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SLATE LAKES trail project: 27-29 July 2018Trail Boss Kate led a hearty crew up beautiful Slate Creek for some trail and campsite work.The intrepid crew of eleven volunteers and two llamas obliterated more than a dozen illegal campfire rings, installed two new signs, and hauled out many pounds of trash. To read TBK’s trip report, click HERE, orROLLOVER to read the text of TBK’s trip report.FENW Slate Lakes Work Trip 27-29 July 2018
Our first overnight work trip turned out to be a rather fun and adventurous trek up some steep rocky trails, and included dodging garbanzo bean sized hail (twice), and trying to keep our hats on our heads (if not for the marmots then for the random storm) among other things! Powell and Dominguez, our trusty pack llamas, took good care to pack in our food, tools, and heavy camp items the six or so miles up to our campsite along Slate Creek. We were a group of volunteers, Forest Service staff, and Student Conservation interns intent on making our way to Slate Lakes to clean up campfire rings, pack out trash, and do what we could to leave the land a little better than when we found it.
We had the good fortune of being able to hike in to our site from the upper trailhead of Boulder Creek Trail as a generous private property owner let our group park our cars at their property. Our hike in to our campsite was rather uneventful which in my mind was just fine. Dominguez (or Dom for short) and Powell, each burdened with 65 pounds of gear and food, made the slow hike in with me after the rest of the group set off. The boys as I also call them, were such seemingly good sports about the work they performed for us and I was glad for their furry company. The llamas and I stopped after steep hikes to catch our breath and dallied at streams for drinks of water and every so often we stopped at the side of the trail for tasty plants to graze on. All in all it took roughly four hours for us to get to the upper reaches of the valley where we planned on setting up camp.
Our home-away-from-home was perched above the trail on a mostly level prominence looking across the valley at what appeared to be some rather large historical avalanche paths off the north flank of Bledsoe Mountain. We set up tarps to shelter our tools and gear, set up a bear hang for food, placed a picket line for the llamas, dug a trench toilet system with the best view in the valley, and set up our cooking gear so we could all socialize as we prepared our meals together. When all the camp chores were taken care of we really had no other choice than to marvel at our beautiful surroundings and watch the large waterfall that ran down to a series of trout pools below us at Slate Creek. Todd, one of our volunteers and a fishing guide in a former life, spotted some nice browns and rainbows and made quick work to set up his rod and make a few casts before bedtime. Abby, the lead wilderness ranger of the FS crew was surprised with 8 birthday cards and some lemon pound cake from her crew, while the rest of us helped her celebrate by munching on chocolate sandwich cookies packed in for the special occasion. The stout hike, setting sun, and looming storm clouds gave us all plenty of reason to tuck in early to acquaint ourselves with our backcountry beds and look forward to the next day’s trek to the lakes.
The routine of camp can be a jarring adjustment if it’s not something you do regularly. Lowering and re-hanging your food, gathering water, setting up your kitchen, leaving a clean camp, then packing up llamas, and in this case rolling straight into manual work for the entirety of the day. It can be exhausting even before it’s time for a coffee break. As can be imagined, all of this is part of the process of performing routine work out in the backcountry and for many, is a ritual of the wilderness – a part of a job well worth the time and efforts needed to do good work. The volunteers and wilderness crew began their hike early and made their way to Upper Slate Lake so they could get a good start on campfire clean-up and gather the materials necessary for installing a “no campfires within ¼ miles of lake” sign. What I mean by this is rather than pack in a heavy, milled post, the wilderness crew chose to source a small, downed naturally rot resistant spruce for their lumber. Also, in these parts, digging a decent hole for sign installation is always tough so the sooner you get to digging, the better. Once you start excavating, you’re committed to the project, even if it means working after quitting time and/or it starts raining, or both. Dom got a day off from packing while Powell drew the short straw to carry in the roughly 30 pounds of tools, assorted gear, and llama snacks the roughly 2.7 miles to Upper Slate Lake. Lynette and Todd and I lead the llamas to meet the rest of the group and joined in on the afternoon of clean-up, restoration, and sign installation. John Taylor, easily the most veteran of the group at 81 and a long-time member of FENW, stayed behind to work in the valley as a one-man musk thistle eradication effort. Our day of work went by quickly as we worked, hunkered down against hail and rain, and dealt with the sad event of one of the volunteers hat’s being partially eaten by a marmot. Our encounters with other wilderness users were met with surprise as not many people were accustomed to seeing llamas and large work groups out so remotely. Most everyone we encountered was behaving and happy to see good work being done. We continued into the afternoon with another sign installation and campfire clean-up effort at Slate Lake and continued on with corridor clearing in some of the more brushy sections of trail. The second sign installation effort at Slate Lake was met with resistance on the part of large rocks that wouldn’t cooperate. Thus, Saturday a turned into a marathon work day with most everyone arriving back to camp after dinner time. However, we did good work and were proud of our efforts and I feel comfortable reporting that everyone was in good spirits – even the gentleman down a hat. We celebrated with some surprise refreshments, talked about our exciting day around our cooking circle and had another early evening as we were all pretty tuckered.
The trip flew by. Come morning we shook out our tents and repacked the llamas, this time substituting full food canisters and Forest Service signs for bags of trash and weeds collected from the trip. A broken elk call, a pudgie pie maker, random clothing, candy wrappers, webbing, fishing poles, and lots and lots of burned aluminum foil… all of it abandoned in this wilderness. Even after ten years of work as a wilderness ranger, I’m still amazed and a bit saddened by the choices of other humans. Kirk had to make an early departure in order to get to a play rehearsal on time and John decided to leave early too so as to leave himself plenty of time to make it to a meeting. The rest of us took off together, taking turns leading the llamas and making our way back to the trailhead. Save for a brief encounter with a resting bull moose, our hike out was pleasant and uneventful.
After all was said and done, I weighed our garbage haul in at around 15 pounds and our weed haul in at nearly 30. We cleaned up approximately 14 illegal campfire rings at the lakes and had what I felt was a really great time exploring the wilderness, unplugging for a day, and connecting ourselves to each other and the mountains and lakes we feel so akin to.Click HERE for pictures of work projects and the beautiful Slate Lakes
Dr. Paul Sutter, Chair, Department of History, University of ColoradoIn the FENW August eNewsletter, Paul Sutter, author of the fascinating and authoritative history of the wilderness movement Driven Wild – The Automobile and the Making of Modern Wilderness, relates current challenges to Wilderness to battles fought nearly a century ago.
In the FENW July eNewsletter, Dr. Esther Doyle writes movingly about finding your “Home of the Heart.” She describes “those places that we encounter with a shock of recognition. We know immediately that they are ours. We claim them perhaps because they first claim us.” Esther identifies three essential components to such a place: separateness, solitude, and simplicity.
From FENW's Trail Boss Kate: Hello everyone, I wanted to share a few pics of our new trail LLAMAS. Katherine, Alex, Mike and I made the trek to Dove Creek, CO (outside of Telluride), this last Thursday to bring POWELL and DOMINGUEZ to their summer quarters. The gray/black llama with the white star on his face is Powell and the extra fuzzy brown and white llama is Dominguez, or DOM for short. Dom and Powell have set up residence at the Minturn FS compound where they have a pasture to graze and a shelter to stay tucked away from cougars and bears during the night. The trails and wilderness crew and I are working on a rotating schedule to care for and exercise the llamas. If any of you are interested in meeting Powell and Dom, I encourage you to give me a shout so we can set up a walk or a visit. Just think! Dom and Powell are with us this summer to support our wilderness trail work projects THANKS TO YOU AND YOUR SUPPORT. Have a wonderful evening and stay tuned for more trail project and llama updates. Best, Kate
The June FENW e-newsletter features The Mystery of Aerie Cabin, by Maria DiBiase Eisemann. The old mining cabin, located high in Eagles Nest Wilderness, was rediscovered 50 years ago, after lying unknown the previous half-century. Maria writes movingly about her research about the place, and her personal journey of discovery.
Meet the 2018 class of USFS Wilderness Ranger Interns. Rollover an image to read the profile....Born and raised in El Dorado, Arkansas, Ron is currently a student at the University of Kansas. From an early age he learned from his father wilderness ethics and a respect for wildlife. Ron is an Eagle Scout, and the summer of 2016 he worked at Philmont Scout Ranch as a program counselor specializing in interpretation and fly fishing. During his free time he enjoys playing guitar and mandolin and getting into the backcountry to fish and observe wildlife. He hopes his summer working in the Eagles Nest, Flat Tops, and Holy Cross Wilderness areas will give him meaningful experiences towards a career in wilderness conservation....My name is Maria and I’m coming straight from my college graduation at St. Lawrence University in New York to the White River National Forest. I grew up in Vermont and decided to stay east for school despite the allure and pull of the wild west, so I’m very excited to finally make my way across the Mississippi to some bigger mountains. My travels as a skier and geology major have brought me through Colorado quite a few times before but this time I’m looking forward to sticking around for longer than a week. I brought my skis with me, so in addition to the work I’ll be doing as a Wilderness Ranger and Trails Intern I’m hoping to find some leftover patches to get some summertime turns on, or at least doing some recon for the next season! In my spare time you can find me hiking, snacking, riding my bike named Rigatoni, or in the kitchen creating recipes for gourmet backpacking meals and working on refining my bread baking skills....Originally from the greater Cleveland area, Hannah just finished her 3rd year at the University of Pittsburgh where she studies chemical engineering. Her love of the wilderness began with national park family vacations, and only grew from there. In the summer of 2016 Hannah worked as a wrangler on a dude ranch in Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming. More recently, she worked as an EMT in Hampton, Pennsylvania....Ainsley is a recent graduate from the University of Massachusettes Amherst with her BS in Environmental Conservation and is continuing her schooling at UMass for a Masters in Public Policy. She’s passionate about sustainability and has transitioned her institution towards resource conservation practices during her time as the Secretary of Sustainability for the Student Government Association. Ainsley loves identifying plants and searching for amphibians in her free time. She plans to formulate more equitable policies for the earth and all its inhabitants in her future.My name is Franz; I am a Southern California boy who loves the outdoors. I am currently a senior at San Diego State University studying Recreation and Tourism Management with an emphasis on Outdoor Resource Management. I was born in the Los Angeles area and moved down to San Diego when I was 7 years old. Most of my life I was involved with organized sports and now I stay active doing the things I love every chance I get. I enjoy surfing, skateboarding, camping/backpacking, and riding my dirt bike down in Baja. I have not spent much time in Colorado and am extremely excited to explore and experience the beauty of the Eagles Nest Wilderness.
Read about Environment for the Americas – EFTA – in the FENW May newsletter, written by its founder and Executive Director, Dr. Susan Bonfield. EFTA is committed to protecting the migratory birds that we all love, especially by enlisting young people in the birds’ winter habitats in Mexico and Central America.
The Summit County Rescue Group is at the forefront of readiness, expertise, and commitment when it comes to rescuing lost, injured, or stranded visitors to the backcountry 24/7/365. While about two-thirds of the calls they receive self-resolve, they deploy 50-90 times a year, usually in rugged terrain, often after dark, and frequently during foul weather. Read about this amazing organization in the FENW April newsletter, written by Charles Pitman.Charles Pitman in action
The FENW RETREAT was a huge success, thanks especially to Stuart Dodd (standing, 6th from right), Chair of IPWA (Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance) whose skills as a facilitator kept us thinking, discussing, laughing for seven hours, even through a working dinner. The entire Board, two US Forest Service reps, and several interested volunteers kept up a steady rain of ideas. The walls were covered with our results - a few examples: _
Senator Kerry Donovan writes about her famous grandfather, Bill Mounsey, in the March FENW Newsletter – and there’s no mistaking the resemblance! Read how Bill fought CDOT over the I-70 route, the US Forest Service over the size of Eagles Nest, and especially the Denver Water Board over water rights. Kerry writes also about his outsized life, and the deep influence that he had on her personal life.
FENW had an informal party at Ollie’s Pub in Frisco.Trail Projects leader Kate Demorest proposed, planned, and hosted the event.Several dozen board members and friends attended. More pictures HERE.
100,000 acres for WE THE PEOPLE in Summit and Eagle Counties: In our February Newsletter, Vail environmental activist and founder of the famous Women’s Empowerment Workshop Susie Kincade describes the wonderful bill before Congress that will create new recreation areas, new Wildernesses, new game management areas, and the nation’s first National Historic Landscape at the famous Camp Hale. The amazing thing is that all of this will be accomplished without limiting any activity currently permitted, but will just guarantee opportunities for outdoor recreation for generations, right in our neck of the woods. Click for MAP
TV PREMIER: The Walker family rebuilt their famous cabin on Bighorn Creek last summer, using traditional tools. A team of photographers monitored progress, and their splendid production was shown on the DIY channel on January 16. More here.
Meet Tim Drescher, FENW’s new President, in the January 2018 Newsletter. Tim writes about his love of wilderness, and the photo journal that he keeps documenting the many backcountry trips that he takes with his wife Kelly and dog Max. We are entering a new era at FENW, and Tim will convene a comprehensive planning workshop, combining plans for a celebration of our first 25 years (in 2019) with a roadmap for the future. He urges wilderness lovers like you to get involved – just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org expressing your interest.
FENW has received its biggest donation EVER! Breckenridge residents Susy and Bill Gillilan have donated two-thousand dollars to FENW. They are true friends of the environment – and Wilderness in particular – Bill is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with FENW.The Gillilans, residents of Breckenridge, have made an extraordinarily generous donation to FENW.Bill & Susy could not have made their gift at a better time. FENW, led by new President Tim Drescher, faces growing challenges, including overuse by our loving public, underfunding to the USFS, and increasing pressures on public land protections. Read more about Bill’s illustrious career HERE.