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Carrying on Tradition

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Beth Vanderborgh finishes raking her part of the trail

Beth Vanderborgh finishes raking her part of the trail and checks in with the person behind her before continuing on on Friday. Everyone grabbed a tool for the day and Vanderborgh had the rake. They would walk up the trail a short distance and rake backwards down the trail until they reached their previous starting point.

A team of Wyoming Conservation Corp members staked out a hitch in the Bighorns near HF Bar guest ranch for a few weeks in July, repairing and restoring part of a trail that rises away from the ranch and up into the Bighorns. The group camps, traveling up the trail to their new workplace every day helping to stabilize, clean and restore the trail as it weaves up the mountain. The conservation corp is a historied organization in Wyoming and in the area. Learn more about corp and its work locally in our July 29th edition. 

This trail requires five creek crossings

The trail being maintained on this hitch requires the crossing of five creeks before it levels into just trail. The groups work the summer in a series of hitches, or period where they are working on a new trail for a few weeks before moving to the next hitch.

Caleb Johnson uses a lopper or branch trimmer

Caleb Johnson, the outreach coordinator for the Wyoming Conservation Corp, uses a lopper or branch trimmer to clear some encroaching branches just off the trail on Friday.

Blake Stevens jokes with Jackson Clough and Cooper Palmieri

From left, crew leader Blake Stevens jokes with crew members Jackson Clough and Cooper Palmieri as they figure out what work needs to be done to continue the hard to find trail. While the trail was getting more difficult to locate, its path was marked with pink ribbon tied to trees helping it shine through in occasional patches.

Beth Vanderborgh enjoys the water break

Beth Vanderborgh enjoys the water break from below the rest of the group, squatting just uphill from the trail. Vanderborgh is a Cello professor at UW who normally travels to play in an orchestra over the summer, but was unable to this year because of COVID-19. Instead, she decided to join the WCC for the summer. Many of the kids lovingly referred to her as the sort of mom of the group.

After moving their bags from the starting spot

After moving their bags from the starting spot of the day to the new working area, the group settled down for a brief snack and break to cool off on Friday in the Bighorns. The Wyoming Conservation Corp draws largely from college aged students on summer vacation - mostly from UW here.

Caleb Johnson, left, laughs with Jackson Clough

Caleb Johnson, left, laughs with Jackson Clough, far right, and other members of the crew as they retrieve their backpacks and move them up trail to the new working area on Friday.

Jackson Clough throws his hands onto his hand

Jackson Clough throws his hands onto his hand as he tells other crew members a story from a previous hitch. Clough was one of the visiting crew members who joined this crew for this hitch but doesn’t stay with them all summer.

The trail before, left, and after it is raked

The trail before, left, and after it is raked and worked on by the crew. They use a variety of tools to help fix up the trail by clearing it and making it more walkable.

Kyler Muffet uses a hard rake to clear grass and rocks

Kyler Muffet uses a hard rake to clear grass and rocks and debris off the trail. Muffett’s family moved to Buffalo after he graduated high school and moved to UW for school.

Crew leaders Kylie Lamoree and Blake Stevens make a cairn

Crew leaders Kylie Lamoree and Blake Stevens make a cairn, or stacked pile of rocks to mark their ending point for the day in the Bighorns. They store some of the tools off the trail over night when they can so as to avoid having to carry everything up each day and use the cairn to confirm their stopping point.

Kyler Muffet lays on the ground as he jokes around

Kyler Muffet lays on the ground as he jokes around with crew member Cooper Palmieri. Cooper joked that Kyler was his personal photographer on the trips as he posed for a photo or two.

Andrew Kaufman carried one of the rough hoes

Andrew Kaufman carried one of the rough hoes back down to camp to be sharpened. The university requires a certain amount of time be dedicated to educational experiences curing each hitch. On this day, the corp worked a half day and spent the second half of the day at Fort Phil Kearny throwing atlatls.

The conservation corp camps at the base

The conservation corp camps at the base of the trail during each hitch on Friday in the Bighorns. The corp members use their own tents and then share a cook tent where they can hang out and eat together. The camp stays in the same location throughout the hitch and the WCC team hikes in from the camp to the trail each day.

Photojournalist

Jessi Dodge joined the Bulletin as a photojournalist and a Report for America corp member in 2020. If you have ideas or comments, reach out at jessi@buffalobulletin.com.

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