40 feet of social trail by replanting dead trees and covering the rest up with brushy limbs and rock. Meanwhile the rest of the crew continued brushing up the trail. We finished out the day by completing the 1.25 mile section of brushing and dunking our heads in a stream.

A person lying on the ground in a forest resting beneath tall pine trees.
Like I said, it was a challenging week! Crew Members Andrea and Ally (from left to right) enjoying a much needed midday break


Thursday was an unusual day for the boulder crew. We headed into the Boulder Ranger District Headquarters for a safety briefing on hypothermia, hyperthermia, and lightning strikes. Our Forestry Service (FS) Supervisor, Ben, decided we should responsibly arrive at 8:30am for the 9am meeting. Good thing because he was misinformed and the meeting actually started at 8:30. Nice call Ben! An hour of learning later, the Forestry Service kindly gifted each of us with a “Boulder Ranger District” food thermos and sent us out for a fun day of work. We were tasked with making two signs to mark confusing sections of trail in the James Peak Wilderness, brushing a 1-mile section of trial, and completing a hike up to Crater Lakes. Upon our journey to Crater Lakes, we began to encounter snow and the well-worn trail became quickly skewed. Thanks to some expert navigation by our crew leader, Lucas, we made it safely to the half-frozen alpine lakes. After sliding down snow drifts, a quick snack, and a crew photo op, Lucas and I decided we should go for a quick swim. Good thing we were well informed on hypothermia! Since we only get to shower once a week, any opportunity to get in the water is greatly appreciated, no matter how cold it may be. After drying off and warming up, we continued back down the trail to install our last sign and head back to camp. Along the way, Lucas and Louisa practiced being good stewards and packed out 3 bags of (dog?) poop. By the end of this great day, we had happily completed the primary task given to us by Johnathan, our higher-up FS supervisor, which was to have fun!

Six friends stand side by side on a snowy lakeshore with a backdrop of forested mountains.
Crater Lakes Hike (left to right: Andrea, Louisa, Brendan, Lucas, Ally, and Ryan)

The Great 5 Day Weekend

Friday marks the start of a 5-day weekend for Boulder Crew! Due to crosscut saw training next weekend, we were graciously given Monday and Tuesday off in order to compensate for the time. Friday morning began in a local coffee shop in Nederland to get some necessary work done. Before some crew members parted ways on Friday, Lucas took me, Louisa, and Ryan rock climbing in Boulder Canyon. Sadly, Ally returned home on Thursday night to be with family for the Father’s Day weekend and Andrea was being studious and diligently studying for an upcoming chemistry test. After a fun time climbing, Louisa and Ryan also parted ways to be with family. And then there were three! The remainder of our normal weekend is to be filled with laundry, showers, exploring Mud Lake Open Space, as well as a day trip to Grand Lake. When the rest of the crew returns on Sunday, we plan on spending our extra days off in Steamboat Springs, CO mountain biking and relaxing in the Strawberry hot springs. Sounds like a great way to end the week to me! Till next week…

-Brendan Calhoun (Boulder Crew Member)

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