A day in the woods with John Judge

Since coming on board last winter, AMC President John Judge has made an impressive effort to get to know each department in the things they do, and since what we do at AMC Trails is…well….trails, our meeting isn’t best shown during a few hours in a room with a powerpoint—it is best explained in our offices of trails and mud and rocks and campsites. Last week, John laced up his hiking boots and bravely took to the trail with myself and White Mountain Trails Supervisor Dave Salisbury for a day in the Mahoosucs.

Of all the trails and all the ridgelines in the White Mountains, the Mahoosuc Range is the one stretch of woods that is only AMC trails (with the exception of a handful of trails now maintained by the Shelburne Trails Club). To explain, there are only trails and primitive campsites, with only a single caretaker holding it down at the raggedy edge at Speck Pond. There are no developed parking areas, there are no frontcountry facilities, and there are no high-mountain huts or summit buildings. There aren’t even many paved roads. The Mahoosucs are 70 miles of ledge, bog, washed out logging roads, and remote campsites. It is, as Dave Salisbury describes it, a “playground” for AMC trails. Thus, for John’s introduction to the work we do, the Mahoosucs were the ideal location to showcase our work and the nature of the Trails department.

And within the Mahoosucs, the Austin Brook Trail and Gentian Pond were chosen for all the work they highlight. The Austin Brook Trail (on the lower section) was relocated in the fall of 2011, and saw rehabilitation in 2009 and 2012. Logging activity affected the Austin Brook Trail in 2011, and exemplifies the challenge of managing a trail on private timberland. Gentian Pond shelter, as described here and here, was rehabilitated in 2011 and 2012, and is a shining example of what the Trails Department can do when we put our heads and strong backs together. The Austin Brook Trail also passes from private land into public land, crossing the yellow-blazed boundary line we maintain in cooperation with the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. (read more about boundary work here).

Along the way, John described his excitement at seeing the technical skill we hold in our department, and hearing of the history of the professional trail crews. It was by true coincidence that we had a crew of caretakers working at Gentian Pond, building bridges on the Appalachian Trail in response to increased beaver activity. Working in the muck, the caretakers quickly included John in the crew (along with the jovial teasing that occurs among crewmembers of course). 

 We appreciated being joined by John for the day, and also in getting the chance to brag about (and showcase) our incredible seasonal staff and the impressive work that they do. We also can’t complain about the spectacular weather and fall colors. Thank you John!