Colorado 2020: The Fern-Mesa reroute begins

A shot taken with my cell phone on the trail by my house on July 25, 2020.

This post continues the retelling of my AmeriCorps service term in Colorado in 2020. The rest of this series can be found here.

Following our trip to the Flatirons, July 27, 2020 was the next noteworthy day during my time in Colorado. That’s because it was my first day actually working with the most dreaded figure in the City of Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) department: Jo.*

My crew and I rose early on the 27th (5 AM for me) to begin the project that would occupy most of our time in Boulder. This project was called the “Fern-Mesa” reroute, because it involved redirecting an existing section of trail that had become too eroded – and that ran through habitat that was too sensitive – for the City of Boulder’s standards.

We boarded our passenger van around 7 AM, laden with tools, and then drove to our new worksite. We parked outside of a cattle gate that was literally right next to someone’s house, and an OSMP worker opened the gate to let us through.

We then proceeded to drive our old, dirty van over one of the city’s well-manicured hiking trails. The trail was smooth and reasonably wide, so that it was easily traversable by car. There were, however, a few dips where our van’s trailer hitch scraped the ground, so that we had to remove it for subsequent trips.

Two of my coworkers hiking to the Fern-Mesa reroute. Photo taken with a cell phone while walking, which explains the blurriness.

We drove the trail, passing hikers with ski poles and ‘outdoorsy’ clothes, until we were probably within 100-200 metres of our worksite. We then disembarked from our van, grabbed our tools, and hiked a mere 10-15 minutes to our starting point.

As I mentioned before, this was our first day working with Jo. A singular object of fear and torment, no one knew where Jo came from (there were rumors that She may have always been), but everyone knew not to cross her. This meant that as we hiked towards our starting point, we were aware that we may have been hiking towards our ends.

When we reached our worksite, Jo chose to postpone our doom. She explained that she needed us to perform a task.

A crew of teenagers had been working on the Fern-Mesa reroute before us. No one told us what had happened to the teens, only that they’d made a mess. They’d cast the dirt and rocks from their excavations off to the side of the emerging trail, rather than dispersing it properly. This was bad, because if too much dirt piled up alongside the trail, then OSMP’s ecologists could shut the project down due to environmental concerns.

Her rage barely contained, Jo told us to clean up the teenagers’ mess by dispersing the dirt and rocks correctly. Wanting to keep our lives, we complied.

We went about raking dirt and moving rocks for most of the day. The area around this trail reroute was thickly wooded, full of evergreen trees that cast plentiful shade. The ground above and below the emerging trail was steeply sloped, so that it could be difficult to walk around off the trail.

We trudged up and down the slopes until almost 5 PM, trying to make the area around the trail reroute look natural. Once it was time for us to leave, though, we didn’t know what would happen to us. Fortunately, we’d proven ourselves useful, and Jo let us go so that we could work for her again.

In disbelief at our good fortune, we grabbed our gear, made the brief hike back to our van, and drove home.

A house on a hill near Boulder, CO
Our house on the hill outside Boulder, Co. Pretty sure I’ve shared this image before but that’s too bad.

*Note: Jo isn’t actually evil. That’s bad a joke, and one that she’s in on.

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