The following is written by Hailey Doucette, an intern at the PLHC during the fall ’19 semester:
On October 2, 2019 I had the opportunity to shadow Rocky Mountain National Park’s Cultural Resource Program Manager, Kelly Dick, and a seasonal employee in cultural resources, Emilio Santiago. The day was spent in the field at Lake Irene on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park looking at everything from a CCC era mess hall, to different artifacts, to photos from the late 19th century. I even helped to measure different sites and record data pertaining to multiple foundations where different structures likely used to stand.
When I arrived at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, on the East side of the park, Kelly greeted me and introduced me to Emilio as they began to prep for the day of field work ahead. As we left the visitors center and headed for the park my excitement for the day grew. We drove about an hour to Lake Irene, which held a CCC Camp in the 1930’s. As we arrived a we came upon a sturdy structure that looked like it could house people even today. I learned that this was a mess hall in the CCC years and that the NPS had recently restored it. I was shocked because they even went to the detail of adding cracks in the new timber to make it look aged.
Emilio had been working at Lake Irene all summer and had extensive knowledge about the history of this area. He showed Kelly and I multiple sites ranging from trash pits, to foundations likely for tents or cabins, to areas with aged nails scattered around. After our tour of the area we ate lunch and enjoyed the scenery of Lake Irene.
Following lunch we walked down to Lake Irene and Emilio pulled out a photo of a group of well-dressed men on horses, 1 was even shooting a gun. I was shocked when Emilio held up the photo; it was clearly taken from the exact spot we were standing except 129 years earlier. From there we began to survey some of the sites Emilio identified. I helped to record data and look for artifacts. One of the highlights of my day was finding an aged partial tube of toothpaste that still had dried up toothpaste in it.
As the day wrapped up we loaded up the van and headed back to the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center. I came away from the day with an appreciation for archeology, a newfound desire to learn more about the subject, and motivation to one day work with cultural resources in a national park.