In the Field: Week 8 (Part One)

For the season’s last hitch, the Rawah Crew focused their efforts towards completing maintenance on the McIntyre trail. Monday was spent hiking along McIntyre creek which brought about a reminiscence of earlier in the season. This favored trail was their first dose of work in the Rawahs, and now their last. After traversing for approximately 5 miles, the crew set up camp on top of a hill just above Housmer Park’s meadows.

Fetching water on Tuesday morning wasn’t a hassle at all, since the dewy meadow always offers an admirable beauty. McIntyre’s last section of trail follows an old state road which retired in the early 1900’s, so the trail’s grade remained fairly even throughout its duration. Considering, water mitigation was especially necessary for preventing the tread from eroding away.

A person digs in a forest using a small hand tool

Garret carves yet another flawless drain.

This late in the season, obstacles on trail cannot phase the Rawah crew. As head sawyer for the hitch, Gus graciously carried the cross-cut and single bucked fallen trees when necessary. Despite an ample amount of trees and a dire need for drainage structures, the crew managed to finish the entirety of their work on McIntyre trail.

Two people wearing helmets and gloves working together to saw a fallen tree in a dense forest.

Gus and Garret pull ribbons with the cross-cut.

On the last morning, just minutes before the 5:30 alarm went off, the Rawah crew was awakened by the howls and yelps of a nearby coyote pack. In awe of the wilderness and the closure of such an amazing experience working in it, the crew took Wednesday’s hike out with a sincere sense of gratitude.Panoramic view of a lush green meadow surrounded by dense forests under an overcast sky.

-Sam Ruhala, Rawah Crew Leader of the Week

It’s hard to believe that this is my last week of trail work, my last blog post, my last week of living in the Chamberlain, and my last week as a leader and member of the Estes Crew. My time with the Conservancy has been a whirlwind. These two seasons have drastically changed me as a person, for the better. This program has showed me the undeniable importance of stewardship, education, and leadership in conserving our environment. I hope that at any point in my time as a leader I have made some sort of positive impact on another person and helped foster excitement about conservation.

Not only was this our last week, this week was one of our most physically challenging weeks. The physical aspect of trail work has always been one of my favorite parts of this field, and this week definitely challenged me. Monday took us up the Boulder Brook trail, one of the steepest in the park, for a maintenance run. Then on Tuesday we hiked 4 miles up to Lake of Glass, while carrying tools and pounds of rebar that we removed from an old work site on the trail. The week ended with a workday at Bierstadt Lake, where we spent the day carrying 50 foot downed Lodgepole Pine and peeling all of the bark off of them in preparation for a future project.

Now it’s time for final week- one of the most fun and bittersweet times of the year. All of the crews return for one last week of stewardship work, career building, and fun times reminiscing on the glorious summers we’ve all had here in Colorado. It’s going to be hard leaving- driving away from these mountains once again- but my heart is reassured knowing that the future of these beautiful places is in good hands here with the Rocky Mountain Conservancy.

Two hikers holding paddles on a trail with mountain views in the background.Group of hikers ascending a rocky mountain trail with a small waterfall beside them.Group of hikers with backpacks posing by a mountain lake with steep rocky slopes in the background.

-Miranda Thompson, Estes Crew Leader

This week the Kawuneeche Crew completed multiple projects assigned to us this summer. Although it was our last week of work was coming to a close we still had finishing touches to a variety of different areas.

On Monday, the group split into three groups of two to handle all of the different sections of work. Will and Adam stayed at the main project in Timber Creek campground to finish the comfort station. They completed the painting, started the light fixtures, and electrical systems. Dominic and Dax traveled to the East side of the park to finish up a few projects.  At first we installed an ADA handicapped accessible campfire ring at a picnic area at Copeland Lake inside the Wild Basin area.  After that, Dax and Dom went to the headquarters and picked up materials needed to restore a solar shower in Moraine Park campground.  Lastly, Tatyana and Rachel went to McGraw Ranch and was assigned to paint the cabins that researchers were staying.

Tuesday, Adam and Will continued to work on the comfort station and focused specifically on the electrical systems. Both Dax and Dom worked all day on the solar shower project.  They weeded the area and dug a section around the project for a new walk way.  Along with that, they scraped and repainted to entire structure as well and got done just before a storm rolled in.  In McGraw Ranch Rachel began to graze the cabins with stain. Tatyana was on the same cabins, however she was painting the doors and windowsills green.

Our work Wednesday took on a similar structure compared to Tuesday.  Will and Adam stayed back at the comfort station and finished our work in Timber Creek Campground.  Dax and Dom went back to Moraine Park and expected to finish the solar shower.  However, another storm rolled in around lunch and cut down our work time.  So we headed back to the projects shop and put up our season’s tools.  In McGraw Ranch, Tatyana continued to paint doors and windowsills green. Rachel remained staining the cabins.

Thursday was our very last work day for the Historical Preservation team.  Since our main project was completed, Will and Adam teamed up with Rachel and Tatyana at McGraw Ranch.  That morning, the group dusted, scraped, and tapered one of the main buildings. Shortly after that was done another group of volunteers joined them and together they successfully repainted and stained the entire building. Around noon the second volunteer group left. Adam, Will, and Rachel stained the remaining cabins while Tatyana painted the doors and windowsills. During break and lunch the caretaker of the ranch Bill provided fruit, cheesecake, and green chili cornbread.  Dax and Dom finished up the solar shower projected by setting new logs for the walkway and filled it in with road base and crusher gravel.  After that, we regrouped with the rest of the team at McGraw Ranch and headed back over to our bunkhouse on the West side for the last time.  Luckily enough there was plenty of cornbread leftover for a Trail Ridge snack.  The ending of the summer has not only brought the Kawunechee group together; it has also taught us the value of reserving historic areas. Understanding the time and skill it took to build these areas you can appreciate why people reserve such areas. We all learned a lot this summer and it was an amazing experience!

Rustic wooden cabins with green roofs in a grassy meadowA man in a hat applies paint to a window frame with a brush, focusing intently on his task.

-Dax DeShazo and Tatyana Mosley, Kawuneeche Crew Leaders of the Week

For our final workweek, the Boulder Crew completed its first ever backcountry hitch on Buchanan Pass, located right outside the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The objective of our four-day hitch was to remove a displaced bridge and build a new one utilizing the natural resources at our disposal. To commence our first day, we began with a three-mile hike to our worksite, following with the task of locating a satisfactory campsite and ending our workday with the first steps of our week’s task. Since the first stages of bridge building are rather slow and tedious, our Forest Service leaders, Cait and Greg, worked on finding a suitable tree to saw down that would serve as our bridge while the rest of the crew completed dips and drains up and down trail of our primary worksite. On Wednesday, our second day of work, we began sculpting the framework of our bridge by marking, debarking, and crosscutting each individual piece of the bridge. While some crewmembers worked on sculpting the bridge so to make it functional, others simultaneously worked on clearing an area on each side of the river for the sills to sit, allowing support for the bridge. Although the amount of wood worked on was little, debarking, crosscutting, and sculpting each individual piece proved to be an all-day affair. On our third day, we began to see the development of the bridge finally coming together. For the first half of our day, we completed the framework of our bridge and were able to place and structure the bridge over the river by embedding the sills on each side of the river and while placing our wooden bridge parts on top. Although this task was physically taxing, it tied together the main structure of the bridge, pushing us to the final stage of our project. Finally, on our last day, we disassembled our campsite and hiked down to the worksite to complete our project of the week. To finish up, the Boulder Crew worked on securing the bridge by screwing the individual pieces together and adding large rocks around to create a coordinated and operable bridge. After establishing the bridge, we cleared the old bridge from the river and added the finishing touches to our newest one. Because the project was completed within the first half of the workday, we concluded our workweek with a beautiful group hike into the Indian Peaks Wilderness and back to the base of Buchanan Pass. This final workweek, although proved to be challenging, was an extremely rewarding and memorable experience for the Boulder Crew.Two people cutting a fallen tree with a crosscut saw in a forestTwo men carving logs with hand tools in a forest, surrounded by trees and scattered wood chips.Two people working on a log bridge over a stream in a forestA man in hiking gear stands by a small stream crossed by a log bridge in a dense forest.A person using an axe to peel bark off a log in a wooded area

-Milda Kristupaitis, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week



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