2019 Conservation Land Stewards
2019 Summer/Fall Conservation Corps Journals
August 8, 2019 – Jordin
77 days. This is how long I have been serving with Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT) as an AmeriCorps Member. Half of my service period is almost over and I have already learned so many new skills. From earning my New Hampshire Boaters License, learning how to assess a protected property, lead participates on a guided hike, and many more. And it’s only been 77 days.
One of my favorite duties while serving with LRCT is Island Hosting on Ragged Island. Ragged Island is a 13 acre island located on Lake Winnipesauke between Long Island and Cow Island. During the summer months the AmeriCorps members spend weekend on Ragged Island to make a LRCT presence on the property. This is one of the most fun duties we have; we are able talk to people about how LRCT protects amazing properties for future generations and how the public is allowed to visit these properties. However it is not as simple as you think it might be. I am going to give you a step by step of what goes on while Island Hosting.
8am: We arrive at Center Harbor Inn to unload our gear and coolers. We grab the dingy; row over to our pontoon boat, drive the boat to the dock, and load our gear on the boat.
8:30am: We take off to Ragged Island and arrive an hour later. We document, in a log, the weather, what time we left, and how the lake was in regards to choppiness and the amount of boats.
9:30am: We arrive at Ragged Island and unload our gear. We open the historical cabin and make sure no critters have made their way inside.
10am: After having a quick snack, we set up our merchandise table near the docks. Our table has hats, stickers, and information about Lakes Region Conservation Trust. We help boats dock and also use this time to talk to people (and their dogs) about LRCT and AmeriCorps Program, we discuss everything from Ragged Island to other properties and other projects we have going on during the summer. In addition, we conduct rounds on the nature trail on the island. This nature trail connects both beaches and allows us to check on the public during the day. Last but not least, we clean the bathrooms. We have public composting toilet that need to be cleaned daily and this is the most favorable thing about Ragged Island.
1pm: LUNCH TIME!
2pm: We continue to talk to the public, conduct rounds, and sell merchandise until dinner time.
6pm: Around this time people start to head home thus we pack up our table and conduct the last round for the day. After eating dinner, we set up where we are going to sleep. Some of us prefer to sleep in a hammock while others prefer the tent. I personally like the tent but I have slept in a hammock and it was great.
9pm: This is my usual bed time but other stay up a bit later.
7am: For the first time, I woke up to a very loud “BANG”. I came out of my tent to find my coworker on the ground because she fell out of her hammock. What a wonderful way to wake up! However, during the morning we hear so many sounds such as the crashing of the water on the rocks, loons calling from the lake, and mink playing in the bushes.
7:30am: We pack up our sleeping gear and start to have breakfast. Scrambled eggs and oatmeal are the main go to meals.
8:30am: We clean our dishes from breakfast and decided to clean the bathroom.
9am: We set up our merchandise table and settle in for the day in our lawn chairs, loaded with our books, snacks, and refreshments.
12pm: LUNCH TIME!
2:30pm: We pack up our table, load the boat with our packs and coolers, and conduct the last round on the island.
3pm: We depart from Ragged Island and arrive an hour later.
4pm: We arrive at Center Harbor Inn, we unload our gear into the car, and attach the pontoon boat to the mooring.
This now gives you a basic idea of how we spend our weekends on the island and how we still make an impact on people while still having a relaxing couple of days.
LRCT AmeriCorps Member
July 29, 2019 – Nick
The hottest times of the year are truly upon us, and the mosquitos are out in full force. The amount of water I’ve had to bring for a workday has slowly increased from 1L to 3L, and I can’t start a day without basically taking a shower in DEET spray. Still, nothing feels better than walking along a trail for an hour and stumbling on a massive patch of blueberries, so the whole experience is worth it in the end. The Lakes Region Conservation Corps program has helped us develop a myriad of skills, but I feel the most important of these is being able to identify edible berries; wildberries, blueberries, bunchberries, strawberries, bearberries, and raspberries are a few of the fruits that are in season this time of the year, and provide ample reason to stop and take a prolonged water break.
I’ve never been a huge fan of plant identification, mostly because talking about invertebrates is way more fun. Yet as I spend more time out in the New Hampshire wilderness, I’ve taken the responsibility on myself to actually learn to identify different species of trees. After reading a few books and field reports, I can officially say that there are more habitat types than I would have ever thought out here – the varied topography can make an entirely different type of forest appear on different sides of a mountain, simply because the sun shines harder on the south side than the north side. It’s still an upward battle for me to differentiate between species though, but I can officially say with confidence that I know the difference between a red oak and a white oak. That is all for now.
What I am truly an expert at is identifying invasive plants, especially because they are usually the types found in gardens or city parks. On the 24th of July the Lakes Region Conservation Trust was joined by several volunteers, and even a few Squam Lakes Association members at our East and West Field Preserve in Moultonborough for some Japanese barberry removal. As we walked through a lovely field of waist-high grass (surprisingly no ticks), we got to enjoy all of the lovely wildflowers and pollinators. It was only once we crossed into a small forest where we were beset by a sea of barberry, to the point where the entire understory of the forest was invasive plants. Being able to differentiate between species was not important at all that day. After hours of working, we were able to clear at least an acre of forest out, hopefully making prime space for native plants to flourish. Although we couldn’t clear the entire area out, we at least made decent progress, and can make future work out there slightly less daunting.
Even if we can’t clear out every invasive plant, it’s still encouraging to have so much help from our volunteers and coworkers. Ultimately we will keep going to preserve and hopefully improve the forests that we have under our protection, so that we can continue to have wild berry patches to make those sweltering summer hikes all the more worth it.
June 20, 2019 – Alyssa
Two penguins are in the middle of a desert.
They’re sitting in a canoe, just paddling away, as hard as they can, and not going anywhere.
Sand is flying, and they just keep on paddling.
Eventually, one penguin looks to the other and says “where’s the paddle?”
The other replies, “sure does.”
It’s a riddle, and if you don’t get it, I’m not sure I can help you. I’ve been living in a cabin with nothing but joke books and my three coworkers; we’re all a little off.
But I can’t complain. Just take a look at how beautiful our property is! Can’t get more quintessential “New England” than that.
Our house is a former homestead nestled in the foothills of the White Mountain National Forest, and we’re the luckiest Americorps members in all the land. Can you step out your door and hike a mountain or walk to a waterfall? We sure can. It’s also the perfect haven to retreat to after a long day of trail work, invasive species removal, or trail hosting on one of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust’s popular properties.
Last week, we learned how to build and maintain trails, a skill that will come in handy over the course of our 5-month Americorps service. The Lakes Region Conservation Trust (LRCT), our host organization, was founded in 1979 to conserve the natural heritage of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. They have conserved over 150 properties, totaling over 27,000 acres, all of which protect critical wildlife habitat and diverse ecosystems, while also providing abundant opportunities for people of all ages to connect with the natural world in a way that allows for future generations to enjoy. Our duty as Conservation Land Stewards is to help explain LRCT’s mission to the community and to keep our land and trails accessible and preserved.
We mostly uphold these goals by working behind-the-scenes to help maintain each LRCT property. Castle in the Clouds is the largest area owned by LRCT, and one of the most popular in the Lakes Region. We gathered there on a rainy morning last week with trail expert Lew (Snowhawk, LLC) to learn the technical aspects of erosion control and other of trail design. As we walked the wide, former carriage trails around the Oakridge Trail, we took note of structural grade and slope issues; New Hampshire is especially prone to erosion as foot traffic and water carry earth downslope. Outcropped granite is a result of centuries of human activity on the land; poorly conducted recreational activities only perpetuate the issue.
We stopped to address a particularly steep section of trail with obvious stream marks and exposed bedrock. Four hours of gathering boulders, digging trenches, and strategically layering them at an acute angle eventually led to the creation of an 18-ft waterbar. Also known as a “enforced grade dip,” these waterbars consist of shingled rocks (or perhaps a single straight log) that redirect water from its downward trajectory, instead forcing it off the edge of the path where it can’t erode the trail further. The key is to make the structure as unobtrusive as possible; by the time we were finished with construction, the waterbar looked like a glorified bump in the road. Perfect! It will still allow hikers and wheeled vehicles to safely pass through the middle of the trail, while still providing a strong water diversion.
Unfortunately, with our newly acquired “trail maintenance” lens, we’ll never be able to enjoy a hike without critical eyes. Luckily, the peaceful White Mountain trails behind our cabin provides an escape from responsibility; they are on National Forest land, not LRCT property. We can hike guilt-free, and just roll our eyes muttering “someone should really clear out that water bar…” as we clear our heads in the mountain air.
HA! Who am I kidding? We can never leave our work behind. We’re Conservation Land Stewards; penguins of the forest, happily here to wear down our paddles in the fight to preserve ALL land to the best of our ability.
June 5, 2019 – Micaelie
It’s a sunny day, bouncing around in the high 50s low 60s, the usual for the past few weeks, making it hard to believe that it’s already June and we’re approaching the summer solstice. Two weeks have passed since the new LRCC members have joined, myself included. Although it’s only been two weeks, the time has seemed to fly by yet still somehow seems like we’ve been here much longer. Coming into it, I was a little nervous about what to expect and how I was going to adjust. Fortunately adjusting to the new routine has taken no time at all, as the weeks have been jam-packed full of training sessions and earning certifications in preparation for the upcoming season.
As part of the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, we’ve already earned our wilderness first aid, CPR, and boating certifications, not to mention all of the training sessions for interpretive guiding and trail hosting. Yesterday was ax training and today was invasive species removal training. The best part about it is that everyone has been so nice and encouraging!
Invasive species removal included getting familiar with the invasive species prone to this area and getting down and dirty to remove them. An invasive species is a species that has a tendency to spread to a degree causing damage to the environment that it is growing in. This species is able to invade native plants and overtake them, requiring them to be removed. The species we dealt with were japanese barberry, oriental bittersweet, burning bush, honeysuckle, and multiflora rose. The sad part is, some of these plants – especially oriental bittersweet – can be bought at stores and be planted on people’s personal properties, not knowing the negative impact they have on their surrounding environment.
The weather fortunately held up for us as we were able to improve 3.35 acres of the Sewall Woods Conservation Area. We even found a wood frog hopping by (my guess is he was rooting us on). During a few short breaks we could eat some food, rest our muscles, and look at critters in the stream, which helped the day fly by. Seeing all the progress we made throughout the day and feeling the aches in our bodies gave such an accomplished feeling.
As I look down at my blister-filled hand achieved today, and yesterday from using an ax for the first time, I think about where this experience will take us all. I was on the phone with a good friend earlier today and he asked me if I knew what I was going to do in 5 months when this opportunity comes to a close. Truth is, I haven’t thought much about it all. The days have been long, exhausting but enjoyable, and it’s hard to pretend like I know where my life will be. Even though 5 months isn’t that long of a time period, a lot can change. Already in the first 2 weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve formed connections and inside jokes with people I didn’t know prior to LRCC, as well as done things I never thought of doing or thought I was capable of doing, like learning how to chop through a tree with an ax or hold a Madagascar hissing cockroach.