In the Field: Week 4

The Red Feather Crew worked to complete maintenance runs on the Killpecker and North Lone Pine trails over the past we week. The water damage turned the North Lone Pine trail into a soupy mess towards the end of the system, but with hard work and good music we were able to take the soupy mess and turn it more into a hearty stew, worthy of walking on. All in all we were able to complete the maintenance runs on both trails and help alleviate the swampy problem that is the last half mile of the North Lone Pine trail.

Most of our work consisted of clearing and building drains, with the occasional tree clearing. The maintenance runs were on the shorter side of what we usually do, but the change in elevation helped keep us humble. One cannot help but contemplate what it means to be in shape when they are trying their best not to fall over backward from the combination of exhaustion and a crosscut saw pulling them back as it bounces behind their shoulder.

On Monday we experienced a unique situation with an injured dirt biker. The biker and his friend were just finishing up their ride as we were headed back to the bunk house. They passed us on the road as we stopped to clear some limbs and trees that blocked part of the drive. A few minutes later we came upon the two riders on the ground, one of them had hit the forest service gate that blocked the road. Fortunately three of the six of us have our Wilderness First Responders and were able to help the biker with his wounds and provide him with a ride to his vehicle.

We were visited by our manager, Geoff, on Tuesday and were able to put him to work helping us limb and clear downed trees that blocked the trail. In the large gaps of trail between downed trees we were able to employ him as a porter of sorts for our crosscut saw, with the promise of a meal at the end of the day. Little did Geoff know that the meal that day was an improvised effort by me and Otieno, put into effect after learning that yes, Geoff will be staying for dinner.


IMG_2616.JPG-Arin Leopold, Red Feather Crew Leader of the Week

For Estes Crew, we ended the first half of the summer with a completely different type of trail work. Instead of going out on maintenance runs, we worked on a trail revitalization project in the Tuxedo Park area of Rocky. This trail is used frequently by the public and by groups from the YMCA- including large groups on horseback. Due to the frequent use by people and the impact from horses, the trail has been heavily rutted out and the wooden log steps have been damaged. This is where we can step in and work to improve this trail so that it is easier for people and horses to use and lasts for decades to come.

The kind of work involved in this project is very different than simply going on a maintenance run. Trail improvement projects are often centered on a much smaller area and require thinking more strategically than digging drains on several miles of trail. The main component of this project that we worked on was installing log checks. Log checks are first and foremost used as erosion control structures and also as steps on steep grades. The process of installing a log check involves using math (wasn’t expecting to need that this summer) to calculate the grade between each step, moving boulders and positioning them just right to secure the logs, crushing rocks using double and single jacks, and then filling them in with wheelbarrow loads of dirt.

The crew thoroughly enjoyed the project that we worked on this week and it was fulfilling to see the constant progress as we worked. It was definitely an excellent way to end the first half of our week season. Now, we look forward to the educational portions of the upcoming midweek along with getting to reunite with the other crews and find out what everyone else has been up to for the past month.

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Hunter and Ben loading up the wheelbarrows full with new tread for our trail

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Jessa and Jesse get to show their intensity when smashing rocks with single jacks.

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Some of the boulders we moved were massive, but the payoff is a stronger log check and stronger muscles.

-Miranda Thompson, Estes Crew Leader

This week, the Boulder crew continued their work at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, swamping out a future trail, constructing drains, doing some crosscut work, and breaking down an area that had been dammed up with debris. It was a productive work week leading up to mid-week.

On Tuesday, the crew continued their work in the high country above 11,000 feet. The work that was conducted the majority of the day was drain constructing. The entire crew worked along Sourdough Trail for the first half of the day. Shortly after lunch, the crew split up into two different groups. One, continuing their work on drains, while the other of the group started swamping out a future trail. When swamping out a future trail, the group follows a Sawyer, who cuts down larger trees with a chainsaw. The cut trees are carried to areas from 50 to 100ft away where they cannot be seen from the trail.

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On Wednesday, the crew split up into two separate groups. One group continued swamping the future trail while the other traveled to Jean Lunning trail to take care of a tree that had fallen onto the boardwalk. The group that worked on the new trail got an exponential amount of work done, getting halfway through the trail. The second group had a lot of work ahead of them. The tree that had fallen was about 30 inches in diameter and needed to be cut a certain way so that it wouldn’t damage the boardwalk. The first cut was a challenge and took more time than expected, but the team worked together to get the job done. They proceeded on the trail to remove snow that had collected in the pathway. The two groups reconvened after lunch; finishing the day off with some crew swamping.


On Thursday, a larger number of combined crews split up into two groups. The first group finished swamping the future trail. The second, smaller group broke off and went to check out what work needed to be done on a separate trail. As the day carried on, so did the weather. Both groups received quite a bit of rain accompanied with some pea sized hail. The larger group finished swamping out the  new trail, which began winding its way through the lush green landscape. The trail leads through a more scenic route between the Mitchell Lake trail head and the Isabelle Lake trail head.  The two groups reconvened and started their work on a different trail that needed their attention. The trail was needing some work in the drain area. As the rain continued, so did the crews effort in insuring that the water would quickly be led off of the trail. The crew ended their day with the sharpening of their tools and the cleaning of their work vehicles.

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The crew split into two different groups on Friday. One working on a dam that had been created at Mitchell Lake; clearing fallen trees and debris of plants that had been taken with the water from the melting snow caps. The other group worked on the Isabelle Lake trail, creating drains to maneuver the water off of the trail as quickly as possible. The crew ended the day, wishing everyone an enjoyable Fourth of July weekend.

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The fourth week, overall, for the Boulder Crew, was filled with conservation work that ranged from clearing small bushes to moving 1000lb trees. It was a very productive week that many of the first time crew members will certainly remember as they will take with themselves much gained experience.

-Hailey Frost, Boulder Crew Leader of the Week

The Shadow Mountain Crew completed our first backcountry project this week! We built a turnpike on the High Lonesome Trail, camping out by Hamilton Creek. The High Lo Trail is a section of the Continental Divide Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Over the course of the week, we met quite a few thru hikers from a variety of places, including Korea and Germany.

On Tuesday (the first day of our wacky work schedule), we hiked all of our tools and gear to the campsite. We decided to hike from a road instead of the trailhead, which meant the distance was shorter but we were also hiking through some unmaintained swampy areas. We made it to the campsite, set up camp by the creek, and checked out our worksite – an 100-foot-long marsh with a view of the mountains. The crew was definitely feeling tired, and Amy’s dinner of kale gumbo was physically and emotionally revitalizing.

Kendra + Amy Crew leader Amy and Forest Service liaison Kendra survey the marsh and determine where to build the turnpike

On Wednesday, we got to work. We spent most of the day debarking logs with draw knives, digging trenches to set the logs in, and collecting rocks for crush. Wednesday was also Abigail’s 19th birthday, which we celebrated with cookie and frosting deliciousness following some yummy burritos.

It rained all day on Thursday, but we kept our morale up and made a lot of progress on the turnpike. Toby figured out how to communicate with Jed, our pack llama.

Toby talks to Jed Toby learns to speak llama

Jed the llama Jed, the most beautiful llama in the world

We spent all of Friday gathering and crushing rock. We finished peeling and setting the logs, setting and nailing in the Geo Tech, and laying over 300 square feet of crush. We nourished ourselves with some delectable tuna mac ‘n cheese for dinner.

Crush rockCrew members set up rock crushing stations, using single jacks and double jacks.

On Saturday, we hiked back out to our worksite for the last time, dug barrow pits for soil, and filled in the top layer of the turnpike. After celebrating our success with some locals who crossed the completed turnpike on their morning hike, we broke camp and headed back to civilization. After another couple trips of wet hikes through the swamp, we made it back to the truck. Feeling dirty, tired, and accomplished, we celebrated the week by going out to Miyauchi’s Snack Bar, a local favorite in Grand Lake. Toby truly outdid himself by ordering enough food to warrant a box.

Overall, it was a great week! We worked hard, learned a lot, and had fun. The crew is looking forward to a week in Estes Park before heading out for another backcountry hitch in mid July.

-Izzy Owen, Shadow Mountain Crew Leader of the Week

As we start mid-week soon, us over at Kawuneechee are glad to have gotten a few jobs done at the comfort station that set us up to leave it alone for a week. On Monday half of the crew hung FRP board on the walls of the comfort station. To hang this it has to be precisely cut with a skill-saw so that it fits the wall and is aesthetic. After it is cut an adhesive is spread on the back with a special trowel and then it is placed on the wall, no nails are needed.

While half the crew worked on this the other half went to the east side and helped put new picnic tables in at Longs Peak Campground. There used to be a bunch of wooden tables there but we put in new concrete tables that will last longer and also are harder to move away from sites. They weigh 1800 pounds so we had to place them with a front end loader to lift them up. We dug the ground away to level them and then set them in place.  We also replaced a bear bin at Aspen Glen campground.

Dax and James, NPS Staff, contemplate how to move this rock to set the table.

On Tuesday the two halves of the crew switched places and one crew got their chance to hang the FRP board in the women’s side of the comfort station. The other half of the crew went up to Lake Irene and worked on chinking at the mess hall that we have intermittently worked on throughout the season.

A good reminder to be responsible at your campsite! (Observed at Timber Creek Campground)

On Wednesday one half of the crew began tiling the inside of the comfort station. The entire floor was not re-tiled, but places where the toilets once were needed to be re-tiled and the sides of the back wall needed to be re-tiled. The other half of the crew went back to the east side to help them cut out plywood for cage Windows that will go in at the mess hall at Lake Irene. We also set up for the Conservancy sponsored lunch for the park service. The Conservancy provided us with pulled pork from Smokin’ Daves in Estes and put on a great lunch for the park. It was much appreciated.

The Kawuneeche Crew appreciating the wildlife and views on Trail Ridge Road
Dax cutting plywood to re-frame windows on the east side.

On Thursday myself and Dax Deshazo stayed at the comfort station to grout the tiles. Grouting is long process that takes some patience to do. Our day was mostly consumed with this work as we learned the process and did our best to keep everything clean. The rest of the crew went back up to Lake Irene to do more chinking for the day. In the late afternoon we cleaned up the comfort station and closed it up in preparation for mid-week.

Dax grouting tile with the newly placed FRP on the wall to his left.



-Dominic Rickicki, Kawuneeche Crew Leader

After tackling the Link and McIntire trails and starting work on the Rawah Trail in their first week in the Wilderness, the Rawah crew switched gears and started this week on Blue Lake Trail. With a picturesque alpine lake and paved road access to draw in the crowds, it was the first time the crew saw more hikers than moose on trail. Geoff Elliot, the Conservation Corps Manager, met the crew at the trailhead first thing Monday morning and helped them start off their week strong.

rawah 1Geoff and the Crew relax on a cairn at the top of Blue Lake Trail.

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The Rawah Crew above Blue Lake

After a hard day of digging drains, cutting trees, and lopping willows the crew returned to the Stub Creek Workstation to eat a final meal with Geoff and to wish him farewell as he departed for Red Feather.

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Geoff and the crew enjoy some homemade pizza at the Stub Creek Workstation.

Tuesday morning brought the crew back to Blue Lake as they continued work on the lower part of the trail. With multiple mud-ridden sections and a few hefty crosscuts, the five and a half miles of trail took the crew two more days of tough work to complete.

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Crew Member Kyrie trudges through snowpack on Blue Lake Trail

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Crew Member Gus digs out a drain on Blue Lake Trail.

After spending three days on Blue Lake Trail, the Rawah Crew finally returned to the Rawah trail on Thursday to continue their work there.  While the rest of the crew continued work on the rockbars they began last week, Crew members Sam and Garret worked their way up the trail cutting and clearing freshly fallen trees. By the end of the day, the crew had completed two major rockbars and cleared three and a half miles of trail. With two full weeks of work in the Rawah Wilderness, the crew returns next week to Estes Park and cell phone coverage for Midweek.

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Crew member Eeland crosses a creek on the Rawah Trail.


-Garret Fox, Rawah Crew Leader of the Week

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