In the Field: Week Seven

Shadow Mountain Crew:

Sunday morning was met with a warm oatmeal packet and some hot tea. Once again, we got to work with the other Shadow Mountain crew. This meant preparing the llamas (do you remember their names from last week?) and getting the tools ready. After a bumpy ride down a Forest Service road, we arrived at the Strawberry Creek trailhead with lots of stoke and eagerness! This was our crew’s first time in the Winter Park trails area. The hike in was very flat and took us through a lush forest beside a creek. This was by far the easiest hike for us – no complaints here. After a mile of hiking, we arrived at our basecamp, a beautiful, friendly meadow of soft grass and aspen trees. We dropped our packs and started setting up our tents as we prepared to call this meadow “home” for the next three days. However, as we all know, Colorado weather can be unpredictable.

As we prepared to start work, it started to rain followed by some intense thunder and lightning. The lightning was a little too close for comfort, so we took cover under a welcoming fir tree. After waiting out the storm for forty minutes, we continued down to our worksite about a mile down the trail. The worksite consisted of two old bridges that crossed the creek for bikers and hikers. The embankment was eroded and the bridges themselves were in bad shape. The planks that go across the bridge were not treated wood, so they had rotted resulting in an overall unusable bridge. Our goal for the rest of the week was to tear out the old bridges and build new ones a little farther down the creek.

On the second day, we continued tearing down the two bridges. It was a lot of fun tearing down the wooden panels from the bridge but very heavy! Moving and tearing down the bridges proved to be a difficult task but it was rewarding to see it cleared. Many of us fell into the creek and suffered from wet boots and socks all day! We have been very grateful for dry boots and socks after this hitch! We also got caught in a few rainstorms, but the sun peaked through during the second day. After clearing out the old bridges we laid out the foundations for a tread that will help mountain bikers easily ride the bridge. This required lots of digging and a member of HTA fell trees to gather logs. After the logs were set, both crews had to gather a ton of rocks. After we finished the day, we had a great dinner of rice and beans!

The third day was full of surprises, one of them being Miles Miller and the other surprise will be mentioned later. Miles had been talked about by the other crew throughout the previous week, but my crew had yet to meet him. He was deemed to be a man of many surprises and stories, which he delivered on. The next two days consisted of dismantling a bridge and collecting resources for the new one. Miles, alongside several crew members, began lining up the materials for the bridge. Planking was the newest project for some of us, which involved attaching boards to the stringers. That process was completed pretty quickly, and attaching the approaches was done soon after. The bridge was set place after a bit of time and then secured by using rebar. The bridges being close to complete meant that rocks and dirt were needed to fill in the approaches. The rest of the day was spent filling in what was needed, and then it was back to camp.

A group of people working on a wooden bridge in a wooded area.

The fourth and final day of our bridge project began with the entire crew in good spirits, excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The morning was cold, but we were greeted by the sun on our hike to the work site. Once there, the entire crew hit the ground running with rock collection, dirt collection, and approach assembly. The bridges were completed before lunchtime, and we were able to hike back to camp, break down our tents, and all have lunch together before saying goodbye to the Strawberry Creek Trail and returning to the village to sharpen tools and start the weekend.

— Andrew

Shadow Mountain Crew: Grace McMahon, Crew Leader

Day 1:
On Monday, we woke up bright and early to meet our U.S. Forest Service partner Lori at the Shadow Mountain work center to begin working on the turnpike project. To our surprise, we found out that the week would be all front country work instead of backcountry like we originally planned! After gathering all the necessary tools and significantly lightening our packs, we headed out to the Monarch Lake Trailhead.

After hiking in for only a few short minutes, we were greeted by a massive mud pit with many clogged drains scattered throughout. We began our work by restoring all the drains in the area and clearing the trail of rocks and other debris. After a long day’s work, we managed to set the logs for both turnpikes in this first section and even managed to get the majority of the fill in the first one!

Day 2:
On Tuesday, we started repairing the first two sections of turnpikes. Turnpikes are sustainable structures built in an area where there is heavy flooding due to water. This usually results in a muddy havoc. No one wants to hike through that! Turnpikes are filled with layers of rock, geotech, and dry dirt which become the new path. Raising the ground with these materials helps keep the path dry over time. In addition to this, old drains were maintained and/or created. A drain will divert the water off of the trail, further helping the turnpike do its job.

Constructing these turnpikes was a lot of hard work! This was our first time building one and it was exciting. The first step, which we completed on Monday, was to dig two parallel trenches where the two treated logs would sit. We got a little muddy. After fiddling with the logs to fit, we filled the gaps with all sizes of rocks. This helps set the logs in place. Laying and stapling the geotech is next. Geotech is a permeable fabric designed to help with erosion control. Fill is the last step. We collected wheelbarrows of fill and transported them to the worksite where we kept layering the fill (this was the hardest part!). During this process, we made sure to drink plenty of water, take breaks on the shade, and perhaps play in the mud.

Day 3:
On the third day, we had two turnpikes completed and two that were halfway completed. The second location was much muddier and we had to create more drains. We were all soaked and muddy first thing in the morning! We had a lot of fun playing in the mud and digging trenches. It was a hot day, but Lori kindly gave us snacks and goodies that fueled us to keep working – it was the best surprise! Thanks again Lori, you are the best!

Day 4:
The final day of the turnpike project had everyone feeling tired, but so excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel. By Wednesday’s end, two turnpikes were totally completed, one was almost finished, save the addition of some fill, and there was one that had its trenches dug out. We knew there was a lot left to do and not much time to do it, but we were confident in our ability to work as a team to complete the project on time.

We delegated a group to work on completing the second turnpike, and another group to start using wheelbarrows to gather fill and transport it all the way down the half mile of trail from the fill pile to the site. It was crazy hot and sunny, so we made sure to take breaks, switch out jobs frequently, and drink tons of water! In addition to these jobs, we also had to spend our work days instructing hikers how to navigate the work site, and that was often a whole job in itself.

After a long day of trenching, setting logs, digging and re-digging drains, and moving countless wheelbarrows of fill, we finally completed all four turnpikes, right on schedule at 5PM. We went back to the Shadow Mountain Village to sharpen and clean tools with Lori, and the crew celebrated the end of a long, rewarding week of work with burgers, fries and ice cream.


Shadow Mountain Crew – Park Olson

For this weeks’ worth of work, we worked with Headwaters Trail Alliance and Amy with the Forest Service and her two employees, and we dug new tread for bikes on the WTB (Wilderness Trail Bikes) D2 trail. That was for the Sunday and the Monday of that week and we did about 0.05 miles of new tread and cleared a lot of stuff that was in the way of the new tread, but we did not do the turnpike we initially talked about. That wrapped up on Monday and that is when we finished our work with HTA for the week. On Tuesday we went to the Horseshoe Lake trail and worked on 8 miles of trail to get rid of nine downed trees and four fire pits that were too close to the lake. On Wednesday we did numerous small trails that were all focused around Lost Lake. We worked on 18 trees in total and 13 drains and a total of 2.4 miles of trail work done. When broken down we worked on six trees on gilsonite (a type of asphalt) with no drains, seven on lost lake trail with eight drains, four on Wolverine Bypass with 2 drains and finally one tree on Lost Lake access with three drains. We did brushing, mostly on Wolverine Bypass, and that was the whole of our week.


Boulder Crews

This week Nathan’s crew (Nathan, Leah, Cait, Logan, Fern) transitioned back to our home sweet home Kelly Dahl, as well as our home away from home Arapaho Pass. It was refreshing to spend last week working away from our summer project, and then being able to come back and continue working our way up the trail! We also noticed how much the wildflowers had bloomed since we last worked at Arapaho!

A stream running through a forest.

A beautiful array of wildflowers beside our worksite


On Monday we hiked our tools up to Arapaho Pass (including two rock bars!) and worked on three different projects, all about a mile in. The first project was placing eight check steps, which are used to allow the water to flow, prevent erosion, as well as helping to smooth out the grade. This was a super fun and challenging task which we all worked on together. After this project, we moved on to a section of the trail that had water running over it, and Logan, Cait and Fern worked to divert water off the trail. It was tough to find a solution with all the running water, but in the end we were able to accomplish what we hoped! Leah and Nathan worked to build a check step and better tread, as well as closing off a higher social trail. We ended Monday with a gourmet meal of cream cheese-stuffed mushrooms as well as quinoa, tomato and cheese-stuffed bell peppers made by Fern!


A group of people hiking up a trail in the mountains.

All of our crew hiking out after a rewarding day of work


Tuesday brought us to a beautiful, open section of the trail where we focused on two main projects for that day. We split up into two groups to tackle the different projects. The first project brought a new challenge, as we worked in a waterfall to create a safe and walkable surface, especially for when the water rises in the colder months.  Leah, Nathan and Cait tackled this project in the morning, and in the afternoon Gus (our field coordinator) arrived with a positive attitude to help us out on the massive and challenging project. In the end, we all were beyond satisfied with how it turned out!

The second project was to add in a couple check steps and fix a section of tread that was leading to erosion because of the slant of the grade. Nathan and Cait worked on this project, and Logan, Leah, and Fern hopped onto the waterfall project. With both projects completed in one day, we felt accomplished and ready to head home. Dinner was provided by Nathan, and included homemade potstickers, rice, and veggies – they didn’t last long – it was a delicious dinner!

A rocky trail with a stream running through it.

Waterfall rock steps – so challenging but rewarding!

On Wednesday, we were able to split up, and Logan, Leah, and I worked on individual projects, while Nathan and Cait tackled a project together. Logan worked on smoothing out tread, as well as a multiple rock mono wall. Leah eagerly worked on setting three rows of steps. Fern worked on popping rocks that jutted into a trail, as well as preparing to create a water bar by a stream that ran over the trail. Cait and Nathan worked on creating a walkable tread, as well as setting a small staircase. Overall, it was nice to work on individual and smaller projects, and it left us all feeling refreshed and ready to end the week with a bang! Tonight’s dinner was bangin’ veggie burritos made with love by Cait!


Two people sitting on the side of a trail with backpacks.

Cait and Nathan feeling stoked about the new steps and tread

A man crouching on a trail in the mountains.

Logan cheesin’ about his mono rock wall and smooth tread

On Thursday we were able to finish up two projects in the morning, and then finally hike up to Diamond Lake, which we had been hearing about for many weeks. Leah and Fern finished up their individual projects from the day before, while Cait, Nathan and Logan worked to place stones for a stream crossing, as well as build two water bars. With the necessary projects completed for the week, our crew cached our tools, and were excited to be able to hike up to Diamond Lakes, which everyone was stoked about. Once we made it up to the lake we were greeted with clear water, mountain views, and an appetite to explore the area more – North and South Arapaho Peaks here we come! We are all very excited to be working with the other half of the Boulder crew for our last week!

A stream running through a grassy area with rocks and flowers.

One of the many beautiful waterfalls at Arapaho Pass




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