It’s here! Spring announces itself at Pinkham Notch with
brightly-clothed skiers and snowboarders marching up the Tucks Trail and with moose standing in Lost Pond at precisely 5 p.m. every evening, along with the first sight of teeny tiny buds on trees. However, the true sign of spring is with the arrival of 8 tons of hardwood bark mulch to a back parking lot at Pinkham Notch.
While other piles of bark mulch will be finding their way to
gardens and lawns around New England, this particular pile has a very important
job to do. This particular pile of mulch (sourced from a local sawmill in
Berlin, NH) has the responsibility of composting of approximately 2,400 gallons
of human waste.
|32 yards, or roughly 8 tons, of bark mulch, awaiting bagging|
Our 14 backcountry campsites see anywhere from 14,000 to
16,000 people overnight in a given year. The busiest sites (Liberty, Garfield,
and Guyot) see about 2,000 people overnight during the summercaretaker season.
And, at those sites, the caretaker, armed with a pile of bark mulch and a
pitchfork, will face the task of turning 300 gallons of waste into dirt every
year. Our quieter sites (Ethan, Imp, Kinsman) will have 75-140 gallons to
Because of our White Mountain ecosystem of extremely thin
topsoils and a short composting season, and the high volume we must rely on the
labor and resource-consuming method that requires hardwood bark mulch. I’ll
spare you the detailed scientific explanation, but if you know anything about composting,
the basic concept is that you need to make the pile hot to kill the pathogens
and turn the pile into dirt (or, in our case, humus). In order to achieve this in high elevation sites (eg Garfield Ridge) where it is cold, wet, and dark most of the composting season, we need to
create a ‘self-insulating’ pile of compost. Thus, for every 75 gallons of human
waste, we use about 300-450 pounds of hardwood bark mulch to turn it into 150
gallons of compost.
|This is what 340 bags of bark looks like|
The tons of bark, having been bagged by hand into more manageable
50 pound bags, made it via helicopter to our backcountry sites on Monday, in a
workday that included dozens of workers, half a dozen vehicles, and stretched
from Easton all the way to the Mahoosucs. Which site received the most? Garfield Ridge, with 47 bags of bark. Which sites received none at all? Trident Col and Gentian Pond. We also airlifted about 5-6 tons of
bridge material to Hancock and Wildcat, for projects that will be completed by
our White Mountain Professional Trail Crew and the Camp Dodge Volunteer crews.
Within the past week, that pile of mulch has gone from the
lumber yard in Berlin to Pinkham Notch to bags in vans to staging areas to now sitting in bags at our backcountry
sites. The bridge materials arrived and a few days later they were flown by
helicopter to remote ridgelines. We like to think that these materials, the mulch
and lumber, will lead a somewhat more exciting and meaningful life than some of
their other kin.
Also in the past week, the buds on the trees have begun to open into full-fledged leaves. Summer is on its way!
|The staging area in Easton, NH. Bark pictured here headed to Eliza Brook and Kinsman Pond Campsite.|
Labels: Backcountry Campsites Projects, Backcountry Caretaker