Crew builds old-fashioned trail
Hikers won’t have to crawl across the Missouri Creek bridge on their hands and knees any longer. The Holy Cross Ranger District trail crew recently replaced the formerly dangerous bridge on the Missouri Lakes trail south of Red Cliff in the Holy Cross Wilderness. “The prior bridge was unsafe and about half the size of the new structure,” said trail supervisor Don Dressler, 31, who designed and oversaw the project. “On the old bridge we saw a guy crawl across — but then his girlfriend came along and just skipped across.”The new bridge is wider than its predecessor and features a sturdy railing for nervous hikers. And while most wouldn’t choose to build a 33-foot-by-2.5-foot bridge without power tools, the Forest Service prefers it that way.
“We can’t use mechanical tools in the wilderness. It’s all done by hand,” said Dressler, an eight-year Forest Service employee. “Especially because we’re in the wilderness we want to keep it pristine.”At an elevation 10,300 feet, the five-member trail crew used all native material, harvesting two 21-inch spruce trees and hauling rocks from the trail area. For three weeks, the crew labored and camped in “more rain than shine,” putting a total of 450 hours towards the bridge construction, Dressler said.”It was quite a feat to get the two logs across the creek in one piece,” Dressler said. “A lot of work went into it and it’s rewarding to know that it will last for the next 30 years or so. Knowing that we’ve built something that others can enjoy and use is a big reward – so are the comments from hikers thanking us.”So much effort went into the $15,000 project that the crew’s after-work free time was often spent resting. “We all brought our fly-rods but we never went – everyday we were too tired to go,” said crew member Scott Tidwell, 25, of Eagle-Vail.
But the crew said the project was worth the effort.”We all have a love for the outdoors. We wouldn’t do it otherwise,” said Nate Kohut, 25. “When you start with nothing it’s cool to finally see the finished project.”Crew member Matt Cain, 25, of Vail agreed. “I’m an avid trail-user, so it’s nice to make an improvement,” he said.
The Holy Cross Ranger District trail crew does about three major projects each year, which usually take a year to plan. For their next project, which started last weekend, the crew is rerouting a trail above treeline on Buffalo Mountain near Silverthorne.The Missouri Lakes trail in the Holy Cross Wilderness is one of the most popular areas in the district, which made the new bridge a priority for the Forest Service. “It gets you up to the high alpine lakes and basins without having to climb too much,” said Forest Service Information Assistant Corey Myers. “It’s less than four miles to the first lake and just over four miles to Missouri Pass.” To access the trailhead take U.S. Highway 24 past Minturn and Red Cliff, turn right on Homestake Road and follow the signs.