Summer rolls on at RMFI! Although snow continues to linger in the highest reaches of our worksite on the Kit Carson-Challenger Ridge Trail Realignment project, July finally provided the conditions needed to get to work up there in the Sangres. RMFI staff in partnership with a crew from Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) kicked off our work in the Sangres on July 2 and have since logged a whopping 18 workdays over the course of two 9-day backcountry hitches on the project. The SCC and RMFI High Alpine Field Instructors are currently back up there and at it again as work is scheduled to continue on this project through August and into September. Working alongside the SCC for their own 21-day program in July, our Earth Corps class of 2019 also contributed to this trail reconstruction project in no small part, all the while studying various topics in environmental science and geography, taking in expert lectures from visiting professors and outdoor professionals, and earning themselves 4 college credits. Earth Corps is RMFI's signature education program and our class of 2019 students did an extraordinary job working, learning, and living in the mountains for the duration of this impactful program. Kudos to these guys!
Meanwhile, on RMFI's other 14,000-foot peak project here in our own backyard of Colorado Springs, RMFI staff continued to work on the first year of the multi-year project to reconstruct a new and improved Devil's Playground Trail on Pikes Peak. We continue to work alongside our all-female crew from Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC). These strong women are awesome! This first year of the new route construction is lower in elevation and easily accessible from the Crags Trailhead. We have been able to incorporate several community volunteer workdays into the mix, greatly augmenting the work done by RMFI and MHYC. We plan to continue to do this as the years of the project progress although the new trail work will keep going up, up, up!
The final 14er initiative ticked off this past month was a collaborative Alpine Stewardship Training. This training, developed by our partners with Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado (VOC), brought together high alpine stewardship experts from VOC, RMFI, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, and the U.S. Forest Service, all instructing the class of 15 volunteers and volunteer Crew Leaders in attendance on alpine-specific techniques and considerations for trail alignment and restoration.
All of the above three projects - Kit Carson Peak, Devil's Playground on Pikes Peak, and the Alpine Stewardship Training – have been made possible by the funding and support of the National Forest Foundation's Find Your Fourteener (FYF) campaign. We thank them for their ongoing support of this work to care for our high peaks. Learn more about FYF here!
If you are interested in getting involved in RMFI's 14er work this season, do visit our calendar to check out our collaborative Devil's Playground Volunteer Weekend (August 17-18), Kit Carson Volunteer Week (September 9-13), and/or Kit Carson Basecamp Pack-Out (September 13-5). We hope you'll come be a part of it!
In other Pikes Peak news, staff and volunteers completed a total of 6 volunteer workdays this season ahead of trail race season. The Barr Trail Mountain Race took place on Sunday, July 28 and we thank the race committee so much for supporting our Barr Trail volunteers by providing race entry discounts and donations to them, as well as donating a portion of event proceeds to RMFI! Next up in August is the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, another races that contributes support to RMFI's work. We plan to return to work on Barr Trail this October after race season has ended. By that time, some pre-winter maintenance will surely be in order and RMFI will be on the case!
Additional July Pikes Peak Region projects included work in Garden of the Gods Park, North Cheyenne Cañon Park, and Stratton Open Space. In the Garden, we continued a couple of ongoing trail projects, on the Strausenback and Palmer Trails, through a combination of regular community volunteer workdays and our Catamount Institute partnership camp, Dirt Camp. In Cheyenne Cañon and Stratton, a generous grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) has allowed us the ability to take on new projects in partnership with the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department and Friends of Cheyenne Cañon. Through this funding, we have been able to begin construction on a new connector trail and staircase linking the parking area on Gold Camp Road above the Chutes Trail with the new hiking-only Gold Camp Path, in addition to other restoration-focused projects.
Join us next month for more cow bell!