In the Field: Week 3

Estes Crew 

Crew Leader of the Week: Maximo T. Bye

Week Of: 6/18/18

Monday, 6/18/18:

The week started strong with a typical Monday morning. Estes Crew and the National Park Service had our Monday meeting about this week and quickly got to work with the horses. We were to brush Finch Lake today. Brushing consists of taking out small trees, branches, or plants that are growing in the trail or onto the trail.  We finished around 2.3 miles of the trail. The hike was amazing and featured a steep climb to start, an aspen forest, and even a forest of Ponderosa in such little time. Thanks to the rain over the weekend, the day was humid and every branch we cut let loose a small collection of water droplets that kept us cool through the day.

A person with a backpack stands on a rocky overlook
Looking out at Longs Peak

Tuesday, 6/19/18:

Tuesday was a lot less hiking. We were given the task of hauling old wood used for fencing from Sprague Lake to Bone Yard, a place where old wood and tools go to die. In addition to this we brought A-frames to Sprague Lake that will eventually be new Buck and Rail fencing. It quickly became apparent that we needed more logs to make A-frames with, so we quickly hiked out to Bierstadt where we collected 20 more logs that were suitable for the job. Everyone worked together to bring the logs down to the Bierstadt parking lot for pickup after they were cleaned up. Before long, the day was coming to an end and Estes Crew prepared for the next day.

Three people collecting firewood near a wooded area
Unloading Buck & Fence at boneyard

Wednesday, 6/20/18:

Another job of brushing for Estes Crew! We were grouped with about 12 other people to conquer Andrew’s Glacier. Everyone hiked out from the Bear Lake Trail Head towards our work place. The plan was to take a fire trail to shave off an extra mile on our hike. Soon enough we had made it to our destination where we split into two groups, one starting at the top of the trail and the other starting from the bottom. Quickly, we worked towards each other. Before we knew it, we had met in the middle and hiked to the top for a break by the snow. A few snowballs were tossed, and many attempted sliding down the snowy hills. After our lunch we had finished all of Andrew’s Glacier and needed more work. We hiked back to Bear Lake where we embarked onto the other side of Bierstadt. The rest of the day was working on this trail. By the end of the day, over 10 miles had been hiked by the crews.

Hikers with backpacks ascending a snowy mountain trail

Thursday, 6/21/18:

Closing the week with some more brushing! This time the crew headed to our day’s scenery, Fern Lake. Jovonna was given a separate task for the day, she was sent to join the Moraine Crew! She painted and worked on picnic tables for the day. We worked from the pool towards Cub Lake, eventually ending at the Cub Lake Trailhead. The day started nice and cool, but slowly heated up. We did our best removing everything that was impairing hikers from hiking the trail, or that would shortly grow to impact the trail negatively. The views from the trial highlighted the mountains that surrounded us, snowy peaks shined in the sun as we took a morning break. Like all breaks though, it soon ended, and we worked to preserve this moderately popular trail. Many people stopped and thanked us for the work we were doing, it made everyone happy to be complimented for the hard work we love. We all enjoyed the view of Cub Lake and its lily pads as we worked. Eventually, we finished the trail and headed back to the vehicles. Our day was not done, and we headed to a pull off near Hollowell Park where we talked to one of the wilderness firemen, Doug. He told us all about his job, his life, and his love of wilderness fire. He said he had been “bitten by the Fire-Bug” and couldn’t stop what he wanted to do. In addition to this he told us about how fires work, the ways forests defend themselves from fires, when they burn the burn piles so many visitors ask about, and the history of how people fought fires. Everyone learned so much from Doug and thanked him for his time. This concluded our work day and week. This weekend we rest and prepare for next weeks challenges and surprises.

Two hikers cleaning on a rocky forest trail
Clearing Brush

-Maximo Bye (Estes Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah Crews

Hello again! As the first half of the season begins to wind down, the Rawah Mega Crew has only been winding up. Week three was quite an interesting week in the Rawah Wilderness. On Monday, we returned to the Link trail for a second day packed full of drain digging, trail clearing, and what some might consider a fair amount of hiking. After ten hours of work and nearly eighteen miles of round trip hiking, the resiliency of the crew really began to shine. Despite an exhausting and demanding day, the crew was able to bounce back after an evening spent with our boss, Geoff, who came up from the mother ship to pay a visit.

A person in scout uniform attending to another person's blister
Noah taking care of Ruby Ann’s blister.

Tuesday marked the first day of maintenance on the Rawah Trail and what a wild ride it was. Not only were we blown away by all the traffic we encountered (three separate groups of people!), we were able to embrace the mailman way of life by working through rain, sleet, snow, and sunshine.

A group of hikers enduring a light blizzard in a forest
The crew enduring a light blizzard during lunch

Pre-Thursday was a special day for us as our beloved crew member, Reche, returned to work after time spent with family. The Rawah crew was in full force for a second day on the Rawah Trail. With the return of Reche, we were able to properly surprise a soon-to-be twenty-one-year old Zoe with a birthday cake and great company.

Thursday may have been the fourth day of a long and exhausting week, but that didn’t stop us from having fun and working hard. This day was rather unique in terms of some work we were able to do, including both obliterating an illegal campsite and fire ring as well as mitigating the effects of water run-off from a waterfall. In addition, our crosscut coach, Chris, surprised us at lunch and took a break from official business to visit us for a bit.

A group of hikers on a rocky outcrop overlooking a forested valley.

Until next week!

-Noah and Jordan (Rawah Crew Leaders)

Boulder Crew

Week three flew by as we spent our second week at the South Boulder Creek Trail in the James Peak Wilderness! Although it was supposed to rain, the good weather was in our favor and the sun shined every day!

A group of five hikers posing in a line on a forest trail

This week we continued our turnpike construction and finished up our fourth turnpike on the trail to mitigate water erosion damage. Just like last week we spent our days collecting rocks, dirt, and more rocks! As most of us are new to turnpike construction, last week was a learning period for us. However, by the end of this week we consider ourselves professionals.

Two forest workers in safety helmets build a wooden path over a muddy area
Hard at work
A person stands in a rocky, muddy trail surrounded by lush greenery.
Charlotte swingin’
A muddy trail winds through a lush green forest
A completed turnpike!

On Thursday, we headed to the Boulder Ranger District for a meeting with the U.S. Forest Service about the importance of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and how to check the vitality of the equipment. It was great to meet everyone and talk to them about their careers and the path they took to get there. Especially since many of us hope to be in their positions in our future careers.

We wrapped up the week by visiting the Shadow Mountain Crew to spend time with everyone by the water and in the town of Grand Lake!

Group of four friends smiling and posing outdoors at dusk
Camping in Grand Lake

-Hannah (Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

West Side Best Side

We started off this week heading to the Strawberry West Trailhead where we met friend of the forest and hut builder, Andy Miller. He showed us where he had done a short reroute and shared some of his plans for building a new hut. After parting ways we did our stretch and safety circle and contemplated whether we would rather have dustpan hands or sweat jelly. In the end, team dustpan took majority with an astounding switch of teams from Kendra after a four year run on team sweat jelly.

Having adequately stretched and exhausted our job hazards we shouldered our full packs and walked the mile and a half in to the junction of Strawberry West and Caribou trail where we set up camp. We brushed for a few hours before we called it a day and headed back to camp for rose, bud, thorn and tacos made by Caitlin. Rose, bud, thorn is our end of the day ritual where we each talk about the good parts of the day, what wasn’t so good, and what we’re looking forward to the next day. Most of us are always looking forward to the getting horizontal part (sleeping).

A blue tent in a grassy meadow at dusk with pine trees in the background
Shadow Crew’s home for the week, featuring the dynamic duo of alpenglow and an evening thunderstorm.

In the mornings, there was a fine layer of frost covering our tents and the grass. Adam, being the first one up, would build a fire in the pit for us all. We would eat our oatmeal around it and stare at the flames in an early morning daze.

On Wednesday, Amy and Kendra showed us how to make drains well so that they wouldn’t need much maintenance other than debris removal every once in a while. So we spent Wednesday walking down Caribou brushing in pairs and putting in drains as necessary. A little after 3 in the afternoon we spotted a moose not far off from the trail so we backed down for fifteen minutes until he wandered off in his majestic moose way. While we waited we talked about the possible damage a moose could do if angered and what an angry moose looks like. Adam wanted to test our moose friend and see if he could knock over a tree. Mary assured him he didn’t need to test it.

On Thursday, Kendra and Amy walked with us and pointed out the good things of the drains we put in and helped us to make them better if necessary. We parted ways around 10, leaving us to brush as they took the llamas and the chainsaws off to clear more of Strawberry West. We cleared all of Caribou and made it part way up Strawberry West. Towards the end of the day we started putting in some tread near an unnamed peak on Strawberry West. We were about a half hour into the work when it started to drizzle and the thunder cracked. Mary decided it was best to head down the mountain. We played a riveting game of contact on the way back, in which I had them stumped for half the walk with the word paratrooper. Pro-tip: use words with common prefixes.

A forest trail with fallen logs and dense pine trees under bright sunlight.
The process of constructing a reroute for a muddy section of the Strawberry West Trail

We started the day on Friday sharing what we thought Mary would be like at the age of thirty in honor of it being her 21st birthday. Then we did a cinnamon roll hug in despite the stank of our sweat that only trail crews will know. We brushed for an hour on Strawberry West before the trail became a beaver dam lake. So we turned back and packed up camp. Since we had a bit of time and our campsite was a well used one we spent a while picking up a trash compactor bag of garbage to haul out. We brushed on the way back to the trucks as Amy and Kendra cut trees that had fallen across the trail. After lunch we put in tread on the reroute that Andy Miller had made. It was pretty cool to put work in on a new trail and know that we were part of making a better experience for users. At the end of the day we walked to the High Lonesome hut, sat in the shade and did rose, thorn, bud.

A group of seven conservation workers posing around a "trail work ahead" sign in a forest.
Trail Work Ahead? I sure hope it does!

By the way, did you know owls have legs?

-Nico (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week)

Moraine Crew

This week we wrapped up our first big project and got setup for next weeks’ solar shower project while continuing the Quarters Five project and picnic table construction.

On Monday we all returned to McGraw ranch to continue window work on the main building. We did not get as much done as we wished because we spent a bit of time fixing small errors made the previous week. These little errors like moving sashes before they are completely dry resulting in marks and scuffs took almost as much time to fix as painting an entire window sash. From this we learned that working patiently to get the job done right the first time saves a lot of time in the backend of the project.

On Tuesday Will, Hayley, Max, Randy, and Anna returned to McGraw ranch to start work on the last, and largest, set of windows that needed to be restored. By this point we all knew what needed to be done and how to do it right. While Anna and Hayley worked on scraping and calking the windows in preparation for painting the rest of us had an assembly line system for prepping and paining the sashes. Max was on scraping and priming duty Randy was cranking out almost all of the finishing paintwork. Will was hopping between tasks managing the process to avoid the damage to finished sashes that kept occurring the previous week, finishing touchups, and cleaning the glass that had not been cleaned in years! Barnabas attended a First Aid class for a majority of the day to learn about assessing and treating injuries that may occur in the field, he was able to join us near the end of the day and help paint window sashes.

On Wednesday Will, Randy and Hayley got to see the completion of their first big project, the windows at the McGraw ranch. It was a little bittersweet because we do not have any plans to return to the ranch, and the tranquil landscape that it is set in for the rest of the season.

It was very rewarding to look at the results of our hard work! While they were at the ranch Anna and Barnabis were working at Quarters Five, one of the historical homes on the east side of the park. Their day consisted of patching rotting window frames that will eventually lead to severe building damage. Max was off by himself working with Wilson to move the redwood we stained last week to the site it will be installed into. He also learned to to remove glazing from windows for them to be chemically stripped and restored.

At the end of the day Geoff met us at McGraw Ranch as we were competing the window restoration project. He was accompanied by Robert Burkhart, a writer from the local Estes park newspaper, who is putting a column together about important NR work being done around Estes park. He interviewed us with questions regarding why we are working for the RMC and how the work we do plays into the big picture of conservation and preservation. He also interviewed Barnabas, Anna and Max at their work site.

On Thursday we took on one more crew member, Jovonna from the Estes crew. Earlier in the week she took a fall during trail work and was not feeling ready to go back on trail but still wanted to work. So we adopted her for the day and she helped us start another round of picnic tables.  Earlier in the week Chuck and Bob went to the lumber yard and got 25 boards, enough for five more tables that will be used. During the day we completed the preparation of all the boards and began the assembly of one table. Every one we make has been looking better then the last! We can’t wait to see what the last one of the season will look like, it will probably be a museum piece.

Max set posts for the solar shower project at Wild Basin with Bob, Chuck and Wilson from the projects office, we all can’t wait to get more involved in this project in the coming week. Meanwhile Barnabas and Anna worked with Dolly to complete the window restoration project at Quarters Five. It was a stressful day for them because after adding new coats of paint the the windows in the building did not fit anymore and had to be trimmed down with the table saw in the shop requiring lots of back and forth. Little hiccups like this are very frustrating but need to dealt with regardless of how much it may stink.

A person paints windows in a workshop
Max and Randy working the assembly line of sash painting.
A large wooden cabin situated in a grassy clearing
Hayley finishing up the prep work before painting the last set of windows. In the back left you can see the completed sashes that have been reinstalled.
Man holding a thermos inside a vehicle
Crew Leader, Will, battling the chilly morning with a puffy, beanie and layer of warm coffee.

At the end of the week we all look back in awe at how fast time flew by, its amazing we have all been living and working together for a month now.

-Will (Moraine Crew Leader)

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