In The Field: Week 3

The Boulder Crew spent most of their week in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, working in the snow pack while enjoying beautiful 80 degree weather. It was pretty novel work for most of the crew members!

On Tuesday, the crew started their first work of the season in the high country above 11,000 ft.  Our focus on Tuesday revolved around clearing snow off the Mitchell Lake Trail to clarify the trail corridor.  The ultimate goal of this work was to assure that hikers do not attempt to skirt around the snow and create large areas of impact on social trails.  This work is particularly important given the high usage of the Brainard Lake Area and the fragility of the vegetation in this season of rapid snow melt.  The crew was able to take their lunch break at the beautiful Mitchell Lake and then begin to work up the trail towards Blue Lake in the afternoon. This environment provided a beautiful change of scenery and started off the week on a high note!

On Wednesday, Conservation Corps Manager Geoff Elliot joined the crew in the field as we undertook similar work on the Long Lake trail towards Lake Isabelle.  In addition to digging out the snow on trail, we also worked on some minor drainage work to direct the flow of snow melt off trail. Our work in the field on Wednesday concluded with a project at Lake Isabelle to clarify the trail on a large snow field with a stream running beneath it.  After taking in the stunning view of Lake Isabelle, we hiked out and returned to the work center to sharpen tools to prepare for the remainder of the week.

Thursday morning started with a much needed bit of maintenance work at our campground at Kelly Dahl.  Our Forest Service partners arrived with a truck to reposition our trailer to a more level area.  Cooking on our propane stoves in the trailer had been complicated thus far because the trailer sat at an uneven angle.   Thanks to the help of the Forest Service, we’re now able to cook on a level service for the rest of the season! After the up keep work in the campground, we returned to the Brainard Lake area to work on the Beaver Creek, Long Lake, and Jean Lunning Trails.  The crew split ways at the trail head so half could return to the Long Lake Trail and Jean Lunning Trail with a crosscut saw to clear out fallen trees blocking trail.  The other half of the crew worked up the Beaver Creek trail to work on drainage work and to undertake a larger project involving rehabilitating a broken retaining wall.  After pausing in the late afternoon to allow a lightning storm to pass over, the two groups reconvened and worked on drainage work together on the Beaver Creek Trail to end the day.

The crew split into two groups on Friday as well, with one group focusing on clearing down trees and snow off the Jean Lunning trail and the other crew continuing the work started the day before on the Beaver Creek trail.  After finishing up work on the trail, our week concluded with a separate project involving loading and transporting buck and rail fencing from the work center to the Camp Dick area.



As a whole, the third week of work together provided the Boulder Crew a change of pace by undertaking a new type of conservation work in the beautiful high country of the Indian Peaks Wilderness.  The combination of beautiful mountain lakes and a new type of work will certainly make this week a highlight of the first half of our season!

– Tom Enright, Boulder Crew Leader

It’s week three and the Estes Crew is continuing to cover many miles of trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. We’re not even half way through our summer work and we’ve dug drains and brushed vegetation on 55 miles of trail. While it’s great to look back on all we’ve accomplished, we definitely feel the hard work in our legs and arms and feet. Fridays are always welcomed with open arms and a guarantee of sleeping past 6 am, finally.

This week, we covered a total of 39 miles of trail and had the opportunity to work alongside National Park Service employees each day. Monday took us to Flattop Mountain, which despite being flat offers spectacular views from the Front Range to Grand Lake. On Tuesday, we trekked 9 miles from Moraine Park to Fern Lake, Odessa Lake, and Bear Lake. Wednesday we worked with the Larimer County Conservation Corps on a maintenance run to Thunder Lake. At 12 miles, Wednesday was our biggest day yet. Along with getting to see the spectacular Thunder Lake, we were glad to have had the opportunity to work alongside another conservation corps with similar values and goals as the Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Finally, we ended our week with a light maintenance run on the Fern Lake trail.

As we approach the end of the first half of the summer, we are all starting to understand the importance of our work. It’s especially easy to see when we work in Rocky Mountain National Park, where 4 million people visited in 2015 and people are frequently asking what we’re doing and thank us for our work. The Rocky Mountain Conservancy attracts interns from all over the country and from all different outdoor experiences. We all come from different backgrounds, but when placed in the setting of the Rocky Mountains, it’s easy to gather around the idea that our work is meaningful and that these lands are worth conserving.

Well, as always, the workweek is tough, but that won’t stop us from hitting the trails this weekend! Who knows where our plans will take us but it will likely include a combination of hiking, climbing, and sleeping.

Ben Longs.jpgBen with a view of Longs Peak from our maintenance run.

Down from Flattop.jpgUs and some of the NPS crew making our way down from Flattop Mountain.

Hunter Odessa.jpgHunter hanging out at Odessa Lake during lunch break.

Ritzi.jpgRitzi making her way across a snowy pass

Hunter Handy.jpgHunter admiring his handy drain work on the Fern Lake trail

Jesse Odessa.jpgJesse on the Odessa Lake trail

Thunder Lunder.jpgA very serious group photo at Thunder Lake

– Miranda Thompson, Estes Crew Leader
This week the Kawuneeche Crew would like to begin by taking a moment to dedicate this blog to our French press. Since most of our jobs require little to no hike in, we have the luxury of not worrying about the weight of our packs. So we carry in our French press and make ourselves some fresh cups of Joe on break or at lunch to keep us fired up and working hard on our projects. Thank you, French press.

The French Press

Moving on to what we completed this week; Monday, Geoff came to visit us and helped as we finished painting the outside of the comfort station at Timber Creek Campground. Throughout the day, we were able to put on two coats of paint and finish that project.

On Tuesday, we hung sheets of OSB on the inside of the comfort station. Figuring out angles for our cuts to match the ceiling proved to be challenging at first, but after a little reminder of middle school mathematics, we found our groove and got the sheets hung properly. Hanging these sets us up to hang FRP board next week, which is a fiberglass material that can be hosed off if it needs cleaning. This allows for easy cleaning of the bathroom.


Wednesday was a lot of prep work for painting the inside of the comfort station: we replaced some plywood sheets that we had removed earlier to take out windows, we replaced the trim around the windows, and cleaned the walls. We set up tarps and sorted through our gear so everything was organized and easy to move once we started painting.

On Thursday, we began by painting inside the comfort station. We used an epoxy paint that required us to mix two different cans of paint that activate the epoxy. After careful mixing, we were able to spend the morning putting on the first coat. While we waited for the paint to dry, we went back to the little buckaroo barn and set the nails we used to put in the windows. We used a tool called a ‘nailset’ that sets the nails deep into the wood so we can later cover them up. After doing that we went back to the comfort station and finished up our second coat of paint. The comfort station is getting close to completion!

Dominic enjoying his cup of joe while jokingly commanding his crew members.


– Dominic Rickicki, Kawuneeche Crew Leader

After three weeks of car camping  and couch surfing, the Rawah Crew finally made it to their designated workstation at Stub Creek. Excited but exhausted, the crew hit the hay early upon arrival in preparation for their first day of work in the Rawah Wilderness. McIntyre Trail was first on their list.

With rolling terrain and a creek side view, McIntyre proved to be a beautiful yet challenging introduction to back country trail restoration. Their leader cycled each member through their first cross cut use on trail. In the meantime, clogged dips and drains were restored and crew members solidified their familiarity with trail maintenance. By the end of their first day, the Rawah crew cleared over four miles of trail that was scheduled to take them two days to complete.

Cross Cut Admiration.jpg
Crew member, Sam, admires the cross cut.

Cross Cut teamwork.jpgCrew members, Gus and Garret, master their cross cut skills.

With their routine already set in stone, the crew immediately began work on their next task: Link Trail. The ambitious bunch hiked five miles in, then worked back down the trail. By Wednesday afternoon the crew removed 76 trees and cleared over 95 drains, completing their work on the Link trail, yet again, ahead of schedule. That evening, they trucked on over to the Rawah Trail for some more maintenance work.

Mosquitos and Lunch.jpgThe crew enjoys lunch and the mosquitos enjoy theirs – not so pleasant.=

The Rawah Trail posed much less trees early on, as the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers seemed to have already handled the task. There were, however, an ample amount of grade dips and drains that kept the crew busy through Thursday morning. The final afternoon of this week’s work was spent on a gnarly section of corroded tread about three miles up the trail. A braided path of erosion defied most of the previously installed drainage structures. Shaded under an aspen grove, the crew began to reroute drainage by installing a series of massive rock bars. New tread has been planned and this project will surely meet completion early on next week.

– Sam Ruhala and Garret Fox, Rawah Wilderness Crew Members


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