In The Field: Week 7 (Part One)

This week the Rawah Crew went into to the backcountry of the Rawah Wilderness. Our mission was to work on the Rawah and Sandbar Lakes Trails. With towering mountains, clear blue lakes, and the occasional moose, it was the perfect place to camp and work for the week.

Monday started with a seven mile hike in. We set up camp in between Camp Lake Trail and the Rawah Trail. After setting up a bear hang and filtering water, we began our first journey. We started on the Sandbar Lakes Trail and after digging a few drains, we came upon a tree with a diameter greater than 36 inches! After some hard work and a few cuts, the tree was finally able to be removed. At the top of the trail we were lucky enough to observe a moose peacefully resting in the grass.

On Tuesday, we started up the Rawah Trail and worked on the loop by the breathtaking Grassy Pass. This day was filled with brush removal that was blocking the trail, and the repair of dips and drains, with a beautiful backdrop of the Rawah Lakes.

A lush green valley with scattered snow patches leading up to a rocky mountain under a cloudy sky. A meadow surrounded by mountains in the Rawah Wilderness

Wednesday was filled with more dips and drains and illegal campfire ring removal. With the help of Geoff, who came up to join us for the day, the day was packed full. Campfire ring removal starts with the rocks around the ring are first dispersed to the surrounding area. Then the ash is sifted through for trash to be hauled out. After the ash is clean, it is also dispersed and the ring is covered with surrounding dirt to promote re-growth. After some rumbling thunder we made if back to our base camp for a dinner of burritos with fresh caught fish from the Rawah Lakes!

Three people wearing helmets and white shirts work together to repair a trail in a forested area.Geoff Elliot, and crew members Eeland Stripling and Sam Ruhaloa working and an illegal campfire ring

On Thursday, Rawah crew started working on the rest of the trail heading toward the trailhead. After base camp was packed and not a trace was left, we headed out. After filling the day with cutting trees and digging dips and drains, the crew was ready for a hot meal and a warm shower.

Two hikers resting against a tree on a mountain trailCrew members Garret Fox and Eeland Stripling enjoying a quick break before setting out to Grassy Pass

Four hikers with red backpacks observing a scenic mountain landscape under a clear blue sky.The Rawah crew enjoying the view


Person in a baseball cap digging in a green, plant-filled area, with a spade, uncovering rocks.Crew member Gus Anderson working on the foundation for a check step

– Kyrie McCullough, Rawah Crew Leader of the Week

So far this season the Kawuneeche Crew has accomplished more work then was originally planned. Therefore, this past week, the Kawuneeche Crew was split up into two different crews to better allocate the work we were doing. Dax, Tatyana and I were on the west side for most of the week wrapping up work on the comfort station. Dominick, Rachel and Adam finished an old project up and started a new project on the East side by the Fall River Entrance Station.


On Monday, the east side crew finished a project that the RMNP Project Crew had been working on earlier in the season: reopening a comfort station and replacing old tables and bear boxes in Aspenglen Campground. Dom, Rachel, and Adam made quick work of shoveling and wheel barreling ten thousand pounds of crusher into a chase between comfort station rooms. To finish of their day, they setup the scaffolding around a building that they would be shingling in the morning. On the west side, Tatyana worked on paining the new doors that were installed. Because they were brand new, they required a lot of paint to get an even coat. On the inside of the comfort station, Dax and I began putting the final wood molding up that would cover all of the gaps from earlier work and give a beautiful real wood grain look the the insides.

A woman smiling and standing inside an open, empty cargo truck, holding a doorCrew member Rachel Gathering some of the scaffolding frame


Tuesday for the west side was just about the same as Monday- more paining and more framing. Dax and I finished the inside molding and began working on the exterior molding that needed to be replaced and then painted. The interior of the comfort station looks so much different then it has for the past seven weeks. The real wood is fitting for this comfort station because its in the Timber Creek campground. Due to pine beetle infestations on the west side the entire campground had to be clear cut because the dead trees were far too dangerous to the visitors of the campground. I felt that the wood (I believe it is pine) being put into the comfort station is almost symbolic of the recovering pine forest in the campground.

Interior of a building under construction with exposed wooden beams, unfinished walls, and a windowFinished wood framing around all of the new windows


Both crews got a lot of work done on Wednesday. On the east side, they managed to remove the old shingles on one side and get the new ones up by the end of the day. On the west side, Dax and I finished the exterior trim work and finished reinstalling the old comfort station barriers in one room. We also put in new larger mirrors in one of the rooms. Tatyana finished the exterior painting and put caulking around all of the mounted fixtures in the comfort station.

Two workers repairing a wooden shingle roofOne of our bosses James looking over the east side crews work as they near the top of the roof


On Thursday Tatyana went over to the east side and helped Geoff out at the Field Institute. She went through all of the photos from the season so far and selected the ones for the end of the year poster. Dax and I finished installing all of the mirrors and dividers on both of the rooms and did a lot of cleanup before lunch. At this point, the only things that needs to be done are putting the door handles on and completing the plumbing, which is almost complete. One of our bosses, Bob, decided to show his appreciation for the work we completed this summer buy buying us all pizza for lunch on the east side. The other side of the roof was also stripped and shingled entirely that day. It had been one great work week for the Kawuneeche Crew. Hopefully the last week will be even better!


Four workers replacing shingles on a roof with tools scattered aroundleft to right: Dominick, Adam and Rachel near completion of the other side of the roof.


Installation of metal beams in a wooden frame structure by two workers.Dax and I putting the last few screws in the room dividers. John, project boss, in the background.

– William Fazio, Kawuneeche Crew Leader of the Week

It’s hard to believe it, but there is only one week of work left in our Conservancy summer. There’s a sense of urgency in planning for the weekends. We’re constantly wondering how we’re supposed to fit in all of the possible adventures with so little time. Our free time is being filled to the brim with climbing, hiking fourteeners, backpacking, and just soaking up the scenery around us. Lucky for us, the workdays can be filled with just as much adventure and awe-inspiring scenes as our weekend trips.

This week, the Estes Crew once again had the opportunity to work with the Resources Division of Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent our week working with the Restoration Crew, who works to plant and seed land where the natural vegetation has been destroyed. One of their big projects this year is restoring land that was upturned during a water line project through some of the main campsites in the park. In the area that we worked on every day this week, a total of 8,300 plants were required to restore the area. That’s a lot of plants, and we were glad to have played a huge role in helping the restoration crew complete their project goals. The plants we planted included a number of grass species, goldenrod, sage, and cinquefoil along with native tree species such as lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce.

Tools lying on the groundAll of the necessary tools for planting native vegetation on a restoration site.

A woman planting a young pine tree in a mountainous area, wearing a hat and gloves, with a smile.Crew members Jessa (above) plants lodgepole pines in the Glacier Basin area of Rocky.

A man kneeling on the ground, digging in the dirt with a trowel, surrounded by rocks and vegetation.Crew member Ben plants just one of the 8,300 plants that have been planted to restore the Glacier Basin campground area.

– Miranda Thompson, Estes Park Crew Leader

This week has been a very productive one for the Shadow Crew. We set out on our second-to-last backcountry hitch on Tuesday (no llamas this time) to work on clearing trees and drainage maintenance. For our first day, we set up camp at the Forest Service’s Ptarmigan work center and started working on Darling Creek Trail. Fortunately for us, we were able to recruit one of our fellow forest service OHV crew members, Devon, to help us with clearing several large trees along the trail. With Devon leading the way with the chainsaw, Shadow crew members followed closely behind, digging drains and building new tread in ingrown areas.

Two people examining a map at a wooden information kiosk in a forested area.Amy and John scope out the Ute Pass Map.

On Wednesday, the crew had to say their goodbye’s to Devon and continue on their own onto the very steep, Ute Pass Trail. With high hopes of matching the previous day’s work, we set out with cross cut saws and hoes in tow only to be disheartened by the intense elevation gain of the first few miles of the trail. We pushed on though, drain after drain, tree after tree, until it was time to find a campsite. But, what’s this? Abigail and John were nowhere to be found! Due to their quick lopping and drain building skills, they had gotten a few miles ahead of the rest of the crew. With daylight quickly diminishing, we pushed on in hopes to find our fellow crew members and still set up camp. After many steep inclines, the crew finally found them just in the nick of time – with an established campsite and water source! We ended the late work day at Elk Campsite and celebrated our thankfullness to have found John and Abigail with a ‘Thanksgiving feast’ of mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing thanks to Toby and Amy.

Four people sitting in a forest, each with a leaf held under their nose like a mustacheA little moss-tache mischief at lunch.

Thursday held a lot of problem solving for the cross-cutting dream team. We worked our way back down Ute Pass and then took the junction onto Ute Peak Trail to clear as much trail as possible. The crew has now proven that they are a well oiled tree cutting, drain building machine, and very few trees stand a chance against them and their saws. A mile away from the trailhead though, we thought we had met our match. Two connected monster trees measuring approximetly 25-30 inches in diameter looked us dead in the eyes with such ferocity that we weren’t sure if we could continue on. With Amy’s determination leading the group, we were able to tag-team the trees until they were no longer blocking the trail. It was a huge victory for everyone, and even Jed the Llama would be proud.

Two workers in yellow helmets use a crosscut saw to cut through a fallen tree

For the last day of our hitch, the crew got the pleasure of working on the William’s Fork Trail. This trail gave the crew the opportunity to hike on some new, refreshing terrain that included a baby Lodgepole Pine forest and endless Aspen grove. The crew ended their hitch with a total of 97 trees cut and over 150 drains built. We returned to the Forest Service Village to sharpen tools and end our night with a very much anticipated village Bar-B-Que. The Shadow Mountain Crew looks forward to working their last hitch of the season.

A group of hikers with backpacks standing on a hill

-Ashley Fox, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week

This week the Boulder Crew went back to the beautiful Ceran St. Vrain trail and worked on a retaining wall. To begin the day the crew started with a 50 minute hike into the trail to the location of the retaining wall. We began building the retaining wall on the part of the trail that merged into two separate directions, one of which allowed jeep and horse use. The side of the trail on which the trail began to be built was looking very eroded as people were seemingly walking over the side rather than around. The crew split into different jobs, most collected crush rock and boulders to stabilize and build the retaining wall. Others focused on picking away at the wall and placing the rocks so they fit nicely. The crew worked on this trail on Tuesday and Wednesday, by Thursday the work on the retaining wall was minimal so the crew split up and most went to the Jean Lunning trail. At Jean Lunning there were two bridges which had broken railings. One was about half a mile into the trail and the other was about 1 mile. The crew used wrenches to remove the railings from the bridge and picked up the wood which had already broken off. Some of the railings posed a problem since they rusted or they were buried beneath dirt, but the Boulder crew does not take no for an answer. When they were finished they hauled the wood down to the trailhead, it took a few trips but the job was done. After lunch the crew worked on digging a few drains and clearing out some which were filled in with dirt and debris. On the final day of the week the Boulder crew went to a new trail which was the Fourth of July trail.  They began the day by covering some social trails to deter hikers from going on them. These trails were very prominent and it was even difficult to tell apart the main trail from the social trails. However, after the crew was done blocking the trails with dead trees and fallen branches the trails were no longer as visible as they were. The rest of the day was spent by digging drains and the crew got about a mile and half in to the trail.

Four friends sitting on a rocky wall in a forestThree people resting in a wooded areaA small wooden bridge on a forest trailPeople fixing a small wooden bridge in the woodsTwo people constructing a wooden bridge in a forest, surrounded by green trees, using tools.

Next week the Boulder crew looks forward to their first back country work hike of the season, where they will be working on fixing a bridge. That experience will be a great way to end the season for the Boulder Crew.

-Ashley Munoz, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week

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