Friday, May 31, 2013

Clean the Poudre 2013

In Jon's second post he tells us about his experience during the recent Poudre River Cleanup, sounds like it was a great event!  Trailcology appreciates the organizations and citizens who took the time to organize the event and cleanup, thanks!  - Chris

The 14th annual Cache la Poudre River Cleanup was held last Saturday and it turned out to be an awesome day helping get the river and trail in sparkling shape for the summer. Local rafting company Mountain Whitewater Descents coordinated the event with additional sponsors including Save the Poudre, City of Fort Collins Natural Areas, American Rivers and New World Sports. Its estimated that between 80-90 volunteers arrived bright and early at Lee Martinez Park armed with work gloves and a passion for keeping our local river and trail system free of trash.  After a quick orientation and safety meeting reminding everyone to leave the sketchy items behind, the volunteers were given trash bags and set free to clean the river and trail between Shields and Lemay Ave. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the overall lack of trash along this stretch of the river.  This is one of the most heavily trafficked sections of the Poudre Trail and is also one of the more scenic stretches of urban river that you can find anywhere. Although we discovered quite a mess on the north side of the river especially around College Avenue, it was still relatively clean after a long winter. I think this speaks to the incredible community of environmentally conscious citizens that we have in Fort Collins. Everyone loves the river and is willing to give it the care it deserves.  On an even better note, the Poudre is running high and appears to be much cleaner and less clogged with debris after the High Park Fire last June. I highly recommend attending this event in the future as it is extremely rewarding and really brings the community together. 
I had the chance to speak with several anglers on the river throughout the morning and they were all incredibly appreciative of the work being done. One guy even managed to snag a large brown trout right as we were passing through the area.  
Following the cleanup, a large volunteer appreciation event was held at Mountain Whitewater Descents located at 1329 North Highway 287. Food was provided by the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant and LaPorte Pizza with plenty of tasty beer courtesy of Odell’s.  This was an awesome way to end the day and it was great to talk with all the volunteers about their experience.  Overall, everyone seemed to have a positive experience and many indicated this is an event they will return to for years to come.  Get out on the Poudre Trail and check out the hard work done by our local volunteers, it’s pretty encouraging.   

Happy Trails!

"People can be divided into three groups: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. Showing up is 80 % of life."
   -Woody Allen 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer Explorations: Vedauwoo

With all the trails and recreation opportunities available in the Fort Collins area, it’s easy to forget that the wild terrain of southeastern Wyoming beckons just to our north.  Although the secret has already been out for quite some time, there is a vast, granite oasis hidden in this barren landscape called Vedauwoo (Vi De Vu). Named for the Arapahoe word meaning “earth born,” Vedauwoo is a high altitude maze of Sherman granite, dense pine forests and aspen groves that draws mountain bikers, climbers, hikers and snowshoers to its easily accessible location off Interstate 80, 20 miles east of Laramie.  (You can view the close proximity to I80 on this map).  Most passing motorists ignore this area as it isn’t completely visible from the highway (Exit # 329) but a short trip past the exit reveals a startling array of climbing opportunities, wildlife and scenic camping. The University of Wyoming holds a ritual called the Vertical Dance on the cliffs every spring. This event draws hundreds of people and it really highlights how versatile and sacred this area really is.  The alien-esque rock at Vedauwoo is 1.4 million year old Sherman Granite, exposed over thousands of years by the gradual uplift of the Laramie Mountains to the south. Amazingly, the Tetons, 8 hours to the north, are still more than a billion years older than this formation. You can learn more about the geology of the region through this interesting Turnstone article.  Wyoming also maintains a detailed online database on Vedauwoo and the interesting trails in the region. 
The randomness and beauty of the area make it immensely popular with Wyoming residents who flock here every summer to climb one of the more than 900-recorded routes in the region and observe the large populations of mule deer, elk and yellow-bellied marmots that call Vedauwoo home.  There are 28 semi primitive campsites available at a minimal fee of 10 dollars per night, although many people choose to camp at a non-designated spot further into the park.  If a daytrip is what you prefer, a 5-dollar fee is required to park your vehicle.  Updated campsite information and alerts can be found here. With incredible views of the Continental Divide and Longs Peak from every angle, it’s a small price to pay for access to such an amazing area. Although the official USFS open date for the area is May 15th, you can still park outside the gates and walk in at any time of year. I can’t wait to get up there and take some updated pictures of those crazy rock formations and infamous crack climbs.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Project Day: Hermit Park Open Space Slash Pile Burn Scar Remediation 4/6/13

Wow.  What a beautiful property Larimer County has with the Hermit Park Open Space.  Being able to spend a day remediating burn scars on the landscape at Hermit Park was more like a day of enjoying the outdoors with new friends more than it was a full day of work.  The weather forecast leading up to the project day wasn't exactly giving me warm fuzzy feelings.  When the project day finally arrived, we had nothing but sunny skies the whole day.
Casey Cisneros

The day started with all of the volunteers and County staff gathering at the Hermit Park visitors center.  After some chatting over pastries and coffee we headed up the road to the Hermit Cabin picnic area.  We assembled our tools and received a great project overview and example of our work for the day from Casey Cisneros.  Then we formed into small crews of 4-5 and headed out on our own to remediate as many slash pile burn scars as we were able to.

Hydrophobic soil clod
Remediating slash pile burn scars is actually quite fun.  It's sort of a combination of gardening and ecological restoration.  The process starts by clearing remnant debris from the burn scar and using a stiff garden rake to break up the soils.  Many times, slash pile burning causes hydrophobic soils - soils that resist water infiltration due to the buildup of a waxy coating caused by the high heat of a stationary fire - which restricts plant growth on the burn patch.

Preparing the seedbed
After the soils are broken up the seedbed is prepared by raking the soil until the patch looks a bit like a garden bed, the tines of the rake making many small furrows.  Seeds are then thrown out by hand, or using a broadcast seeder.  The next step is to use a floppy metal leaf rake to do the "hop and shuffle"!  I know it sounds silly but this method is extremely effective for incorporating the seeds into the soil without covering them with too much soil.  Essentially, you bounce the rake back and forth across the soil surface, or hop-and-shuffle the rake across the soil.
Finishing touches
Once all of the seeds have been incorporated you finish the remediation process by adding grass litter, pine needles, pine cones, sticks, etc as a form of mulch to improve soil moisture and reduce the probability of seeds blowing away.

Our 4-person crew was able to remediate about 15 slash piles during the course of the day, as a group we addressed roughly 75 slash piles around the Cabin Loop of Hermit Park.  It was really a gorgeous day and was a lot of fun!  Hopefully Trailcology will be able to make back up to Hermit Park this fall to treat some more slash piles, especially since they were able to burn another 75 this spring!

Enjoy the pictures!

Happy Trails,


Demonstrating how to throw seed

Alex talks to us about some of the plants we are seeing

It's not always hard work!

Our Crew!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Project Day: Friends of Lory trails day at Lory State Park

On April 27th Trailcology assisted the Friends of Lory and Overland Mountain Bike Club groups to maintain a variety of trails in Lory State Park that needed some love. The weather was amazing and so were all of the volunteers that came out to help!

After a general introduction from Friends of Lory we broke up into separate crews and were assigned trail segments. The Trailcology crew was made up of Jon and I along with 7 other folks. We were fortunate enough to be assigned the Mill Creek and Howard trails! Other groups were assigned to the Shoreline trail, the South Valley trail, and Arthur's Rock trail - all of which were impacted by the Galena Fire. The majority of work for the day was all maintenance related such as, cleaning out water bars, breaking down berms, and adding drainage features like nicks and rolling grade dips.

As we started to make our way up Mill Creek we stopped to look at all of the drainage structures on the way up. If you're not familiar with Mill Creek trail you should know that there are many water bars and steps on the way up Mill Creek from the South Valley trail. Many of these made for good learning points where we could stop and talk about the work that needed to be done on these kinds of structures. After everyone was comfortable with what we needed to do I broke the crew up into smaller crews to tackle a small section of trail at a time. I had two crews working on grade dips and one working on a water bar (which was beautifully done!). Everything was going very smoothly and we were accomplishing quite a bit along the Mill Creek and Howard Trails, until we found a questionable section of trail under a ponderosa pine.

The section of trail that came into question was on Howard and was directly under a ponderosa pine. The out slope of the trail was starting to erode because the edge was very soft from years of pine needle deposition. We decided that if it was left alone it would probably cause the trail to creep downhill. The decision was made to complete a rock retaining wall that would hold the trail tread in place for years to come.

We knew that we only had an hour and a half to complete the work but by that time all of my mini crews came together and we were able to get some serious work done! We started by digging down to hard mineral soil on the out slope edge to remove the excessive buildup of soft soil and pine needles. While some of the crew was cutting a bench into the hillside the rest of the crew went on rock detail to find suitable large rocks to build the foundation of the wall. Once we had made a large enough bench we started to stack the rocks. Building a rock retaining wall is a bit like working on a large, very heavy, jigsaw puzzle. It takes a lot of patience and much trial and error to find a way to make the big rocks fit together in a way that will provide a stable foundation for the smaller rocks that follow on the upper layers of the wall. Once all of the rocks were in place we were able to start backfilling with soil and smaller rocks to create a solid trail tread that would resist the forces of all trail users as well as the natural forces of erosion.

Everyone on my crew did an absolutely amazing job with their small maintenance projects, but especially with the rock retaining wall. I have never seen a structure like that be built so well in such a short amount of time - it was really a testament to how well my crew worked together! After some celebratory high-fives and photos, we started heading back down the mountain to meet with the other crews and join in on the barbecue.

I had an amazing time on this project and cannot speak highly enough about my crew. Jack, Zack, Susan, Steve, Dave, Jameson, Corey, and Jon you guys rock!

Until next time, enjoy the photos from the day!

Happy Trails,