Last summer (2016) Yan Chun Su, a longtime volunteer, took on her first assignment as a crew leader, a role extremely important to the success of WRV in fulfilling its goal to the heal the land and build community. Here is Yan’s account of that first project:
“Shortly after I “graduated” a.k.a got my pink hat from WRV’s crew leader training program, this greenhorn Crew Leader got a casual email from Jarret asking me if I would lead a trail restoration project up Georgia Pass. “Easy, everyone will be together.” according to Jarret. High peaks are magnets to me and so, the fun of my first crew leading began.
True to the spirit of adventure, the Continental Divide welcomed us with thunderstorm at night and misty rain in the morning. I was nervous and excited when after breakfast, my crew of two men and two women, all strong looking, joined me. My first crew! We jumped on the super bumpy 4wd road to our work site and, more adventure awaited us. The heavy supplies, tools, wattles, erosion matting, etc. that were supposed to be carried up by llamas earlier hadn’t quite make it up the trail, instead, they were scattered along the steep slope shrouded in rain/fog.
Determined, my super bad-ass crew led the way up. High altitude, fine. Cold rain, no problem. Shoveling, McCloud-ing, we (or more precisely they) built water bars, moved rocks, moved dirt, installed wattles, rolled out matting. Sometimes the visibility was so low we felt like we were working in the cloud. Some noted highlights: Mistaking a rained soaked erosion matting for a wattle; the whole crew awkwardly but successfully carried a wattle together up a near vertical slope; being cold and wet but having a blast; the most gorgeous sunny view on the second day; and shooting mountain goats, with camera! It’s super satisfying to see the heavily eroded trail like a deep scar on the face of the mountain now nicely tended to by all our hard work, waiting for nature to heal.”
A story by one of our terrific volunteers, Wendy, that reflects the community spirit that is so much a part of our core values:
“This has little to do with me and everything to do with true esprit de corps. August 2015. Our mission: complete a 90-foot bomb-proof boardwalk (see image), the crown jewel of the Brainard Lake–Mitchell Lake Connector Trail. This was day ten of work on the boardwalk I’d worked on all summer. We scored the Dream Team: four cadets from the Air Force Academy, outstanding young men who’d driven three hours after final exams, choosing to spend their weekend-pass volunteering. Their politeness, energy, and intelligence were amazing! We got the brains and the brawn needed to engineer and finish building this link in the trail. Mother Nature, however, had other ideas. Close to completion and on a tight timeline, lightning and rain forced us from the worksite around 4:00 pm.
En route to camp, our TA queried by radio: “Would anyone be willing to eat a quick dinner and return to the worksite, once the storm had passed?” The vote was an immediate and unanimous YES! Dry and full of spaghetti, our team enthusiastically hiked back to the boardwalk, forgoing the evening’s festivities of relaxing by a bonfire with music and adult beverages. Word got out in camp and a few other hearty souls from other crews eagerly joined us. We worked hard into the night, figuring out the final angles, hauling rock, cutting and pinning timbers. We were graced by a beautiful Indian Peaks Wilderness sunset. I received the honor of driving the “Golden Stake,” i.e. the “final Timberlock.”
Hiking out in the dark, we still had to carry out a large stash of tools needed the next day. Tired, but happy, we got back into camp around 10:00 pm. The work ethic and esprit de corps displayed by the cadets and the other WRV volunteers was absolutely amazing! It was an honor being part of it.”
This story takes us up to Georgia Pass, where Jean-Pierre Georges (whom many of you know) and the rest of the volunteers faced some difficult challenges from the outset. Here is Jean-Pierre’s account of that project:
“A few days before the first Georgia Pass project this past season, which consisted in revegetating an old 4WD road (4,800 feet long and 1,100 feet in elevation change), the “plan” was clear. Llamas had staged the materials (erosion matting rolls and coir logs) all along the “road”, and all the way to the top (12,800 feet). Crews would start from the top and little by little would work their way down. And the weather would absolutely cooperate.
Well, first the llamas could not carry those loads very far (slanted terrain, loads too wide) and a few materials were scattered all over the mountain.
Second, the weather turned quite bad on Friday and the decision was made not to start from the top but much lower, in order to be less prone to lightning.
Third, Jarret and our star botanist Tim Seastadt decided that changing the sections around and establishing last minute “controls” was a good idea (which it actually was.)
Now, here is Jean-Pierre, the “official” Technical Advisor arriving on Saturday at 6:00AM and finding out that the “very carefully planned” project was all topsy-turvy.
After some hand-wringing, tear-shedding, and a lot of scrambling the whole team managed to:
1- Replace the llamas with John Peterson (a volunteer training for climbing Everest next spring) and a few others who carried all the materials where needed;
2- Reallocate the Crew Leaders to the new sections and get them up to speed as quickly as possible;
3- Keep a festive air with the volunteers and make sure that they were confident that we knew what we were doing, and;
4- Force the weather to clear up by 1:30PM and stay clear for the rest of the weekend.
All I can say is that whatever the odds, whatever the circumstances, WRV always makes it happen. Flexibility and resourcefulness are our creed.”