Groups at Garfield

Just like snowflakes, no two AMC campsites are exactly the same. They have different layouts, different shelters, and different use patterns (and different forms of natural beauty—ponds, sunsets or sunrises, or wildlife). Ethan Pond is known for moose, 13 Falls for bears, and Liberty Springs for day hikers.

A major definining characteristic of Garfield Ridge campsite is groups. Camp groups, Boy Scout Troops, College Outing Clubs, adult hiking groups, and school groups. The physical evidence of the high group use at Garfield is expressed in the 5 large group platforms in the site: the highest number of group platforms of any campsite in the fleet. (Groups also average 50% of Garfield’s overnight use during the summer). Our layman’s reasons as to why Garfield is so popular with groups is location—the middle of the Pemi ridgeline, with little options for primitive camping for groups traversing the ridgeline. It is normal for Garfield to have two to three groups (or more) per night.

So when it came time to do a site visit with Allison, our Group Outreach Coordinator (GOC), Garfield was the ideal spot. Allison came to us from Lyndon State College, where she is a Mountain Recreation Management major, and is using the GOC position to satisfy her internship hours. Her supervisor, Sean, came along on the site visit for the night to see Allison do her job: interacting with hikers, helping the Garfield caretaker manage the four groups that had notified for the night.

The Group Outreach program and the Notification System have been an integral part of site and resource management at AMC for over 10 years. Allison’s role is vital to minimizing overcrowding at busy sites; overcrowding leads to resource damage and an unpleasant night for other non-group visitors to the site. Groups will contact Allison via the Notification System or email with their itinerary, and in the event of potential overcrowding due to prior notifications, Allison will work with the group to develop another trip plan. (what is a ‘notification’? Rather than a ‘reservation’, it is more like a ‘heads-up’ that helps us at AMC make sure that we don’t have over crowded sites)

Allison’s skills in trip leading and group management (she has extensive experience leading Lyndon State backpacking, canoeing, and Leave No Trace groups) and her (very important) communication skills are qualities that she brings to the job. On top of outreach through email and phone calls, Allison also spends a great deal of time in the field with caretakers at campsites on nights with high group use. (Amanda, the caretaker at Kinsman, was very happy to have Allison around when multiple un-notified groups appeared at Kinsman last week). To complete the 400 hours for her internship, Allison is also working on her own rehabilitation project at Carlo, developing Leave No Trace materials for the campsites, and assisting with Wilderness Monitoring for the USFS.

I joined Allison and Sean on the hike to Garfield, arriving in the cloudy skies that define Garfield so well. Shortly after touring the site, a group from Camp Walt Whitman appeared, and Allison and Dan (the caretaker) set to work directing them to the tent platforms. The leaders and students had braved hail and winds on Lafayette—the defining characteristic of the ridgeline walk from Liberty to Garfield.

The season of camp groups is in full swing, and right on the heels of camp groups comes college outing club season in mid-late August. For laymen interested in what their stay at a campsite might look like, we have a handy PDF that shows availability for all our campsites and we update it weekly (occasionally bi-weekly).