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2003 Trails Report

Trails Report - October, 2003

After ten consecutive years of overnight work trips on the Kate Sleeper Trail, we’ve missed a year. The tradition started in 1993 when the WODC re-adopted the trail, and its been a highlight of the trail season ever since. But life seems to get a little busier each year, and the volunteers who care for WODC trails are not exempt.

Our summer trail crew is also at risk. As much as we’ve enjoyed our experiences with the SCA trail crews over the past four years, eleven weeks of hands-on training, leadership, and coordinating takes a lot out of each summer. So the Trails Committee continues to explore options that will allow us to continue this fine summer tradition without requiring quite so much time and energy.

A partial solution presented itself this summer, with the crew spending five of its eleven weeks working with the US Forest Service. This also gave the crew an interesting change of pace, working alongside FS crews on a variety of projects, from basic patrols (trail clearing) to bog bridge construction on the Nancy Pond Trail. The crew was also able to attend a comprehensive Wilderness First Aid workshop. The workshop - as well as about $10,000 of SCA costs - was paid directly by the USFS. The WODC greatly appreciates this support for our summer program, and the extra trail work that it makes possible.

This summer’s crew consisted of Becca McMaster, Abbi Bline, Tyler Katzenberg, and Jesse Tabb. After the traditional potluck supper welcome, the crew got down to the annual grunt work of clearing over 600 water bars. After their mid-summer sabbatical with the USFS, the crew returned to Wonalancet for NH Trails Day, spending an energetic day on Bennett Street Trail, including a short relocation of a steep section just above the Flat Mountain Pond Trail.

In the weeks that followed, the crew performed a range of general trail maintenance and repair. They were also introduced to the tools and techniques of overhead rigging: Using hoists and wire rope to build rock steps and water bars with a fraction of the effort (and impact) of traditional brute-force techniques. Their summer culminated with a long, wet week (eight days, actually) on Lawrence Trail, doing treadway stabilization under the guidance of Lawrence adopter, Chris Conrod.

As we have for several years, WODC volunteers served as rotating crew leaders throughout the summer, performing over 400 hours of trail work in addition to the 1800 hours by the four crew members. This saved the Club over $6000 compared to hiring a full-time crew leader (although we would have preferred to hire a single leader if good candidates had been available.)

Although the budget approved at the 2003 Annual Meeting would fund a full crew and leader for next summer, the Trails Committee is currently exploring options for a co-operative trail crew with the Squam Lakes Association. Although this would provide fewer weeks of work on WODC trails, the cost and effort for WODC volunteers would be significantly less, making this a promising long-term alternative for addressing critical WODC trail restoration projects.

While we can feel rightfully proud of the WODC trail system, that doesn’t mean it is without its problems and challenges. Many rock steps and water bars are still required to complete the stabilization work begun last year on Wiggin Trail, and heavy-use trails like Blueberry Ledge will require ongoing erosion-control measures. But these tasks pale in comparison to the years of work that will be required to stabilize Lawrence Trail - Work that must be both robust and subtle, in order not to detract from one of the wildest trails in the Sandwich Range Wilderness.

Since the founding of the WODC, balancing access and wildness has always been a prime concern for the Club. Although we love to hike, the WODC is not a trail club or a hiking club. Nor are we a “pure” conservation organization. Instead, our heart lies somewhere in between, celebrating the joy and freedom of the hills, while recognizing that our presence is also their greatest threat. Outgoing WODC president John Boettiger has expressed this better than most:

“...seeking not to barge through land thoughtlessly but to follow its contours with a keen eye, pick up its natural routes...then returning with the necessary hand tools: strong, long-handled loppers for small limbs, a bow saw for larger ones and small deadfall trees...Building drainage--waterbars of debarked trees or stone to funnel rainfall off the trail and inhibit erosion. A few carefully placed and well embedded stone steps to allow hikers freedom from wet, boggy stretches of land. The overall intention is to make a way for those who will follow to get from point A to point B--a summit, a waterfall, a moss or lichen covered glen, a spectacular view point--disturbing the natural character of the forest as little as possible. The work is part of what we now refer to, following Aldo Leopold and many other pioneers, as a Leave No Trace ethic, believing that the land and the life it nourishes is not ours by some right of dominion or peremptory hubris of assumed utility, but here in its own right, ours to respect, to visit, to wonder and renew ourselves, and then to go our own way, leaving no trace of our passing. It is, like all true gift-giving, passing on the gift to those who follow, encouraging them in turn to pass it on to those who will succeed them.”

Peter Smart
WODC Trails Chair



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