Colorado 2020: COVID Scare

This post continues the story of my AmeriCorps service term in Colorado in 2020, and it will make more sense if you read some of the previous posts! The rest of this series can be found here.

A reservoir.
The reservoir behind my house outside of Boulder. CO, as seen on July 31, 2020.

When I moved to Colorado in the summer of 2020 to spend all of my time either working outdoors or being isolated in a house outside of town, I used to brag that I was about as COVID-safe as possible. Events that took place of July 29, 2020 showed that wasn’t entirely true.

My coworkers and I began our workday as we usually did. I got up much earlier than I needed to, so that I could make breakfast and enjoy my fancy coffee.

I have a bit of a coffee bar at home, and I brought some of my equipment with me to Colorado. This included a hand-powered coffee grinder, a French press, a moka pot, and an ibrik (for making Turkish coffee). On workdays, I typically made coffee with my French press, because it was easy to clean.

As mentioned above, our house – which was owned by the City of Boulder’s Open Spaces and Mountain Parks department – was on the outskirts of town. It featured an outdoor seating area that I called the “patio,” which had a cobblestone floor and two metal picnic tables. This patio overlooked two expansive fields of multi-colored grasses, several artificial lakes, and the city of Boulder in the distance.

I liked to spend my mornings on this patio: sipping coffee, watching the sunrise, and reading.

The rest of my housemates would trickle out of bed at various times, although we’d all be ready to leave by 7 AM. On July 29, we piled into our van at the usual time and drove to the Fern-Mesa reroute project, which I introduced here.

When we arrived that day, we learned that Jo was out sick. She had reported one symptom of COVID, so she had to stay home until she took a COVID test.

In the summer of 2020, nearly everything was considered to be a COVID symptom. Loss of taste? COVID. Runny nose? COVID. You don’t like pickles? Definitely COVID. Still, the City of Boulder wasn’t taking any chances.

Jo’s illness caused some concern in our crew, because we’d been working closely with her for several days. I was also bummed that she wasn’t in, because I enjoyed working with her, even though she was a super villain.

Despite the loss of our fearless leader, we had to get some work done, or we’d be forced to watch 90s-era sitcoms. My first task was to clean up debris and move rocks on the outside edge of the trail we were building. This required myself and a coworker to use rock bars, which I wrote about in the previous post.

An actual photo of me moving a rock (not). Image by jLasWilson from Pixabay.

I worked on this task for some time, and then switched to treading.

As a refresher, treading involved putting the correct angle on a trail, and making it nice and walkable. Kait, our main contact with the City of Boulder, said that I got my section of trail to look “like glass.” I’m guessing this meant that it was perfectly smooth (much of what I do is perfect), because the trail looked like it was made of dirt to me. Nevertheless, I appreciated the compliment.

One of my coworkers working on the backslope of a section of trail.

Having successfully treaded one section of trail, Kait moved me to a more difficult portion. This new segment wound all over the place, was uneven, and contained many rocks. All I had time to do was to begin cleaning the backslope.

The backslope is the part of a trail that slopes into the hill above it. The backslope should be smooth and angled very gently, so that water runs down it slowly, thereby minimizing erosion. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly how steep a backslope is when it’s covered in debris, which is why I had to tidy it up.

I worked on the backslope of my new trail portion for a little while, and then it was time to go. As usual, my coworkers and I gathered our tools, hiked to our van, and drove back to our house on the hill.

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