On May 12 and 13 the Alpine Stewards gathered together for their annual weekend training. This year the training was held at Greenleaf Hut, the base of operations for the Alpine Stewardship Program.
There are currently 14 active Alpine Stewards with a variety of backgrounds. However, they all share one common interest: preserving the alpine environment along Franconia Ridge through visitor contact, alpine trail maintenance, assisting with the efforts of the AMC Research Department, and much more. There is one Alpine Steward, based at Greenleaf Hut, which hikes the ridge between Lafayette and Lincoln each weekend that Greenleaf Hut is open.
For the 2007 training we all met at the trail head the morning of May 12 and hiked to Greenleaf Hut. The majority of the active Alpine Stewards were able to attend. In addition to the Alpine Stewards, Alex DeLucia (AMC Vol. Trails Supervisor), Doug Weihrauch (AMC Alpine Botanist), and Jenny Preiss (USFS Pemigewasset Ranger District – Trails) were able to join in and contribute to the training over the weekend as well.
After arriving at the hut we started the training about alpine plant phenology and the monitoring that the Alpine Stewards will be assisting with for the third year, led by Doug. We hiked as a group to the summit of Lafayette on a beautiful day; we had to take a moment to capture a group photo on the summit! Doug also discussed the noticeable winter fir burn and the naturally occurring fir waves visible on Garfield and North Twin.
Back at the Hut, before dinner, we all gathered to share our thoughts and comments about the development of the Alpine Stewardship Program. During this time, Scott shared the history of the Alpine Stewardship Program. Starting in 1980, Guy and Laura Waterman were volunteer maintainers of the Franconia Ridge Trail, from Lafayette to Little Haystack, for 15 years. It was the Watermans’ that started the revolutionary concept of protecting this fragile alpine ecosystem along the ridge. Several year later Scott Monroe, the Franconia-North AMC Region Leader at the time, saw the need for on-site education because of the impacts of high visitor use. In 2000, with the support of the AMC, USFS, the Alpine Stewardship Program was created.
We concluded the evening with a wonderful dinner, conversation, and a brilliantly pink sunset. That next morning, after another wonderful meal, we spent the morning meeting on several training topics and administrative items. We discussed tricks and tips for visitor interaction, the impacts and prevention of impacts from trekking pole use, covered AMC radio use policies, discussed reporting, and summer scheduling.
Before long, we were packed up and ready to head down to the trail head. Several members of the group returned down Old Bridle Path, while others chose to go up and over Lafayette and down the falling Waters Trial. It was a great weekend spent with the Alpine Stewards, the weather was perfect (I actually got a bit sunburned!), the food was fantastic, and the discussions and presentations were informative.
All of the Alpine Stewards are ready for another exciting season on the ridge. Next time you are up on Franconia Ridge, look for these Alpine Stewards, recognizable by their USFS volunteer shirts and the unique Alpine Stewardship hat and vest. Say hello and pick their brains; you are bound to learn something from each of our knowledgeable Alpine Stewards.