The Mess in the Mahoosucs

Trees down at Full Goose Campsite

The first sign that there was something amiss was on May 27th, when our caretaker staff headed to the Mahoosuc and Centennial Trails to do basic trail maintenance. As we reached the ridgelines of the southern Mahoosucs, we found a trail clogged with trees. Tree tops, whole trees, bundles of branches and trunks across the trail. It was slow work.

Tree blocking the Carter Moriah Trail, between Stony Brook Trail and Imp Campsite
The second sign was the following week, when I headed to Imp campsite to open the site with a caretaker. Right when I passed from the Stony Brook Trail to the Carter Moriah Trail, the same sight greeted me: tree after tree after tree. I was axe-less, but put down my pack, heavy with materials for the campsite, and  pulled any tree I could pull off the trail. It was constant.  

And, because things happen in threes, the third sign came that same day, when I was driving home in Shelburne, and came across the White Mountain Pro Crew, who had had to call their patrol short because there were too many trees. It had taken them five hours to cover three miles.

Eventually, a picture was painted: some microweather event had blasted through the northern Carters and the entire Mahoosuc range, leaving behind trails and campsites full of trees. It took the Pro Crew until 9 p.m. to cover the Grafton Loop Trail, it took myself and the Rover a rainy cold day to clear out Carlo Col campsite, and it took the Mahoosuc Rover a full two days to remove all the downed trees from Full Goose Campsite.

Every spring we anticipate the serious work of clearing up trails and campsites, of cleaning drainages and breaking down firepits, and of removing trees from trails. The work this year was much more. The pictures here from Full Goose and the Carter Moriah Trail tell the story of what that kind of chaos really looks like.

And in our minds? It was just plan messy.

Another shot of Full Goose campsite
As I post today, all of our trails and campsites are cleared, including a non-AMC trail in the Mahoosucs known as the Eyebrow Trail. With basic maintenance behind us, we can move forward into the heavy work of reconstruction and rehabilitation, and, of course, human waste management. Onward.


AMC Trail Crews Building Trails with Partnerships

It takes a lot of teamwork to build trails, that teamwork goes beyond four or five people working in the woods. For the AMC Trails Department, we call it cooperation. AMC, USFS, NHDP, MBPL, ATC, and private entities are in constant cooperation with one another when it comes to efforts to conserve our natural resources within the White Mountains. This summer the AMC and USFS have boots on the ground cooperation. While the AMC has it's own trails to maintain we need to remember that there are many trails out there that are just as popular, get just has much use, and are in need of TLC that aren't AMC trails.

AMC Trail Crews have been working with the WMNF-FS on Champney Falls, Osceola, and at Hermit Lake. If you've been to the scenic falls, hiked Osceola off the Tripoli Rd. or scurried up the Tux Trail with family to Lunch rocks then you've likely seen a lot of people enjoying the outdoors, and you've likely seen what high use, soil compaction, and water can go to these popular yet beautiful spaces.
Hermit Lake water pump in Spring of 2014.
Crews spent a couple days at Hermit Lake hardening the area leading into the water pump. AMC crews actually started in 2014 by setting rocks around the the concrete pad, note the amount of soil lost. 2015 crews installed fencing, and built a turnpike to help keep the area dry and provide a durable walking surface with hopes that the immediate area doesn't loose any more soil and that it can slowly revegetate on the fringes where hiker impact had been expanding.
Hermit Lake water pump, 2015.

In another effort of cooperation, the AMC Trails Department would like to thanks Jed Talbot, trail builder and owner of Off The Beaten Path for his help with the leading a rock shaping demo for the crew. Jed is great! He has worked with both the AMC and WMNF-FS on projects and trainings for years.
Demo with stonebusters.

Using rifting hammers and strikers.
Rock splitting via drilling, feather and wedges, and rifting.


Picture the Joys of Volunteer Trail Crews

Sure, trail work is inherently fun and engaging, a reward unto itself.  But if you want more reasons to participate in a volunteer trail crew, just consider all the thrilling parts that go with working on trails!

Like a stunning sunrise to greet you in the morning

                           All the beautiful flora...


  ...and fauna you see all about you on trails

             Plus, there's the epic lunch spots

The refreshing after-work hang out activities


                        And hearty dinners

 Mixed with heartwarming group bonding

All capped off with an equally stunning sunset!

Intrigued? We still have over 200 openings on our Teen Trail Crews from the Delaware Water Gap to the North Maine Woods, and on our Adult Volunteer Vacations in the White Mountains, Acadia, Cardigan Lodge, Mohican Outdoor Center, Little Lyford, and Cold River!

Sign up today! See the full listing and registration form here:


If you plant a tree, it will grow.....even in a fire pit.

Carlo Col Shelter: Revegetation in 2003 (L) and then in 2013 (R)

Last week I did something I've never done before: I clipped back the branches of a tree that a caretaker had planted, at Carlo Col campsite in Maine.

Many of our AMC White Mountain Campsites have been hosting human use for a century, and Carlo itself has been in use since the 1930s, with the original shelter giving way to the current one in 1976. As a result of this long history of use, much like our trails, associated impacts result: hardened areas where people tend to pile their packs next to platforms, shortcuts throughout the sites, and also open areas in front of shelters where people just tend to congregate. It doesn't take many steps or backpacks to eliminate vegetation, erode organic soil, and sometimes bring things down to the level of mineral soil.

Part of the role of the caretaker as a steward of these sites is to reclaim and rehabilitate impacted areas. Since the very inception of the program, the approach has been through transplanting saplings into impacted areas (or 'revegetation'). This approach works, evidenced in extraordinary ways at sites like Ethan Pond or Kinsman Pond, but especially so at Carlo Col.

Let's start with the before: opened hardened area, fire pit (illegal), benches, all much more space than this low-use campsite really needs. Also, we've found that impacted areas such as this one tend to attract even larger impacts: stripped-down trees for kindling, trash piled under benches, and....well....sometimes it's best to stop there.

Impacted area in front of shelter, c. 2000

Let's jump ahead to 2003, when the Mahoosuc Rover ( a roving caretaker responsible for Trident, Gentian, Carlo Col, and Full Goose) undertook the work of rehabilitating that large area. He built scree walls, backfilled it with organic soil, and then went in search of the 100 or so trees he needed to fill the area, eventually finding an area he could harvest them from almost a quarter of a mile away from the site. The process took multiple days, and also involved the enrolling of a camp group that was there at the same time.

Newly planted trees, 2003

However, like much meaningful work, the impact has been long term, and the Rover who did the work is of course not working for us anymore, as the years turned to a decade. What does revegetation look like 10 plus years later? It looks big enough to cut back.

Revegetation as viewed from inside the shelter, in 2013
These pictures above and below were taken in 2013, so I will report that in 2015 the trees are now almost as tall as the shelter ridgepole itself. I made the error of heading into the field without my camera, so you will have to take my word for it. Some of the trees had started growing into the spur trail that leads towards the shelter, hence why I was clipping them back.

Revegetation as viewed from the front of the shelter, 2013.

There are so many metaphors at work here, about the passing of time, of what it means when we say we are 'working for the long haul,' and of literally showing that a planted tree does grow. 


AMC Pro Crew Goes for a Hike...

... Well several hikes, covering 117 trails and roughly 360 miles.

Trail Crew on Bondcliff for a quick break.
 May 28th marked the first day of the AMC's annual patrols where the White Mountain Trail Crew greases their boots, sharpens their axes, and grabs their rouge hoes for 3 weeks of patrolling all AMC maintained trails. The AMC maintains trails from as far west as the Kinsmans through the Pemi Wilderness, over the Presidential Range, west into Evans Notch and up north through the Mahoosucs to the Old Speck trailhead on Rte. 26. AMC trails are: along the AT, in Wilderness areas, in NH State Parks, in the WMNF, on MBPL, and on private land.

Crew member chopping out a blowdown on the Grafton Loop Trail.
The crew splits into smaller factions completing well know loop hikes such as Falling Waters - Franconia Ridge - OPB, and epic days such  Lincoln Woods Trail - Bondcliff Trail - Twinway - North Twin Spur - North Twin Trail. Patrols are basic in theory; hike, clean drainages, chop blowdowns, and make sure the trail corridor is clear (4'x8'). The hard part comes when you have a massive yellow Birch leaner, 200 drains heading up the A-Z trail from Zealand towards the Mt. Tom spur, 13 miles to go in pouring rain, and it's Tuesday with 3 more days before the weekend. Patrols aren't easy, no crew member would tell you that they are but they are critical for the trails -- patrols are our effort to get AMC trails cleared as quickly as possible, make sure drains can function as best they can until Trail Adopters or crews head out for more thorough detail, and get an idea of where work should be focused for future projects.  

Crews have been in just about every region as of today. It's been a heavy blowndown year especially in the Mahoosucs -- crews chopped over 60 blowdowns on the Grafton Loop Trail from Old Speck down to the southern end of the GLT on Rte. 26. The Mahoosuc Trail has also seen a lot of snapped Spruce/Fir tops still on their hinges smack dab in the middle of the trail.


Training Rocks!

Week two of the three week training session for the Camp Dodge Volunteer Trail Crew Leaders began with rain, a deep chill and mud up to our ears. Well, not actually up to our ears but pretty close. Rock work presents a number of challenges. Quarrying decent rocks. Moving these rocks to the worksite and setting them in the proper place so that they shed water, retain soil, direct hikers and remain in place for generations to name a few. Each of these steps become exponentially more difficult when hands, feet, tools and really just everything around you is soaking wet.  Despite these adverse conditions the Crew Leaders managed to roll rocks with ease and keep their morale high. 

There was no wallowing in the knee deep mud and pools of opaque water. There was laughing at corny jokes, quizzical looks while pondering brain teasers and riddles, inspirational speeches taken word for word from The Lord of The Rings Trilogy as well as story-telling and vocabulary tests all while tirelessly positioning and repositioning rocks weighing several hundred pounds. They were learning more than just the fundamentals of setting rocks. The Leaders were learning the intangible lessons of perseverance and how to work as a team to trouble shoot solutions. 

They used slings and pick mattock handles to lift and lower large rocks exactly where they wanted them. They laid rock bars parallel to each other on the ground to slide massive rocks across depressions that would have otherwise swallowed them up. They taught each other how to manipulate our simple hand tools to get optimum mechanical advantage and lever a rock nearly the size of a mini cooper into a spot where before there had just been a muddy embankment and rapidly eroding use-paths. Most importantly they learned and proved that if they never give up they will succeed. 

The leaders were spread out over four sites along the lower portion of the Imp Trail. Their projects varied between turnpikes, staircase installation, water bar installation and general tread hardening. The structures weren’t the only focus of this week though. Each project site was examined for signs of water erosion, foot traffic, and soil loss. Leaders learned to interpret and educate others on the many different factors that go into trail design and identify the elements of a sustainable trail. Before long everyone was talking about the corridor, anchors, outflows and sustainable grades. As their skill levels increased the rain stopped and the clouds parted. As if a sign of the great season to come, our gear had a chance to dry off a little and we really started setting rocks. In four days the leaders set 30 rocks combined in our turnpike, staircase, and two water bars. 

This week of training has got us all so excited for this season. Come join us in making a difference in some of the most beautiful places in the country. Contact Alison Violette (aviolette@outdoors.org) to inquire about our many teen and adult volunteer crews throughout the White Mountains and Maine. From all of us here at Camp Dodge, see you on the trail!

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