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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Adirondack Park, New York, USA

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Adirondack Park, New York, USA
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Registered: August 2017
City/Town/Province: Baltimore
Posts: 1
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I have two homes: one where I live and one where I camp. My first home is in Baltimore, in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. My camping home is in the Adirondack Park of upstate New York, a beautiful area, full of mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers. Throughout this land are miles and miles of hiking trails. I spent time vacationing there, but even more time volunteering there. For the past four years, my two best friends and I have gotten closer as we spent time enjoying and improving the land.

In 2014, I joined the volunteer trail maintenance crew at the Adirondack Mountain Club and spent my first year as a crew member working on stone steps. The steps were constructed of massive boulders rolled from at least one hundred feet from the trail to ensure the disturbed land remained invisible. I cannot put into words just how grueling this works was, leaving every one of us mentally and physically exhausted after every day of work. The constructed steps served two purposes: hiker safety and trail preservation. The boulders we placed into the ground gave hikers easy access up the hill. This ensured hiker safety and prevented trail erosion. With excessive rain in the Adirondack park, erosion and flooding of trails are not uncommon at all. The constant presence of mud is a danger to hikers, even the most experienced. Although the steps we built were no more than 6 boulders each, it took days to assemble them, working as a crew of eight. Large boulder steps are not enough to prevent erosion so we filled the surrounding sections with gravel, stabilizing the rocks. The gravel acted as a filter, allowing water to flow deeper into the soil, reducing erosion. These smaller rocks could only be found at the bottom of a cliff, only accessible by climbing down a waterfall. This was not incredibly difficult work, as we moved up and down as a team and were safe, but the thought of slipping and falling was ever present. The job was difficult but incredibly rewarding and I wish I had another opportunity to build stone steps.

I returned to the Adirondacks for trail maintenance for another two years, both times building bog bridges. Bog bridges are aptly named, as they are bridges made of logs from felled trees over marshes, water, or bogs. For our job, we felled massive trees and cut their trunks in half. Then we attached the pieces together in Lincoln Log fashion and hammered massive nails into them to hold them in place. The entire process took around five days to make two to three bridges. The vast majority of the work is chiseling, an easy job but a consistent job that left us with calluses from holding the mallet and bruises from accidentally hitting our hands. It was much less physically demanding than creating stone steps but a much more exact science and an assignment on which we couldn’t afford to make mistakes. Bog bridges are designed to maintain the wilderness while allowing hikers to pass through. The bridges are slightly elevated to keep the ground untouched but low enough to keep the hikers safe. They also help prevent erosion and the buildup of mud.

In our last year of trail maintenance, the second year with bog bridges, my two friends and I all brought our younger siblings with us for their first year of trail maintenance. Passing on the torch, we showed them the ropes and acted as mentors for them. It was incredibly fun and by far my favorite team. Our crew leaders recognized the experience we older siblings had and felt comfortable trusting us with jobs usually deemed too demanding for young and inexperienced volunteers. It made us feel like more than a group of volunteers. We were a unit, a well-oiled machine. Our whole was stronger than the sum of our parts and by the end, we were better friends and family than before and have remained closer than ever.

In the summer of 2017, I returned with my friends to our second home, hiking the 135 mile Northville-Placid Trail in 11 days. We chose this trip to evaluate our previous years work. Our first and final year jobs were located somewhere along the trail but we didn’t know where. On our first day, we arrived at the clearing where we worked at three years before and the three of us swelled with pride. Our stone steps held up incredibly, having become a part of the mountainside. On our fourth day, we came to the campsite we’d stayed at the year before for trail maintenance. This meant we were just .75 miles from the worksite. We spent the night at the campsite and the next day, we hiked past our worksite. Our bog bridges held up incredibly well. We’d built three and all three were sturdy and blended well with the forest aesthetic. We couldn’t be more proud. Those weeks of work had paid off and we could finally see our accomplishments.

Through these volunteer experiences, I’d become a better hiker and worker and have grown to appreciate the wilderness more. Over time, I developed a greater love for the environment than I had before. In fact, these volunteer experiences have changed both my college and career prospects. I now plan to major in environmental science and apply my knowledge and experience to a career. Whether it be on the Chesapeake Bay, my first home, or the Adirondacks, my second home, I plan to do my part to not just protect the wilderness, but to help it thrive.
· Date: August 13, 2017 · Views: 624 · File size: 30.5kb, 1534.1kb · : 1537 x 2049 ·
Hours Volunteered: 320
Volunteers: 8
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 14 to 24
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