AMC Teen Volunteer Four Week Leadership and Conservation Crew

The crew hanging out after work on the trail
Being a part of the Four Week Leadership and Conservation Crew has been an amazing experience for everyone involved.  We have spent weeks hiking, working with the tools of the forestry trade, learning about the opportunities the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) offers, and doing copious amounts of trail work.  Not only have we become a tight knit group of very dedicated individuals, but we have become important parts of the well-oiled machine that is the Camp Dodge Volunteer Center.  Three of the four weeks here were spent camping out and doing trail work, while an alternate week was spent exploring the many career options of the AMC.  Our first and second weeks were spent respectively on the Ethan Pond Trail in Crawford Notch State Park and the Airline Trail in the Presidential Range.

Prepping logs on Ethan Pond

Ethan Pond is one of many trails that are a part of the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains. During work and while lunching on the trail each day, our crew met numerous Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.  One memorable character was a very tall man with the trail name and writer’s pseudonym of August Cervont. He was dressed in army fatigues with a go-pro mounted on his sizable pack, and was determined to tell the story of his journey to Katahdin from a minority perspective. August was only one of many brave souls we met tackling the hundreds of miles of trail to Maine. Each one with their own trail name and stories, eager to answer our questions and talk with us. The diverse group of people we saw making their way up the trail expressed their gratitude and excitement at our trail improvements, which motivated us to continue to do good and efficient work. Everyone, from young families to seasoned thru-hikers, make their way up the White Mountain’s trails. It was both inspiring and rewarding to see how our work had a positive effect on the outdoors community.

Fridays bring good spirits in this neck of the woods! The Friday night barbeque greets the returning volunteer and professional trail crews with a delicious smorgasbord after a grueling week of work in the backcountry.  At the center of this gathering is the cook, Brent.  Brent is a phenomenal individual who handles the stress of the Dodge kitchen with aplomb. He and many others in the Dodge community show how this camp is run like a village, with love, dedication, and friendliness. Each of these characters here shows the positive effect that a single person can offer to the Dodge community. They have allowed us to become more involved in the inner workings of the place we have come to call our home.

Touring the Observatory
The third week provided us with an opportunity to step back from our focus on trail work and explore a variety of the job options that the AMC and surrounding White Mountains community has to offer. We trekked up to Mitzpah hut one afternoon to talk with the hut crew, or “hutties”, and share a meal. Later we met with the Nauman campsite caretaker Marge, and learned about her various duties, which include tree planting and poop stirring for the privy compost process. Diversely, we learned about the many science oriented jobs associated with AMC, like the Mount Washington observatory. We hunted down “Research Tim” at Pinkham Notch and also learned about possible research internships and jobs. Another memorable group we met was some of the members of Trail Fixing Crew (TFC), a professional AMC crew. Leaders “6-4” and “Romney,” spoke about the unique work that they do and the equipment that they use, such as a grip hoist, to move boulders through the sky, and rock saws (or “whackers”) to carve staircases into solid rock.  The sheer skill and strength of the men and women on TFC was a jaw-dropping peek at how far we can go in the future with the AMC experience we’ve garnered.
Over these past four weeks these mountains have become our home. We have witnessed furious storms and sweltering hot days. Being scared of dirt, sweat and mud is a thing of the past. We throw ourselves into the elements with gusto and bug spray has generally been deemed ineffective (though that doesn’t mean we are immune). We have felled trees, carried them on our shoulders, moved rocks bigger than our heads, and hiked up and down miles of rocky trails. But more than anything else, we have been inspired together, meeting strange and beautiful people who are exhilarated by the life around them and the place they are in. Each person in our crew has a unique but vital perspective to bring to the group and we all walk a bit more closely to the earth now, careful not to disturb the land around us unless we can improve or nourish it. Whether we choose to return here and build a life for ourselves in these peaks or to never come back again (unlikely!), we have all gained a strong respect and appreciation for the natural world. Whatever the future holds, we will continue to carry it with us as we go onward and upward in our lives.