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Burned mountain landscape

Volunteering Outdoors

Volunteer Group Photo
Photo: WRV​​

Sometimes the thing that defines you is clear. For me it is the outdoors. Many of my favorite memories from my childhood are intertwined with the outdoors. Traveling with family, playing and exploring with friends, climbing trees, and competing in sports, all happened outdoors.  

This is part of why I feel incredibly grateful to have a career in the outdoor industry. It’s hard to be a part of the outdoor industry or wander the mountains without being aware of our impact on the environment. 

My husband and I try to inspire this love of the outdoors in our daughters. They repeatedly call out trash we find to make sure that we pick it up. At home, their artwork takes “reuse” to a whole new level. (Eventually mom and dad win and it secretly goes from reused materials to recycled.) 

JAX’s mission is to “help people get their chores done and outdoors having fun while making a difference for the planet.” JAX tries to reduce our environmental impact by recycling and reusing as many materials as possible as well as carrying products that also strive to leave this planet a little better off. One of the benefits for employees at JAX is paid volunteer time for conservation efforts. This October, I headed up early one morning to Red Feather Lakes for a volunteer project with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers. As I bounced along the forest roads on my drive in, I soaked in the fall colors as I made my way to the staged work area. The air was crisp when I stepped out of my car. Fall was in the air! 

Mountain scenery from forest fire
Photo: WRV​​

For the project, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) partnered with the US Forest Service and Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed to work in a beaver meadow that was severely impacted by the 2020 Cameron Peak Fire. Cameron, our project coordinator, proclaimed, “ya’ll are the beavers today!”. We discussed safety, donned our work gloves and helmets, gathered our tools, and got to work collecting and cutting logs. 

The view around us was a juxtaposition of the deep black burn scar and the vibrant yellow greens of the meadow. We wandered through the burn area looking for pieces of wood that were the ideal size (big enough to make a difference, but small enough to carry!). My waterproof boots kept my feet dry and warm as I hopped in and out of the stream area to help arrange logs. A trained sawyer tackled the larger trees with a chainsaw. Everything we touched ended up with ash on it. Our faces were smudged with ash, resembling the black paint of football players. Underneath, there were smiles all around.  

Our group split into two smaller groups to work on two separate locations that had been identified to build PALS (Post Assisted Log Structures). These PALS are meant to repair prior beaver dams that had been damaged in the fire. The hope is someday the beavers will be encouraged to return to the area. Some of us gathered more wood. Others were in the stream, strategizing log placement. We positioned the wood in the strongest positions, crisscrossing them into the streambank to minimize potential movement. When we felt confident in our log placements, we stabilized them even further with wooden posts that we pounded into the ground. 

Another major benefit of the PALS is to help filter out some of the ash and other debris from the fire that gets carried along in the Elkhorn Creek, ultimately leading to the Cache la Poudre River. Every log jam that the water runs through naturally collects more and more ash and helps improve the water quality. 

After a full day of work, we all headed our separate ways. The mountain trails, fall weather, and yellow aspens were beckoning me on a trail run before I headed home. I drove a few miles down the road and threw on my trail shoes and hit the dirt. It wasn’t far and it wasn’t long, but I ran towards Bellaire Lake and was rewarded with stunning views. It was the perfect ending to my day and the perfect reminder of why it’s not enough to simply love the outdoors. We must work to protect it as well. 

Taking in the beauty after the project
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