For the past four years I have called the Rocky Mountains of Colorado home, but this past May, I graduated from the University of Colorado and will move onto the next phase of my life. The thrill of ascending a 14,000 foot peak and then descending on skies will surely be missed. I will also miss easy access to the deserts of Utah, which have a special place in my heart. With Desert Solitaire in tow, over spring break I would load up my car and head to Canyonlands National Park to backpack. On one such excursion, I chose to enter an area of the park void of any water, forcing my group to carry three days worth until we found the mighty Colorado River. Leading a trip in this barren lifeless environment was an extremely humbling experience. There is an almost Zen like quality to the desert, which I feel Abbey captures nicely: “the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in spareness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree…”
What then of the land where I’m heading? I will return to the White Mountains of New Hampshire this summer as a second year Backcountry Caretaker. With lush forests within easy access of large cities, instead of the bustling metropolis of Moab, the Whites in many respects represent the opposite of the land Abbey described. However, philosophically are the White Mountains any less inspiring than the desert? If the sparsity and spareness of the desert emphasize the strangeness of life, then the diversity and lushness of the Whites represent the interconnectedness. Imagine the vertical biologic and geologic profiles of Mt. Washington, Lafayette, or Garfield. If one were to hike from the base to the summit, they would pass through the spruce and hardwood forests full of moose and bear, to the fragile alpine zone. These environments are quite different, yet the fate of one so drastically influences the fate of the other. To pass between these zones and to see how they interact with one another is a beautiful experience on par with anything the desert can deliver. Such diversity in such harmony is a lesson society could still greatly benefit from. Often I think about this issue on a larger scale: what is the importance of places like the White Mountains National Forest and why is the mission of the AMC, Forest Service, and National Parks so Important?
I believe the answer lies in the fact that through sustainable travel in protected public lands we find the trait of self-reliance. I do not mean self-reliance in the philosophical context used by the likes of Sarah Palin, where each American is engulfed in a personal struggle to free themselves from the supposed tyrannous shackles of government and those who cannot help themselves. Instead I use the term within the framework of great minds like Thoreau and Emerson. Whereby, from an Emersonian viewpoint, we are to ‘rely’ on a ‘self’ that we are always in the process of creating. Emerson believed one must display vigilant aversion to conforming not only to one’s past actions, but also to societal hierarchies. Nature reinforces these concepts, where, “At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls of his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find nature to be the circumstance of which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her.” In nature there are universal laws that I believe show the interconnectedness of life-- we are all complete equals in the eyes nature. Self-reliance, especially in nature, can help us discover a path of reflection, where we constantly seek out how to be compassionate members of human society.
I look forward to hopefully writing numerous blog posts about my summer as a Backcountry Caretaker.
East Rotator ‘11
Garfield Caretaker ‘10
Credit Desert Solitaire for the Abbey quote, “Nature” for the Emerson quote, and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for helping me decipher the concept of self-reliance.
Join AMC in celebrating National Trails Day on Saturday, June 4, 2011
Trail Work Project in Crawford Notch, NH
We have a full day of trail work activities planned, led by trained AMC Trail Leaders, on several of the trails around AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch. We will have a orientation to the day, break up into work groups, and walk to the different trail projects. At the end of the day we have a FREE BBQ, raffle, and Leave No Trace presentations. The entire day's events are FREE and AMC provides all of the leadership, instruction, tools, and safety gear. Beginners, families, and groups are welcome.
Where to Meet: AMC Highland Center at Crawford Notch, NH at 9:00am
What to Bring: Participants should plan to bring hiking boots, long pants, other clothing appropriate for the weather that day, water, snacks, and lunch. (snacks and lunch available for purchase at the AMC Highland Center)
Pre-Registration is Required: Please contact Ashley Tetu, AMC Vol Programs Coordinator at email@example.com or 603-466-8156
See the full list of AMC National Trails Day Events on AMC's website >>
We hope to see you there!
The brisk air still lives in the woods at Camp Dodge. Does not stop the sounds and beat of life starting to pump through the camp. This spring is a big one for the facility. Bigger gardens, new roofs, new trees, more volunteers, more staff, more programs, you catch the drift yet? Last year work did not really start around the facility till the first week in May.
This year we were up there swinging our hammers and digging our shovels in mid may.A new brown metal roof now sits on the main building and tool shed. Light tubes are going to be installed into the roof. This should provide some nice natural lighting for the main room and the kitchen area. The idea is one will not have to turn on a light when they simple want a snack in the middle of the day. When you go into the kitchen right now, unless there is a light, it is a cave that you will be standing in. A new ceiling went up in the dinning room as well. Closing off the rafter look of the place, to tell you the truth I was a little reluctant as first, but it after completed, I must stay, it’s growing on me.
Last fall, right before I departed to work on the full time professional crew, a few of the caretakers and I planted over 50 cloves of garlic. If you have never planted garlic, it must be planted in the fall. You stick a single clove into the ground about an inch and then cover the top on it with a bunch of insulation. Depending on how harsh the winter can be in your area tells you how much insulation you need. Being where we are, in the shadows of the whites, lots, over a foot, of leaf cover is needed to keep all plants insulated enough. But now that the spring is in the air, as of May first we have plants that are almost a foot tall. Amazing what nature can do!
Over the winter we ran a flyer for people to donate apple trees and blueberry bushes. It took less then two weeks for us to have to start to have to tell people that we had reached our limit. In these late weeks of April, 9 apple trees and 15 blueberries bushes were planted. Each plant is of its own unique variety, to many to name but my favorite variety is the apple tree called “Trail Man”. With all this added food I am sure we can expect that future caretakers of Dodge will have to be defending off the animal raids more and more. Oh well, all for the freedom of food.
I fell in my first hole already this year, by the end of last year I had been able to walk around the whole place of Camp Dodge all by myself with my eyes close. My legs have forgotten the ground and with the laps in memory, my face has gotten reacquainted with the soil.
May is fresh and new, the leaves are just starting to poke their heads up and about. Looking forward to a summer filled with joy and food. I look forward to many smiles and joy in the near future that seem to surround the air of Camp Dodge.
This is 31 Goose, signing out for the first time in the 2011 summer season, I have great day everybody, jump in for a swim…..brr.
Below are the number of outstanding individuals that you may be working with for a day, or maybe as many as four weeks, this summer. Each person brings unique strengths to add to the experience of our volunteers wile maintaining a safe and productive crew atmosphere.
I want to wish all of the 2011 Coordinators, Filed Leaders, Interns, and Trails Volunteer Leaders the best of luck for the upcoming season. See you on the trails!
North Country Trails Volunteer Programs Supervisor /
I have been working with AMC Trails and the Camp Dodge Volunteer Trail Crew Programs since 2001. Originally from New Haven, CT, I attended Unity College in Maine and have a degree in Adventure Education & Outdoor Program Administration. One of my favorite aspects of the program is getting to work with a great group of staff and volunteers all dedicated to conservation and land management. I am very much looking forward to another safe, successful, and productive summer season. I wish the Camp Dodge Staff and Field Leaders for the 2011
This will be my second season at Camp Dodge and I’m very excited to be returning! I had the opportunity to work for the Trails Volunteer Program last year as a head leader, an incredible experience. This year I will be taking on the role of Trails Volunteer Programs Coordinator. I’ll miss my time in the woods this summer but am excited to spend my days interacting with more of our volunteers and their families, supporting our leaders in the field, and assisting our Camp Dodge Cook and Facilities Coordinator with daily operations at Dodge.When not busy with Camp Dodge responsibilities, I love to cook, knit, run and practice yoga. In addition, I love to travel and have lived in both South African and Kenya. I am passionate about finding ways to provide sanitation sustainably in developing countries and volunteer for an organization that builds composting toilets in Haiti. This field season promises to be busy, particularly with the addition of so many new volunteer crews this year, but I’m eager for it to arrive. Until then, happy spring and I’ll see you on the trails!
I started working with Camp Dodge Volunteer Vacations and Teen Trail Crews a year ago as the Project Coordinator, and I'm thrilled to be here once again for a second opening of the facility and the field season. I've been backpacking and leading groups of all ages in the backcountry since 2005, but in the past year and a half trail work has exposed me to a whole new way of living in, working
Prior to my work with the AMC, I studied Anthropology and Studio Art at the University of Vermont, was a trip leader and president of the UVM Outing Club, site and summit caretaker for the Green Mountain Club, Assistant Director of an Adventure Day Camp, and worked at an after-school drop-in teen center in Vermont. I hail from Pennsylvania, where my passion for being outside was initially fueled with backyard woods exploration and family adventures to the mountains of the Northeast. I have an appreciation for poignant books, an affinity for quiet moments, and I'm fond of good cookin' shared with good company - the best way to finish a hard day's work on the trail.
Chris "Goose" Grosjean
Goose here, I am every excited to be apart of the Dodge Crew for a third year. The last two summers have been great and I expect this one to be even better. We have got a whole slue of great
This summer will be my first working at Camp Dodge, in fact my first time ever working for AMC, and I am looking forward to cooking for you! I grew up running around in the woods, carrying big sticks and making forts, so I think I'll feel right at home at Camp Dodge.
I'm a Georgia native with roots in Vermont and have spent the last few years going to school at Marlboro College (in the hills of southern Vermont), traveling the world and generally being a scuff-shoed vagabond when I'm not tied down. My interests include political, economic and philosophic theory, dance, writing, running around in the woods (carrying big sticks and making forts), Tai Chi, good food and good company. See you in the Whites!
I graduated from Southern Maine Community College in the Spring of 2007 with an Associates Degree in Construction Technology. Only days after graduating, I set out on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. Upon finishing the trail, I worked as a carpenter for only 4 months before landing a
Trail Crew Leader/LNT Instructor
Trail Crew Leader/LNT Instructor
A native from Fryeburg, ME nestled in the foothills of the White Mountains I take great pride in returning to the homeland for the summer. Celebrate with me in my graduation from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism! I like to consider the outdoors my office space- Let it be on river, among mountains, or within the valleys. Last summer I lived in Greenville, ME, guiding rafts down the Kennebec River, South and Upper West Branches of the Penobscot River. Due to inclement weather I play the guitar, harmonica, and read books depicting nature
Trail Crew Leader/LNT Instructor
Hey! Last year I was a trail crew leader in the Berkshires and am especially excited this year to work hard and have fun in the dirt in the Whites where I grew up exploring. I went to university on the west coast graduated in 09' and have since been following the snow and exploring the desert. I have done a lot of backpacking in both the extremely wet forests of Washington and the dry unworldly rocks of southern Utah. Ski bumming in the winters and being a desert rat in the spring I am excited to get to the alpine mountains of New Hampshire this summer and experience all the glory mother
I am returning to Camp Dodge this year as a trail crew leader and I am very excited. I spent 2008 and 2009 working out of dodge as a caretaker and now I will get a taste of the other side. I am currently living in Plymouth, NH and I graduated from PSU in 2010. I love the outdoors as well as my longboard the two go hand in hand. When I'm not skating downhills I may be moving rocks in the woods or enjoying the company of good friends somewhere along my road of life. I love to find the good in life and people and I look forward to working with you this season.
Trail Crew Leader/LNT Instructor
I am originally from Massachusetts but in my sophomore year at Lyndon State College in Vermont where I am studying Mountain Recreation Management with a concentration is Adventure Leadership. I have spent countless days throughout the White Mountains hiking, climbing, and generally having a good time. I was the camp dodge leadership intern this past summer and am looking forward to coming back as a full on leader this year. I can’t wait to spend another amazing summer in the whites with all the volunteers!
Trail Crew Leader/LNT Instructor
Born and raised in suburban Maryland, I spent more time on soccer fields and dodgeball courts than in the woods as a child, but I was always interested in environmental issues and ecology. Leading trips for an adventure recreation camp during my summer breaks in college ultimately cemented my love for the outdoors. I graduated with a biology degree from Oberlin College in 2008 and went on to teach environmental education in Western North Carolina and collect native seeds for restoration in southern Arizona. I was a volunteer with a conservation trail crew in the Southwest at the end of 2010, and I'm excited to lead volunteers in the White Mountains this summer! Currently, I work on the lodge crew at the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center/Joe Dodge Lodge.
Trails Leadership Internship
Anna Lello-SmithI am so excited to be back at Dodge as an intern! Last year I volunteered on a two-week trail crew and had such an incredible experience that I wanted to stay for the rest of the summer. I am originally from Seattle, WA but have grown up mostly in Northampton, MA (home of hippies and organic food). I am currently finishing up my freshman year at Tufts University, where I am studying biology and environmental science. My first year of college has been wonderful, but I’m itching to get out of the city and into the White Mountains! Most things involving the great outdoors make me happy, so I’ve tried to integrate as many outdoorsy activities as possible into my life at Tufts. I am a member of the Tufts Mountain Club and a caretaker at the Tufts ‘Loj’ in Woodstock, NH; I enjoy running and hiking in the Fells, a beautiful nature reserve near campus; and I’ve recently gotten hooked on climbing (mostly bouldering indoors so far, but I can’t wait to get outside!).
During the summer I love to travel, backpack, swim, kayak, read, and relax in the mountains. I can’t wait to get back to Dodge, and I can’t wait to meet you!
Trails Leadership Internship
Ever since I was a little kid running around in the woods, with my friends, near my house in Nashua, New Hampshire, I've always had a deep affection for nature, and the outdoors, along with the freedom, and inspiration it can award you. Not to mention all of the amazing people you meet along the way! I first came across the Camp Dodge volunteer program last summer, just by clicking around on the AMC website, looking at what kind of trips, and groups they run. This particular program struck me because it provides a unique opportunity not only to immerse yourself in the beautiful White Mountains, but to help conserve, and preserve it. And yes, there is a difference! As you will learn...
Trails Volunteer Leaders 2011
Our particularly long winter has ended. Flocks of red robins, nips of buds on trees, and even a few mosquitos at night. I can go outside in the morning without needing a thick coat or heavy boots. These are all signs of change.
In northern New England, the brief season that follows winter is known not as spring, but as Mud Season. Coined by woodsmen, it is the time of year when woods roads thaw out and logging operations shut down due to the deep muds and impassable streams of newly thawed ground.
Loggers are in some ways an excellent indicator species for woods-based activity. As hikers and recreationalists, we should remember to observe our own mud season. This is a time of year to stay in low elevations, on resilient surfaces such as bike paths, rail trails, and dry surfaces.
The same reasons why loggers stay out of the woods (soft roads, deep mud, and high water) raise the practical and ethical reasons why we, as hikers, need to think about staying out of the woods (as advised also by the Green Mountain Club).
The first challenge is to remember the slower seasonal development that occurs at higher elevations. The majority of White Mountain Trails are currently covered in ice, hardpack snow, or dense mud. All of these conditions are not only unpleasant hiking, but also all transitional conditions that lend themselves to extraordinary erosion.
The mantras of an aware hiker (stay on the designated trail, walk through mud puddles, stick to resistant surfaces such as rocks and bridges) to minimize impact to soil and prevent erosion are critical during mud season. Higher elevation soils take longer to dry out, and their higher content of organic material slows the drying process. These newly-thawed and water-saturated vegetative layers are extraordinary fragile, and easy to tear with an errant step.
In short, during mud season, the erosion caused by stepping off the slick hard packed snow and walking around mud puddles is magnified by thin topsoil swollen to fragility with spring water.
While we are all eager to stretch our legs on our favorite summer trails, now that the temps are pleasantly into the 60s, we would all be doing our beloved backcountry areasa favor if we avoid hiking during these transitional conditions.
Here are a few Mud Season Hiking Guidelines
* Stay on the snow if it is still present and walk through the mud, not around it! If a trail is so wet or muddy that you need to walk on the vegetation beside it, turn back, and seek an alternative area to hike.
* Hike in the lower-elevation hardwood forest (unless it is muddy!) with southern exposure (south facing slopes dry out first in Spring).
* Avoid the spruce-fir (coniferous) forests at higher elevations
* Avoid north-facing slopes
* Encourage others to do the same!
Mud season is short. Very short. I can wait a bit longer. Can you?