Wednesday, July 29, 2015

2001 AHS Volunteer Trail Project - Colorado Trail

In 1987, the Colorado Trail Foundation was established. The Colorado Trail now stretches from Denver to Durango with over 500 miles of trail through seven national forests, six wilderness areas, and across eight mountain ranges, traveling through ecosystems from Plains to Alpine. Its altitude ranges from 5520 to 13,271 feet above sea level and much is above 10,000 feet. In fact, it averages 10,300 feet. Most of the trail has grades of 10% or less. Numerous 14ers are accessible from the trail. Camping is allowed on public land. The trail is open to hikers, backpackers, equestrians, runners, llama trekkers, and except in wilderness areas, mountain bikers.

In 2001 I was part of the American Hiking Society crew that helped reroute the Colorado Trail around Copper Mountain Resort (Colorado Trail section #8) high up across the ski slopes. The trail had previously descended to the town and then climbed back up at the other end of the town.

We drove up access roads and set up camp at the T-Rex Grill at an elevation of about 10,600 feet, and since many of our crew are from flatland areas, the work was rather arduous. Our crew was about half AHS volunteers and half teenagers from our leader's church youth group. I've done 30 of these volunteer trail projects over the years and it's usually middle age and retired folks on the crew. It was fun working with the youngsters!

Digging out the initial tread is arduous work, and Rich (front), Jim (left), and Rob work at it here using Pulaski and McCloud tools. This new trail reroute will allow Colorado Trail users to avoid the main street of Copper Mountain Resort, taking them across the mountainside south of the resort instead, through beautiful forests and across meadows (which are in fact ski slopes during the winter). Though the ski resort leases the mountainside for its operations, the land is controlled by the U. S. Forest Service which diligently oversees all trail and bridge placements.

After the initial trail tread is established, it must be further dug out, smoothed, and leveled, as is being done here by Michelle, Becky, Matt, Rich, Ken, Andy, and Rusty. The "duff" or organic material resting atop the surface will not support a trail, so it must be dug out and moved to the downhill side of the trail, leaving mineral matter (soil) as the trail base. Sometimes the duff is 8 or more inches in depth, requiring removal of a great amount of organic material.

Jan, Ann, Jessi, Nancy, and Nate work on another section of trail. The scenery is magnificent, and at this altitude, insects were rarely a problem.

Tony is not excavating for oil here. A large buried boulder has to be dug out and removed from the tread, and behind him you see other such rocks already removed from the trail. Large roots and stumps sometimes had to be removed, too. On the trail behind him is a long, thin, but sturdy rock bar (or pry bar) he will use to pry out the boulder after it is partially unearthed. Sometimes a group of people have to combine efforts to budge the boulder out of the hole.

Below you see the finished trail crossing a meadow, which actually is a ski slope for Copper Mountain Resort in the winter. Beyond that, is another section of forest. Few skiers ever see this area in all its verdant summer glory, and next winter, the skiers will be unaware of a trail below the many feet of snow upon which they are skiing.

Below is one of the forested areas which now has a beautiful trail through it.

The trail also crossed several small creeks and wetland areas. and the forest service demands that these fragile water features are protected from overuse.  That of course requires the construction of bridges which was the portion of the project that I was primarily involved with.

First we had to lop off bushes to allow construction of a bridge to span this small creek/wetland area. Hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers would destroy the area if the bridge were not present to take them over the fragile area.

The sills at each end of the bridge have already been leveled and have had a hole drilled in each end to allow a 3 foot length of rebar (steel reinforcing bar) to be hammered through the sill and into the earth to anchor the sill in place. Boulders were then placed on and around the sills for additional stability.

Nate is taking his turn at cutting the notch for the second stringer to sit on the sill as his father, Rich, (seated) watches. Standing are Dave and Gene. You might notice how yellow the pieces of timber look. Gene and I debarked all the pieces as the first step in the process.

I take my turn hand drilling holes through the stringer and sill in preparation for the rebar that will be driven through both pieces of timber and into the soil. This view shows the bridge taking shape and the early work on the approaches to both sides of the bridge. Dozens of large boulders eventually had to be carried to the site and used to reinforce the sills and also to create a retaining wall to hold the hundred plus buckets of soil dug out of the mountainside and carried to the site to elevate the trail tread to the height of the bridge decking.

The finished project! Water bars and drainage swales were added on both approaches to prevent heavy runoff from eroding the earthwork and tread, and boulders were strategically placed to reinforce the bridge during heavy spring meltoff conditions. Since the existing bushes were merely lopped off, all will regrow and fill in closer to the bridge with no permanent damage having been incurred by the wetlands area. You can also see how we raised the level of the trail up to the bridge top to protect the wetlands and make for a smooth transition from trail to bridge.

Here is our dedicated and hardworking volunteer trail crew:

Standing: (l to r) Rich R., Glenn, Dave, Anne, Matt, Tony, Rich K., Jim, Gene, Andy, Rob, Nate, Ken,  Ray, and Rusty
Seated: Sherry, Sandy, Jan, Becky, Michelle, Jessi, and Nancy

The Colorado Trail Foundation
710 10th Street
Suite 210
Golden, CO 80401-5843
(303) 384-3729
Colorado Trail Foundation website

No comments: