In the Field: Week 6

Over the past four days, the Red Feather and Rawah crews went on a backpacking hitch together in the Comanche Peak Wilderness. We started our trek, with high spirits and overflowing packs, from the Beaver Creek trailhead and set up our base camp near the Comanche Reservoir. For the next three days, we would be performing maintenance runs up different trails to elevations as high as 11,500 ft.  After setting up camp we continued up the trail and eventually turned south toward Comanche Lake where we cleaned out drains to help water move more easily off of the soggy trail. Arin Leopold carried the cross cut saw for the entire day and yet there was not one tree to be removed. That evening, we were gifted with a beautiful sunset as the full moon began to rise. It was off to bed at 8:30pm for the two crews because we needed to be up at 5:45am to make it on time to work the next day.

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Above: The end of a sunset as the full moon began to rise over Comanche Reservoir

On the second day in the Comanche Peaks, Rawah and Red Feather hiked the Beaver Creek Trail for five miles, heading above tree line and into the tundra. As we panted our way up the trail, we worked on many different drainage structures, cleared small trees and branches off the trail with loppers, and even built a small bridge. We ran into a small snowfield at higher elevations and were eventually chased below tree line by a dark and looming storm.

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Above: A small bridge was constructed out of materials found near the trail

Below: Red Feather crew members Arin Leopold and Otieno (James) Fisher enjoy the predicament of having to repair a trail covered in snow

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Above: The twelve member crew snaps a quick photo just as a large storm rolls in

Day three in the Comanche Peaks consisted of a steep hike up to Browns Lake and Timberline Lake. Along the way we performed the usual maintenance sweep, cleaning out and adding drains to improve the trail water removal. We also closed down multiple “social trails” or offshoots of trail from the main trail that should not be there.  We took one of our breaks next to the beautiful Browns Lake and Eeland Stribling took advantage of the opportunity to get in a few casts and caught three fish (pictured below).

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On day four, the two crews packed up camp and hiked all the gear back out to the Beaver Creek Trailhead. Along the way we perfomed routine maintenance on the trail while carrying our packs full of gear. However, the loads were much lighter than on the way in because we must have each eaten nearly ten pounds of food. Overall, it was a beautiful week in the Comanche Peaks which brought the two crews close together as  we struggled with the challenges of backpacking while simultaneously doing trailwork.

-Sabrina Farmer, Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week

This week, the Estes Crew was reunited with the National Park Service trails crew after having spent the week before with the exotics crew. We were all excited to enhance our trail maintenance skills and explore new trails of Rocky Mountain National Park.


We were mainly stationed half a mile up on the Sandbeach Lake trail, located in the Wild Basin area of RMNP. After packing in a variety of tools, the Estes crew began working on installing log checks in a particularly steep section of trail. NPS Trails crew members helped members of the Estes crew initially with the technical aspects placing log checks, but soon we were working in groups to install the checks. One of the new aspects about this series of checks was that were using were logs from trees found in near the trail that had died due to beetle infestation. Members of the Estes crew accompanied a NPS Trails crewmember as they scouted the hillside for trees that would work well for the log checks. Jesse, Ben, and Hunter also learned the valuable lumberjack skill of debarking trees! Estes Crew members also enhanced their skills in measuring, crushing rock, and, perhaps the most exciting for Ben and Hunter, rolling boulders down hill in order to use them to pin the ends of the logs into the trail.


We continued to work on the log checks through Tuesday. On Wednesday, we were given the task of hiking the entirety of the Sandbeach Lake trail for a maintenance run. On our second day of work of the summer with the Trails crew, we had completed a maintenance run up a mile away from the lake, so it was an exciting hike as we were able to hike up to all the way up to the lake while finishing the drains on the last third of the trail. And we definitely enjoyed Sandbeach Lake! There was a wonderful view of Mount Meeker and the water was just warm enough for a quick dip! We also had a little bit of extra time, so Ben and Hunter gave the rest of the crew a lesson on skipping rocks, while Ritzi and Jesse led the crew in some serene yoga poses. We all felt very centered afterwards.


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Hunter and Ben enjoying Sandbeach Lake


Ben creating crush to help set the log checks.



Yuritzi checks her log with the line level to ensure proper placement.

On Thursday, Estes Crew finished the log checks on the section of the trail that we had been working on earlier in the week. Ritzi, Jesse, and NPS Trails crewmembers hiked a mile up the trail to work on another section of log checks that needed finishing touches. They also learned how to use the microblaster, a device that is uses a small explosive charge to fracture large rocks! It was all very exciting.


Next week, the crew looks forward to learning about revegetation in RMNP as we work with the Revegetation Crew.





























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The Estes Crew thanking all of those who make their work possible!

                This week with the Kawuneeche Crew consisted of two major projects. The crew for this week was split into two different groups. On the west side was the continuation of restoring the comfort station at timber creek campgrounds. Monday consisted of removing grout so that the team may apply new grout to match with the grout added in the previous weeks.

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Crew member Tatyana removing grout between the tiles in the comfort station at Timber Creek Campground

The other group visited the east side’s Wild Basin picnic area. This week was different from what the group had been experiencing throughout the season. The crew worked on creating a new wheel chair accessible lane from the parking lot, to a picnic table, to the bathroom. A large portion of the day was preparing at the Projects shop. Grabbing shovels, rakes, pick mattock, axe, double jacks, and mcleods for establishing new lanes. The initial step was digging out the old logs so that we were able to set in the new ones brought in last week.

Tuesday wasn’t anything extraordinary for Tatyana and I on the west side. At some points we thought that we would have to remove grout for the rest of the week because of the unexpected amount of time needed to take out the old material. But when we were finished, putting in the new grout was like putting icing after removing the burnt crust off of a cake.

On the other side, Dax and Will were working on a retaining wall for the bathroom so that water can be diverted when it rains. Rachel and Dom were resuming work on the path from the parking lot to the picnic table. After finish laying in the log, they applied road base and crusher between the logs and using the tamping machine, they were able to be done with the first trail.


Crew member Rachel and crew leader Dom working on the new path from the parking lot to the picnic table

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Crew members Will and Dax working on the retaining wall for the bathroom

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From left to right: Bob, Rachel (Kawuneeche Crew Member), Geoff, Rachel (RMCC Faculty), Dom

All working on the path from the parking lot to the bathroom

Wednesday morning, the group members on the east side were able enjoy the company of Geoff and Rachel. The objective of that day was to create the second path from the parking lot to the bathroom.


The afternoon west side with Geoff consisted of washing the tiles, moving dirt and applying another coat of gloss to wooden boards.

Thursday was finishing up on the east side. Applying both road base and crusher and packing it with the tamper was all that was needed to finish up the last lane of the site. New fencing along the side of the bathroom and a handicap accessible parking pad were inserted. The most difficult part of the week for the crew on the east side was trying to adjust to the new tools and tasks that were required (Rachel’s was hammering the rebar).

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Crew leader Dom using the tamping machine to compact the road base

Tatyana and I were focusing on installing the new doors for the comfort station. We had to remove the previous frames that kept the old doors in. That allowed for us to adjust to the right size for the current doors. After putting them up, we painted the doors and the new frame to match the color of the building. We also laid more grout into any spots that still displayed dark patches to get a uniform color in the interior of the bathroom.

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Crew member Tatyana painting one of the new doors

-Adam Nguyen, Kawuneeche Crew leader of the Week

On July 19th-22nd the Boulder crew helped with the new long lake connector trail which took all week working on it. On the first day of working with the connector trail at long lake the crew split into two teams, one staying behind and cutting trees that were dead or on the trail, the other team helped with rock work. On the second day working at the connector the process of completing the trail still continued. Trees were still being cut down out of the way of the trail and the clearing of top soil and duff continued. The trail was being fixed by removing big boulders out of the way, making the trail 4 feet wide, and making it clear for people to see the trail. On the third day we were working faster since the crew did not have to split into two teams. The Boulder crew was working all together on the same side of the trail knocking down the work that needed to be completed. We also had a chance to work with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps which was a larger group than ours, having this team up helped the process of the trail closer to completion. Not only were we closer to the completion of the connector but the Boulder crew and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps become closer with each other. The last day on the new trail the bridge and rock work was completed and even though we did not get all the way through the trail with 4 feet of clearing duff. The Boulder Crew was well appreciated to help and be a part of the construction of the new long lake connector trail. The work was seen as quality rather than quantity.

-Gustavo Balderas, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week

This week, the Shadow Mountain crew was not unlike young bats, of whom have just left their parents after a short 3 weeks, as our forest liaison and supervisor was on leave. Fortunately crew leader Amy and forest service employee Lauren stepped up to fill the leadership void in our lives. After two consecutive backcountry spikes and the RMC midweek, we finally had a week to work out of Shadow Mountain Village, sleep in our beds, create culinary compositions, and work on the 1500 piece puzzle Amy found at a thrift store.


On our first day of work, Geoff joined us to complete a retaining wall turnpike combo that we started a month prior on the Grand Lake East Shore Trail. Our group waited at our meeting spot while Llamas were wrangled for the Student Conservation Association’s back country hitch. Its not clear what the delay was, but word on the street is there were kicks thrown, exclusively by Llamas. Once we got to work, the magic started happening. Because of how deftly we handled carrying rock, placing stepping stones, and tamping dirt we finished ahead of schedule. The turnpike was successfully tested by numerous hikers, though many preferred to tiptoe along the side of it for some reason. While some of us sharpened tools, John and Lauren took the Jed the Llama for a long lakeside stroll in the pouring rain, no kicks thrown this time.

The next day we were enlisted by the OHV(off highway vehicle) trail crew to help with one of the motorized vehicle trails in Stillwater Pass. We rehabilitated a section of ATV revenged trail by fixing the grade and placing pavers in eroded sections, all while dodging ATVs and dirt bikes. We used a lot of McLeods, Pulaskis, and hoes. The OHV crew was blown away by the power of youthful enthusiasm. It was fun to do a completely new kind of trail work, hopefully next time we can drive the ATVs ourselves.


Toby putting in pavers

            Our final day of work was a return to our bread and butter; cutting fallen trees. After weeks of project work, cutting tread, and decommissioning trails, it felt good to grow our beards, put on flannel, and get to sawing trees and covering trail. We cut roughly 30 trees, and by sticking to the theme of the week, finished our tasks by lunchtime. While it was encouraging getting things done so efficiently, we do not enjoy the feeling of not having a project to do. Fortunately this feeling did not last long–we high tailed it up to Wolverine Pass and cleared trail up to a picturesque meadow, of which all agreed is an ideal spot to frolic, if thats your thing.

Overall a great week for Shadow Squad, and I enjoyed being the assistant crew leader, although nobody (including myself) followed my one new rule, which was no quesadillas.

-Toby Martin, Crew Leader of the week, Shadow Mountain Crew