A week working in the Flat Tops

CMC's Stewardship Crew cleared and maintained trails in a remote part of the White River National Forest
CMC Conservation
August 22, 2022

Written By Rhea Ebel-Chiles, a member of CMC's 2022 stewardship crew.

We just finished up an 8 day hitch in the Flat Tops Wilderness area outside of Meeker, Colorado. This is such a wonderful part of the state with so so many trails and areas to explore. Because of how many trails exist up there and how much of a secret it seems to be, they don't get too much use.  So we had our work cut out for us, quite literally…

The first 4 days of our hitch we spend brushing Flower Bench trail. If you've ever done much gardening, this is very similar to weeding. On your hands and knees cutting small trees and brush with hand saws and loppers. This trail was so overgrown that some sections were barely walkable! This trail had pretty much no shade and ALOT of black flies. But for this week, CMC's two crews - one based in Salida and the other in Steamboat - teamed up. Having not seen them since our training weeks we enjoyed catching up. Swapping trail stories from the season, whilst working made the heat, sun and flies not seem so bad!

Camp was near the North Fork forest service ranger district, with great access to trails right from camp. I am an avid trail runner, so I enjoyed many dusk and dawn runs on the nearby trails and had them all to myself. Camp had the luxury of having a hose - it’s not often that our camps have running water, so I took every opportunity to cool off and clean up with a hose shower! We didn't have any crazy wildlife encounters, even though it seemed like prime moose habitat. However we did have a skunk awfully close to camp one night and a resident marmot who lived under the shed, but both seemed friendly enough and caused no problems.

Day 5 we cleaned up a mudslide on the South Fork trail alongside the Forest Service and Rocky Mountain Youth Corp. This mudslide was likely caused the Friday beforehand. This meant it had just enough time to dry out and become a solid chunk of earth and rocks, which required a lot of picking and digging to rebuild the trail. This is one of the more popular trails in the area and so whilst working passing members of the public couldn't thank us enough!

A mud slide in the Flat Tops Wilderness

Day 6 we hiked Big Ridge trail, again with the Forest Service and Rocky Mountain Youth Corp. We brought 2 cross cut saws and a couple of hand saws and in total cut 150 trees that day! It was a long day, we all got a lot of practice perfecting our cross cut technique and it was wrapped up with a long hike out in the rain!

One of my favorite parts of being on the trail crew is getting to go to beautiful spots in the state that I maybe wouldn't have explored without the excuse of work. Then also meeting all the different project partners, everybody comes from different backgrounds and hometowns - but all with the common love of the outdoors! 

A trail in the Flat Tops Wilderness

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