Sep 28, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff WriterChelsea Lowry was one of seven University of Wyoming students who participated in the Wyoming Conservation Corps Project to fix the Ramshorn Trail near Dubois.
The collaborative effort between the students and the Wind River Back Country Horsemen to clear the trail, which was previously covered in large amounts of downed timber, made up a 10-day hitch, and for some of the students, the adventure of a lifetime.
"I knew it was going to be an amazing 10 days, and I quickly requested to go," Lowry said.
The WCC is a program focused on getting young people immersed in conservation work and community service, with six crews of students each year participating in 10-day projects with different land management agencies across the state.
The WBCH consists of 80 members from around Fremont County who have a mission to keep public lands open for recreation pack and saddle stock use.
Lowry said the adventure started at 7 a.m. Aug. 6, when the students packed their outdoor gear and left Laramie.
"We met up in Dubois with the two forest service rangers we were going to be working with, had a quick training on all the proper bear protocol in the wilderness, and then set out to help clear the trail," Lowry said. "We worked a minimum of 10 hours every day where we cleared the trail using only hand tools. This included crosscut saws, pulaskis, axes, hand saws and lots of sore muscles."
Al Sammons said 11 WBCH members helped with the packing in and out of tools, gear and supplies for the WCC crew.
"Seven did the packing and the leading of the pack animals, while four folks rode along mainly for support," Sammons said. "We used a combined total of 23 head of pack and saddle horses and mules."
Sammons said the WBCH mission is to give something back to the public lands that are highly valued by all group members. The non-motorized trail Lowry and others worked on will be open for recreational horse use as well as hiking and mountain biking.
Lowry said the hardest part of the hitch was the commute to the work site.
"As we progressively cleared the trail every day, our walk to work became longer and longer," Lowry said. "This was no ordinary walk either. We climbed 2,000 feet in elevation in the first two miles of trail we cleared."
The students cleared a mile of trail every day, and for most of the hitch they had to climb the trail every morning shortly after 7 a.m. and walk the mileage cleared the previous day.
"On our final day of work we hiked about 5.5 miles and worked all day, only to have to walk 6.5 miles back to camp," Lowry said. "This was physically and mentally challenging for everyone. We are all used to work being physically demanding, but the daily hike added a whole new component."
Because Lowry was the leader of the students, she spent a lot of time thinking about different ways to keep morale and motivation high. She decided that cooking back country meals for everyone and maintaining a positive attitude while working as hard as she possibly could would set the standard for everyone else.
Lowry said being the leader often meant being the last to bed, because she worked to make sure no one had forgotten to put away something smelly that might attract a bear.
"The biggest part for me as a leader was finding a way to create a memorable time for everyone while making sure we were all safe and completed lots of work," she said.
Fun in the wilderness
Lowry said many of the WCC crew members had never been on a backpacking trip before, making the trip a learning experience for a lot of the students.
She said one of her fondest memories was when another crew member celebrated a birthday.
"The entire crew slept on the grass outside our tents and watched the meteor shower under the most open and clear sky that you can only find in the wilderness of Wyoming," Lowry said. "The next morning we all woke up covered in a layer of crisp, crunchy frost. It was a gorgeous way to celebrate a birthday."
Although the WCC was unable to completely open the old Ramshorn Trail because of the large amounts of tough trail conditions and downed timber, Sammons said he spoke to the Forest Service in Dubois, and they will be sending in a small Forest Service crew to finish the job.
Lowry said she hopes finished project will provide people with an opportunity to explore the beauty of the state.
"Wyoming is so gorgeous," Lowry said. "I hope that by going out and having their own wonderful adventures through the use of this trail and others, people will gain an appreciation and interest in the conservation and preservation of these truly wild places."
The Ramshorn Trail is located north of Dubois on the Wind River Ranger District of the Shoshone National Forest. Access to the non-motorized trail is on the Horse Creek Road roughly five miles west on Brent Creek Road.
The trail runs in a northwesterly direction along the southern face of Ramshorn Peak for about seven miles and intersects the East DuNoir Trail within the confines of the DuNoir Special Management Unit. Â
Although work is still being done to clear the trail, forest officials have said it will be open in the fall.
For more information on the trail, call Lucinda Jann, forest trails specialist at the Wind River Ranger District in Dubois, at 455-4173.
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