Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Photos From the Field: Never Summer Wilderness

In early July Wilderness Volunteers completed a service project in the Never Summer Wilderness of the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest in northern Colorado.

The Never Summer Wilderness shares its eastern boundary with Rocky Mountain National Park. This 21,000-acre wilderness includes landscapes from forested ridges to steep tundra ranging in elevation from 8,900 to 12,520 feet.  Spruce, fir and lodge-pole pine blanket the lower elevations.  This area receives large amounts of snow, and four of its peaks have names that hint at their cloud-topped heights: Cirrus, Cumulus, Stratus and Nimbus.

The popular Baker Gulch trail leads to Never Summer's beautiful Parika Lake, however it has been suffering from a lack of maintenance for nearly a decade and the upper sections of the trail have become nearly impassable due to large fallen trees.

Our volunteers began the week with a Forest Service shuttle in to the Bowen Baker Trail head before backpacking about a mile in and setting up camp in a remote area. During the week the crew worked with a Forest Service wilderness ranger to clear and repair the Baker Gulch trail. Work included removing large fallen trees from the trail with a crosscut saw, clearing brush away from the trail, and placing over 76 rock steppers through marshy areas. 

Each day volunteers were treated to unique ridgeline views of the Never Summer Range and Rocky Mountain National Park as well as a few visits from a resident momma moose with her baby.


Want to give something back with Wilderness Volunteers in Colorado's Never Summer Wilderness?

The Spring 2018 projects were released on our website October 2nd & the Summer and Fall 2018 projects will be released December 1, 2017.

Photos by WV Project Leader Benjamin Johnson.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wilderness Volunteers Internship: Adventure #3

Inyo National Forest, Minaret Lake

My last project for the year as a WV intern was just outside of Mammoth, California at the base of the Minarets. Aside from LAX, this was my my first time in California. It had only been a week since my last WV trip and I was excited to be on another project in a new, very beautiful, location. We met as a group the night before and helped to pack food into the bear panniers for the trip. On the route to basecamp, we saw Devils Post Pile National Monument, crossed the JMT and the PCT, and got a few glances at the spires in the distance.

Necessary Work

The region we were working in received 200% of normal annual precipitation which made for about 20 downed trees over the trail, washed out bridges and overfull water bars. Before working on WV projects I never really new how much it took to maintain trails. The first two days we logged out the trail using the cross cut saw to clear trees and block secondary trails. For the second part of the project we did a variety of tasks such as campsite restoration, rocking the trail and building check dams.

WV Community 

Perhaps the best part of WV projects is the community that develops during the trip. Everyone is passionate about the preservation of these recreational areas and has a deep respect and appreciation for the environment. It is so refreshing to leave the phone behind and spend a week straight focusing on just what is present.

What I learned from WV 

Being an intern for Wilderness Volunteers was an awesome experience that will help to shape my perception of conservation and preservation and serve as a means to give something back. I learned about the process of caring for the environment and I met numerous people with such a passion for the outdoors they are willing to give time in an effort for the greater good of the environment.  Thank you to everyone who has participated on a WV trip and I encourage anyone who is interested to give it a shot! See you later.

Written by Kevin Graves; WV's 2017 Intern. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Wilderness Volunteers Internship: Adventure #2

Snowmass Wilderness, Maroon Bells 

My second project of my internship with Wilderness Volunteers was in Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness. I came into the project ready and eager for the trip and the community of the coming week. Crazy as it is in the last week of July, snow prohibited us from working on the planned project which called for a quick back up plan. Plan B turned out to be working on the same trail system but on the back side of the Bells. The majority of the group met up at a nearby campground the night before, allowing us to get to know each other, exchange stories and anticipate the upcoming week. The next day the group (about 9 of us) piled into Forest Service trucks and 4-wheel to the trailhead for the hike into basecamp. As a Colorado native, I was surprised to be taken
back by the views throughout the trip. Cascading waterfalls, jagged peaks, an array of wildflowers and the daily moose sighting made for one of the fastest weeks of the summer. However, all of those things are not nearly as memorable as the community that grew over the week and the joy exchanged by working with other people for the good of the environment.

Factors of a Successful WV Trip  

The leaders for this trip; Carter and Jeff (with a huge thanks to Robin, Carter's wife for amazing food prep) made the week smooth and enjoyable. They had an in-depth understanding of the project which complimented the Forest Service crew well. In addition to that, all the volunteers were helpful with getting water, doing dishes and any other camp chores.

Trail work  

The project for the week was building water bars and check steps for a section of the four pass loop. We built a total of 98 features along the trail with panoramic views at over 12,000 feet each day. One neat opportunity of the trip was getting to talk to hikers about Wilderness Volunteers. Many seemed interested in getting involved in the organization in coming years. KJ, one of the other volunteers I
befriended told me that he used his vacation each year to come on WV trips. I thought to myself, what a great way to see the country and be doing something productive for the planet. Through my internship with WV I hope to spread this idea to more of the outdoor community. Becoming involved in something that allows us to be a part of something greater while still allowing us to have a great time outside is exactly what WV offers.

My Role as an Intern 

As an intern my main goal is to spark more interest and publicity for the organization. I will be writing an article to submit to Backpacker Magazine in an effort to communicate with the outdoor community about the awesome opportunities Wilderness Volunteers has to offer. I also plan to give a presentation to the environmental college and Northern Arizona University about the organization. In addition to that, I hope to continue my involvement with WV by participating in future trips and eventually becoming a trip leader. Help me by sharing WV with your friends and the rest of our community. See you on the trails!

Written by Kevin Graves, WV's 2017 Intern.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wilderness Volunteers Internship: Adventure #1

My First WV Project as an Intern

Driving into Escalante, Utah I did not really know what to expect for the coming week. I had been studying conservation and preservation for two years in college but this would be my first project outside of school. My excitement and anticipation grew after meeting the leaders for the trip and some of the other volunteers at a local Grand Staircase rally. After only a few small conversations with the other participants my passion for the organization grew. Bringing approximately ten people together, who are all passionate about public land, to work on a project for the betterment of the area in an effort to give something back was an awesome concept that I was thrilled to be a part of.

The Scene

Born and raised in Colorado I am new to the desert landscape and Utah is quickly becoming my favorite state after only a few weeks in the canyons. The backpack into our basecamp was about ten miles both on the rim and within the steep canyon walls. This allowed me to realize how Wilderness Volunteers serves as a great opportunity to see remote parts of the country while simultaneously
working for the improvement of the environment. Making our way into the canyon we were privileged to see a wide variety of mokey steps and petroglyphs riddled along the red walls. The project was located half way up Harris Wash, a side canyon of the Escalante. There was no established trail so we hiked up the stream winding in and out of alcoves until we ended up at our camp location, which was at the foot of a 300 foot canyon wall.
Each morning we made our way up the wash about a mile to the work site. Every corner we rounded in the canyon was a new window to an all new picturesque landscape.

The Project

The WV project in Escalante is part of a larger effort to eradicate Russian Olive which is an invasive species that is hyper adaptive to the area thus allowing it to out compete native plants and horde limited resources. In addition to that, the tree is excellent at stabilizing the banks of the river channel preventing the fluctuation in the sinuosity of the waterway allowing the stream to deepen channels. As the banks stabilize sediment is no longer deposited normally which alters the system as a whole. It was definitely hard work to actually remove and kill the tree.
This summer was the first season that the hack and squirt method was practiced. Trees with a base diameter of less than four inches were cut with a hand saw as close to the ground as possible and then sprayed with a chemical compound that the trees phloem would then transport to the roots ensuring the death of the tree. (The chemical used is activated by freshly cut wood and is deactivated when it makes contact with water making it safe for the local biotic community). For trees larger than four inches a hatchet was used to expose phloem and xylem around the tree and the squirted with the chemical to be circulated throughout the tree. All cutoff was downsized to 4 foot sections and placed in the wash where flash floods would wash it out of the canyon. 
All in all it was a great project! We treated over two miles of Harris wash (the final area of the Escalante Canyon). I am looking forward to my next two projects with Wilderness Volunteers later in the summer and many more in the future.

Written by Kevin Graves, WV's 2017 Intern.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Nighttime photography

One of the big challenges of outdoor adventures is capturing that magical experience that is night-time in the outdoors. Here are a few tips to help you take home a little bit of that nocturnal magic.

#1 Use a tripod

Trying to take quality photos at night with a handheld camera can be next to impossible. Use a tripod, a rock, or a handy tree to help keep your camera still during longer exposures to make sure night photos come out bright and crisp. That being said you can also purposely move your camera during night exposures to create fun effects like the one below.

Lava vent in Hawaii (handheld fun)
Halemaumau at night

#2 Use night time settings or longer exposures to expose low light scenes. 

The starry skies setting on a point and shoot can take nice photos of bright stars but use a longer shutter speed (15 seconds, 30 seconds, or bulb) to really capture night scenery.

 #3 Adjust your ISO settings to reduce noise in your photo

Long exposures with low light can cause bright pixels to appear in your photo if you are using a low ISO setting. Decrease noise by using higher ISO settings with longer shutter speeds and a low (wide) f-stop setting like f/2.8.

#4 Pick locations that have interesting features in addition to sky scenes.

Adding interesting features to your night/low light shots can be a great way to make a photo really pop. A sunset with a campfire, shooting stars over a lake, or a tree in front of the moon are a few examples.

#5 Experiment!

Don't be afraid to use different settings on your camera and see what happens. Sometimes something as simple as bracketing the exposure or changing the white balance can make a night/low light photo really special.

Hmmm: the moon or my headlamp?

Thank you to all our great volunteers who take fantastic photos of their adventures and upload them to our website for everybody to enjoy!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Leader Training Trip on the Wild and Scenic Salmon River

Wilderness Volunteers has returned from their annual Leader Training Trip to train a gaggle of new volunteer leaders. This year the project was located on the Wild and Scenic Salmon River in Idaho. The project ended up being a total adventure - perfect for WV leaders in training!

The Story

The original plan for our project was to backpack in to Horse Creek campground along the Salmon River to preform trail maintenance on the regional trails. We began our excursion towards our basecamp only to find after 3 miles of backpacking that the river had taken over expansive sections of the trail! The crew and pack string were forced to turn around and head back to the trailhead. After setting up camp at the trailhead for the night, the group huddled under blue tarps to stay out of a major rainstorm.

The following morning the crew started from the trailhead and worked out reconstructing a upslope rock retaining wall. The hope was that the water level would drop over the course of the day. To the crews' surprise the water level continued to rise, due to warming weather resulting in increased snow melt. The entire group was evacuated to a location up river as the increasing water level threatened to flood the road.
After driving to safety, the group of leaders in training set up a base camp for the third time in three days (outstanding training, if you ask us). For three of the next four day they worked to reconstruct the disintegrating China Gulch trail bordering the roaring Salmon River. They re-tread the trail, trundled large boulders obstructing the path, crosscut down logs and removed overgrown brush from the trail corridor. 
The week of work ended up being a major success, completing approximately two miles of involved trail maintenance! 

Time for Relaxation

The exciting start to the project resulted in the volunteers being thoroughly ready for some R n' R. On the off day, the crew explored Panther Hot Springs, not far from the weeks work location. Comparable to a miniature Yellowstone, Panther Hot Springs spout 199 degree waters which cascade over a rock face, building up mounds of reprecipitated rock! This results in unique and captivating rock formations. As the scalding water flows downhill, it meets up with a small creek which mixes and cools the water to a perfect soaking temperature in cascading pools. Not a bad way to kick back after the challenging work project!

 Leader Training

Aside from the work project, much of the week was dedicated to training the volunteers to become new leaders. Components of the training included Leave No Trace training, back country menu planning, cross cut training, first aid basics, project preparation, and much more!

Keep an eye out for projects with this new group of outstanding leaders! Many will begin leading in the 2018 season. Thank you for your hard work, new leaders!