A different kind of Trail Adopter


Let me introduce you to a different kind of Trail Adopter. These individuals not only serve a

s the AMC’s frontline backcountry educators, composters and search and rescue volunteers, but they also leave their marks as adopters of 23.2 miles of trails in the White and Mahoosuc mountains. If you are fortunate enough to converse with one of these multifaceted stewards, who are accustomed to all the peace and quiet living full time in the woods has to offer, the impression you would get is that of a truly genuine individual that is living this life by conscious choice. This is the lifestyle choice of a Backcountry Caretaker, a different kind of Trail Adopter. [Photo by Sally Manikian]


Often mistaken for as a “ranger,” caretakers strive to maintain the authority of our resource, minus the uniform. But like a uniformed backcountry Ranger, a Caretaker has a certain amount of self-motivation that drives their actions. These personal ethics are so strategic that the challenge is often maintaining a diplomatic stance when interfacing with visitors. [Photo by Sarah Hayes]

So with a little insight into thought process of a Caretaker, let’s get down to the common grounds Caretakers share with Trail Adopters and other AMC volunteers alike: an interest in conservation and a love for backcountry recreation. In what other unique ways does a Backcountry Caretaker satisfy this interest?

Caretakers composting gallons of human waste. That’s right- mixing (homogenizing) human feces to prevent contamination of water sources and the creation of a nuke zone of manmade catholes, to assist the growth of local vegetation, among other reasons that boil down to keeping our natural areas natural. So, poop in a privy at an AMC backcountry campsite today, then come back in a year to see your contribution returned to local community. [Photo by Juliane Hudson]

Caretaker educate thousands of individuals on low-impact travel and camping principles. The AMC staffs nine backcountry campsites fulltime from the end of June through September, then on a weekend basis through Columbus Day. During the operating season Kinsman Pond, Liberty Springs, Garfield Ridge, 13 Falls, Guyot, Ethan Pond, Nauman, Imp, and Speck Pond campsites accommodate between 10 and 11 thousand visitors per year. (That’s a lot of poo!) Each and every one of these overnight visitors interacts with a caretaker at some point along their backcountry journeys. They are wondering things like is the water source is “good,” where to store their food, when is the sun next scheduled to come out, where is a good place for their hammock, and so on.

Visitors also want to know the most effective way to wash their dishes, the least impactful way to pristine camp, the more courteous method to pass other hikers. However, very few inquire directly about how to leave no trace. Enter a Caretaker. Having been educated on how to teach and practice the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace at the Trainer level, a Caretaker becomes skilled at maintaining authority without the presence of a uniform.

Caretakers become self taught semiprofessional photographers. An unlimited stock of natural frames to play with and every desirable lighting circumstance occurring at some point during an 11-day stint leads to some pretty darn good pictures, as pointed out by Mahoosuc Rover/caretaker Sally. Sure, some of the good photos make the obligatory Facebook appearance, but they are just as likely to stay stored on a memory card until the photographer can get to a computer, which can take months. There’s nothing like spending weeks alone at a time pondering how to photographically document the personal experience of living and working in the woods.

Multifaceted individuals indeed. So leave it to the poo-stirring-earth-levitating-resource-protecting-trail-adopting diplomats to exemplify what Thoreau really meant by sucking the marrow out of life. [Photo by Sally]

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