In the Field: Week 8

Red Feather and Rawah Crews

The last hitch for Red Feather and Rawah was a combined hitch. Our goal for the week was to construct two turnpikes and a foot bridge. After a pretty 4 mile hike up the MacIntyre trail we began work on an old rotting bridge that would become a new turnpike. We removed many rotten boards, rusty nails, and some stringers (support logs for the old bridge).


Around 11, Chris and Matt our USFS friends came to give us further direction. After a few more hours of hard work we cleaned up the worksite and went to set up camp.


On Tuesday, the construction of the turnpike and bridge began. We replaced a rotten stringer for the new bridge and dug ditches that would act as drains underneath the turnpike.  The drain walls were lined with smaller logs on each side to assist in draining and support.  The drains then led into a trench surrounding the turnpike.  The next step was to fill the turnpike with rocks and then dirt to create a stable surface that would allow water to drain. It was beautiful.


The bridge also required a lot of work.  Logs were chopped and nails were removed. Our fellow Forest Service friends arrived to assist in the leveling and placing of boards on the bridge. After a hard day of work and a quick jump into the river, we headed back to camp for a final hitch meal and some good old fashioned star-tipping (which involved a lot of laughing and falling over).

Wednesday was our last day of hitch ever. The crew divided up to work on constructing the final turnpike and to finish the foot bridge. The turnpike crew had a lot of work ahead of them. We worked to dig the drains in a large mud pit and Jordan took quite a tumble and ended up with a soggy bum. The small time allotment didn’t permit us to make the same type of turnpike as the day before. Using some ingenuity and a few pieces of extra rebar the final turnpike was born. The bridge was not quite finished by hike out time, but the majority was, and it looked great.  It should be finished in the coming weeks by Chris and Matt


Our final week was a fantastic, fun, and unique week. “Redwah” finished it like they started, together.


-Abigail Wetzel (Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week)

Estes Crew

The crew started the week off as per the usual scooping poop- but unlike other days the mules made a reappearance later in the day. The team started the day by beginning construction on a stabilizing rock wall and planting rocks along the trial. Then the mules arrived!! Each of the 9(!!) mules brought two bags filled with dirt, to help build up the tread in the turnpike. The dirt was then released onto areas of the turnpike that were otherwise complete. The dirt on each side of the mule must be released at the same time, so that the mule doesn’t have an unequal balance of weight. . The team used tampers to pound the dirt into the trail. Tampers are tools with a heavy, square, base that is used to compress dirt and tread material. About 50ft of turnpike were completed and filled with tread. (Unfortunately we didn’t snap any photos).

Tuesday entailed a change of scenery. The crew headed to a horse trail behind Moraine Park Campground to build logs checks. Log checks help keep the trail in place, reduce rutting from heavy use and help with drainage.

In the afternoon Compass Coalition came to shoot some footage for a video featuring the Conservation Corps and Rocky Mountain Conservancy! The film team is shooting for a series called Park Champions. As newly designated Park Champions the crew went back to work. We were able to complete 3 log checks as well as collect a number of large “capstone” rocks. After work the film crew came over to get footage of the crew barbecuing & preparing dinner. Geoff and Tommy joined as well!IMG_1451

IMG_1453On Wednesday the crew continued building log checks in Moraine. The film crew & Geoff and Tommy joined us for most of the morning! The team de-bermed 150ft of trail, added 2 additional log checks and closed a sizable social trail using boulders and brush. After work the entire crew went up to Trail Ridge Road to watch the sunset. The Compass Coalition team joined us and got some incredible shots!IMG_1459

Although the crew enjoyed their work at Moraine, they were excited to return to their project at Bierdstat on Thursday. The day was bittersweet as it was their final day with their NPS staff members. The team spent most of the day crushing in the turnpike. They crushed in more than 100ft of turnpike log. Additionally, the team prepared and moved two more logs, planted rocks to deter horses from going off trail and re-duffed the worksite. The crew also got to share their knowledge with the Colorado Young Leaders volunteer group.

-Grace Oh-Willeke (Crew Leader of the Week)

Shadow Mountain Crew

Howdy everyone! Shadow Mountain crew checking in one final time for the season after an awesome last week with the Sulphur Ranger District. This week, we partnered with the Headwaters Trail Alliance for a turnpike project on Ice Hill, a popular mountain biking trail just outside Winter Park, CO. We spent the first day digging drains around the project site to lessen water across the trail, cutting down stringer trees to line the turnpike with, and gathering rocks. It was fun to work with the volunteers, especially trail dog, Holly. We de-limbed and peeled the logs, which helps to prevent the wood from retaining water and rotting. On Wednesday, we finished prepping the logs and then dug trenches and set the logs, securing them with rebar.

Turnpike 1
Will uses a gas powered drill to make holes for rebar in a stringer log

Once the logs were set, we lined the bottom of the turnpike with GeoTech, a durable fabric. We then filled the trail in with crushed rock to elevate the tread above the water level.

On Thursday, we had just arrived at the worksite when three moose appeared from the woods! We took a break to give them space, stay safe, and (of course) take Snapchats.

Three bull moose bless our nearly complete turnpike

After our unexpected furry volunteers left, we got back to work, digging a barrow pit and packing dirt as the final layer of tread across our turnpike. Once the turnpike was complete, we restored the work site by decompressing the grass and spreading duff.

Turnpike 2
The crew works to rehabilitate the work site
Turnpike 3
The freshly completed turnpike!

caption: “The freshly completed turnpike!”)


Overall, we had a fun final week and I’m super proud of the work we did, which will help keep hikers’ feet and bikers’ tires dry for years to come!

-Izzy Owen (Shadow Mountain Crew Leader)

Kawuneeche Crew

After visiting the Rawah crew in their secluded habitat for a weekend full of hiking, exploring and a whole lot of driving, the Kawuneeche crew reluctantly headed home to prepare for their last week of work in Rocky. Monday morning came early but with a cup of coffee and a rigorous round of morning stretches, the crew was ready for another rousing day of sawing, scraping, and staining.


Garret and Jon feel the burn as they loosen their  lethargic legs.

While Izzy, Kyle, and Tate stayed behind to make more progress on the Alpine Hot Shot deck, Jon, Ashleigh and Garret made the long drive over to Green Mountain on the West Side to start work on staining the last cabin of the season. Both groups showed off their impressive skillsets, managing to lay 60 square feet of decking and slather on a tub and half of stain without incident. Needless to say, our park service supervisors were happier than ever.

butt scrape jon
Nervous and startled, Jon is caught in the act of publicly scraping a Green Mountain cabin.


Mr. Maitland shows his confidence in the Crew’s solid craftsmanship.

On Tuesday the split crew switched roles, with the deckers rolling out stain and the stainers rolling out the deck. With swift precision (despite the angered wasp nests), both the cabin and the decking were completed! The deck crew even had time to mix, pour and smooth concrete pads for the new handicap and ramp. Tired and hungry from all of their success, the crew went to the Stanley Hotel for their weekly dosage of 5k and free food.

Chuck looks to Tate for guidance while Ashleigh successfully ducks out of the way.

As the cabins at Green Mountain were stained to perfection, the crew was once again united into it’s natural squad of 6.  Yet unfortunately it would be Chuck’s (one of our park supervisors) last day working with us. After a morning of sweeping sawdust and hauling wheelbarrows of landscaping rock, Bob surprised us all with a lunchtime parting pizza party! After we had our fill of pizza and playful banter, we tackled a frame construction project for the handicap accessible ramp.


The Kawuneeche Crew radiates pride while standing on their new, expertly constructed deck.

Thursday was our last day of work so we woke up a bit early to indulge in a morning donut run. After sharing the crumbs with our supervisors, we started work on building new picnic tables. Four hours of sanding, assembling, and staining later we had two brand new quality tables, even if they were a bit wobbly. When we finished lunch, it was finally time to return our tool buckets. After a good scrubbing with sand paper, the pliers and cat’s paws looked as shiny as new. Bob inspected them, gave us a thumbs up and we said our goodbyes to the project shop family. It was a bittersweet drive home as thoughts turned from our memories to packing up our summer and turning out the lights for the last time at the cabins. It seemed too poetic to walk out on our porch for one of the last times and to see the end of a rainbow.


 Sadly, there was no pot of gold in the Park Ranger’s cabin. We checked.

Next week is final week, which means we’re back in Moraine campground with the rest of the corps for some trail work, resume building, and emotional goodbyes. It was a summer never to forget.

-Garret Fox (Kawuneeche Crew Leader

Boulder Crew

It’s the final countdown. We recently finished up our final week of work in Nederland and it called upon all of our trail prowess that we had gained throughout the season.

This last week of work was spent “on hitch” (working and camping in the backcountry). I and the rest of the crew were very stoked for it as the chosen trail was both incredibly beautiful and in desperate need of repair. We woke up Monday morning and headed to the 4th of July Trailhead with packs nearly overflowing with food, tools, camping gear, and food. We took a lot of food.

The hike in was fairly agonizing as it’s mostly uphill and our packs weighed upwards of 40 pounds; however, we eventually made it to our beautiful camping spot situated at Diamond Lake. We unpacked camp as efficiently as possible and got to work. Our first, and biggest, project was to tear out an old bridge near a stream crossing and put in about 20 feet of rock turnpike (a raised structure used to keep hikers out of wet, muddy areas). We began tearing out the bridge and gathering massive rocks to outline the turnpike with. It was muddy, grunt-filled work, but by the end of the day we had kicked some serious booty and made a ton of progress. We headed back to camp, cooked up some smashed veggie burgers for dinner, and all read poems for our crew poetry slam (this was all Andrea’s idea).

Day two was spent finishing up our rock turnpike. This was our first real, full 10-hour day since we no longer had morning travel time in the truck. We finished the rock walls for the turnpike, filled it with crush (fist sized stones), and then capped it with dirt. It looked gorgeous. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we walked away that day both impressed and satisfied with our work. Additionally, I think I can also speak for all of us when I say that we were exhausted. We headed back to camp, toasted quesadillas, and turned in for an early night.

For our third day of hitch we split up into two groups in order to maximize our efficiency. The girls (Louisa, Andrea, and Ally) worked on creating a walk sidewalk (sunk-in rocks in which hikers can walk on in wet areas) while Ryan, Brendan, Ben (our Forest Service partner) and I tore out another old bridge and put in a turnpike. I can not speak for the work the girls did, other than that it turned out well, but our turnpike turned out to be a muddy mess. After tearing out the bridge we slopped around in about 8” of muck attempting to sink large rocks and dig drains. We changed our plan multiple times when it wasn’t panning out and, by some grace, we actually (nearly) finished the turnpike by the end of the day. It wasn’t my favorite structure we had built, but by golly, we did something that improved the trail. Once again fatigued from a full day of work, we prepared for our last night at Diamond Lake. In the middle of night, a massive lightning storm passed right through our camp; as you can imagine, lightning storms can be quite terrifying at 10,000 feet. I personally felt a mixture of both terror and awe as the lightning flashed overhead and the thunder resonated off of the peaks valley walls. Thankfully, we woke up in the morning to blue skies and regained confidences.

Thursday was to be spent packing up our backcountry camp, finishing up final projects, and heading out early to take care off final housekeeping items. Our work finished up without a hitch (pun intended) and we slogged out with heavy packs and light hearts. We stumbled out of the trailhead and rejoiced upon reaching the truck as we knew Rice Crispy Treats and Capri Sun’s awaited us inside. The rest of the work day consisted of cleaning and sharpening our tools from the season and cleaning out our faithful Forest Service truck. We bid our truck adieu  and celebrated our hitch and season with copious amounts of pizza at Crosscut (a pizza shop in Nederland) and entirely too much ice cream from the B&F Market.


The next morning, we packed up all of our belongings at our Kelly Dahl campground and left the place that had been our home for the last 2 months. Driving away, we attempted to deal with waves of nostalgia while trucking it to Estes Park in order to begin our final, all crew week with the Conservancy.

And this is where I, and the blog for the 2017 Boulder Crew will leave you. My hope is that my, and the rest of the crew’s writings, has helped you to better understand what our life and season was like out here. I think that we all realize how truly lucky we are to get to live and experience this type of lifestyle, even if only for a few months. I know that I personally am walking away with new perspectives, skills, and most importantly, best friends.

Thanks for reading and remember to get outside!

Signing off,

-Lucas McClish – Boulder Crew Leader

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