An Experience of a Lifetime
SCA Resource Internship / Wonalancet Out Door Club Intern
Wonalancet, New Hampshire and White Mountain National Forest
Mr. Don Field, Advisor
May 30th, 2002 -August 15th, 2002
Table of Contents
--Wonalancet Out Door Club Mission Statement
Learning Objectives and Discussion
--To learn the basic skills and procedures of trail maintenance and develop these skills throughout the summer/internship position.
--To learn about a new geographic region and about the ecosystem of the area.
--Learn management practices of the National Forest Service. How does the Forest Service balance recreation with conservation?
--To work on a close-knit crew.
Reflections, Summary, and Conclusion
Pictures (not included here)
Time sheet and Activity log (not included here)
This past summer, I was a Student Conservation Association Resource Intern. I worked for the Wonalancet Out Door Club in Wonalancet, New Hampshire. The following is a list of the goals and objectives I planned to achieve before setting out to New Hampshire
1. To learn the basic skills and procedures of trail maintenance and develop these skills throughout the summer internship position.
2. To learn about a new geographic region, New Hampshire and more specifically, the White Mountains. I want to learn about the ecosystem of the area.
3. To learn management practices of the National Forest Service. How does the organization balance recreation with conservation and what sorts of actions are taken to preserve the area?
4. To work on a close-knit team
Wonalancet Out Door Club Mission:
The club was established ". ..for provision and care of paths, trails, and other facilities for persons visiting the White Mountain National Forest and other mountain and forest lands; regarding these lands, to promote their conservation and the enforcement of the law's regarding their owners and the public on the issues, and to promote discussion and education on all these matters,
The club fulfills this mission in the following ways:
*Maintenance of 52 miles of hiking trails
*Restoration and reconstruction of deteriorated trails
*Teaching and advocating Wilderness trail maintenance skills
*Assisting private landowners that host local hiking trails
*Publication of educational materials regarding low-impact practice
*Hosting presentations on topics concerning the local area and WMNF
*Actively participating in the planning and management of WMNF
Learning objectives and discussion:
1) To learn the basic skills and Procedures of trail maintenance and develop these skills throughout the summer internship position.
Before my internship I had a very vague idea of what was meant by the term "trail maintenance". However, after my summer internship on a four person trail crew, I can say for certain that I now know what the term "trail maintenance" means. I performed the various duties of trail maintenance 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 11 weeks and it was great!
My education in trail maintenance began on the orientation hike on the very first day. Throughout the ten and a half mile hike, my supervisor was pointing out and describing different parts of the work I would be engaged in all summer. It was interesting and a little overwhelming that first hike but after a few days, the work became easier to understand.
The first quarter of the summer was spent learning the basic skills and performing relatively simple maintenance. The work started off with waterbar cleaning. In simple terms, a waterbar is a ditch, crossing the trail diagonally. Usually there is a log or a line of rocks set in the ground along the down slope side of the ditch. This log or rock prevents water from jumping over the ditch and continuing down trail. The log and rock also prevent washout or erosion of the waterbar's down slope side. Waterbars, along with ditches and berms, collectively make up the category of drainages. The purpose of drainages is to remove water from the trail. When it rains in a forest, the trail becomes flooded with fast moving water which can and does do significant damage to the trails; "On trails with a considerable slope the water flows down the trail, scouring and eroding the surface and ultimately resulting in a gully. In level areas and natural concavities the water collects along with fine soil particles and organic debris, giving birth to the classic mud hole" (WODC Trail Tending Manual p. 11-2). Over time, the drainages get clogged with loose material left behind by flowing water. Leaves, sticks, and branches are some examples of material that collects in the drainage and can create a blockage. The job of my crew was to use various tools and clean the drainages, removing debris and doing any repairs as needed. (See picture pg. 16).
In addition to cleaning drainages, the crew and I spent the early part of the summer brushing the trails For most of the year, but especially in the springtime, plants along the trails grow considerably and often encroach Upon the trail. Sometimes the plants grow so much that the trail is almost impassable and in rare occasions, hidden from view. It was my job to hike the trails with loppers (clippers) in hand and cut the vegetation. clearing the way for hikers. Brushing \vas a long and repetitive process but made a huge difference in the condition of the trail.
The act of brushing was difficult for me at times because I had conflicting opinions about cutting plants. I could not believe that they wanted me to cut down trees when I thought I was supposed to be saving them. It was especially difficult to cut the little pine saplings just starting off along side the trail, but I cut the trees because I knew in a few months they would be bigger and the branches would be reaching across the trail. While cutting vegetation was difficult, I believe I saw the action of brushing from both sides. On one side, the trees and plants are going to grow bigger and eventually reach into the trail. This makes it difficult for hikers to pass and may actually push a hiker off trail. But on the other hand, it seems strange that I was cutting vegetation to make way for humans in wilderness. It made me think that maybe humans should not be there. In the end, I feel that brushing is a necessary part of trail maintenance because keeping the trails clear allows room for hikers to stay on the trail, thus impacting the land as little as possible. Also, by providing hikers the chance to see the wilderness, hopefully they will want to protect it.
Half way through the summer, trail maintenance jobs became more advanced and specific. The crew and I spent the rest of our internship performing rock work (see pictures on pg.17-l9). We started off basic with setting individual steps in places along the trail, or stepping stones in the muddy areas of the trail. Some time was spent replacing log waterbars with rock waterbars. Log waterbars rot overtime and are more easily undermined than rocks. So overall, rock waterbars last much longer than log bars. Eventually the crew got into very specific and difficult rock work. We spent the last five weeks working on one trail, building two rock staircases. This work took a while to get the hang of. The staircases were built in badly eroded and steep parts of the trail. The first step in building a rock staircase is to find rocks off trail, dig them out of the ground, and move them to the trail using the cable skyline system. Then each rock is set in the ground securely and additional "skree" rock was placed along side the steps to stabilize and prevent water erosion. The first staircase the crew and I completed was 44 steps long, making it the longest staircase in WODC history .Overall, 200 plus rocks were used to construct the staircase. Some of the rocks we moved were over 400 lbs. The work was demanding, both physically and mentally, but it was really incredible to see that we were repairing the trail for years to come.
Drainage clearing, brushing, and rock work were my jobs for the summer. They are the jobs that make up most of trail maintenance. My goal was to learn the basics of trail maintenance and I accomplished my goal in the first week. In the end, I learned so much more than just the basics
2) To learn about a new geographic region (New Hampshire/ White Mountains) and about the ecosystem of the area.
Prior to this internship I had never been to the Northeast. Actually, I never even knew there were mountains in New Hampshire and I had no idea I would become so familiar and attached to the landscape. This summer I was working in the Sandwich Range in the southern part of the White Mountain National Forest. Most of the trails I worked on were inside the Sandwich Range Wilderness Area. There are different rules pertaining to wilderness areas which will go into a bit later. I lived in an old farmhouse in Sandwich, New Hampshire when I was not backcountry camping (see picture pg, 14), Sandwich is a very tiny town. The "downtown'' area consists of a general store, post office, one restaurant, a craft shop, a school and a library)" Due to the nature of my locale all summer, did not have access to resources such as the internet or an extensive library to do much research about the environment on my own. Most of my knowledge of the White Mountains comes from my own experience and the information I was told by the volunteers from the club that I worked with. On every workday, on every hike, I learned something new about the area. The volunteers would point out different plant species or tell me something about the animals in the area. They would share interesting stories from long ago when the area used to be farmed or when there was logging going on. The stories were always interesting and taught me a lot about the area
When I first arrived in New Hampshire I could not believe how green it was. There are trees everywhere. I remember standing on a trail at a view site and just being blown away by the trees, how many there were and how undeveloped the land looked. In the area I was working the majority of the trees were either beech, maple, or birch. I learned how to tell the difference between a healthy beech and a sick one and I absolutely fell in love with birch trees. I never knew a birch could get so big. I saw a few birch trees that would need at least five people to circle it. A few years back, in the mid- 1990s, an ice storm hit New England and did significant damage. I was able to see the remnants of the storm. The ice was so thick that it actually covered the tops of trees and caused the tops to break off. While the ice storm caused severe loss of vegetation, it was interesting to see how the forest is re-growing. The storm was natural and so is the forest's recovery.
This summer I was fortunate enough to hike above tree line. Prior to my internship I had no clear understanding of what tree line was because I never experienced it first hand. Well, on one of my off days I was able to hike to one of the tallest peaks in the White Mountains, Mount Jefferson. The mountain rises about 5,700 feet into the thick air. About halfway up the trail I was hiking, I hit tree line. It is at this point that there ceases to be any large vegetation. The tallest plants are probably two feet high and are pines. The trail continues on to the summit, traveling across bare rock, surrounded only by small plants and mosses. It is a wild experience. I learned that the elevation at which tree line is reached is different on almost every mountain. The cause of this is the height of the land the mountain sits on as well as the vegetation common to the area. After reading about tree line in several of my classes I am so happy that I actually was able to see it for myself.
In addition to learning about the vegetation of the area, I learned what animals inhabit the state. Moose are everywhere in New Hampshire. Seldom will a person see one while he/she is hiking however, because moose are very elusive and move incredibly fast. During the summer I came across many signs of moose such as a bush with all the leaves bitten off or a track in the mud. One time while brushing, the crew and I came across a section of trail, 50 yards long, covered in moose dung. It was insane! Black bears are also very common in the White Mountains. Other animals include coyotes, owls, foxes, deer and many species of birds.
As I mentioned earlier, before going out there for the summer, I had no idea there were mountains in New Hampshire. Maybe that means that my geography is pretty poor, but the entire state is covered in mountains. The highest peaks are in the north, decreasing southward. The state is called "The Granite State" because granite is the rock making up the majority of the landscape. I was able to visit several different areas in the state and travel to neighboring states such as Maine and Vermont comparing the two areas. The northeast is very different from the Midwest and I enjoyed comparing the two areas.
It is said by some that New Hampshire only has two seasons, summer and winter. have been told that the winters there are brutal, worse than Wisconsin's. I do not think I want to test that claim. In the winter months, a person may think the forest grows quiet. However, a person would be wrong. There are many activities taking place in the forest in the winter. Besides the animals moving about, there are hundreds of humans enjoying such activities as cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, camping and logging. It is quite amazing to observe a forest and see just how full of life and activity it really is.
3) Learn management practices of the National Forest Service. How does the Forest Service balance recreation with conservation?
The crew and I worked on maintaining 52 miles of trails this past summer and most of the mileage was inside a designated wilderness area. The 1964 Wilderness Act describes wilderness as "areas that show little influence from humans, provide opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation, are more than 5,000 acres, and are designated as wilderness by Congress' (Jensen 53). While this act was past almost 40 years ago, most of the wilderness area it established was west of the Rocky Mountains and in Alaska. The Sandwich Range Wilderness Area that I worked in was established under the Eastern Wilderness Act of 1975. This act "allowed select Forest Service areas east of the 1OOth meridian to be included as Wilderness areas, although they do not meet the criterion of being free from human influence. These areas are to be allowed to revert to their natural condition" (Jensen 237). The Sandwich Range Wilderness Area meets these conditions perfectly because it has a deep history of human involvement with the land. In the 1800s and 1900s the environment was significantly depleted by logging. I actually came across artifacts from old logging camps and rail lines. After being logged the area was scarred by great fires. There are also places a mile or so into the woods where a person will come across a historic stone wall used in the past to line farm land, suggesting there were hillside farms in the mountains. The area is now free of any such activities and a person who does not know may never be able to guess the forests rich history.
The Forest Service has a different set of guidelines or rules for wilderness areas than the rest of the nation's forests. The main rule Wilderness is that there is no motorized equipment allowed except in emergencies. This past summer there were some significant steps taken by the Forest Service to change the area so it better complies with the wilderness definition. In the Sandwich Range there were three old lean-to shelters These shelters had been around for years and some people considered them historical buildings. But the goal of a wilderness area is to show as little human intervention as possible, to keep the land as natural as possible. For this reason, the shelters were all tom down this summer and the lumber was hauled out of the woods Another step towards creating a more wild area is the changing of the signs. At each trail head and each trail junction there are signs indicating the trail name and direction. The signs are made of wood and bear the trail name. In the past these signs have been painted bright colors such as blue and have even had the mileage carved onto them. Today these signs are being changed to the standard wilderness sign which has a unique 5 sided shape, is left unpainted and has only the trail name and an arrow carved into the wood. The reason for the change was that if a hiker is in wilderness he/she is expected to have a map and be informed on where he/she is going, thus the signs can remain as primitive as possible.
One thing I found particularly interesting working in a wilderness area was the fact that if some piece of trash was found in the woods, it was left there. By trash I do not mean candy wrappers, but old glass bottles or barbed wire. I came across both of these things this summer and the volunteers that I worked with would look at it with great interest and leave it. They said it was artifacts from the old logging camps or old farms. One day while hiking, a fellow crew member picked up several small pieces of glass lying next to the trail. He showed them to the volunteer we were working with The volunteer looked at them and laid them back down. I have a hard time understanding why a person should leave broken glass in the woods because it might be an artifact. The trash shows human involvement and may be dangerous to humans or animals. But then again, we are supposed to leave Wilderness as untouched as possible and that includes not removing the artifacts present from before the wilderness designation.
4) To work on a close-knit crew.
One of my goals was to experience working on a close-knit crew and that is exactly what I did. I was one person on a four person trail crew, two girls and two guys. We worked together, lived together and spent most of our free time together. It was a wonderful experience during which I learned a lot about myself and about my co-workers. At times it can be difficult to spend so much time with the same people and my crew experienced that difficultly halfway through the summer. Tensions rose, differences escalated and it was not pleasant for a while. We all noticed the tension but no one stepped up to change it. Eventually the crew and I realized that we had to discuss the problems if they were ever going to be fixed. So the crew sat down, talked and things got much better. We learned first hand how important it is to recognize each others opinions and not everyone is the same and in the end, that is what makes a good crew.
I enjoyed this opportunity to work so closely with other people my own age. It taught me a lot about myself and I learned a lot about my crew members. The experience challenged me in a way nothing else ever has. I believe I have strengthened my ability to get along
with people despite personal differences have a new respect for compromise and I feel I have stronger communication skills.
I worked on a 4 person crew, I lived with 6 people and I worked alongside 12 volunteers who were all much older than myself with much more experience.
I spent 2-1/2 months with these people and I am all the better for it.
Reflections, Summary, and Conclusion:
This paper has been both extremely easy and extremely difficult to write. I have so many stories from my internship, that I cannot stop writing. Yet, at the same time, it is so hard to put my experience down on paper. So many things happened to me this summer. I learned new things personally and professionally, about myself and about others. After spending a whole summer living, working, and recreating with the same people I have made some wonderful friendships. I learned the type of people that I get along with and relate to the best. My friends did not care about my appearance. We never put on make-up, it did not matter what I was wearing, whether my outfit matched or not, I would sit on the couch at night reading a good book or sit on the porch looking at the stars with my housemates. This summer took away all the masks that I hide behind, that others hide behind. Take away the city life, the night life, the noise, the television, the hundreds of people, and you are left with yourself. I believe I got to know myself and the people I lived and worked with on a deeper level. It was wonderful. I am not sure have ever felt more comfortable among friends than I did this summer. I had the opportunity to get to know people outside the distractions of parties, alcohol, school, shopping, etc. always cherish the relationships I formed this summer.
My internship exposed me to a new ecosystem and a new environmental field in a very hands-on way. I learned what trail maintenance is, what activities it entails and why it is important. However, as for a career, I do not think I can make one out of trail maintenance. More than clearing up any confusion I have about my future, my internship experience raised many questions. Yet, I am certain that I am going into the correct field. I know that issues relating to recreation, conservation, and environmental science are what I should be studying. Luckily, I am. After spending my summer out in the woods, I do feel that I need to divide my time between back country work and city life. If that is possible, I do not know. I do know that I enjoy time spent in the woods and I feel that the work I can do out there is extremely beneficial.
However, this summer has reinforced my belief that environmental awareness needs to be brought to the nation's cities in a big way and especially to children. Several times throughout the summer I asked myself "how do the people living out here not take the land for granted?" I found out by talking to WODC club members that many of the young children in the area do not realize where they are living and how important the land around them is. If this is the case in Sandwich, NH which is a very small rural town located right next to a national forest, I can not even imagine what the situation is like in a large inner city area. While I am not definite on the idea of working in the city I feel it is a very important issue. I am still very unsure of what environment I hope to work in, the city or the country or somewhere in between. I hope to answer these questions through different classes I take. I will try to explore the topic of urban environmentalism more to see how interested I am in the issue. I plan to do this through classes, books, and possibly look into different social organizations I can get involved
with. I have a lot of work cut out for me, but I am excited to learn about new issues and try to decide what direction I want to take my studies as well as my career. I'll always cherish my memories from this past summer. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Jensen, Clayne R. Outdoor Recreation in America. Ed. 5 Utah: Brigham Young University 1995
Wonalancet Out Door Club. www.wodc.org
For further information please see the 2002 Trails Page.