Take a journey to the La Garita wilderness, it is located in a remote portion of Colorado that you will likely have all to yourself. San Luis Peak looms ahead of you, about 5.5 miles from the Stewart Creek trail head. The narrow trail gives one the sense of walking a tight rope through the natural splendor of the wilderness. To your left is Stewart Creek, which holds one of the more impressive feats of natural engineering I have seen. Terraced like the rice fields of China are countless dams that extend for miles, built by what has to be around 50 generations of beavers.

It is a humbling introduction to the season of trail construction to see the work of the wild. I could not help but build parallels with our working compatriots. There are 2 courses that cut through the landscape, waterways and trails. Our work mission is to maintain the latter, battling the same forces our furry engineers endure as well. There were 8 of us CFI crew leaders venturing up and up to our work site- carrying, along with our personal gear, rock bars, picks, sledge hammers, shovels, rock slings, saws, etc. Needless to say, I was envious at that moment that all the beaver needs is their front 2 teeth. Pushing upstream, we were shown a progressive flip book of the dam process. From the wood framework forming the bones, sediment laden waters deposit its material creating earthen structures capable of supporting vegetation. The balance between form, function and beauty were in perfect harmony. For all humanity’s progress and knowledge and tools, I doubt our hands could create such a balance.

Jar b1p1The start of a new structure (photo by Jar Caldwell)

Jar b1p2One of the numerous dams (photo by Jar Caldwell)

Jar b1p3“The gentle curves of the structure follow some unwritten blueprint of its creator” (photo and quote by Jar Caldwell)

Jarlath Caldwell

I am trading in the cubicle for a pair of boots and a backpack this summer for my second season with CFI. It was an easy choice to head west from Cleveland to be a part of the Adopt-a-Peak team and work with the volunteer groups to improve the access by which everyone can enjoy the natural splendor of Colorado and the alpine environment.