Volunteers to refurbish Hanging Lake Trail
September 10, 2011
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – For a second year in a row, crews of volunteer trail builders from across Colorado will convene in Glenwood Canyon for some heavy lifting to improve the Hanging Lake Trail.
The Basalt-based Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and the statewide Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado will be leading a two-day work project on the popular mile-long hiking trail over the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25.
More volunteers are needed for the work, which will be seriously strenuous, said RFOV Executive Director David Hamilton.
“This is heavy duty work. We will be moving 600-pound rocks,” he said.
“With most of our trail projects, we can accommodate people with other abilities. But for this project, we need volunteers who have some heft to them. It will be a nice workout, and satisfying work that you’d be able to go back and take your grandkids to see.”
The Hanging Lake Trail will be closed to the public all day Saturday, Sept. 24, and until 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.
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Trail work for this year will involve rebuilding rock retaining walls, removing trail hazards and installing as many stone steps as possible. The idea is to narrow the trail corridor by giving hikers a more clearly defined place to walk.
Over time, sections of the trail have become quite wide from hikers wandering along the trail corridor. By hardening a more narrow path about 3 feet wide with stone, vegetation may be able to creep back in along the edges. That, in turn, will reduce erosion and help maintain the high water quality in Deadhorse Creek, which flows along the trail route.
In this era of mountain bikes, stone steps are no longer built on many trails, Hamilton noted. The art of building stone steps is fading, but many crew leaders for this project have gotten refresher training. All the step and wall building will be by the dry-stack method, with no mortar.
Crews will be scavenging nearby rocks to create the steps and walls, although the definition of “nearby” could be as far as 200 to 300 feet.
“We’ll use what we find there, and there’s a lot of rock in that canyon,” Hamilton said. “The trick is finding the stone steps – the bigger, the better.”
The perfect stone for a step is 2 to 3 feet wide, 3.5 to 4 feet long and about 8 inches in thickness, he said. A rock like that can weigh 600 to 800 pounds.
Crews will be able to use tools to break apart rocks, and they’ll use straps and prybars to move rocks into place.
Volunteers will be divided into 15 crews of six to eight people, and each crew will have an assigned project on a specific stretch of the trail. Crew leaders are trained in advance, but volunteers can just register in advance and show up to work.
RFOV and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado provide breakfast and lunch both days and dinner on Saturday for the trail crews, and plenty of socializing is encouraged.
“We try to make it a great experience for people,” Hamilton said. “If people are tired, dirty and smiling, that’s a good end of the day for us.”
This trail work is a continuation of a large work plan laid out in 2009 by U.S. Forest Service designers for the Hanging Lake Trail, which is seeing a rapid increase in visits. It is intended to complement the extensive work done by Forest Service contractors in 2010 to rebuild the boardwalk around Hanging Lake and install new handrails on the rock staircase leading up to the lake.
Volunteer crews are doing the tasks that can only be done by people, not heavy machinery.
“In 2010, we started with the top priorities, and we are working down the list,” Hamilton said. “This year, we should be able to get about 80 percent of what’s lined out if the weather is good that weekend.”
He predicted that RFOV would come back to Hanging Lake in 2013 or 2014 to finish the list.