Posted by: highmountainmuse | June 19, 2009

Where we’ve been

Horses on pasture at camp in the early morning

Horses on pasture at camp in the early morning

Here’s where we’ve been.  Camping on the Divide in the Weminuche Wilderness, just the three of us, Alan the Shepherd, and 7 of our horses…

The horse hauling a load of big rocks to the hole in the ditch

The horse hauling a load of big rocks to the hole in the ditch

A lot of man (and woman) power

A lot of man (and woman) power

Here’s what we’ve been doing.  Moving about 6 tons dirt, and almost as much rock… all by hand and horse power. 

How?  A lot of work. Fueled by a lot of food. Yes, we use shovels; no, we don’t use any power tools or equipment:  this is the Wilderness with a capital “W.”

We’re the official Ditch Maintenance Crew for a trans continental water diversion which brings water from a river flowing to the west side of the Divide over to east side, along a mile long ditch originally build back in the 1930’s. 

For the past two years, the job entailed raising the banks in low spots and cleaning out the deposit in the bottom; maybe a few trees being felled by the two-man cross-cut saw.  The shovels and picks and saws are our only tools, except for the magnificent draft cross horse that moves more in one go-round, with absolute ease, than would take us a half hour of back breaking work…

But this year, with fallen trees from the hillside covered with dead spruce from beetle kill, the ditch was blocked and a side of the bank blew out in a most inconvenient location.  So in a pinch, to get the water flow resumed as soon as possible, we rebuilt the ditch bank.

Forrest in the blown out section of ditch bank

Forrest in the blown out section of ditch bank

The ditch running water after our work

The ditch running water after our work

Fancy job?  Remember from “Caddy Shack” that the world needs ditch diggers… but jokes aside, we love our work.  Talk about a good, hard, honest days work!  We earn our sleep at night…

In fact, the boys are still asleep… and I’m not quite caught up with sleep yet. But I wanted to share this with you now. More details, and more about the incredible beauty we are so lucky to live and work in up there will follow over the weekend…

On the ride home yesterday evening

On the ride home yesterday evening



  1. I do envy you! What a beautiful life.

  2. Now that’s what one would call God’s country.

    How far from the ranch were ya’ll?

  3. The photos are wonderful! I love how they show the progression and then the water trailing along. Such a tremendous experience. What would I do without you sharing your world?! Will miss you tons…

  4. I always wondered what the ditch looked like. Thanks for posting some pictures.

  5. Lisa, We trailer the horses to the Dam and ride in about 2 hours from there. It’s I suppose six miles up that trail, right on the Divide. Pretty nice place to work… pretty nice place to be.

  6. […] Pictures on my mom’s blog […]

  7. Now whoever thought there would be a wonderful story about a ditch, of all things. Oh, the hidden and interesting stories that have come from your mountains. I love them.

  8. very interesting. i didn’t know about the water ditches. where does the water go to?? farms at lower elevations??

  9. Hi Mark – Water in Colorado, perhaps most of the West, is so complicated. Every drop, it seems, is owned by someone. There are two ditches up along the Divide, and many others in the high country throughout Colorado. The one we work for is owned in part by farmers, and part by a company supplying water to homes and ranches in the Valley. The water does not reach them directly through the ditch, but in “shares” of the holdings of the Reservoir, and flow of the Rio Grande. Complicated, and this is just a fraction of it! Our job of digging is simple in comparison to trying to figure who gets what water. I couldn’t do that job!

  10. […] a previous post, “Where we’ve been,” I shared with you a bit about how the ditch came about, and what the purpose of it is. We’re just […]

  11. […] complete with the section of ditch bank we’ve been working so hard to fix. Not sure if you recall how this section of ditch looked a few weeks ago, blown out and washed down by the force of water from the flow blocked by fallen dead trees along […]

  12. Just been reading your blog, sounds to be an absolutely wonderful place and yes i certainly do envy your job……excellent work
    From Australia

  13. Phil,
    Thanks for stopping by. To me, Australia sounds like a wonderful place. Guess everywhere is at times, just as every place has its ups and downs, ins and outs. Hope you’ll keep in touch and share some stories from Down Under!

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