Participation, Trail Relocation, and an Exclamation: Moving the AT around Speck! Pond Campsite

I'm going to let you in on a secret. Among all the campsites AMC maintains, there is one so extraordinary, so wonderful, and so pristinely beautiful, we consistently use an exclamation point when we refer to it. That place is Speck! Pond campsite, in Maine.
Aaron, 2015 Speck! caretaker

Speck! is at the very northernmost end of AMC's region here in the White Mountain Region, an isolated outpost at the raggedy edge of the rugged Mahoosuc Range, at the edge of the highest pond in Maine.  For the Speck! caretaker, their nearest AMC employee is over 50 miles away by Appalachian Trail, the Imp caretaker.

Personally, I make the trip to Speck! Pond once, maybe twice a season. However, I'm pleased that I am able to make the trip more than that this year, as we are relocating the Appalachian Trail around the site. What follows is a story of participatory process, of stewardship, and of, well, working and living in a beautiful place.

First draft of relocation

Trail relocations are not taken lightly. It is a complex process with multiple partners, and the purpose must be in service of sustainability and stewardship. In terms of process, there are layers of approvals: the AMC Trails Department ourselves, the land manager of the Bureau of Parks and Lands, and then, in the case of the Appalachian Trail, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Regional Partnership Committee approval process.

Approaching Speck! from the south
In the case of stewardship and sustainability, the primary reason for relocation is that, overall, campsites thrive when they are on a spur trail off a main trail. The visitor experience for those staying at the site is improved, and the site sees less casual use and thus less impact. In this specific case, the concept for relocation came from a series of input sessions led across AMC and the Board of Advisors about our campsite program in 2013. The input sessions were structured to both teach participants about the principles of ideal campsite design, and then, armed with this knowledge, evaluate the state of our current campsites. Already, this input has led to relocating the Liberty Springs Tentsite caretaker platform back from the trail, as well as developing cooking areas at campsites. And, in the case of Speck!,these fresh sets of eyes to the improvements to our sites led to us identifying that, yes, we could move the Appalachian Trail out of Speck! Pond campsite.

So how does this work? First, we (AMC Trails) made a site visit in 2013, and thrashed around in the brush to see what a trail might look like. After receiving Parks and Lands, and also ATC approval in 2014, in 2015 we are carrying out this project, with the support and assistance of two Camp Dodge volunteer crews. The trail route will be, like all Mahoosuc trails, slightly rocky and moderately steep, but, as we say in the Mahoosucs, you're always choosing between a rock or a wet place.

As I type this now, two of our Campsite Program staff are heading to Speck! Pond to begin the work of cutting out the trail, and in the first two weeks of August, Camp Dodge crews will be out there stabilizing the new trail with rocks. Those north--bound Appalachian Trail thru-hikers will be some of the first to enjoy the new trail.

And you know what? I think that is pretty Speck!tacular.

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