Two weeks of backcountry caretaker training, and all I got was one lousy photo!

Starting on Memorial Day, the field staff for almost all AMC summer seasonal programs convened at Camp Dodge for their first day on the job: caretakers, volunteer trail crew leaders, Berkshire trails program
staff, professional trail crew, hut crew, and Pinkham lodge and front desk staff. The number totaled around 120 staff, which represents roughly half of the staff that work for AMC seasonally annually. It was a rare opportunity to put everyone together, (our training calendars coincided for the first time in seven years), and teach everyone how we are connected.

Among the 120 or so staff, are the 12 backcountry caretakers for 2014. Of those 12, 6 of them are new, and for the two weeks following Memorial Day weekend, the focus was on outfitting those 6 new caretakers with everything they need.

The role of the caretaker is a complex one, as they live and work in that nexus between the resource (trees, water quality, soil, Wilderness) and humans. They work to steward the resource through hands-on work (transplanting trees, reconstructing trails, composting human waste, and rehabilitating impacted campsites) and through education (‘Hey there, how’s it going?’ being the lead in to a discussion on why we stay on trails, carry out trash and store food properly, do not camp in the alpine zone, and the work we do at AMC to take care of these wild places).

Thus, the two weeks of caretaker training runs the span of these responsibilities, and it is all done outside in the caretaker’s workplace. We spend a day in the Mahoosucs doing basic trail maintenance, swinging axes and cleaning waterbars. We spend two days in Crawford Notch in the beautiful struggle with rock and soil and water to reconstruct the Willard Trail, through building rock steps and drainages. We spend an overnight at Ethan Pond Campsite, learning (and actually performing) the labor-intensive process that turns human waste into humus, as well as transplanting trees and reviewing ways to mitigate visitor impacts at campsites. We spend two days on a Leave No Trace Trainer course, heading to Gentian Pond campsite. This year we added a segment on Bear Behavior Awareness and Hazing, as our campsites have become frequented by bears in recent years.

At the end of these two weeks, caretakers haul their (usually over-heavy) packs to campsites to serve at their posts for the first time. They all came out of those first few days in the field with smiles, and stories of their interactions with visitors, and questions about their particular sites. In short, they are all becoming caretakers.

As for myself, I spent the majority of training with the staff, talking and laughing and answering questions (and asking questions of my own). Sometimes that doesn’t lead one to taking out the camera. The one time I did, I caught the back of a few caretakers heads as we were leaving Ethan Pond, posted above. Two weeks of training, in beautiful weather and stunning locations, and all I got was this one picture. Sigh.

AMC Backcountry Caretaker Roster, 2014:

Kinsman Pond: Stephen Reilly
Liberty Springs: Harrison Beck
Garfield Ridge: Becky Huncilman
West Rotator (Kinsman, Liberty, Garfield): Chris Moody
13 Falls: Emily Fox
Guyot: Justin Martin
Ethan Pond: Emily Gamber
Middle Rotator (13 Falls, Guyot, Ethan): Dylan Summers
Nauman: Dave Knight
Imp: Bobby Haran
Speck! Pond: Kate Orlofsky
East Rotator (Nauman, Imp, Speck!): Declan Scannell

Mahoosuc Rover: James Vittetau
Field Coordinator: Joe Roman
Group Outreach Coordinator: Laura Kathrein
Backcountry Resource Conservation Manager: Sally Manikian

Campsite staffing dates: