In the Field: Week 4

During this past week, the crews returned to Estes Park for Mid-Week. During the week, they focus on developing an increased understanding of the National Park Service and Rocky Mountain National Park. Take a look at the crews’ previous week in the field, marking the half-way point of the 2018 season!

Boulder Crew

Week of 6/25/18-6/28/18

To start the week off, we had some unfinished business in the James Peak Wilderness to complete. Our fourth turnpike was still in need of more rip rap and dirt, so off to the borrow pits we went! We spent the whole day digging and dumping dirt onto our final turnpike. With that done, as a crew we had completed over 50 feet of turnpikes over the course of two weeks, something the trail was in desperate need of as it was a very wet area. There was never a dull moment on this trail as it was heavily trafficked, and we would receive a lot of praise from grateful hikers.

A dirt trail lined with rocks leading through a dense green forest under a blue sky.
Completed Turnpikes

Tuesday came, and with it, a new work location. We were taken to Rainbow Lakes in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area to install check steps and two rock stairwells. The crew split into two groups for efficiency. The first group installed nine check steps to help stabilize the tread and provide a better experience for the hikers. The second group worked in a steeper section of the trail, removing loose and jutting rocks to install two needed staircases. This project involved a lot of ‘rock shopping’ for big, flat rocks, which was not always an easy task. After finding a rock we would dig the tread out and place the rocks in a stairwell fashion. Again, this was a heavily trafficked trail and just about every hiker shared their gratitude. I think this is something my whole crew can agree upon; it’s a good feeling interacting with the people who appreciate your work most.

Rocky hiking trail with stone steps ascending through a dense forest.
The First Completed Stairwell

Wednesday was our second and final day in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Each of the groups finished up their tasks. All together we completed nine check steps and two stairwells; not a small task for two days.

Rocky hiking trail with stone steps surrounded by dense pine trees
The Second Stairwell

On Thursday we were sent to yet another location, something quite uncommon for our crew as we usually work in the same area for at least a week. However, the variety this week was a nice change. On our final day of the work week we were sent to the Fourth of July trail in Eldora. Again, we split into two groups for efficiency. The first group stayed near the trailhead installing a rock retaining wall on a switchback to combat hikers cutting the trail short and eroding away the terrain. The second group was sent on a maintenance run to cut back brush overcrowding the trail. They hiked three miles up to the alpine, took in the view, and then began their hike down to remove brush. Crew Leader, Zach was excited to put the Silky Saw to some good use! Speaking of excitement, we saw the most unique thing on trail: a ferret! We all got to meet Oliver the hiking ferret and his wonderful owner, he had a harness and all. To make matters even better, we were excited to learn he has his own Instagram to track his adventures. It was a beautiful day, a bit on the hot side but we were fortunate enough to be in the mountains, rather than down in the front country where temperatures reached 100 degrees!

Dirt trail winding through a mountainous landscape with green trees
View from the top of Arapaho Pass on the Maintenance Run

Overall, this was a great week for the Boulder Crew. We were thankful for the change of pace and different trails to work on. We are all proud of the work we completed this week and only look forward to the endless amount of rock work to come!

Peace, Madi (Boulder Crew Leader of the Week)

Estes Crew

Estes Crew Blog: Week of June 23, 2018

This week we returned to the Aspen Brook trail. We began new tread this week and worked alongside of the Larimer County Conservation Corps (LCCC). Before we began our day, we hiked down around two miles into the trail where we were assigned jobs and began the reroute. We also learned that we will be continuing our work on this trail for the rest of the summer.

On Monday, Estes Crew was first introduced to the project on this trail and everyone had a great time, we were all ready to get back to work after the weekend and at the end of the day everyone had felt like they had done a great amount of work for the first day. It seems that everyone was anxious to get to this part of the season because throughout the rest of the week everyone came back feeling great about the work and what they accomplished in the day

On Tuesday, we returned back to the Aspen Brook Trail and finished up the work we didn’t complete the day before, some members of the crew did brushing of the trail that was done the day before and collected any tools that were no longer needed. We also got down the trail a bit more! Everyone overall had an awesome day and when we got back to camp everyone was feeling accomplished and ready for the next day of work.

On Wednesday, we attended a safety meeting/training in the late morning around 11:00 and then traveled back to our work place for the week and did the same work. We were also able to meet up with the Moraine Crew during lunch since they attended the safety activity, as well, and reflected with them about how their day and work has been going so far. We’re happy to say that everyone here at the Rocky Mountain National Park is having a great time and experiencing everything they wanted and more.

On Thursday, we returned to our work and continued making new tread and working with LCCC.

-Jovonna (Estes Crew Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

The Shadow Mountain Crew embarked on many adventures this week. We began on Tuesday helping with another district project: installing signs on mountain bike trails near Winter Park. In an effort to standardize trails in the Winter Park area, a project called “trail smart-sizing,” the crew helped Vicky Burton carrying in and dig holes for signs freshly labeling trails. At the end of the day, we had hiked in four signs and carried out four others. We learned that signs are surprisingly heavy, and that they’re treated with a carcinogenic coating, which we had to be extremely careful not to touch with our bare skin. This aspect earned the signs the nickname “cancer stick.”

Park ranger carrying a signage on her shoulder in a forest

The next day, we left for a three-day camping spike out in the Stillwater Pass Area. We worked to maintain a user-created trail called Wolverine Bypass that traveled unsustainably up the side of Blue Ridge. To develop a trail that would last much longer, we installed nearly 35 drains over the course of two days to facilitate water runoff, preventing gullying from extended periods of rain. During this period, we also worked to clarify trail at a rather confusing intersection. To do this, the Shadow Crew spent the morning retreading the switchback at the intersection to make the trail more obvious, taking out trees and shrubs to increase sightlines, and moving a cancer stick to more clearly denote which trail traveled what direction.

Thursday brought along a special surprise. Midmorning, our radios began to crackle. The night before, lightning had struck near the Williams Fork, about 15 miles away, and started a fire! During our breaks, the crew surrounded the radio, listening to the engines, helicopters, and Fort Collins dispatch organize units to tame the flames. By mid-afternoon, two other fires had started in the area, and the Shadow Crew gathered atop a ridgeline facing northward towards one of the starts, seeing haze fall over the Never Summer Mountain range. We pulled out our map, listening to the radio crackle GPS coordinates in an attempt to pinpoint where the fires were. It was a really unique experience and, thankfully, our crew was a safe distance away from the dangers.

On Friday, we opted to work in the same area, this time on the Lost Lake Loop Trail and the Lost Lake Access Trail, en route to Lost Lake itself. Friday demanded a lot of brushing, as well as drain work, as the east end of the Loop Trail ascended a similarly steep hill as the Wolverine Bypass Trail. We made it to the lake in time to eat lunch, and under the heat of the sun, some of the Shadow Crew jumped in to cool off. After lunch, we headed back to camp to pack up, head home, and do some quick tool maintenance before we left the west side. The crew will be spending the next week over the Continental Divide in Estes Park for midweek, as well as embarking on a select few adventures with other crews on the Corps.A serene lake surrounded by dense forests and mountains

Happy Trails!

-Mary Cretney (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

Moraine Crew

Week four in the field has been very busy, but as always our week starts off with the Moraine Crew waking up with the sun on a lovely Monday morning.

On Monday when we arrived to the office, we were split up into groups to work on a variety of projects such as building picnic tables (a classic), painting windows (always a favorite), and working on constructing a solar shower in Glacier Basin campground (something new and exciting). After work, chef Will cooked a scrumptious family dinner that consisted of rice noodles mixed with a coconut red curry sauce and a large dollop of peanut butter. As mix-ins, there were eggs, cabbage sautéed with onions and garlic, broccoli, and green beans. For a garnish, there were green onions, peanuts, and orange slices to squeeze on top. Will keeps us full and healthy and always asking for more. After dinner, the first “Crew leader of the week”, Hayley, gave her lesson teaching the crew how to play a card game called Shanghai. It was a very complex but extremely fun game that we will have to play on a rainy day.

A person applying varnish to a wooden board set on sawhorses
Randy painting redwood boards for the picnic tables
Creating a picnic table in the park
Will using the force to complete a picnic table

Tuesday we were visited by a wonderful woman, Lori, who discussed ergonomics, which focuses on the importance of appropriate posture and mobility while working. Lori first talked with us about posture and body safety in the workplace, touching on some of the co-workers’ biggest problem areas involving the lower back, knees, and shoulders that are associated with mainly lifting heavy objects. Next, we warmed up with squats, hamstring stretches, and torso twists. Then we began lifting objects using correct techniques and posture or being corrected on our approach to better improve in the future. After Lori’s talk, we were split up again to the project locations from Monday. Anna stuck to painting windows on Tuesday and has become more acquainted with the little girl at the house she works at, and now their friendship is official.

A woman assists a smiling man by adjusting a red back brace around his waist
Will discovering his waistline during ergonomics training

Wednesday was staff safety training and appreciation day, which involved educational booths that discussed different safety topics that involved chemicals, fire, and the body. After expanding our safety knowledge, we had the privilege of moving picnic tables to set up for the appreciation lunch. After the lunch, it was back to work, both work and play here for the Moraine Crew.

On Thursday, we were again separated from each other. Some crew members finished up the last of the picnic tables and delivered them as gifts to different areas around park housing. Anna finished painting all the windows on the house she has been working at for two weeks. The rest of the crew members hauled 10-foot logs to the solar shower to line the paths that will be leading to both the comfort station and the solar shower. All in all it was a very successful day!

A utility truck parked near a campsite with tents
The view from the solar shower and comfort station at Glacier Basin Campground

Next week will be a break from working at the project shop, and when we come back we plan to hit the ground running on finishing up the solar shower project as well as start any new projects awaiting us. We are all very excited for mid-week and camping with all the other crews we have missed seeing these past few weeks! There are so many adventures to come, thanks for reading.

-Hayley (Moraine Crew Leader of the Week)

Rawah Crews

This week in the Rawah Wilderness was another exciting one!  We started off the week strong on the West Branch Trail with a surprise project. In the previous week, we encountered some day hikers that were forced to turn back where the West Branch Trail met the North Fork of the Larmie River. Armed with this information about the impassable river, the Rawah crew decided to take action.  After assessing the area, we decided to delegate two crew members to prepare a log to be placed across the river while the remaining eight crew members had the task of carrying on with a regular maintenance run. At the end of the day, everybody worked together to set in the prepared log across the river. It was a big success!

Two people in helmets and gloves carry a large log in a forest near a stream.
Crew members James and Nate preparing the log bridge

On Tuesday we began work on the very popular Blue Lake Trail. We completed no large projects, but the day was just as productive. Although it took a bit of overtime, we were able to cover the whole five miles up to Blue Lake. Everyone had a wonderful hike down after a quick break at Blue Lake.

A mountain trail curves through a forested landscape with patches of snow
Views from the Blue Lake Trail

On Wednesday we tackled the Big South trail. It was quite steep, but our entire crew did a stellar job. It was a great day of maintenance, saw work, and lots of progress. We completed a whopping 193 drains. At lunch we enjoyed a beautiful view down by the beach.

Three hikers on a mountain trail with lush greenery and large boulders
Crew leader Noah installing a new drain while field coordinator Morgan and crew members Reche and Stevie bump up trail.

Thursday was a special day, we had visitors! We were graced with Tommy and Morgan’s presence as we maintained the Roaring Creek Trail. It was our first time on this trail and it was beautiful!

Hiker on a mountain trail overlooking a forested valley
Crew leader Jordan and crew member Daniel showing a tree some love

As it was a short day (due to accumulated overtime), we were only able to cut down five trees and cover three miles of trail.

Two people hugging a large tree in a forest
Crew leader Jordan and crew member Daniel showing a tree some love.

Until next week,

Noah and Jordan (Rawah Crew Leaders)



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