It’s 5 p.m. on the first day of the final hitch for Wyoming’s first all-female Conservation Corps crew. The August sun shines at Keyhole Reservoir. Dripping bathing suits hang in the trees. A semicircle of tents stands on the cliff overlooking the water.
Jaden Brutsman and Sophia Hoff, who just met this summer, hang out after dinner July 14 at Keyhole State Park.
Now the girls know the drill. After a quick dip in the reservoir, they disperse across the campground according to their assigned roles. Some set up tents, others cook salmon, rice, vegetables and tofu. A few women on cleaning duty hang out in a nearby hammock to relax and read.
Helmets and a box of sanitary products are in the back of Bertha, a crew vehicle, along with snacks, tools, sunscreen, insect repellent and extra water…
At this point in the summer, Annabell Miller, Bella Lucente, Jaden Brutsman, Sophie Hoff and Kelly Parkman are a well-trained team. A team of distant 20-somethings who grew up together for weeks in the Teton spraying heat on invasive species, managing trails at Laramie Peak while smoke from a wildfire filled the sky and scraping paint from Keyhole State Park cabins. The women’s shifts from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. passed each day with a buzz of conversation and the hum of nature as they worked side by side. Even on their four days off between hitches, the girls traveled around the West Mountain together. Parkman took Miller and Hoff on their first Bighorns hiking experience.
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As with any team that spends three months together, the weather has not been without challenges. Disagreements over food, breaks and leadership caused bumps in the road. But they have also formed a support network of outdoor women. Women who have taught themselves to explore, pitch a tent and hike. The experienced took the novices under their wing.
In an hour, they’ll all be gathered around a metal picnic table. They chat, laugh, exchange stories. The girls are excited to return to their respective homes in places like Colorado, Vermont and Virginia. Soon they will be able to bathe every day, sleep in beds, heat their food in the microwave. Still, there’s something melancholic in the air as Lucente serenades them on his guitar. The sun disappears under the trees and sets over the blue water of the reservoir.
PHOTOS: A summer with the Conservation Corps’ first-ever all-female crew