Berkshire Three Week Leadership Crew!

The AMC fifteen-passenger van was literally bouncing up and down as participants danced to a Lyrics Born hip-hop song featured on the accurately labeled "Awesome Tape." "Call it up, to all area crew, we gonna make this thing happen right here right now," they sang along. And thus the Berkshire Three-Week Leadership Crew got its name: All Area Crew.

The All Area Crew consisted of eight teenagers who had excelled in previous AMC volunteer trail crews, and we were happy to invite them back to take part in the Berkshire program's longest crew yet.

Luckily, everyone got along. The group bonded over an appreciation of bomber scree and Duplex cookies as they spent three weeks building and repairing stone staircases on Jug End, a section of the Appalachian Trail just north of Mt. Everett. As with all rock work, the projects were challenging and highly technical, and the crew learned how to use a grip hoist to quarry rocks on the steep slopes of the mountain and where to find mineral soil when it seemed like it didn't exist. At the end of the three weeks, the crew couldn't help but admire the three magnificent staircases that resulted from their hard labor and exceptional teamwork.

The three weeks weren't all about work, however. Due to the enthusiasm and good spirits of the crew, many camp chores became fun group activities. Harry "Bear Bag" Johnson developed a love for bear hangs and led nearly all expeditions to retrieve food before mealtimes, and for Ella, the arduous task of pumping water was a welcome arm workout. The crew also had the fortune of camping right next to Guilder Pond, which proved an excellent swimming hole on sunny afternoons after work.

Despite a few food fails (like the time Jesse forgot the hummus at lunch) and a broken stove, the crew enjoyed many delicious meals like lentil stew and stir-fry. The gorp was also superb, although the bag without chocolate was, according to Lauren, "a little rough."

For the leadership component, four pairs of participants took turns leading for one day in the third week. Some of their leadership responsibilities included morning wake-up calls, mobilizing the troops to leave camp, calling the office to check in, as well as planning and shopping for their own menu. In this way, crew members experienced first-hand what it takes to be a leader, and the leaders enjoyed a baked beans and corn bread stuffing dinner that was surprisingly delicious.

For the first weekend, the All Area Crew came out of the woods on a sunny Friday for a Barbecue right here at the Kellogg Conservation Center, and they would have won the tug-of-war against the other crew if the bear bag rope we were using hadn't snapped in half. For the rest of the weekend, the crew took a Wilderness First Aid course, which prompted full medical inquiries ("someone clear his spin!") every time Calder fell on the trail in the following weeks. On the second weekend, the group learned how to minimize their impact in the wilderness on a Leave No Trace backpacking course over and around Everett Mt., Race Mt, and Sages Ravine.

On the last Friday, eight smelly and happy teenagers donned their new AMC volunteer t-shirts and posed for a group photo before exchanging emails and goodbyes. Working with the All Area Crew was the perfect way to spend August, and we hope to see them come back again! Maybe even as leaders...