The 4-Week Crew Does Something New

Enjoying Dinner at Mizpah Hut
We all signed up for this program expecting four weeks of trail work – something that we all love doing and feel really passionate about. There had been whisperings of an alternate third week, but we didn’t expect it to be anything as interesting as our week turned out to be. This week offered us the opportunity to learn about other sides of the AMC that we might not know about and might never have the opportunity to see.

Catching Frogs at Lost Pond
We started the week off with a trip to Mizpah Hut and the Nauman tent-site. The hut crew was so excited to have us there and they gave us a full tour of the hut, even showing us places where visitors aren’t allowed to go. We got to eat some incredible hut food and were able to speak personally with the Hut Field Supervisor and learn about the daily life of a hut crew member.
Mapping Plots with Research Department

We spent the next day with the caretaker of Nauman helping him with some trail work and also learning about what his job entails. We even got to see how the composting toilet works, which might sound gross but is actually insanely cool. After everything is composted, you can touch what used to be poop – that’s pretty sweet, at least to a bunch of trail crew kids.

We woke up bright and early Wednesday morning to an exciting day with a naturalist who took us to Lost Pond where we caught frogs, weird bugs, tadpoles and some worms and learned about them and their part in the ecosystem. After lunch, we headed over to Wildcat and met with some Teen Wilderness leaders who brought us over to a waterfall, told us about their jobs, and had us participate in some leadership activities.

Thursday was back to trail work, but not just any trail work – felling trees. We went out to our final week’s location and learned how to properly and safely fell trees. Felling trees is really satisfying work, and hey – we got to swing axes. That doesn’t happen everyday!

Friday marked the end of our week, but we still got to meet with the research department and collect data on plant species. The research department then uses that data over the years to see if climate change is affecting the plants native to the areas. It was really nice to help them out, especially with how important it is to learn about the effects of climate change.

This week of alternate programming provided our crew with so much knowledge on the AMC that none of us had before. As the leadership crew, most of us want to work for the AMC in the future, and this week showed us that there is more to the AMC than what is in front of us at Dodge. It widened our horizons, got us to thinking about our own future and what work we might want to do, but most of all it was just a really, really fun week.


Trail Work: nature's crossfit

It is just half way through the summer and we in the Berkshires are readying ourselves for this weekend's Trail Olympics. As we stare down at our now tanner, more muscular and ever dirt-covered arms, we think back on what our Berkshire Teen Trail Crew and Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner programs have accomplished. At the start of the trail crew season some of us were quite green when it came to trail work and leading teenage volunteers but a mere month and a half into summer and you would be hard pressed to identify a novice crew leader. Highlighting a bit of the impressive list of work completed this summer may explain how our staff has become so seasoned, so fast.
Our work with the Becket Land Trust (BLT) has seen over 1,000 feet of new tread competed as well as the installation and improvement of more than 30 drain dips and water bars. Still important but less glamorous are the incredible stretches of corridor clearing done for the BLT. Our teen volunteer trail crews have also spent time working along the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Massachusetts at sites that include Department of Conservation and Recreation's (DCR) Mt. Greylock State Reservation and Mt. Everett State reservation. By rolling boulders, building bridges and moving pounds of crush-rocks the crews are not only getting buffer by the day, they are also becoming a part of the AT's very proud legacy. The Leadership Trail Crew (LTC) has had a hand in nearly all of the diverse work that has been done this season. The LTC spent 2 (of what will be 4 total) weeks in the field building native bog bridges with Appalachian Trail volunteers on Mt. Greylock. The LTC's final 2 weeks will be spent addressing drainage issues on AT on Mt. Everett.
The crew's weekends have been quite productive, split between a Leave No Trace Trainer course, Wilderness First Aid certification, and this upcoming weekend they will be treated to a well deserved weekend of swimming, a lesson in pizza making and s'mores. The AMC Noble View Outdoor Center, just outside Russell, MA is continuing to successfully host it's first full season of programing. The nine weeks of base-camp teen trail crews have been tackling a major project to make the Noble View trail system more user friendly. This work includes 6 trail reroutes and the installation of a completely new facility-wide signage system.

Beginning next week, our two Noble View crew leaders will begin leading teen trail volunteers on backcountry spike crews along the New England National Scenic Trail.

If you happen to have run across friendly folks in uniform along the AT in Connecticut, then chances are you've met our AT Ridgerunners. These trail adoring mountain folk spend their entire summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, living and hiking along the AT. Our Ridgerunners are stewards of the trail and beyond monitoring trail and campsite conditions they play several crucial roles including caretaking at Sages Ravine campsite, trail maintenance and reporting, educating the public on Leave No Trace principles and sharing and adding to the AT culture. Family AT Day at Beartown State Forest is onSaturday July 26 and we encourage our fellow lovers of the outdoors to attend. Beyond that there is so much work to be done in support of our beautiful New England trail systems we extend to all of you and yours, an invitation to join, work, volunteer or just chat with us...we mostly like talking about doughnuts, current events and telling embarrassing stories about co-workers.


Connecting the North Country Trails Volunteer Programs

Meeting with the Region Leaders to talk about work needs
There are three general parts of the North Country Trails Volunteer Program: the Adopt-A-Trail program, Alpine Steward Volunteers, and the Volunteer Trail Crews (comprised of Teen, Adult, and Custom Crews). Each serves very specific and unique purposes for the volunteer program and for trails in the North Country, but without a doubt, the three programs are connected. Take for example the work completed this July by
our program on Franconia Ridge.

(L-R) Steve Crowe, Nat Scrimshaw, and Pete Lane scouting Franconia Ridge
In the fall of 2013, the Adopt-A-Trail Region Leaders identified different work priorities in their regions, including Franconia Ridge. In the spring of 2014, at our annual spring meeting, the Alpine Stewards confirmed that Franconia Ridge was in need of more attention on scree walls because of the incredibly high hiker traffic that beautiful ridge gets each summer. Thanks to their efforts to maintain the trail and monitor it for needed work, the volunteer program was made aware of a pretty important need on Franconia Ridge. Our next step was to set up a scouting trip with Steve Crowe, Franconia North Region Leader, Nat Scrimshaw, Franconia Ridge Trail Adopter, Pete Lane, Coordinating Board Member of the Alpine Stewards, and Brendan Taylor, Volunteer Programs Supervisor, to check out the trail. 

Teen Volunteers Building Scree Walls
After scouting the ridge in person and listening to Steve and Nat’s experienced feedback on the work needs of the ridge, and hearing from Pete about his experience watching hikers go every which way but the trail, it was possible to identify needed scree wall and rock step building sites. This information was vital for preparing our two Teen Alpine Spike Crews ahead of their two weeks on the ridge. Those Teen Crews just finished up last week after some rugged hiking, hard work, and beautiful views. Because of their efforts, we have successfully installed over 3,000’ of scree wall, 9 rock check steps, 3 step stones, 1 new cairn, and we maintained 4 cairns and 5 water bars on the ridge to help maintain the tread and guide hikers to stay on the impacted trail and avoid damaging the sensitive alpine ecosystem.

Hopefully, now our Trail Adopters will be able to focus on the comparatively easy task of maintaining the trail instead of building scree walls, and the Alpine Stewards will be able to focus on educating users about the alpine zone instead of chasing them all over the ridge in an effort to keep them on trail. All the while, our Stewards and Adopters can keep the Volunteer Trails Program staff informed of any new needs for work, so that we can send a volunteer crew out if need be and start the cycle all over again of connecting our North Country Trails Volunteer Programs.


JAG Students Work With the Forest Service

Hey all—this is Merike reporting from an exciting second week of the AMC/NH-JAG Program! This week our crew had the opportunity to work with the US Forest Service. Nate Peters, the trail crew leader for the Androscoggin Ranger District, generously shared his time and experience with our crew as we worked with him on two Forest Service trails.
Our first two days were spent working on the Appalachian Trail at Rattle River. We cleared hundreds of feet of drainage and constructed a long turnpike to harden the treadway and keep visitors from hiking around muddy sections of trail. 

The second part of the week was spent at Wildcat Mountain, working on the Way of the Wildcat and Thompson Falls Trails. Our crew got to see some more technical tools in action as Nate and his crew used chainsaws and griphoists to move the projects along quickly and limit our impact on the surrounding area. During these two days, we put four large step stones through a river crossing, built a 20-foot bog bridge, stabilized and stained sign posts, and brushed in blown-out sections of trail.

Our students enjoyed working on trails with heavy foot traffic and hearing how much their work is appreciated by hikers. The end of the week brought a surprise when Nate and the wonderful staff at Wildcat expressed their thanks to the students by giving them a ride up the scenic gondola to the summit!

Next week we head to the White Mountains Community College Child Development Center to continue cutting a new trail that the JAG students started last summer. 

More updates to come!


New tent platforms for Nauman!

How many of you have been to Mizpah Hut? How many of you knew that there was a tentsite that can fit 40 people in the immediate vicinity?

For those of you who already knew, yes that tentsite is Nauman tentsite. Nauman is the fourth-busiest site in the AMC White Mountain campsite fleet, located at the edge of the Dry River Wilderness. It is best described as a string of platforms amidst green moss and spruce-fir. It is also described as ‘that site next to Mizpah.’ It is the only AMC campsite in the Presidential Range (Hermit Lake shelters are a different entity and indeed a different kind of structure), and is often a starting point (or ending point) for groups traversing the Range.

Nauman got a little facelift recently with the replacement of two double platforms. The two platforms we replaced were a minimum of 25 years old, and partially constructed with creosote-treated lumber. One of them was relying on the decking for structural integrity, which is the reasons why we requested capital funding through AMC to replace the platforms this year.

Of course the simple act of replacing a platform is, well, not so simple once the project is happening in the boreal forest and in the backcountry. It involves pre-cutting all lumber to length in April so it can be airlifted in May. It involves the labor time of three to four staff working as a crew. It involves hiking in a generator and rock drill, as well as the heavy hardware this project manager forgot to airlift in (don’t worry, I was the one who hiked the dozen base plates in, and I will never forget to airlift the base plates again). It involves careful measuring and squaring and leveling. It also involves weather that varied from cold, to clear, to cold, to unbearably hot.

The attention to detail meant that the crew did not have to leave the woods to pick up any forgotten supplies, and also that the only waste produced was the old lumber from the old platforms. Some of that old lumber will be re-used by the caretaker to repair their home-made furniture, and the rest will be airlifted out in the fall.

The second platform replaced. Downed branches were only there temporarily! 
It took roughly two days per platform to deconstruct, set the foundation, and then finish the framing. And at the end, the caretaker eagerly welcomed the first visitors to christen the new platform, and eagerly bid goodbye to the creosote sills. 


Restoring Trails on Mt. Avalon

Crew building a rock water bar.
With only a fews days remaining before the White Mountain Professional Trail Crew takes their "long days" it's a good time to make notice of what ground work has been made on the Avalon Trail so far this summer and to highlight the support the crew has been given to make these trail restoration projects become reality. Three weeks of crews have been able to install 20 bog bridges, replace several rotten wood water bars with rock, and save deteriorating steep graded sections of trail with rock staircases. Many more weeks of work are scheduled with focus on working towards the Mt. Avalon summit.

New case construction.
Finished stretch of bog bridges.
In March the AMC was given assistance from the National Forest Foundation (NFF), based in Missoula, Montana. If you're unfamilar with NFF check out their website for greater details, but in short, NFF is a major supporter of National Forests and Grasslands throughout the United States while building strong communties around these special places. That's good news for not only the AMC but the USFS and everyone who lives in and around the WMNF and those who come from away to recreate here. Support from the National Forest Foundation has provided the AMC Pro Crew the opportunity to do much needed work on the well used Avalon Trail to help conserve and protect the natural resources in that area.

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