Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Last Few Volunteer Groups

It's September 14th and the Mount Yale Project is about to be officially finished.  The last ten days on the mountain have been crazy busy.  Jeff and I have had the pleasure of working with two separate volunteer groups.  The first group was organized by Colorado College out of Colorado Springs. CC requires all incoming students to engage in a service project before classes begin.  The crew from CC helped Jeff and I to officially open the rerouted section of trail.  I have to admit, it was really, really weird to see strangers hiking on the reroute section after so many months of enjoying exclusive access to the area.  We were, however, immediately showered with thanks from those who seem to truly appreciate our work. 
Colorado College Volunteers.

After the reroute was open we sent RMYC to focus on finishing the last bits of rock work below the saddle.  The mornings were bitter cold and windy most of the time but this group had some amazingly positive attitudes, though slightly crazy at times and gassier than any group I have ever seen.
The Crew plus Greg hanging out on the saddle.
Jake, Garreth and Whitney posing on a stellar retaining wall.

September 8th brought a few very important guests, (Loretta and Adam from the US Forest Service and Greg from the Office) who's mission was to inspect the work that had been done all season.  I have to say that the visit went exceedingly well, lifting a huge weight from Jeff and I's shoulders. 
Henry from the VOC crushing rock for a check step.

The job well done from our supervisors meant that our second volunteer group would be able to focus completely on beginning restoration on the old, eroded section of trail.  As always, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado brought in a solid group of hard-working, entertaining individuals. Even with frozen water at base camp and windy conditions at the work site we managed to finish the project goals for the weekend while enjoying each others company. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Walls, walls and more walls...

Jim and Angela on a back wall.

August 18th marked the first day of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps' fall session. After not having heard from our lonely returner prior to the beginning of the hitch Jeff and I were pleasantly surprised to find the crew, tools in hand, up at our work site.  Most of the crew spent a good part of the summer with a saw in hand but all seem to have quickly acclimated to their new working conditions. 

Jake up at the work site.

It's almost time to officially open the re-routed portion of the trail, so a few members of the crew built a solid eleven step stair case leading into the new section.  The rest of us continued with the never ending pattern that is back walls, mono walls and switchbacks. 

Jake and Rob setting the key stone for a switch back.
After nine days of work Jeff and I were able to become fairly well acquainted with the ins and outs, literally, of the new crew and are excited to work with them for the next few weeks. 

The crew constructing an entirely new, short section, of trail meant to detour around a piece of eroded trail.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mount Rainy Weather and RMYC's Last Days

Despite the predictable afternoon and evening rain showers of the last month or so on Mount Yale  HUGE amounts of progress have been made.  We are now working at around 13,500 feet or so, only twenty minutes from the summit!  Every morning we wake up and hit the trail for two hours before we reach the work site, usually greeting the first hikers of the day an hour or so later.  Building walls has become our specialty as we attempt to reinforce the existing trail well enough that it ceases to slide out from under future hikers feet. 
We were also able to complete our first piece of restoration after constructing one of several massive switchbacks.  This switchback in particular now diverts hikers around a nasty erosion gully that used to be the trail. 
The whole crew grabbin a bite before work.
With less than 1,000 feet of trail left to reconstruct before the saddle, Jeff and I said see ya later to our first RMYC Crew. Before their departure we were able to witness a slightly ruthless prank week and an epic last dessert.  Hopefully, the next crew will also refer to Yale as Mount Doom as endearingly as the last.
Double rainbow bringing in a morning thunderstorm.
Creation of the last dessert.
More dessert makin.
Ariel carrying a rock across some sketchy slope.
Spencer and Ben working on a switchback.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sanborn Outdoor Leadership Experiencers

Volunteers from Sanborn Western Camps
This past week Jeff and I worked with another great group of volunteers.  This time, Sanborn Western Camps out of Florissant, Colorado sent out nine campers and three of their counselors.  The campers, all around the age of 13 or 14 were on a mission to, not only, learn about trail work, but also gain a little leadership experience.  The counselors gave these guys free rein over everything from planning out meals to framing up each day.  Though they were only able to spend two days working on the trail, it was very clear that they were all gaining valuable trip planning experience.  As far as trail work goes, building a much needed retaining wall seemed to be the favorite project of the trip.  However, the group also laid down some serious pick mattock action helping to make the trail a little easier on the feet.  After nearly summiting Mount Yale two days in a row the group ended the week by waking up at 1 a.m. in order to hit the summit of Mount Huron!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Words From Someone Other Than Me

Yellow-bellied Marmot near our work site
Her Tired Eyes

The tired eyes of the oldest marmot
in the talus field
Sense bright purple glow of trail side flowers at first light
Call out the news of tall disruptive animals approaching
Urge newborn babies to stay
warm in hidden crevices
Speak of the time before humans
when all rocks bowed down
Whisper to her slow lover
'the dogs are coming,
wait for me at Square Rock.'
Warn our faint steps to stay away
from her family
Her tired eyes
Laugh at the zylophone tumblings of little ones
alighting from here to there
in their kingdom on a hill
Remember the hardest winter
and when glaciers lasted longer
Glaze over as white gasps of water
amble past
sending the warm hand of the sun
to press down on her tired back
her plump belly
like a full sack of dirt
presses firmly to the rock
By Ariel Climer, RMYC Crew Member on Mount Yale
Bruce, Kyle and Ben

Spencer and Nick taking their lunch break.

Garreth and Ariel

Dara and Susie
Spencer, Max, Ariel, Garreth

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ughh, the stomach bug...

As with many groups who spend every waking moment together, trail crews typically not only share every minute of their season with one another but a good majority of whatever makes us sick as well.  No worries though, large quantities of hand sanitizer and an intense base camp clean-up will hopefully help mitigate any similar issues in the future. 
Despite almost everyone taking at least one sick day last hitch, we're still moving forward with the project.  The youth corps are currently working to complete three full switchbacks and the first of two 30+ step staircases.
Rocky Mountain Youth Corps during our morning stretch circle.
On another note, after saying goodbye to RMYC for the week Jeff and I were granted the opportunity to work with several fine individuals affiliated with the Outdoor Adventure Program at Colorado State University.  Eight CSU students and two of CSU's media representatives joined us on the project and marveled at the luxury that is our base camp.  Jeff and I then broke them into the world of trail work by asking them to work a section of re-tread above treeline.  Knowing that we had an intelligent group on hand,(they put me to shame when a few of them started rambling off scientific names of surrounding plant life) we only subjected them to the monotony of swinging a pick for the first day.  Our second day together was all about building walls and teaching the essential elements of rock work. 
Look for an article about CFI and various research concerning fourteeners coming out this winter in the Colorado State University Magazine.
A few of our volunteers from Colorado State University.

Frosty Alpine Avens after a night of cold weather.
Some gorgeousness from the Yurt at Twin Lakes.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Workin' Hard or Hardly Workin'?

Kyle, Jeff and Suzie showing off their newly constructed retaining wall.

Hey, what are you guys digging for?  Are you archaeologists?  These are a few of some of the most commonly asked questions by the masses who chose to hike Mount Yale last week.  I'm sure each one of us will end the season with well rehearsed replies to these questions as Yale typically sees around 10,000 visitors a year.  After seeing the masses on the mountain this past weekend I'm entirely confident that the number of visitors this season will be just as high.  We all definitely appreciate the thanks we receive after having explained that we're actually a trail crew.  As well as the positive responses to requests for leashes concerning those whose pets are free to roam the tundra.
On a different note, the crew has worked their way up to the reconstruction portion of our project, leaving only a few structures left to be built on the brand new re-route before it can be opened.  
Kudos to the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps who survived an eight day hitch rifled with rain, snow and a nasty cold bug.  Hopefully, they're enjoying a nice, relaxing group soak at the Conundrum hot springs today.