The Lakes Region Conservation Corps (LRCC) develops skills and experiences for conservation professionals. LRCC members are the driving force behind the Squam Lakes Association’s conservation efforts. The program provides hands-on conservation work experience and numerous certifications over a broad range of areas, which ensure that LRCC members are capable of independently approaching a variety of tasks in the environmental conservation field. Members remove invasive species from the Squam watershed, manage and act as caretakers at our backcountry campsites, maintain the SLA’s 50+ miles of trails, educate the public on local and regional conservation initiatives, spearhead reports on conservation efforts, lead SLA volunteer crews and ensure the daily functioning of the Squam Lakes Association’s programs.
To view past Conservation Journals, click on the links below.
2018-2019 Winter/Spring LRCC-SLA Conservation Journals
May 17, 2019
One of the best things about being part of the LRCC is that I’m always learning something new. Whether it’s how to drive a boat, filter water quality samples, or peacefully live with seven other people in a two-bedroom cottage, it’s a never-ending learning experience. This last week, for example, I learned how to install docks.
Growing up near the ocean, more than a few of my happiest memories took place on these mooring structures. As a kid, I would hang off the edges of Seattle’s docks to experimentally run my fingers through the feathery tube worms and clinging anemones hidden below. Years later, the docks became the place where my parents and I would unload our morning’s catch of Dungeness while chatting with the boaters visiting from British Columbia. All this time and I never knew anything about how those docks actually got there.
Now, on literally the opposite side of the country, I’ve finally learned the ins and outs of how docks are installed. The process, as a whole, is simple enough: you drill some brackets into each dock segment, lower the segments into the water, and drop long metal poles through the ring of each bracket before sledgehammering them into the bottom of the lake. Once the poles are solidly embedded, you can then use the brackets and a raiser to raise the docks to the desired height. It’d be a pretty straightforward task if it weren’t for the fact that each individual dock presents its own unique challenges.
Rocks, for instance, require a ridiculous amount of troubleshooting. On our third day we had two poles on one of our island docks that kept hitting rocks. No matter how we angled them, the poles refused to sink into the ground. After an hour or so of fruitless sledgehammering, we finally decided to reposition the brackets, which required us to lean over the sides of the SLA’s boats (Lil Whaler & Calypso) and reach under the dock to loosen the bolts. While leaning over the edge and up to my elbows in freezing water, I tried not to think about the fact that we’re scheduled to have our swim test in that very same water in less than a week. Once both brackets were relocated, we dropped the poles into their new locations and breathed a collective sigh of relief when they sunk into soft mud.
Despite the frustrations, it was great to finally get out on the water and enjoy some of the Squam Lake sunshine. Working on the docks also led me to a few realizations—the first of which being that dock spiders are massive. As a proud recovering arachnophobe (my anti-spider weapon of choice has recently become a cup and a piece of paper instead of a sturdy shoe) I’m actively working to become more comfortable with our 8-legged friends. But dock spiders? That’s gonna take some time.
My second realization was that there’s a ton of “invisible” work that goes into public access. Even though I may not have seen them in person, every time I’ve camped out in a clean campsite, hiked a well-maintained trail, or cast off from a public dock, I’ve been able to do so because of the hard work of caretakers and volunteers. Now that I’ve had my turn as one of these “invisible” workers, it makes me all the more grateful for the work that public access organizations like the SLA are doing to ensure that we can all enjoy our natural resources.
Adel's favorite meal is whole fried red snapper- with the eyes and fins and everything, roasted asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes, and matcha ice cream! You can read more about Adel here.
May 5, 2019
This week I led a program called Paddle and Poetry, in which participants shared and wrote poetry from their boats. I started doing some writing for my own enjoyment about five years ago. I’ve found it to be very rewarding for many reasons, but it has been especially enjoyable in the outdoors. In place of a photo or video, taking the time to write something down when you’re out in nature is a way to create a special and more meaningful memory. Looking back at your own writing, you are able to put yourself back in a place and time with ease. In honor of my program this week, I chose to write a poem about Piper Cove, where the Squam Lakes Association is located.
forth as the water
Oak Pond flows in,
roiling with White
and fro, harvesting
woody fibers which,
among the grasses,
the Canada Goose
guarding her nest
at the edge
of the forest.
of them all
to let us in
to their home,
there is only a little
we have done
to deserve such treatment,
but we try
refer to it
as our cove, but
to no man.
John's perfect meal is carnitas street tacos with rice and beans. You can read more about John here.
May 3, 2019
John and I are in the truck heading east on Route 3. The sun is in my eyes and my arms are covered with goosebumps from the cool morning air. The taste of maple syrup lingers in my mouth from breakfast. Our backpacks are in the backseat, loaded up with everything we’ll need to spend a day out in the woods. Today is Thursday, the fourth day of Adventure Vacation Camp. We are driving to Chamberlain Reynolds Memorial Forest to spend the day outside with the campers. In my lap are bags containing trail maps and keychains with the principles of “Leave no Trace” printed on them.
For anyone who is not aware, Leave No Trace is a code of outdoor ethics. It serves as a guideline to minimizing our impacts on the environment and preserving the experiences of others while hiking and camping. There are seven principles, the first of which is “plan ahead and prepare”. This includes knowing the terrain and what to expect in terms of weather so you can bring the proper clothing and equipment. This time of year the trails are particularly muddy, so it is important to have the proper footwear to walk through puddles on the trail rather than go around them.
Another important component of this is knowing where you’re going and having the means to find your way if you get lost, such as a map and compass. Although the trails of CRMF are rather easy to follow, we thought it was important for the kids be familiar with this concept. After handing out the maps and discussing how to use a compass, we put them in charge of navigating the woods, not us. “We’ve never been here before so we’re going to need you guys to figure out where we’re going”. Experience is the best teacher, right?
Our first objective was to get to the swamp walk. At this point energy was quite high, the kids were all wound up. We hiked along the trail, stopping periodically at junctions to double check that we were heading in the right direction and to collaborate on which route we should take.
Through the expert guidance of our crew, we eventually made it over to the swamp walk. The hike had been pretty cold, especially in areas where the trails are heavily shaded by dense patches of hemlocks. As we arrived at our destination, the dense canopy of hemlocks gave way to an open sky and lovely rays of sunlight.
We sat out on the boardwalk and basked in the sun. The calls of wood frogs filled the air. Everyone began getting drowsy in the warm sunlight, and John and I took the opportunity to finish elaborating on the remaining principles of Leave No Trace that we hadn’t covered.
This was my second time being a camp counselor for adventure vacation camp, the first being back in March. But this time was a bit different in that John and I were counselors for the entire week. The last time I wrote a conservation journal about camp I reflected on the value of the experience to the kids, but it is not only the campers who reap the benefits.
Prior to my time here at SLA, I had virtually no experience in outdoor education. I had never been a camp counselor, nor was it something I had ever really considered. But now that I have been exposed to it, I am finding it to be quite enjoyable. Will I continue to work in outdoor education after my time here at SLA? Perhaps; that I am not certain of. But what I am certain of is that I am grateful for the variety of experiences that the Lakes Region Conservation Corps program provides. These valuable experiences and insights will stick with me, just as I hope the experiences of the campers this week will stick with them.
Alex's perfect meal is stir fry from a hibachi restaurant, chicken- not beef, vegetables- not bean sprouts, and brown fried rice- not white. You can read more about Alex here.
April 26, 2019
Calling all daredevils, thrill-seekers, and Evel Knievels! Tired of the same old, rote skydiving, rollercoaster rides, and whitewater rafting? Have I got news for you! This week I’ve discovered a new pastime that’s guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping: installing wood duck boxes.
Usually, installing nesting boxes is hardly an event to write home about. The box itself is comprised of small wooden panels and roughly measures about 2-feet tall by 1-foot wide. A large hole in the top half of the front panel allows birds to enter and exit the structure, and a hinge on the roof grants easy access for maintenance or surveying. The box is normally attached to a large (and heavy) 8-foot wooden pole that should have some type of predator guard fixed to it—our predator guards are smooth grey tubes that make the pole harder to climb. The entire contraption ends up being awkwardly top-heavy and typically requires two people to carry it. To install it, basically all you have to do is dig a hole and put the bottom end of the pole in it. Sounds easy, right? But when you’re standing next to a snow-covered bank in two feet of ice-cold water, with both feet firmly trapped in about three inches of a nice, sticky mix of silt and mud, there’s nothing like the terrifying thrill of a duck box’s unbalanced weight slowly pushing you backwards, closer and closer towards an unintentional (and greatly undesired) bath.
Just an hour earlier, Kim Appleby, my fellow LRCC member, and I were sliding a heavily-loaded, cherry red canoe around the docks, seeking the least icy entrance to the water. Our canoe was weighed down by the following items: one duck box, one post hole digger, one hammer, two oars, and a bucket of wood chips. It was an uncharacteristically warm, sunny day, and as I donned my life jacket and an ultra-fashionable, low-ventilation pair of mud brown waders, I’d never been more thankful for the remaining snow that allowed us to slide the canoe instead of carrying it. Once we got the boat into the water, we faced the next challenge of figuring out how to fit both of us into the canoe with everything else already packed into it. I ultimately ended up sitting backwards, balanced uncomfortably on top of the pole end of the duck box, while Kim sat at the back with the box between her knees.
After a few minutes of leisurely paddling, we had wound our way up the stream that connects the cove in front of the SLA to the neighboring White Oak Pond. Wood ducks prefer nesting boxes that face the water without directly facing any neighboring boxes, so our intended destination was a secluded spot about a quarter mile up the stream. With only one pair of waders between the two of us, once we reached the installation point Kim stayed in the canoe while I stepped into Squam Lake for the very first time.
It’s a lot muddier than I thought it would be. Each step was accompanied by a wet “schlock” that I could feel more than hear as the boots of my waders were suctioned into the bottom of the lake. The next thirty minutes were filled with me attempting to use a post hole digger to create a three-foot deep hole in mud underneath moving water. Without being able to easily lift my mud-trapped feet, if I pulled too hard on the post hole digger I risked tumbling backwards into the freezing water. Too little and the tool would hardly budge. After threatening to give up on three separate occasions (thanks again to Kim for the pep talks), the hole was finally deep enough. Kim and I then rearranged the bird box so it was leaning against the snowy bank with the pole end in the water and she began to push it up towards me so I could stand it up and maneuver the pole into the hole.
That’s when it happened. We missed the hole by about half a foot, so as the bird box towered above me I could feel it start to push me backwards. My feet were stuck close together and I frantically tried to pull one foot out of the mud so I could plant it further behind me, but the ground refused to relinquish its hold. Kim and I shared a brief look of horror in the milliseconds of what assumed would be my last warm, dry moment on earth when suddenly…. it stopped? I’m still not sure how I regained my balance, but why question a miracle! A few minutes, and lots of relief-induced giggling later, the wood duck box was finally firmly planted into its new home.
And why, you may be wondering, did Kim and I go through all of this trouble? These boxes, although sometimes utilized by many types of birds, are specifically intended for wood ducks. In the early 1900’s, these strikingly beautiful ducks—seriously, please look up a picture of a male wood duck if you’ve never seen one—were hunted to the brink of extinction. On top of that, the logging of old growth forests had greatly depleted the number of trees with natural cavities that these ducks typically nest in. Thankfully, through both hunting regulations and the dedication of those who install and maintain nest boxes as an alternative to natural tree cavities, today’s wood duck populations have soared.
Now, as I begin the second half of my year with the SLA, I’m excited to continue checking in on these wood duck boxes. Many of the conservation projects we work on have long timelines, meaning that the end results might not be enjoyed until long after we’ve all left the SLA. These duck boxes, however, offer a rare opportunity to directly see the results of my efforts. So if you’re looking for me at all this spring, I’ll likely be found on the SLA’s back porch, attached to my binoculars and in search of ducklings.
We appreciate how reliable, thoughtful, fun, and worldly Adel is. We always have the best conversations with her, she makes the best cookies, and is the best at correcting my grammar. You can read more about Adel here.
April 12, 2019
The old cliché of spring renewal is one I am guilty of using. It is indescribably refreshing to feel a gust of warm air pour over the snow and around me as I walk around outside. This winter I have been rushing around scarfing down adventure wherever I can find it, with a seemingly endless pile of laundry going unfolded for days on end and just enough food in the pantry for me to put off going to Hannafords one more time. It’s been an amazing winter for skiers and I am sad to see the snow melting away, even though I know I’ll be able to get a few more turns in. It is spring, which is a beautiful, fragrant, vibrant time for plants and animals and a very strange time for humanoids in New Hampshire.
It can still snow, but I know there are flowers blooming somewhere in the state. The ground is soft during the day, but gets rock-hard again at night (known as the freeze-thaw cycle). The air in the woods smells crisp and refreshing though flowing over a melting snowpack which slowly reveals months of accumulating canine-created surprises on hiking trails. It is a time of year where a person might feel compelled to sweep their driveway clear of the sandcastles that have slowly been forming since December. Any snow that is left over is a vile crust of dirt, sticks and garbage. This week we had a day that was 50°F then it snowed 4” over the next two days. What a strange time, indeed.
There are lots of different things to do when you have two seasons at once. Last week I went climbing in Rumney and the next day I went backcountry skiing. Because of all of the changes though, I do have to be careful about where I decide to travel outside. Certain roads I have been driving down all winter are now impassible in my little Subaru and there are even more trails I have been hiking along for months that I now need to leave alone because of their fragility. This strange dual season I find myself in, is affectionately known as mud season.
As the snow melts, the ground thaws and spring rains arrive, leaving the ground incredibly saturated, only able to hold a portion of the water beneath our feet. This can lead to long ruts on dirt roads and enormous puddles covering entire sections of hiking trails. When the snow melts in town and things dry out, it is tempting to think that the snow has melted everywhere that we want to travel, but snow holds on later at higher elevations, even into June at the highest elevations in the area. This melting period leaves soils highly susceptible to compaction and erosion. Soil compaction happens when we travel along a wet trail and compress the ground under our weight, which in turn reduces the amount of water the soil can absorb. All of the water than can’t be absorbed will then erode that soil, leaving rocks and roots exposed and making it harder for plants to grow, perpetuating this cycle further. If you think you can just walk around the mud, this is worse! Doing so tramples vegetation and widens the trail, leading to further damage. If you ever find yourself forced to walk on a wet trail, walk right through the mud! It feels great and it protects the vegetation around the trail.
Anyway, the best thing I can do this time of year is be thoughtful about where I travel outside. There is plenty of adventure to be had at lower elevations where the snow has melted the most. If I do encounter a thoroughly wet and muddy trail, I will be sure to turn around and find a more durable surface to travel on. Mud season can be a great time to explore outside if you know where to look, but I may also take the time to catch up on laundry.
Traits we admire in John are his thoughtfulness, positive attitude, reliability, and commitment to service. You can read more about John here.
April 5, 2019
The day is Wednesday, March 27th. The morning starts the same, coffee mug in hand, backpack filled: microspikes, gloves, an extra layer, rain pants, the banana that’s probably squished, laptop, headphones, etc. It’s a regular day as a winter term LRCC member. But the spring equinox was a week ago! The birds are chirping, the ground is frozen in some places, and muddy in others, our cove is sprinkled with geese and ducks, and the air is crisp and refreshing. Usually I rush across the field to get back inside to warmth as quickly as possible, but today I am watching the birds zoom from treetop to treetop and reflecting on both the obvious and subtle signs that reveal spring is here. When it hits me, it’s 8:29, and we have our weekly LRCC meeting at 8:30! The morning rush across the field returns.
The time is now 9:30. I look at my to-do list and I plan my day.
The time is now 12:30. After a morning of working on computer-based service projects, I begin the afternoon by setting up for tonight’s Squam Speaker Series. I sweep, rearrange the great room furniture, set up additional chairs, assemble the projector screen, get distracted by the flock of birds inhabiting the ice island in the cove, plug in the projector, and pour myself a cup of coffee. I go back to the computer to decide what to do next before Katri, our Facilities Manager, asks for a hand with changing the oil of our boat Calypso. I’m enjoying that the artillery of cold weather clothing is not needed as we walk down to the docks, tools in hand, and exclaim how gorgeous the day is.
The time is now 4:30. As staff and LRCC members alike start trickling out of the office, I sit and prepare my introductions for this evening's speakers.
The time is now 6:30. Our speakers arrive, guests follow shortly after. Tonight's speakers present on “Designing with Nature: Green Infrastructure Techniques for Property Owners.” This is the first of our Spring into Action series focused on ways to help the environment. People ask questions, offer comments, and the discussion expands beyond the immediate topic. The excitement and talk of upcoming seasons makes me forget there’s still snow on the ground. The discussion wraps up, people begin to leave, and I quickly rearrange the great room back to its usual set up.
The time is now 9:00. I walk back to the LRCC cottage. It’s late, I’m tired, but I am inspired by the energy that spring reawakens.
As I reflect on the activities of that Wednesday, I appreciate the transition between the slower and calm winter season to a busier and vibrant spring. I’ve always loved spring. The increased energy, the ability to bask in the sun without sweating, and the way the season naturally inspires change and improvement. Over the past 10 months here at the SLA, I have seen the power of community: to share ideas, to partner together, and to encourage continuous growth towards common goals. Last Wednesday night, during the discussion ignited by a shared curiosity about how to create landscapes and gardens that support natural ecosystem functions, I was again inspired by the enthusiasm to make improvements that have positive impacts on the environment. As I prepare to pack my bags to adhere to 50 Ib. weight limits and head back to Florida, I find myself refocusing on how I can improve as an individual to make more environmentally conscious decisions.
Now, the snow and ice are melting, snowshoes are exchanged for paddles, and I look forward to the coming months of transitioning from a LRCC member to… well that is to be determined. But, what I do know is that I will take with me the many lessons learned while serving at the SLA that inspire me to continue to improve as an environmental steward, both professionally and as an individual.
Kim is an empath. She is dedicated to conservation, a strong leader within the program, a loyal friend and team member, and a joy to be around. Kim has served two half term positions for a total of 10 months at the SLA, and has been a great asset to the program. You can read more about Kim here.
March 29, 2019
2019. Afternoon. The SLA great room. “The coffee is ready.” Everyone sighs. It’s the first time I can recall where nobody is craving the mid-day pick-me-up. The fireplace warms ours bodies. It doesn’t crackle or pop, probably because it’s a gas fire, but it hits the spot. Instead, the sound of seven gurgling stomachs echo across the room. Hunger? No. Upset? Oh, yeah. Why? There’s only so much sugar a human can take, and we far exceeded it during Maple Sugar Day at Burleigh Farm. I remember looking at everyone in the room and thinking, “I’m home.”
2017. Night. Bedroom floor. A tea pot whistles. A Star Wars podcast plays. “How many points did you get?” I sigh. She knows she won. No need to rub it in. However, she’s letting me sleep on her floor, so I’ll let her have the glory. I decided to live out of my car for the summer to save money while working boat rentals at the SLA, but I find myself sleeping on Katri’s floor the majority of the time. After our game, I settle into my sleeping bag. She turns the lights off. “Night.” I remember looking up at the ceiling and thinking, “I’m home.”
2016. Night. Backyard. A fire blazes in the cool, clear sky of a summer night. The Big Dipper watches from above. Gio and Kyle play Harvest Moon on their guitars. The rest of us interns sit listening to the two goofballs. It’s a night filled with laughter and bonding. We share stories with each other, both happy and sad. It doesn’t matter though because we’re comfortable in our new family. I remember looking around the circle at the faces illuminated by the fire and thinking, “I’m home.”
Now there’s a word. Home. It’s simple. Four letters long yet it’s surrounded by a variety of interpretations. A one syllable noise that ignites the memories of friends and family. It’s a place. A feeling. A yearning we all crave. It encircles and entices our senses. The music we hear, the sights we see, the food we taste and smell, or maybe even the touch of a familiar surface. This word truly has an inescapable presence.
I’ve called Squam home for over three years now. I’ve witnessed the organization shift from offering a summer internship to a year-round AmeriCorps program; we’ve always maintained a presence in the area throughout the seasons, but now we can continue our efforts with a workforce equivalent to that of the summer. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching both the program and organization grow and I wish I could stay longer to observe where everything goes from here. To see how many other organizations will join in collaboration with the AmeriCorps program. To see the SLA’s main building transitioning into renewable energy. And lastly, to see if whether or not our cottage gets a new couch-you have no idea how uncomfortable it is.
One of the drawbacks associated with the environmental field is that most jobs/programs are seasonal or temporary. We develop such strong connections that saying goodbye becomes almost unbearable. It’s as if we’re leaving a piece of us behind. As I approach the end of my service here, I can’t help but ask myself, “How many more times can I say goodbye? How many more pieces are there to leave?” I’ve said goodbye to my home twice already, the first being leaving my hometown for secondary education and the second upon completing college, but now it’s time for another farewell.
As I ready myself to trade in views of forests and mountains for the man-made landscape of a city, I can’t express enough how much we need organizations such as the SLA. A place where the employees, volunteers, and even the community work together to protect the natural world. A place that can serve as a model for conservation practices and techniques. A place that brings together people from all over. A place to call home.
Stevie is a creative. His sly smile, sarcasm mixed with wit, loyalty, and creativity have graced the SLA for the past three years. We are excited to see where these talents will lead him! You can read more about Stevie here.
March 22, 2019
As of this journal posting, I will have only one week left in Holderness with the Squam Lakes Association; only one week left before I finish 900 service hours with the Lakes Region Conservation Corps; and only one week left before I move back to Cape Cod to take on a leadership role among outdoor educators.
I am currently sitting in the great room at the SLA headquarters, dancing flames from the fireplace in my periphery, and I find myself content. The sun is shining fiercely and signs of spring are on the horizon: swathes of dead grass are revealing themselves on our field accompanied by muddy tracks, pockets of puddles instead of miniature ice rinks, and small ripples of free water on our cove as the ice shrinks and the wind blows. A majority of the past 5 months that I have lived here have been blanketed by snow and layers, challenging service projects and camaraderie among my fellow service members.
This position has allowed me to simultaneously utilize my background in environmental education as well as learn new skills such as small-scale carpentry, snow plowing, and trail maintenance. I have enjoyed growing in the face of adversity (more specifically in not-ideal field work conditions like high wind chill and freezing temperatures), and I have come out the other side feeling proud of my service. Personally, this is my second term of service. I served on AmeriCorps Cape Cod for 11 months, or 1700 hours. Both terms provided ample opportunities for professional development and community building, items that I value immensely. Not only am I walking away with new and honed skills, long-lasting memories, and experience in the field of environmental conservation, but I am also receiving an educational award that I will put toward my student loans. With AmeriCorps, I have served cumulatively 2600 hours over a span of 16 months. It is an experience that I think everyone with a commitment to developing community and a passion should consider. AmeriCorps has helped small non-profits such as the SLA to flourish and remain relevant.
I am not the first nor the last of the AmeriCorps members to leave this beautiful space. Even at the cost of sounding cliché, I find myself at the end of my term feeling bittersweet. I am looking forward to the next chapter, but I am also sad to leave the frozen lake and the snow-capped peaks of the Squam Range behind. Is this how winter feels as spring approaches? Like winter though, I know I that I will return one day to the Squam Lakes region. And when I do, I know that I will be able to enjoy “the natural beauty, peaceful character and resources of the watershed” thanks to the Squam Lakes Association. To all the people of the SLA: AmeriCorps members, senior staff, and community volunteers alike, my heartfelt gratitude for allowing me the chance to grow in a time of year when life can seem so stagnant.
And so, a happy mud season to all, and to all a good spring!
Traits we admire in Amanda are her creativity, excellent follow-through, persistence, and proactive attitude. She will definitely be missed around the SLA. You can read more about Amanda here.
March 15, 2019
It is 8:00 AM in the great room at SLA headquarters. The sun is shining on this peaceful Monday morning, and across the cove from where I stand, white pines are gently swaying in the breeze. Aside from the growl of an electric teapot and the occasional call of a black-capped chickadee, the morning is quiet and still. But it wouldn’t remain this way for long. In just a few short moments, total chaos is about to ensue. Today is the first day of Winter Adventure Camp.
In roughly thirty minutes the flood gates would open, and swarms of children would break through the door screaming and doing Fortnite dances. Stevie and I would be swallowed alive as we were engulfed by a tidal wave of campers. I snap out of my daydream as the first camper and her parents walk through the door. The rest begin to trickle in and as everyone is getting signed in, I begin to realize that today was not going to be my demise.
To begin the camp experience, Stevie and I helped the campers to create wooden necklaces that served as nametags and journals for them to reflect on their experience at the end of each day. Some of the campers went all out and, in addition to their nametags and journals, created works of art on par with those of Picasso or Van Gogh. Others created necklaces not only for themselves, but for their entire family, including the dog.
After wiping Elmer’s glue off nearly every conceivable surface in the great room, it was time for an ice safety lesson with Cole. We suited up and outfitted everyone with a life jacket and ice picks before heading down to the cove. Some of these kids had never been on a frozen body of water before, so it was fun to see their eyes light up as we ventured out onto the ice.
We split into two teams and, using hand augers, raced to drill through the frozen sheet beneath us. The ice ended up being about a foot and a half deep, enough to wear out fourth graders and camp counselors alike. We then asked the kids how thick they thought the ice would need to be to support different objects such as a snowmobile or truck. Some of the kids were surprised to hear that the ice doesn’t need to be 100 feet thick to support a truck, but rather a single foot is considered “safe”.
I use parenthesis with the word safe because the thickness and strength of ice can be quite unpredictable. While the ice may be thick enough to support a truck in one area, just a few feet away it could crack under the weight of a person. And this bizarre occurrence is all the more possible in the cove behind our building, where large rocks and underwater currents cause variability in the thickness of the ice.
Although I had no intention of doing so, I demonstrated this point as I walked out farther onto the ice to referee the next game. I took a step and felt the ice start to give way under my foot and the next thing I knew I was pulling my wet leg and water-filled boot from the water. Everyone was immediately rushed back on to shore and we took the opportunity to solidify the day’s lesson: that the ice is never 100% safe. My unintentional demonstration highlighted the exact reason why these trainings are important.
This five-day winter camp was the first of its kind for the SLA, a prototype if you will. And even though I walked away with a boot full of water, I believe it was a success. The kids really seemed to enjoy themselves and on the last day they even made us a thank you card. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself too. They were a great group of kids and it was a lot of fun teaching them and helping them to deepen their appreciation for mother nature and the outdoors.
I’ve heard a quote somewhere about how the world is in the hands of our children, and I believe that statement is true. Although this camp was only a five-day endeavor, it played a role in developing the next generation of stewards and conservationists, which will have a lifelong impact. With children who appreciate the outdoors and hold natural beauty in high regard, the protection of the Squam watershed will continue for years to come.
Traits we admire in Alex are his flexibility, attention to detail, work ethic, and extraordinarily caring spirit. You can read more about Alex here.
March 8, 2019
In the corner of the SLA’s AmeriCorps office there’s a marked-up whiteboard with a list of “Friday Duties” scrawled on it. The items listed include tasks such as sweeping the shop, restocking forms, and chopping wood, among others. In short, this is our chore list; a reminder of what we need to get done in order to keep things running smoothly.
This week, instead of writing about the many trail-work excursions, education programs, and water quality sampling outings I’ve participated in throughout the last four months, I wanted to take some time to highlight the mundane—the “unexciting” aspects of our daily lives at the SLA. I’m talking about the kind of stuff we don’t put on our posters or mention when faced with the inevitable “what exactly do you do at the SLA?”. And why, you may be wondering, do I want to talk about this? Because although this kind of work may not be glamorous, it’s an equally important part of our roles as LRCC members.
One of the key responsibilities on the “Friday Duties” list is taking a week’s worth of recycling and trash to the dump. Depending on what kind of events the SLA has hosted that week, this could mean throwing 7-8 massive trash bags (along with any other miscellaneous junk) into the back of our truck and driving it over to the Holderness Town Dump.
Now, this may sound strange, but I absolutely love going on dump runs. I always see it as a nice break from whatever I’m working on that day—a chance to take a short drive, sing along to the radio, and even check out the Swap Shop to see if they’ve gotten any new books or board games. Although it can be disheartening to see the amount of waste we generate, there’s also a strange sense of renewal that comes with putting fresh garbage bags into the bins and throwing our old trash and recyclables down the shoot. It’s sort of an “out with the old, in with the new” kind of feeling.
And this feeling leads me to the first of two reasons why I actually look forward to Friday Duties: they can be a way to re-center and balance ourselves after a long week of service. With the go-go-go style of work we do, the days can sometimes merge together into an undistinguishable blur. If we weren’t required to keep track of how we spend our time for logging service hours, sometimes I doubt I’d be able to recall what had happened only a day or two ago. These end-of-week tasks offer an opportunity to step back, take a breath, and prepare for the upcoming week and any challenges that may come with it.
My second reason is that I recognize that these small, practical tasks can have larger effects. A clean Great Room becomes an inviting space to welcome visitors to the SLA. A company car with a full tank of gas ensures that we’re on time to meet volunteers for trail-work days. And although they may be called “Friday Duties”, this routine maintenance and upkeep is something that we do a little of each day. In the big picture, within the field of conservation—where our efforts to combat the challenges facing our environment can often feel like uphill battles—it’s important to recognize the value of constant and routine work. So even though our work isn’t always exciting, this appreciation for the “small stuff,” the seemingly menial tasks, is something that I intend to carry with me wherever I go after my time with the LRCC.
Adel is living and loving life in NH. You can often spot her playing in the snow, chatting about Freddie Mercury, or watching Spaghetti Westerns. You can read more about Adel here.
March 1, 2019
January in New Hampshire lived up to its reputation. It was long, cold and dark. All. The. Time. My morning routine had been pretty stable; wake up, eat and throw on every layer I had for the short but frigid walk over to the office. Today was a little different though. I was scheduled for winter water quality and as I was planning my day; what to wear, what to pack, I decided to check the weather. Typically I would see numbers that looked something like 5, 10, negative 15, but today I saw a number that I had not seen in a while. I thought I was dreaming and debated on asking someone to read it for me. Thinking my eyes were failing, I rubbed them like a cartoon character and looked again. I was right, this number was a 60. It was projected to be 60 degrees Fahrenheit and it was February 5. I didn’t know what was going on but I didn’t care, it was warm.
Adel and I were scheduled for sampling two locations on the lake that I had done with John about two weeks prior, Sandwich Bay and Inner Squaw Cove. When John and I were out sampling, we dressed as if we were walking on Antarctica, sub-zero temperatures and a wicked wind forced us to cover every centimeter of our bodies. Today was a different story. I was going to take advantage of the warm weather and shining sun and hoped to get a little base layer for the summer. As Adel and I got to Sandwich Bay and were prepping to walk out onto nearly two feet of ice, we decided to change our attire. We were dressed a little differently than what would be expected for a winter water quality sampling day. We sported our LRCC T-Shirts exposing our arms, both of which were usually covered by half zips, long sleeves and big jackets. We were ready. We made our way to the location with the help of the GPS and started sampling. Some clouds rolled in with a little breeze and overcast as we were finishing up. We got back to the truck and packed up the gear, cranked the windows down and started onto the next site.
As we got to Inner Squaw Cove the scene was a different than what we left at Sandwich Bay. The Sun was out again, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the wind was gone. We made our way onto the ice and worked up a little sweat, it was hot but we weren’t complaining. Before I knew it the sampling was done and it was time to pack up, it was upsetting. If only Inner Squaw was a little deeper we could have stayed out a little longer in the oddly hot and sunny weather. The truck said it was 60 but on the ice it felt like 80. The two of us drove back with the windows down and the music playing loud. We joked of walking into the office and putting aloe on to sooth the slight sunburn we experienced, thought it would have been a little cruel to everyone stuck in the office though.
This day flew by and got me real excited for the spring and summer. The sun has me dreaming of hot dive days and water quality sampling trips. Cruising around on a boat, being out in the sun on a beautiful lake, what more could you ask for?
Cole is an avid ice enthusiast. He enjoys playing hockey with the local team, ice skating on Squam, and the occasional frosty beverage. You can read more about Cole here.
February 22, 2019
“Tell us about a time when you have MacGyvered something,” is one of the most obscure, yet interesting interview questions I have ever been asked. This is a great opportunity to show them I can work out solutions independently I thought. The gears in my brain start turning as I wrack my brain to think of a good example. With all my time spent in the outdoors I surely must have MacGyvered something at some point, I think to myself.
Flash forward a few months, and I still think about this question a lot. Tasks at the SLA often include problem solving, MacGyvering, and independently figuring things out. I often think to myself, “wow, this would be a great answer to the MacGyver question.”
A recent example is when my fellow AmeriCorps member Amanda and I were given the task of creating 30 ice picks. The ice picks are a hand held safety device with spikes on the ends so that if someone were to fall through the ice while walking on the lake, they could use the sharp picks to dig into the ice and pull themselves out of the water, like a claw, or an ice axe. SLA has a few plastic pairs for going out and sampling water quality during the winter, but not enough to support a group of 60 seventh graders that we would bring out onto the ice for a school program about water quality monitoring.
Through research and trial and error, we slowly perfected our method of creating 30 ice picks. We used a wooden model that someone had already made to create our picks. Each pick is L shaped and the two fit together to create a rectangle. The nails sticking out of each end of the picks slide into a little hole on the other side of the wooden piece so the nails are covered and don’t poke you when the device is worn around your neck. It seemed simple enough, but the technique on crafting the picks turned out to be more difficult than expected.
Some of the wooden pieces snapped in half when we started cutting them with a jigsaw, others split when we tried hammering a nail into them because the wood was poor quality. Then the dremel, which we used to cut and sharpen the nails, stopped working, and other blocks snapped when we were finishing sanding them with the power sander. Eventually, we ended up with 30 handcrafted ice picks.
On the day of the school program Amanda and I ended up being the ones to hand out the picks to children. I even overheard a few kids examining the wooden blocks inquisitively asking each other how they thought they were made.
After my time as an AmeriCorps member serving at Squam Lakes Association I will have no problem answering the MacGyver Question.
Syd excels at doing pull-ups in the Great Room, cuddling her cat Moxy, and concocting tiny microwavable cakes with questionable ingredients. You can learn more about Syd here.
February 15, 2019
Growing up in New Hampshire, I learned early on how to savor a brisk morning and biting wind and get outside, to keep from going stir-crazy. I was lucky to have had skis strapped to my feet around the age of five and even luckier to have had a father who was eager to dump me in skiing lessons so he that could take some turns. By the time I was in high school, I was quite adept at handling my ‘sticks’ and joined the ski team at school, but the monotony of grand slalom turns on a wide white plane didn’t suit my style. I skied the moguls, into the trees, off of small cliffs - off of the manicured corduroy wherever I could find the chance.
Once I got out of college and started working, I wasn’t able to find the time to drive up into the mountains to ski downhill, so I bought cross country skis and started exploring the trails around my home. This was immensely gratifying, as I was able to glide on the snow through forest and along water’s edge, all through my own effort. Since leaving the “comfort” of a cubicle a few years ago, I’ve been slowly stepping up my level of adventuring and in 2018 I took the plunge and bought alpine touring skis. This winter has been unlike any other for me.
On average, I've “earned my turns” skiing about every other day since the first day of winter because I have been getting up before the sun rises to ski before I serve at the SLA. As part of my AmeriCorps service here, I have analyzed trail parameters which are used to improve management of SLA trail resources. As a result of this, I generated and had access to trail data which, in my free time, I used to identify trails whose grade and features would lend themselves well to a vigorous morning ski. In this way, I found all “the goods” in our trail system, which are available for the plundering just a short drive from our doorstep.
I grew up driving hours to go skiing, so it’s hard to express the immense gratitude I have for being able to see these mountains from my window today. The SLA maintains over fifty miles of trail and I feel very lucky to have such a bountiful natural playground in my backyard. Despite being consumed by skiing at the moment, I can’t wait for the snow to melt, for mud season to pass, and for many more miles of trail to become accessible to us all.
John enjoys early mornings to himself, making soy wax candles, and adventuring in all its forms. You can read more about John here.
February 8, 2019
I woke up early, filled my coffee canister, and was ready for another Sunday morning of trail work. This week we were headed to the Pilote and Sydney A. Howe forests. Amanda, Stevie, and I wait in the the great room, where one by one our volunteers arrived. We then all piled in to the truck to head to the trails. Our crew consisted of six of us that day, so at the trailhead we split up into groups of three to work on the various different trails that winded and connected in the Pilote forest. Snowshoes packed, saws and loppers in hand, and macgyvered walkie talkie holder attached, we were off to clear the trails.A volunteer that joined us from the Student Conservation Association, Amanda, and I, started hiking up the outer perimeter trail. We quickly came across a small blow down. As we started sawing, we realized that it was going to be more troublesome than it originally appeared. A small tree laying across one's path through the woods, can quickly become a confusing physics problem. With some problem solving and teamwork, we were able to free the tree from the path, and move on to the next one. As we continued forward we got to a point that no one else has ventured to, well at least since the last snow storm. We strapped in the snow shoes and went onward. I was very thankful for the devices attached to my feet, but this was definitely not an easy task. We were moving forward, taking turns breaking trail, and exchanging in conversations.
During hikes on trail work days, walks on the ice to do water quality, education programs, and even truck rides to and from various locations around Squam Lake, there is always time for us LRCC members to connect with each other, volunteers, and community members. These exchanges of words range from discussing the next marvel movie coming out, to discovering commonalities in our past experiences and current motivations.
While connecting with new people, and my current fellow LRCC members, this week also consisted of Squam being visited by past SLA Americorps members. Live music performed by a fun local musician, and a Super Bowl party filled with a delicious assortment of food, were both great occasions to reconnect with Becca, Maggie, Connor P., and Kyle. Hearing about new jobs and job prospects was exciting. While we all have different specific interests, we are all connected by the drive to conserve and protect the natural environments around us, rather it be here in New Hampshire, our home states, or where ever we go to next. So, as we parted our ways and said “see you later,” I look forward to catching up again soon.
Kim loves furry friends; she currently has 13 dogs, 7 ferrets, 3 rabbits, 4 tortoises, and a partridge in an Orange tree. You can read more about Kim here.
February 1, 2019
Laptop open. Huge cup of tea at the ready. Star Wars: The Last Jedi soundtrack playing through headphones. I begin writing my conservation journal when there’s a muffled sound that resembles laughter. I turn my head to see several AmeriCorps members sitting with Clayton, the Office Manager, as they discuss the process for the camping lottery system. I turn back to the computer. Write some more…there’s that sound again. This time they’re joined by our Facilities Manager, Katri Gurney:
“Oh, this is so exciting!”
Next, our Executive Director, E.B. James, strolls in. Then, our Community Engagement Coordinator, Melissa Leszek, has a peak. They’re exhilarated. Eagerly awaiting this year’s first pick for campsite bookings. The process is tremendously complicated involving drawing a name from a hat, or bowl, to ensure its randomness. Sydney extends her arm, reaches in, and pulls out a name. I still had my headphones so the name came out muffled, but congratulations to Mikolpakye ranjycovfefejm!
I’m used to experiencing the SLA during the summer time, which seems as if we operate on a constant state of, “GO, GO, GO.” There’s so much going on to a point where some days you want to build a wall around yourself just for a few moments of peace. However, as soon as you look up to notice snowflakes falling instead of leaves, everything is different. Just like the various animals around us, we too enter a state of torpor for a few months. Taking time to rest, slow down, and lick our wounds, you get a decent amount of bruises on the dive boat. Winter also provides us with a chance to take a step back and ask important questions. How are we doing? What can we do better? Where are we going with this?
Eventually, the holidays pass and the New Year arrives. Soon we’ll be strapping ourselves back in and preparing for the upcoming opportunities that await us. In the meantime, we’re going to continue enjoying what winter has to offer. Ice water quality trips, Winterfest, the new Captain Marvel movie. Savoring every snowflake that falls while relishing in those small glimpses into the summer, such as drawing a name out of bowl.
Stevie excels at making motion pictures, using sarcasm and wit, and flailing his arms wildly during game nights with friends. You can learn more about Stevie here.
January 25, 2019
I was once told on a backpacking trip in Utah that the human eye has terrible depth perception past a certain distance. My fellow backpackers and I were told this slightly comforting fact as we scoured the canyon walls surrounding us, searching fervently for our trail out of the canyon and onto the mesa. We were thankfully able to find the trail after a few scrambles and a few choice words under our breath to whoever created that arcanely glorious trail...
The sound of heavy winter boots crunching on snow broke my desert reverie, and I found myself bundled to the brim on the edge of Little Squam Lake. I was frozen to the spot because my fellow LRCC members and I were debating if the snowman in front of the ice fishing shelter (roughly 100 yards away) was painted on to the side of the hut, or actually a snowman. I cocked my head to the side, thinking that this was my new canyon trail to discern, and started trudging forward onto the lake.
The real reason why we were on Little Squam Lake that day was not to question the existence of a snowman, but to be trained on how to take water quality measurements under the ice. We used a GPS to make our way to the sampling site while pulling our equipment on a sled: ice auger, water quality multiparameter sampling device, integrated sampler, foam sit-pad, and opaque sampling bottles. Since ice safety is never a guarantee, we also individually carried ice picks around our neck, wore PFDs, used poles to test the ice when first stepping onto the lake, and one member used a cordless drill to ensure that the ice was thick enough for us to walk on.
At the sampling site, we took turns gathering data and trying to stay warm. I was in charge of holding the multiparameter device as we lowered it meter by meter, collecting data such as dissolved oxygen, temperature, and specific conductivity. In my thick aquaculture gloves that I graciously borrowed from our Director of Conservation Rebecca, I thought back to the the idea of depth perception. It’s a beautiful phrase when dwelt upon, ironically, from different perspectives:
1. We were standing on top of a frozen lake with no one in site, taking in our new perspective, one that not many get the opportunity to see.
2. We were gathering data, or different perspectives, from the depths below us.
3. Overtime, these measurements will give us a deeper understanding of the water quality affecting the Squam Lakes region.
4. And finally, as multi-dimensional as water quality sampling is, so are the continued efforts of the SLA to conserve these magnificent spaces. To be part of an organization that takes these conservation practices to such depths, and from a multitude of perspectives, is an incredible feeling.
After finishing up our water quality sampling, we packed up all of our equipment and started lumbering our way back across the lake. As we passed the ice fishing shelter, I looked back at the snowman. Turns out it was real, as real as the mission of the Squam Lakes Association felt in that moment.
Amanda loves working with children, dancing like no one is watching, and cats/ cat themed accessories. You can read more about Amanda here.
The SLA is currently accepting Winter Water Quality Volunteers! You can learn more about joining the SLA's WWQ team here.
January 18, 2019
As I carefully slid across the ice-covered lot in front of our house and loaded the last bag into my car, I was ready to make the journey. After stopping to fill up the tank and to fill my mug with coffee, I was on my way. The hours passed and the odometer on my car continued to climb as the peaks and rolling hills of the Appalachians gave way to the glacial plains of the Great Lakes region. Sixteen hours and 800+ miles later I arrived at last: St. Clair Shores, Michigan. I felt a mix of excitement and exhaustion as I walked up the stairs.
I was home for Christmas break. It was a chance for me to spend time with some dearly missed friends and family and to fill them in on what I’ve been up to here at the Squam Lakes Association. But just as my physical body was far away from the SLA, so too was my mind from all of the projects and deadlines I had waiting for me when I returned.
Fast forward to my first day serving in the new year. As I sit in front of my laptop, a cup of Red Zinger tea warms my hand and the clatter of keyboards fill the air. I begin flipping through my calendar and am greeted with what seems to be an ever-growing list of due dates for program plans and projects that once seemed so far away. Needless to say, I’ve been spending a good amount of time in the office lately.
Since that first day back, it seems as though I haven’t moved from this position. A few days later I am, again, sitting in front of my laptop with a cup of tea in hand. A sound fills the air, but this time it is not the clatter of laptop keys, but rather the oohs and ahhs of my fellow AmeriCorps. I look up to see several of them and our program manager standing at the window looking outside. A soft reflection of their faces in the window reveals expressions of excitement. The sun is shining outside, and the brightness seems amplified by the snow that is blanketing the ground. Our program manager lowers a pair of binoculars that she’s been holding and asks if anyone would like to take a look. By this point I am standing at the window myself, gazing out at a brown and white object on the sheet of ice that has replaced the cove behind our headquarters. She hands the binoculars to me and as I raise them my eyes are met with a spectacular sight. Standing proudly out on the ice is a bald eagle. As I peer out at this majestic creature, everything around me stops. There are no sounds. No one else is in the room. It is just the eagle and I.
It’s moments like these that highlight a very important reason for conservation. The protection and careful use of natural resources provide us with powerful moments like this when the sensations of everyday life melt away, giving rise to stillness and fascination. It is a humbling experience to say the least.
As I write this conservation journal, at my laptop with a cup of tea in hand, I am feeling incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be here and to be part of a group that works to ensure these profound moments of stillness are possible.
Alex spends his time doing yoga, nurturing his grandmother's lavender plant, and spreading words of affirmation. You can read more about Alex here.
January 11, 2019
Chaos. Pandemonium. Anarchy. These words fail to truly capture the absolute madness that ensues when 18 antsy elementary schoolers are released upon a snow-covered playground after a long day of school. Today I’m the lucky person who’s been tasked with getting them to focus on an activity for the next hour.
As part of the education aspect of our AmeriCorps program, each week one of us must plan a nature-related activity for the Holderness Central School’s ACE program. For my most recent program, I decided to teach the kids how to identify animal tracks. Although the topic’s already exciting—because 1.) it’s about animals, and 2.) It means they get to run around and find tracks in the snow—I wanted to create an interesting action/adventure context to help the kids really get into it. So here’s how the story went: “The world-renowned Holderness Zoo called to say that all of their animals have mysteriously disappeared during the night. In light of this catastrophe, they’re turning to the Holderness Central School’s elite group of 8-year-old private detectives to help them track down the lost animals and save the zoo!”
Now that the scene was set, all of the little detectives, each equipped with their Official Holderness Zoo Tracking Guides, were off to find the clues that my fellow AmeriCorps member John and I had hidden throughout the playground. Some were searching for snowshoe hare tracks under the swings, others were scanning for black bear trails from atop the slide, and we even had a group looking for Captain America (aka human) prints around the jungle gym. While walking around to help the sleuths, I was surprised to discover that quite of few of them already had practice in identifying tracks, and if they didn’t, their sheer enthusiasm made up for any lack of experience. Needless to say, the zoo was in safe hands.
With some time remaining at the end of the tracking activity, we also played a quick game of animal-themed Simon Says. Let me just say that if you ever want to witness the apex of human concentration, tell a group of elementary school kids that they’ll get a prize for winning Simon Says. After my inevitable surrender (I think only four of them were ever actually eliminated), each of them got to take home their tracking guides as a prize. Although it may seem like a small thing, I hope that activities like the ones we did today will inspire them to retain their enthusiasm for the natural world throughout the rest of their lives.
Adel is originally from Seattle, Washington and graduated in 2017 with a B.S. in biology. You can read more about Adel here
January 4, 2019
Being in New Hampshire has provided me with opportunities to see and do things I have never been able to before. The work that we have done so far has been both fulfilling and extremely enjoyable. Trail work days and guided hikes have easily become my favorite serving days. Trekking up the snowy mountainsides have proven to be great work outs and great opportunities to take photos. The scenery and views from the summits and hikes are like nothing I have ever seen and resemble photos in documentaries and those seen online. It truly is an amazing place and I am so grateful to be here. Sometimes I have to take a step back and appreciate how lucky I am to be here with amazing people and doing such enjoyable work every day.
We just go done with a break for Christmas. While I was home I was telling stories about what I had been doing, sharing my experiences, and showing photographs of the area. The overwhelming favorite pictures were those of Squam Lake from the summits of mountains. The others that were enjoyed the most were of the ice and myself skating on it. I had never skated on such a large body of water before. I grew up playing hockey in Buffalo, New York, all the skating that we did had been in town rinks and on small backyard rinks we had made. Skating on something as large as the bodies of water in the area had been something I had wanted to do my whole life but just never had the opportunity to. Once I saw people on the ice I jumped at the chance and was out all day for the whole weekend. It was amazing, like nothing I had ever experienced. I could not believe how smooth the ice was, it was perfect. It was better than skating on the rinks we played at growing up because it had naturally occurred. Hearing the sounds from the ice and seeing almost a never ending area to skate it something I will never forget.
These first two months have flown by and I could not believe it was already Christmas time. I was looking forward to going home for a little bit and seeing family, but in a blink Christmas break has come and gone and just like that it is time to get back. It was very nice being home and spending time with family and friends, but I am looking forward to getting back to the mountains and lake. While I am hoping that these next months don’t go as fast as the previous two, I am very much looking forward to everything that is to come and the changes that will happen over the next months.
Cole is from Buffalo, New York. He recently graduated from Daemen College in Amherst, New York. where he received a bachelors in business administration. Read more about Cole here.
December 21, 2018
Even though winter technically doesn’t begin until December 21st, winter has definitely arrived in the mountains. I grew up in the area, yet winter often seems to catch me by surprise, especially this year with the early snowfall and below freezing temperatures. It takes a little getting used to the cold every year, and making sure I have proper layering for being outside all day. I remind myself not to forget toe warmers, or that I should put my water bottle upside-down in my backpack so the lid doesn’t freeze shut. I forget that I can’t move quite as fast when trudging through freshly fallen fluff, compared to bare rocky trails. But, soon, I remember the many added advantages, and fun challenges while hiking in the winter. For example, when I run down a trail it turns to sliding or “controlled falling”, which is how the other AmeriCorps members and I have started referring to hiking in the deep snow during our trail work days. We slide, laugh, and slowly fall into the fresh powder after a slightly ambitious step, or even jump. We know we might not land on two feet, but it doesn’t matter because a soft blanket of snow will catch us. Some snow sometimes still manages to get between what I thought was a perfected layering technique and touch my skin. It somehow can be oddly refreshing, slightly painful, and funny all at the same time, especially for those observing, so it’s worth it anyways. After many days of winter trail work, and lopping tree limbs that immediately cover us in the snow that was once perfectly balanced on their branches, we are all used to unexpectedly being covered in snow.
One of the best things about winter hiking is that many people don’t know these exciting secrets that I’ve just shared, so they don’t even head out for a hike. This means we often have the winter trails to ourselves, which in the warmer months may be crowded. Often, our only companions on the trial are the animals that haven’t migrated or hibernated for the winter. At least we can tell they’ve been on the trails from their tracks. It’s always fun trying to identify the animal, from moose and deer to squirrels, birds, and rabbits. They also often follow the trails that have yet to be broken, as if they are looking for a nice summit view of Squam Lake as well.
For some of my fellow AmeriCorps members who have never experienced winter hiking, or even snow, until arriving in New Hampshire for the first time to join the Lakes Region Core, they are discovering these wonders of winter trails for the first time. Their newly found excitement for winter gives me a fresh perspective and appreciation for the place I grew up.
Syd graduated from St. Lawrence University in May 2018 with an Environmental Studies degree. You can read more about her in her bio.
December 14, 2018
Every once in a while when I make my way into nature I have an intimate and powerful experience if I allow myself to pay attention and listen. I've traveled to a lot of different places and found this to be possible, but on Monday morning, all I had to do was walk across the street to White Oak Pond and lace up my skates just before the sun burst above the horizon. As we have all noticed, the air has gotten cold especially quick this year, which lends itself well to creating conditions for donning metal-edged vehicles with which to travel across all varieties of frozen water. I am typically inclined to let myself glide down our glorious mountains this time of year, but I am now finding myself in close proximity to multiple large frozen bodies of water as well, which are proving to be a pull from which I cannot divert my attention.
The place where the ice meets the land is ugly. Like a cracked and oozing wound, it is easy to see the turmoil of freezing and thawing that happens as the ice moves in and out and busts up toward the sky. There are leaves and sticks and dirt smashed into the jumble of ice, and one always feels awkward stumbling over that mess as you make your way out into the open. Once you are out there, though, oh that sweet open space is like a field of glass upon which you can drift for eternity.
Having lived in New Hampshire my whole life, I know how precious a frozen pond can be. With snow, ice and changing temperatures, a natural skating rink is typically a treasured but fleeting hallmark of our community. On Monday morning though, after the gift of a biting cold week without precipitation, we found crystal clear and smooth ice before even the passing of the winter solstice. I was gliding out into the middle of the pond just as the sun was rising, finding myself engulfed in the warm glow of pink and orange light. The air was still and crisp and all I could hear were the deep pangs of movement in the ice echoing through the water beneath my feet.
John graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2013 with a business degree and is an avid outdoor enthusiast. Read more about John in his bio.
December 7, 2018
The past month has been full of snowy hikes, icy trail work days, and winter excitement!
On my first full trail work day of the season, Adel, Sydney, Alex and I headed to the Doublehead Trail so that we could hike to the last part of the Crawford-Ridgepole Trail that needed to be worked on. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was looking forward to a full day on the trails. With only a few inches of snow on the ground, we decided to leave the snowshoes and head up the trail. I recently hiked this trail in October, but just a few weeks later it was already remarkably different. I was amazed and in awe over the transitioning forest we hiked upon; snow on the ground, streams starting to freeze, and trees without leaves that allowed for views that were not visible during the summer months. The wintery conditions also posed new challenges as we hiked up the steeper parts and I struggled to get up the packed snow. Once we made it to the top, we took in the views before venturing across the ridge. What we expected to be the easier part of our hike quickly turned into trekking through several inches of unpacked snow. At times the depths extend to my knees! “This is so fun!” was not what I was expecting to hear from any of my fellow crew members, but it was said. No sarcasm either. And Adel was right. While difficult, this new experience was fun. We were surrounded by beautiful blankets of snow, in the middle of the woods, trudging through snow! After a few more challenging spots, we finally made it to the spot that needed to be worked on. We spent the next couple of hours clearing the trail before having to head back down. I think we all learned that we should bring the snowshoes, and I began to learn the challenges and joys of winter hiking.
Another one of our recent trail work days involved going to Cotton Mountain trail to clear bent trees and blowdowns. Despite this trail being cleared a week before, we headed to the trail to respond to the damage that was reported after our most recent winter storm. We did not expect most of the beginning of the trail to be completely impassable. Luckily, we had the help of three amazing volunteers that day. We were able to remove the ice from bent trees, lop branches, and remove fallen trees, all in a matter of a couple of hours. We even had time to make it to the top to enjoy the views of the lake. It is always very exciting and rewarding when a lot of work needs to be done and you are able to walk back down a cleared trail. Thank you again to our volunteers!
I was not expecting my November to be an introduction to a New England winter. I guess the unexpected is all a part of the experience, so I am told. So, as the temperature continues to drop, the lake continues to freeze, and season spirit grows, I am looking forward to more challenges and exciting moments in the next month and the coming New Year!
Kim is originally from Deland, Florida and graduated from the University of North Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. To read more about Kim, visit her bio here.
November 30, 2018
CRUNCH. The wintery mix of snow and ice gives way from the impact. Shards of frozen water particles rub against each other creating a hoarse sound. A man painfully groans. Birds happily chirp. Suddenly, the ground turns to brown as a liquid oozes over the area. The scent of hazelnut fills the air. A closer look reveals a solo man, who looks like he just rolled out of bed, laying on the ground with a spilt coffee mug by his side. He aimlessly stares up at the sky with a certain expression on his face. Mad? No, but clearly annoyed.
“Winter, we meet again.”
Yep. That’s me. Stevie Raymond. AKA the man who winter has a personal vendetta against. Why? Probably because I complain about the snow ALL the time having lived in New England my entire life. And yet, here I am serving in the Lakes Region Conservation Corps (LRCC) for a winter program. We’re about a month in and so far I’ve remained a trooper about the snow. I’m not quite sure why, but learning how to plow in our truck has been one of my favorite moments. There’s something oddly satisfying about clearing an area once filled with snow. I’ve also never felt more like a New Englander than plowing in a storm, cup of coffee in hand with the windows down and oldies playing on the radio. Country roads take me home!
I’ve also grown very fond of my fellow AmeriCorps members since our start date of November 1st. My favorite memory has been our night out in Plymouth, NH during the very first snowfall. Adel and Kim have never experienced a New England winter before and were ecstatic to see flurries trickling down from the heavens. I keep telling them to wait until a Nor’easter comes our way, but their spirits never fade. Seeing their jubilant faces made me realize how lucky I am to live in an area that experiences all four seasons. Our landscape is an awe-inspiring beauty, an ever-giving gift that is further complimented by the annual snowfall which enhances the wonder. It’s through them, and many others alike, a new hope rises in re-learning the beauty of New England and how I should appreciate the natural world which surrounds me.
Now in the meantime, it’s time to force myself upright and get another cup of coffee.
Stevie grew up in Claremont, NH and recently received his BA in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont. You can read more about Stevie in his bio.
November 21, 2018
I never realized a porcupine could be so cute.
I looked around the room, the goofiest smile on my face I am sure, as I tried to contain my excitement over the large rodent. This mock-presentation on porcupines by our instructor Audrey from the Squam Lake Natural Science Center (SLNSC) was one of many great instructional activities during our crash-course training on the art of interpretation. Having a background in environmental education myself, I was excited to get a glimpse into the world of interpreters. Our main takeaway from the day of training was how to successfully set up programs that create space for participants to learn, explore, understand, and care! I know my fellow AmeriCorps members and I are excited to apply what we have learned to the many educational programs we facilitate. For example, my upcoming Adventure Ecology program that I have been preparing on glaciers and the Squam Watershed is coming together quite smoothly after such an enlightening and thoughtful day of training with SLNSC: thank you Audrey!
Alongside our interpretation training, we also were trained on how to use the snow plow! I do not think any of us expected to be trained-in on this skill so quickly, but winter decided to come early this year in New Hampshire. Since I am from Western Massachusetts, snow is nothing new to me, but this industrial form of snow removal is definitely new to me. I am eager to develop this skill, and I am also excited to share in the joy and magic of snow with my fellow AmeriCorps members who have not experienced a true, snowy winter before. I even woke up to a snowman smiling back at me this morning outside our window, a wonderful sign that winter is here!
As we approach the end of November, we also approach the end of our training days. December is looking like a myriad of trailwork, snow removal, educational programs, guided hikes, and campus upkeep. I am grateful for the variety in service work, and I look forward to hitting the slopes and the trails with my fellow AmeriCorps members as the snow continues to fall. And so, here’s to a long and hearty winter of hygge: coziness, togetherness, embracing, enjoying, and thriving in winter.
Amanda is originally from Western Massachusetts and recently received her MS from the University of Idaho. You can learn more about Amanda by reading her bio here.
Join our LRCC members for weekly guided hikes, volunteer opportunities, and environmental programs. Learn more by clicking here.
November 15, 2018
Considering how much we’ve done so far, it’s wild to think that we’ve only been here for two weeks. I feel as though I’ve been here for a month, and I mean that in the best way possible. As I’m starting to get a better feel for the way things work around here and who my housemates and the senior staff at SLA are, I’m more excited than ever. It’s just now starting to settle in that I’ll be calling this beautiful place home for the next ten months.
This past weekend my fellow AmeriCorps members Cole, Adel, and I ventured out to the SOLO facility in Conway, NH for Wilderness First Aid training. We were also there with AmeriCorps members Haley and Victoria from Green Mountain Conservation Group. The facility was super cool and had a lot of character to it. I think I would live there if I could. There was tons of wooden architecture, a totem pole that reached up to the third floor, and sun faded pictures of previous students (many of which had moustaches). The instructors for the course were great too. They were knowledgeable and kept everyone laughing. For every bit of information that was thrown at us, there was a joke or a story to go along with it. We learned a lot of valuable skills to assess and address injuries in the backcountry, everything from making an impromptu leg splint out of trekking poles to caring for someone with a spinal injury. Although I will admit that some of the hands-on activities were a bit awkward at times (like checking for a pulse on a stranger’s bare feet or pulling on someone’s jaw to open up their airways), it was a really interesting course and I feel like I gained a lot from it.
Because our duties here at SLA are so diverse, we’ve had a slew of trainings in the past couple of weeks to get us oriented. Just to name a few, we’ve covered using the log splitter, water quality training, interpretive training at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, and trail maintenance. During our trail maintenance training we learned about different tools that are used, such as mattocks, McLeods, and fire rakes. There’s no better way to learn something than through hands on experience, so following Katri’s presentation we loaded up the truck and headed over to the Morgan trail. Although I have some experience maintaining trails at my family’s cabin in northern Michigan, using many of these tools was a first for me. It was a long day, but there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from looking at a freshly cleared water bar or seeing a trail that’s pooled up with water being drained. We had a few hikers come through while we were working and thank us too, which was also gratifying.
Earlier this week it seemed as though mother nature couldn't quite make up her mind, but it looks like we’ve finally made the transition into winter. We recently acquired a TV here at our AmeriCorps housing, and with the cold settling in we have an ever-growing list of movies to watch. I think we’re currently up to 31. At the rate we’ve been adding them compared to actually watching them, I’m not sure we’ll ever finish them all, but I’m definitely looking forward to taking a stab at it.
Alex is originally from St. Clair Shores, Michigan. He recently graduated from Wayne State University and you can read more about Alex here
Join our LRCC members for weekly guided hikes, volunteer opportunities, and environmental programs. Learn more by clicking here.
November 9, 2018
It’s officially been an entire week since the SLA first welcomed the eight of us to campus as the new LRCC Winter/Spring team! For a few of us, including myself, it’s our very first time in the state of New Hampshire, let alone on Squam Lake. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about moving across the country to a place I’d never been before, but the area is jaw-droppingly beautiful, my fellow AmeriCorps volunteers are already some of the coolest people I’ve met, and this next year promises to be full of some serious self-development (not without a good dose of fun). What more could I want?
As for this first week, after a few preliminary necessities such as introductions, orientation to the SLA LRCC program, and the creation of a chore chart—a crucial tool when eight people in their mid-20’s are all sharing a small kitchen—we launched right into a packed schedule of trainings and work around campus. On one of these days, a group of us assisted with escorting a few Plymouth State University students and their professor, Dr. Lisa Doner, out on the lake to collect samples for their limnology research. If someone were to ask me to describe what it’s like being out on a boat on Squam Lake in early November, “warm” probably isn’t the first adjective that would come to mind. Despite the chill, it was exciting to be able to both get out on the lake and to hear more about the research being conducted at the local university. Once we arrived at the spot marked on Dr. Doner’s GPS, we dropped anchor as she took out some type of radio transmitter and quickly punched in a few codes. Unsure of what to expect, but told to keep our eyes peeled, the rest of us scanned the water as the transmitter beeped once, twice… and there it was! A yellow buoy had abruptly ascended from the bottom of the lake and was now floating a few yards away from our boat. As Dr. Doner and her students hauled the buoy out of the water, she indicated specific portions of the contraption that were responsible for recording temperature, collecting sediment, and accumulating algae and phytoplankton samples. Hopefully, when she returns to collect data again in the Spring, we’ll be able to hear more about what they’ve discovered.
An additional highlight of this week was a delicious potluck hosted by the Green Mountain Conservation Group (another awesome conservation non-profit—they work on the Ossipee Watershed in Carrol County). Like SLA, GMCG just welcomed their AmeriCorps volunteers for the upcoming season and, since we’ll be working with them throughout the year, the potluck was an opportunity for all of us to come together and celebrate the start of our program. As well as becoming more familiar with GMCG’s mission and the people who work there, this was the first time all of us AmeriCorps volunteers were able to sit down and get to know each other over a meal.
Now, as we enter our second week at SLA, the last two days have been deceptively nice—sunny, clear, and the temperature lingering around a warm 55°F. With days like these, it’s hard to believe that it gets cold enough around here to freeze a body of water as large as Squam Lake. Everyone keeps telling me that it’s going to happen though, so either they’re all pulling my leg or I’m going to need to find a warmer pair of socks.
Adel is originally from Seattle, Washington and graduated in 2017 with a B.S. in biology. You can read more about Adel here
Join our LRCC members for weekly guided hikes, volunteer opportunities, and environmental programs. Learn more by clicking here.
2018-2019 Winter/Spring LRCC-SLA Bios
Hi! My name is Adel Barnes and I’m originally from Seattle, Washington. In 2017, I graduated from the University of Portland (Portland, Oregon, not Maine—but I’m excited to visit this other Portland I keep hearing about) where I received a B.S. in biology with a focus on microbiology, as well as minors in English and philosophy. This summer I completed my first year of AmeriCorps service with the college-access nonprofit, College Possible, and I’m ecstatic to be joining the LRCC-SLA team for my second year. I anticipate that this will be a year full of adventures and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to give back to our environment. In my free time, you’ll probably catch me reading science fiction, heading to the coast for some tide pooling, trying to find someone to play volleyball with, and/or listening to Queen.
Hello! My name is Alex Reiber and I'm from St. Clair Shores, Michigan. I am a recent graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit where I studied Environmental Science and minored in Geology. I am a huge fan of the outdoors and in my free time enjoy hiking, camping, mountain biking, and kayaking. As a child, I spent a lot of time in northern Michigan which helped me to develop a strong connection with the natural world. This connection and the sense of peace I find from being outside are what drive me to pursue a career in conservation. I am super excited about serving with the LRCC program, gaining hands-on experience with conservation and outreach, and exploring the Squam Lakes region for the first time!
Hello, my name is Amanda, and I am from Western Massachusetts! I first fell in love with teaching environmental science to children outdoors when I worked at a rustic summer camp in Western Mass during my undergraduate years at Westfield State University where I got a B.S. in Movement Science, Sport and Leisure Studies, concentration in Wilderness Leadership, and a minor in Environmental Science. Those experiences set me on a path of self-discovery that included stops in Cape Cod as an AmeriCorps member, and in Washington along the Puget Sound as an outdoor and environmental education instructor. I graduated in 2017 with my Master’s degree in Natural Resources with a certificate in Environmental Education from the University of Idaho, and I have recently found myself back on Cape Cod teaching outdoor and environmental education. I am very excited to broaden my conservation horizons while in the beautiful Lakes Region of New Hampshire! Interests include hiking, canoeing, photosynthesizing in the sunshine, reading, snowboarding, playing the uke, sending postcards, and swimming laps.
My name is Cole and I am from Buffalo, New York. I recently graduated from Daemen College in Amherst, New York. I received a bachelors in business administration. I have a very strong interest in environmental and conservation science. I hope to pursue a masters in environmental science in the future. I love the outdoors, especially being around a body of water. I grew up on a boat, visiting the Adirondacks as well as many beaches in Florida. I grew up playing soccer and hockey. I was lucky enough to get play soccer throughout my four years of undergrad. In my free time I love to listen to music, play guitar, play pond hockey, fish, snowboard, ski and skate. I am extremely excited to serve with the Squam Lakes Association and I feel it is a great opportunity for me to combine my love for the outdoors and passions together!
I grew up in New Hampshire and graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2013 with a business degree. For a few years I stayed in my area of study, working as a technology project manager for a large insurance company. After not much time in this setting I knew I needed to seek out a more exciting and personal experience, so I left my cubicle to head back to my roots and head out to the woods. In 2015, I hiked Vermont's Long Trail and in 2017 I hiked the Appalachian Trail. Through these experiences I realized from then on I wanted to work for the land. Last year I worked as a solo backcountry caretaker for the Green Mountain Club. I love hiking, backpacking, skiing and drawing.
Hi, my name is Kimberly Appleby and I am originally from Deland, Florida. I graduated from the University of North Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. I have always enjoyed being outdoors and love wildlife. This has led me to pursue a career in conservation. My undergraduate studies have further guided my interests towards studying ecology to minimize human impact to natural ecosystems. I also enjoy kayaking, hiking, photography, and being around animals. After an amazing summer of serving at the SLA, I am excited to return for the winter term and experience Squam during the winter months!
My name is Stevie Raymond and I am from Claremont, New Hampshire. I attended the University of Vermont where I majored in Environmental Studies and minored in Wildlife Biology. My dream job would be to work some place tropical as a scuba diver managing invasive species populations. I've been with the Squam Lakes Association for the last three summers working as a conservation intern in 2016 and a recreation assistant in both 2017 and 2018. I have grown very fond of the SLA organization, landscape, and people during my time on the lake. Experiencing Squam in the winter will be a first for me, but I'm looking forward to new challenges. If you're wondering what I like to do in my spare time, you're not the only one. I enjoy watching movies, anything Star Wars or Christopher Nolan, as well as attempting to write my own films. Other than that, I dabble in standup comedy and improv.
My name is Sydney Kahl, and I am from Plymouth, New Hampshire. I graduated from St. Lawrence University in upstate New York in May 2018 with an Environmental Studies degree, and minors in Creative Writing and Outdoor Studies. After graduating I spent the summer working for the Utah Department of Natural Resources as an Aquatic Invasive Species technician on Lake Powell, and then came back east to work at Lakes of the Clouds hut on Mt. Washington for the Appalachian Mountain Club this fall. I spent the summer of 2015 working for Squam Lakes Association as a Squam Conservation Intern, and I am very excited to be back as a Lakes Region Conservation Corps member for the winter!