2006 Trail Crew Reports & Photos
Every year, hundreds of dedicated volunteers take time out of their busy schedules to take a volunteer vacation with The Colorado Trail Foundation. Trail Crew volunteers enjoy weekend and/or weeklong crews with lots of fun, rewarding work, fresh air, and new friends!
Weekend Crew 06, 2005 - Fooses Creek - It's never too late to thank our wonderful volunteers!
It's never too late to recognize our awesome volunteers. Crew members of the weekend Fooses Creek crew in 2005 built a complete bridge in 1 1/2 days!
We improved The Colorado Trail and we had fun. Weekend Crew number 3 did great atop Kenosha Pass. Our team installed dozens of water bars that will help sustain the trail, improved the signage and began work on a short reroute to replace an eroded, beyond-repair piece of old doubletrack.
Maybe the first thing that stood out about this CTF Crew was the leader, Bill Manning – even though he’s done thousands of hours of trail work, this was his first-ever Colorado Trail Work Crew. He was ‘green’ as can be – he had never seen the CTF kitchen equipment or group facilities and didn’t know the drill. Volunteers came to the rescue, though, many having been on previous crews. Everyone chipped in to assist with each of the group tasks, the cooking and cleaning, and the camp set-up and take-down. From the first minutes, the group became a well functioning team thanks to the energy and willingness of each of the participants.
Chuck Bearden arrived first after having driven all the way from Kentucky with granddaughters Emily Bearden and Treska Womble. George Miller came rolling in with the CTF equipment trailer and the group commenced setting up camp. All was going smoothly until camp concessionaires descended and inquired as to whether we were staying in the right place and following all the rules. Phone calls ensued, authorities were contacted, and for a while it appeared as though we might have trouble. There was a dark cloud on the horizon. Within an hour, though, everything was sorted out and we were given the green light to remain. We looked at the sky – it was bright blue.
John Gunderman and Chuck Condreay arrived and livened up the atmosphere with some energetic banter. Dan Griffin and Cindy Somers-Griffin came, as did Patt and Jim Kerr, and Art Roberts. All of these folks had been on previous CTF work Crews and knew the drill. All were ready to take charge. Kitchen and cleanup teams began to take shape. The scene looked promising to Bill Manning who was counting on energetic helpers.
As Friday afternoon withered, we immersed ourselves in a developing mystery, “Where’s Rhonda?” Expecting her as one of our crew members, she had been spotted near camp at mid day after having hiked some 14 miles of the CT, one-way. We wondered if she had found a ride back to her car or if she hiked the entire distance back, a big feat before an energy intensive work weekend. We waited and pondered, but still no Rhonda.
Thomas Hurja and Lisa Estrada and Larry Davis all showed and phased in. We were all postulating about the fate of our heroic hiker when Rhonda Weiler finally showed up and solved the mystery – she had hiked about 28 miles round trip and driven back to camp. She seemed remarkably energetic. The group was at full force.
Saturday we installed new, rolling-dip water bars west of Kenosha Pass. The new water diversions took shape fairly easily until we got to a rocky switchback where the challenge increased. Many trail users, mostly cyclists, passed by. Almost every user praised our work, each giving us a welcome energy boost with their appreciation. As most of us improved the drainage, Larry and Lisa installed new confidence marker signs to help users stay on the right path.
Sunday we worked east of Kenosha on a short reroute that will be much more sustainable than the inherited doubletrack following the fall line. Our digging efforts were interrupted immediately … by rocks. Though it looked grassy and friendly, the hillside was a pile of large rocks. Still, the group made good progress and worked at a feverish pace until a menacing thunderstorm broke and we called it quits. We all felt good about our accomplishment, especially knowing that a subsequent weekend crew would finish where we left off and finally establish a sustainable piece of The Colorado Trail.
Weekend Crew 3 was a total success. There were a lot of laughs along with the trail improvements we accomplished – that’s what it’s all about.
On July 7, 8 and 9 I had the privilege of leading my first trail crew for the Colorado Trail Foundation and my first experience was not going to be an easy one. This was the weekend the monsoons decided to hit Colorado. Several of us arrived early and with the help of Stan Ward who took time away from a family event to help me, we got the main camp set up before the rains came. Thanks goodness we decided to set up both canopies which later came in very handy.
Our goal for the weekend was to finish a 1000 ft reroute that had been started by Bill Manning’s weekend crew on the trail west of Kenosha Pass and to improve drainage for the next mile of trail. It started raining Friday evening and some people were already sleeping in their car due to their tents being inundated with water. Saturday morning, still raining, but we all decided to give the trail a try anyway. By noon, I had lost 5 people, the rest of us stuck it out until 2:30. The rain never stopped. The wet soil made it both harder and easier to work, the ground was soft but then it was also very heavy, like shoveling a wet spring snow. It continued to rain all Saturday evening.
We were joined by a group of through hikers Saturday evening who had been hiking in the rain for days. They took advantage of our facilities to spread their clothes and gear out to dry. We had clotheslines strung everywhere. The oven was used to dry our work gloves. The big burner was used to dry boots. The day we arrived, they lifted the fire ban. A lot of good it did, as everything was too wet to burn although we did get a campfire going for a little while Saturday evening. The rain won that battle however. Sunday morning the rain stopped for a bit so some of us took advantage of the lull to take down the camp before setting out to do trail work. The other half of the group went on to work the trail. It’s a good thing we did as by 1pm, the skies opened up again and it poured. We gave up. Mother Nature was winning this battle as she always does.
We did manage to finish the reroute and open it. We even had hikers take advantage of the beautiful new trail. We didn’t get much else done, cleaned out some branches, improved drainage in one low section, removed some downfall, installed some new trail markers, that’s about it. Thanks to all those who braved the weather and hung in there with me: Jim Parr, Roy Leonard, David Souza, Travis Mann, Ben and Matt Whiting, Rita Standefer. Jill Mattoon, Patricia Demchak, Michael Sims, Albert, Sarah and Erick Johnson, Leah, DJ and Jasmine Miles, Nathan and Jamie Gaskill-Fox and Bill Brown.
Stan, thanks for taking time away from your family to help me get my first camp set up. It would have taken us twice as long without you. Leah, DJ and Jasmine, I hope you’ll come back again, not a good experience for your first time ever camping. Albert honey, love of my life, thanks for supporting me in this, coming along, helping with the cooking, set up and tear down, keeping Erick happy. You don’t get to come very often and it always rains when you do. Is there a connection there? Bill, thanks for taking the leftover food stuffs back to Pat. Chuck Lawson, sorry I had to put everything in the trailer wet. Everyone else, thanks so much for making my first experience as a leader so positive. You all were great. And I hope everyone’s knees, hips and backs have healed.
With only nine people, four men and five women, the CT work crew started in Junction Creek trimming back the over growth, making and repairing water bars, removing tons of rocks and smoothing out the trail on some of the hottest days of the summer as it reached 95 degrees! People walking and biking the trail were very appreciative that we were doing the work!
We were fortunate to have folks from the San Juan Forestry and the Forest Service crews. The crib wall they built was very huge and very cool!!
Almost all of the nine member crew have worked on the CT for many years. Pat Spitzer was a 1st year, but vows to come back each year to help. She said she's hooked! Her important duty was to get the coffee ready each morning at 5:00am. Marilyn and Rick Eisele have been working on the trail as water bar specialists since the early 90's and what a team they were! Mike Dorio has worked for five years, and was our crew comic for the week. Jill and Joe Ozaki have worked on several crews since the 90's, and they made a great team fixing our breakfasts! Laura Farmer was a 20 year veteran of work crews. Art Rankin, our crew leader has also worked on crews for 20 years! He was awesome at making sure our crew was relaxed and had fun, yet was mighty and hard working! The camp was set up by Ted LaMay and his set up folks, which included his wife Pat. When we arrived, everything was unloaded and put in place for us. Ted carried several poles for the water bars up the trail, along with Joe, Art, Rick and Mike, and checked on everything and everyone throughout the week. Our week was great, we enjoyed each other and made new friends. We even had a four legged visitor our last night! He loved Jill's mud slides!!
Another year, another GREAT crew! We were small, but we were mighty! I’m referring to John and Betsy Sylvester, Ralph and Debbie Ploeger, Dallas Peterson, Karin Heiser, Sam Bontje, Raymond Cox, Glynnis Cox, my wife Mae and myself. From the youngest at age 12, to the oldest, age 77 we made a great team. Sam, the twelve year old, did a good job of building tread, but he became “famous” for being dirty all the time and his never stop talking. What a great kid.
The crew came together in a piece-meal form. My wife and I arrived at the campsite on Friday. Another couple brought their trailer up Saturday morning. I went to the Leadville ranger station to meet 5 crew members at 1:00. Only two showed up there. About 3:00 three arrived at the camp site. The last two arrived on Sunday about 4 pm. We were finally all together.
The location of our work was at the base of Mt. Elbert, southwest of Leadville. Our job description was to begin doing a re-route. Saturday morning I went with Jeff Leisy, Forest Ranger, to make sure the re-route was still flagged. The Forest Service had to re-flag it two other times because someone had removed many of the flags. Jeff had a chain saw and cut down several trees that were too close to the side of the new corridor. He also cut trees that were in the corridor about 3 to 4 feet above the ground so they could be pulled out with a come-along. The crew worked two hours Sunday and all day Monday pulling the twenty seven tree stumps and clearing all the debris from the entire corridor of the re-route. They also cleared all the branches that hung over the corridor up to twelve feet above the ground. Tuesday through Friday the crew built new tread. Of course, there were rocks and roots to be dealt with before we could really get down to “making trail”. This crew of nine was able to pull twenty seven stumps and finish 714 feet of new tread.
The weather was great all week, with just some hints of storms or rain. In fact, we rather wished for rain because it is SO dry, as everyone knows. Our camping spot was without any grassy areas, so the dust was ever-present. The cook and her assistant had a busy time of keeping the tables presentable due to the dust, even though there was a carpet in the cook tent.
Everyone on the crew deserves a big thank-you for helping around the camp and doing the evening dishes. A special thanks to John and Betsy Sylvester – they went the extra mile in helping around camp.
“Wow you did good for a bunch of old people” was a comment from 12 year old Alexis who then asked her grandmother Janice Taylor “can we do two weeks next year”? After restocking the kitchen supplies, water tank, propane and setting up our individual camps we were able to relax a bit and enjoy each others company, the kitchen was organized and managed by Julie Terpstra and Tonya Mitch.
Our task for the week was to reroute two sections of the trail, Herrington Ridge and Herrington Creek, which included two turnpike sections and slash in the old trail. Ken Swierenga and Justin Milne used their USFS Certified sawyer skills with helpers Daniel and Kelly Clackler, to remove 17 trees and Bob Hunter used the rock bar removing any stumps or rocks in the new trail reroutes. Kathryn Boyer, Jane Prentiss, Renee Brune and Carolyn Emanuel cleaned the organic material and debris from the trail corridor at both reroutes.
A big thanks to Ken Swierenga, Justin Milne, Jim Mitch, Bruce Ruis and Ryan Zoetewey who drove their vehicles everyday 2.7 miles in to a parking area so we could begin our work day earlier and refreshed by not having any additional hiking time and distance to the work area.
Despite the tough work, a good time was had by all. Overall, we had an excellent week enjoying the work, scenery, weather, and each other’s cooking and company, along with being productive and improving 2300 feet of new trail reroute.
As I sit at my computer, reflecting upon the week at Taylor Lake, I find myself thinking it would be very difficult to find an experience with greater contrasts. Thunder-lightening-hail/bright blue skies and warm sun, the sense of “smallness” that comes from being in a vast and wild place, the warmth of friendship and camaraderie sitting around a campfire, extremely hard physical labor/the comfort of a warm sleeping bag in a cozy tent. These high country experiences take us away from our “normal” life and place us in an environment where everything we do seems to be amplified. The work is harder, the views are more magnificent, and the people are the best.
Speaking of people, this crew was fantastic! As a crew leader, I couldn’t have wished for a better group. They were hard working, committed to doing a good job and fun to be around. Everyone was selfless in his or her contribution to making sure each person on the crew had an enjoyable experience. Everyone participated in the wonderful conversations at “happy hour,” mealtimes and around the campfire. Old friendships were renewed and new ones made.
We did have a bit of challenging weather. Several days with hail that covered the ground tested everyone’s patience and thunder and lightening drove us off the work sites a couple of days. The on and off clouds made it difficult to get the shower bags heated up so there were several “less than optimum temperature” showers. There were also many sitz baths to avoid those cold showers and several folks heated water on the “blaster” to wash their hair.
The work completed was amazing. Fifty-two water bars, rebuild of 150 yards of severely eroded trail utilizing geotec fabric (through nasty, deep-rooted, willows), 20 rolling dips (improved drainage in an additional 30 places), rebuilt a switchback, trimmed willows, and removed rock from 40 ft of trail. Much of the work was done between 1 and 1.75 mile from camp, with the last .75 miles being on a VERY steep grade up to Indian Trail Ridge. These folks really worked hard! They earned the special gratification that comes from accomplishing difficult tasks and for contributing to the safety and pleasure of every hiker that will use this section of the CT for years to come. I would like to say, once again, THANK YOU to each one of these wonderful people.
For the third consecutive year our CT backpack crews have worked at draining the “Big Bog”, approx. 3 miles east of the Long Gulch Trailhead towards Lost Park. This year we backpacked into a gorgeous campsite overlooking the Lost Park Meadow and expected to be serenaded by the same lively creek next door that we had experienced the last two years. Alas, the creek was dry as a bone . . . While waiting for the slow motion leader to arrive at the camp site, crew members Bill Carpenter, Dick Blue, Del Militare and Andrew Hammond scouted for and found an alternative water source, which lasted the entire week, within 350 yards of the campsite.
Glenn Ryan and Alice Higinbotham of the USFS Specialty Pack String based in Shawnee, CO had the camp supplies delivered on Saturday morning and they were kind enough to offer to make a second trip to deliver water, until the local water source was found.
This was a week of water related issues as on Tuesday morning the filters in our water supply bags were already plugged up and at 25 degrees perhaps a little frozen as well. The unprepared leader was sent back down the hill to town to procure additional filters.
The leader’s absence on Tuesday, lead to a unique “surprise” when he returned. We had discussed earlier that we would repair a long stretch of badly braided trail of over 100 yards, believing this would take perhaps a couple of days to build the necessary rock wall and backfill the new tread. The leader really disappointed everyone by not immediately inspecting the work performed on Tuesday while he was gone. Therefore, he was flabbergasted to find this project all but finished when we walked into this work site on Thursday morning. Really shows how much a crew leader is not really needed when a good crew takes over. Special recognition is awarded to Del Militare, Bill Carpenter and Dick Blue for initiating this extra effort on Tuesday, which allowed us to install the last drain culvert on Friday morning and declare the “Big Bog” drained.
Crew members were very experienced and included: “The Sophomore Class” a group of college sophomore friends from the Denver area, Kyle Lohman, Bruce Kramlich, Drue Banta, Haley Choi and Taylor Portman. With the addition of Andrew Hammond a college freshman from Denver as well, these strong young men provided much of the muscle and enthusiasm this week. Eric Peterson, a free lance writer from Denver, in addition to setting a strong example of will power and muscle power, is writing an article about our Trail Crew experience which may appear in a travel magazine next spring. I told Linda to stick with me and I would make her famous…. Matt Staver, a commercial photographer from Denver, joined us from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday to photograph the crew in action for the article and took lots of pictures. Laura Becker from Denver, whose name many readers will recognize as part of the CTF office staff in Golden, was joined by Julie McCullough from Littleton, and they were our Pick Mattock specialists. They really made the dirt fly. Del Militare from Denver, Bill Carpenter from Boulder, and Dick Blue from Dripping Springs, TX (our seasoned citizens) joined Andrew Hammond as returning volunteers from last years’ crew and deserve much of the credit for tackling the rock wall construction section on Tuesday. Linda Lawson was our camp chef again and she received many, many compliments. Chuck didn’t even lose any weight this year!
This crew worked so well that by Friday afternoon we declared the “Big Bog” was drained, but as always, we will have to wait to see what Mother Nature thinks of our declaration. The weather couldn’t have been better, as it cooled early every afternoon and we only experienced the briefest of showers until Saturday mid-day when it tried to drown the horsemen packing our camp down the hill.
Jim and Julie Cheney and all the great volunteer riders from the Front Range Back Country Horsemen were very efficient in taking our camp supplies back out on Saturday, despite a huge rain, hail, thunder and lightening storm. Without their fine assistance we could not perform these backpack crews and our thanks are simply not appreciation enough for all their wonderful help.
My thanks to all the crew for their fine work this week and we’ll see you along the CT.
It had been raining all week. The summer monsoon was early. So when the crew assembled at the store at Sargents, CO, on the west side of Monarch Pass, we hunkered under the small roof over the gas pumps to discuss plans for our convoy and subsequent camp setup.
The 50 miles of back-country roads to our campsite were muddy and slick. By the time we reached the site our vehicles were coated in mud and the water trailer behind Roger Gomas’s truck was a mud glob on wheels. But the rain paused just long enough for us to get the tents up and Marylin Greeneisen, with a couple cook’s helpers, soon had ready a tasty hot dinner.
The day looked promising Sunday morning as we gathered around for safety training. Later we carpooled down to the trailhead and hiked along our work site for orientation and instruction on trail construction techniques. But the clouds mounted as we lunched on the bank of Cochetopa Creek and opened up with a heavy downpour that lasted through the afternoon. Not an encouraging beginning.
For the rest of the week, however, we were favored with good weather and great working conditions. And work we did.
In 4 days, our team of 20 volunteers improved 3 miles of the Trail between Eddiesville Trailhead and Nutras Creek in the La Garita Wilderness. We widened the Trail and removed rock on 1,800 feet of the Trail along a steep sandy slope above Cochetopa Creek. We constructed two culverts and a rock stream crossing. We removed rock and berm and widened the Trail for more than a half mile. We cut trees and brush all along and rerouted the Trail at two locations. Not bad.
On Monday and Tuesday we re-established the Trail above Cochetopa Creek that had been sloughed off by water running down the hillside. The Sleklemians (Bob, Mark and Leigh), chopped open and drained the Trail corridor through a dense aspen glen.
On Thursday, we carried drainage pipes a mile down the Trail to construct the culverts through a mucky bog. Roger, Ryan and Garrett Gomas and Mitch Brown pitched in to build the eastern culvert while the team of Dewey Hill, Bill Carpenter, and Brooks Taylor with Bob and Dana Fetterman spent the day building the western culvert. A ways down the Trail, Bob, Mark and Leigh Seklemian with John Dowd made the rock crossing over a small stream and cut in a reroute up a hill. Sandy Njaa and Sam Davis opened up the Trail with loppers while Paul Njaa, Grey Owl Barrett and Kathy Howard removed berm.
On Friday we rerouted the Trail to bypass a steep, rutted tread and spent the rest of the day removing berm and widening the Trail over the rolling hills of the wilderness.
On Wednesday some crew members hiked up the San Louis Peak trail while others fished Cochetopa Creek. And the fishing was astounding. In one afternoon, John Dowd reported snagging 37 fish!
We had good times around the evening camp fires. Kathy Howard told about the book she and her husband had written that has been chosen to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mesa Verde National Park. Stew Brown, the adopter for this section of the Trail, came by one evening to tell how Captain John Fremont first explored in the area. Another night Grey Owl entertained with his Oklahoma harmonica and famous bird calls. At the Friday campfire Ryan and Garrett Gomas and Mitch Brown gave a buffo performance highlighting the week with costume and original songs.
It was a good week working and camping in the Cochetopa Hills along The Colorado Trail.
This was an interesting combination of crews – the melding of teens and those “way past their teen years”! This story begins back to the last of June. Crew #14 consisting of students and teachers from the D.C. Oakes High School in Douglas County was scheduled to work once again on the section near Cochetopa Hills in the Rio Grande Forest. The Forest Service notified me that they had implemented a stage 2 fire restriction, so we were about to cancel that crew unless another location could be worked out. The Leadville District was contacted and they thought they could use the crew.
George Miller was then contacted to let him know of this change. George called me a couple of days later and said that Crew #15 was without a leader and asked if I would be willing to combine the two crews and work on the trail in the Frisco area. He offered an added incentive this arrangement – that he would come up on the closing Saturday to help us break camp. (The previous crew was a very large one and had a lot of equipment set up.) Crew #15 was to follow Stan Ward’s crew. After talking with the leadership of the school, it was decided that it would be OK for the youth to work in conjunction with the other crew.
On Saturday morning, Stan took me up to the work site to show me what had been done and what was yet needed. In the afternoon, I met the incoming crew members at the Frisco Wal-Mart parking lot. We arrived at camp about 2:00 and the only thing they had to do was set up their own tents and enjoy the remainder of the day. Two members of crew #15 were surprised to have me as crew leader for the second time this year. On Sunday morning we had a safety instruction, worked two hours and got acquainted with the area. That evening we gathered together and introduced ourselves, learning a bit about each other. After introductions, the teens were asked to “adopt” an adult for the week, spending a few minutes that evening getting better acquainted. This was very successful throughout the week.
On Monday, and Tuesday we were able to complete the re-route and start on re-doing the old tread. Looking ahead on the old tread it was very rocky, so on Wednesday, the D.C. Oakes youth and teachers worked half day doing nothing but removing surface rocks from the trail. This area covered about 400 feet of trail. The remainder of the week we were able to concentrate on building new tread, but they still encountered about as many rocks under the surface as had been on top. When the week was ended, we had completed 1,140 feet of 3-foot wide tread, which included 6 rolling water bars.
Tuesday evening we had a little excitement in camp. The youth were playing near dark, when one of the boys collapsed! We checked him out and his symptoms seemed to be altitude sickness -- but other things didn’t match, so the paramedics were called. He was taken to the hospital in Frisco, but was released about 1:00 AM with the diagnosis that he had been drinking too much water and had thus depleted his system of potassium and salt! The great news was that he was OK for the rest of the week.
Our cook, Mae, and her assistant, Glynnis, did an outstanding job of preparing great meals for us.
On Wednesday, the crew of 15 people spent the day in various ways – 1 hiked, 2 stayed in camp and rested, another couple drove around the area, and 2 rented bicycles and rode most of the day . . . some even got caught in the rain! It rained 2 or 3 evenings in camp and only a couple of sprinkles while up on the trail. There was a little hail on the trail one day, but none of it deterred our work.
On Friday evening, when certificates were given out, the teens, with their adopted adult, came together to pick which CTF gift they would like.
The two crews worked very well together and did an outstanding job of trail building. The crew members were: Andrew Arnett, Dylan Buddeke, Justin Clawson, Alison Gegg, Jake LaBure, Alexandra Livingood, Dave Lopez-Nevis, Devon Williams, Ben Wright, and Ben Arnold. The teachers were Steve Brockmeyer, Kelley Gorham and Brian Wood. Those on Crew 15 were: Clint Britt, Glynnis Cox, Diana and Sergey Dikovsky, Bobbi Ernst, Debbie and Ralph Ploeger, Barry Schrimsher, and Phil and Mae Smith.
First-time leader Jerry Brown’s crew was stacked with experts (or with supervision): CTF board member Suzanne Reed and CTF President Marilyn Eisele were on hand to regale the crew with legends of other trail crews and stories of the inner workings of the Foundation. Veteran Rusty Sturm, who’d served the week before, first-timers Bill and Sarah Kaewert and Elizabeth Hall, and Kansans John and Erika Marksbury rounded out the crew.
The backpack-in crew worked the last week of July (in the middle of an “unusually active monsoon season”) on a virtually untouched section of trail—the Pole Creek re-route. They constructed more than 50 cairns, though none were able to match the majesty of Rusty’s first. They also leveled some ridges and smoothed paths over some rock fields. Over four miles of trail are now navigable for the hikers and bikers who make their way to this breathtaking section.
Highlights of the week included nightly lightning storms, Bill’s and Sarah’s scurrying down a steep rock-face to escape a downpour of sleet, and stories of the sadly unrequited love of a marmot for Suzanne. Wednesday evening, settled in for viewing with popcorn, the mesmerized crew watched as hundreds of sheep wandered over the ridge, working their way slowly back home. Those same sheep, apparently bored with their lives of grazing, tried their best to follow the crew to work the next morning. It took quite a bit of effort to convince them that we had the job under control. Luckily, they stumbled upon a cairn built by the previous week’s crew, and turned their devotion immediately toward it.
All in all, it was a fabulous week—spotted with rainbows and elk and adventure stories—that left the trail more accessible and the crew more inspired. And if anyone says differently, listen for Jerry to “call bulls--- on that.”