The Lakes Region Conservation Corps (LRCC) develops skills and experiences for conservation professionals. Conservation Corps 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 Conservation Corps 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.
Conservation journals have moved to LakesRegionConservationCorps.org. You can read Conservation journals from November 2019- Present here!
To view past Conservation Journals, click on the links below.
2019 Summer/ Fall Conservation Corps Journals
October 25, 2019- Dani (Squam Lakes Association)
Autumn is my favorite season by far—the changing leaves draping the land in a festive blanket of colors, the crisp bite to the air on sunny days with a crystal clear sky, pumpkin-flavored-everything showing up everywhere. The season is always a little bittersweet, as you reminisce over the summer’s activities, and wonder whether or not you took full advantage of the warmth and sunshine. This time the seasons changing is a little extra hard hitting, as the current AmeriCorps term comes to an end.
As always seems to be the case, this summer flew by. Days were long and physically taxing at times, but were always tempered by the people they were shared with. After living in close quarters and working day in and day out with the same core group of people, the bonds we’ve formed feel closer than the average friendships. As the end of a term full of firsts draws closer and closer, each day now brings new lasts.
I’m staying for another term here at the SLA, so this isn’t really goodbye for me quite yet, but it means saying goodbye to the people I consider my New Hampshire family as they all set off in new directions. It also means meeting seven new people who will become my housemates and co-servers. While the seasonality of jobs in this field probably means many more bittersweet goodbyes to come in my future, it also means forming a growing network of friends within the field all over the country. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told that networking is the most valuable thing you can do for your career, I’d probably actually be able to retire someday.
Jokes aside, having a large network of people to work and collaborate with is something that is really valuable in the field of conservation. Even here at the SLA, the network of people and organizations that all work together towards a common goal is evident. Be it a partnership to hold an easement and maintain trails on a piece of land, or connecting organizations via individuals taking on new roles at a different location, the SLA’s network is continuously growing, as is its capacity for conservation. The work done at the SLA isn’t something one person or even one organization could do alone, and as further connections are fostered between people and places, so too are opportunities to further conserve the Lakes Region.
Interpersonal connections make us stronger and help us reach farther than possible alone. So while I’m nervous to start a new term and saddened by the thought of saying goodbye to the summer crew, I’m grateful for the many opportunities we’ve shared together. I know that this isn’t really goodbye, and that my network is growing.
Dani is wrapping up her first term of service with the SLA. We appreciate her up-for-anything attitude, her quality writing skills, and her sense of humor and wit. You can read more about Dani here.
October 18, 2019- Qiyah (Squam Lakes Association)
Fun fact: I’m what some people would consider a “hardcore” Lord of the Rings fan. As a child growing up in the typically flat lands of Finland and Florida, my eyes always grew wide in wonder at the descriptions of traversing mountaintops, battling orcs, and facing countless dangers through rain or shine with a band of merry, trusted companions. Well my dreams came true in a way during the week we spent preparing for our annual Squam Ridge Race.
The race is a fun for all ages 12 and 4-mile run through the lower Squam ridge. There’s a lot of behind the scenes magic that goes into pulling it off. Amongst the gathering of materials, counting of inventory, and general madness, I got to participate in the marking of miles. At 5:30 am, my fellow AmeriCorps members Danielle and Adel dragged me out of bed and the three of us began packing our backpacks for the long day ahead. Loaded up with hammers, staple guns, boxes of nails, and mile markers, we met up with our facilities manager Katri and made our way to Burleigh Farms. The sun rose over the lake in bright hues of red and orange, the trees seemed to be glowing in the golden light, and we were blessed with a roadside view of a family of moose (first moose sighting!) standing in an open field.
The day was off to a great start and our spirits were high as we parked and began the 12-mile trek that would take us down Route 113, up Mt. Percival, and down to Mt. Livermore with a final circle around the cow pasture. Our roles in this Fellowship of the Ridge naturally fell into place. Danielle was our navigator and medic, Adel was our technician and motivator, I was the melee muscle, and Katri was our knowledgeable wizard who taught us everything we needed to know and sent us on our journey.
Like any fantastical adventure, it was slow going with lots of stopping. Halfway through the day the clouds rolled in and began unleashing buckets of rain. Our daring trio persisted still, keeping each other going with words of encouragement and dreams of warm drinks and pizza waiting at home. Finally, as the sun began to set, we made our final descent down the mountains. Darkness crept in and as we reached our last half mile, Katri (our very own Gandalf) appeared with a bright light to bring us home. Overall it took 14 hours to complete our 12-mile quest. We were sore and tired but smiling and proud of what we’d accomplished. The Ridge Race was a smashing success and a joyful occasion for everyone involved.
As I write this now, the longer adventure of being here in New Hampshire with the Squam Lakes Association is coming to an end. I’ve hiked endless miles and mountains, explored around the lake, interacted with countless people, and formed bonds with my fellow AmeriCorps members and the staff here. Squam has chipped a special place into my heart and I’ll always look on my time here with a warm nostalgia. I’m not sure what the future holds, so I’ll take a cue from Bilbo as I end my last conservation journal.
And she lived happily ever after… to the end of her days.
Qiyah is wrapping up her half-term of service with the Lakes Region Conservation Corps- totaling over 900 hours of service with the Squam Lakes Association! We appreciate Qiyah's uplifting attitude and attention to detail. You can read more about Qiyah here.
October 12, 2019 - Heather (Squam Lakes Association)
Now that the milfoil removal season has ended, we are shifting towards a schedule that is heavy on trail work. I’m sad to see scuba diving days come to an end because they were my favorite days, but I look forward to exploring more of the trails.
The other day, Adel and I did trail work on the Squam Lakes Assoication’s Black Mountain Pond trail in the White Mountain National Forest. Neither one of us had hiked this trail before and we were both looking forward to the adventure. Not to mention, I’m finally getting over a pretty aggressive virus that has been making its rounds amongst the Lakes Region Conservation Corps, so I was excited to be healthy enough to hike again.
We left early in the morning to make the most of the day. As we drove closer to the trailhead, we accidentally made a wrong turn that led us to a herd of friendly cows. Of course, we couldn’t resist the urge to say a quick “hello”. Adel wielded her cow whispering skills to get the entire herd to parade up to us. It was an unexpected, but humorous turn of events that just added to the adventure of the day.
Our plan was to take the Guinea Pond trail up to the Black Mountain Pond trail. We were informed that parts of the trail were flooded, so we both donned a pair of waterproof boots and carried an extra pair of hiking boots and socks in addition to our tools. We didn’t have many expectations, but once we arrived at the trailhead it was obvious that this trail was unique to the other trails the Squam Lakes Association maintains. It was so beautiful and peaceful as we passed through the brilliant fall plumage and hiked through open fields and past small ponds on the Guinea Pond trail. It has been amazing to see the vibrant fall colors that paint the New England landscape, especially because I grew up in Texas where the trees show little color in the fall.
The Black Mountain Pond trail was as pleasant as the Guinea Pond trail. It’s slightly more forested and has a couple of little creeks that are fun to hop through using stepping stones. There wasn’t a great deal of work that needed to be done. Our day primarily consisted of taking care of blowdowns and clearing a couple of water bars to prevent water erosion. We did happen upon a large blow-down that took a long two hours to fix with the hand saws, but it was all worth the sweat when we made it the Black Mountain Pond. It was one of the most gorgeous sites to see the forest open up to a crystal clear pond looking out on Black Mountain. The base of the mountain was splotched with the vivid reds, oranges, and yellows of the deciduous trees and gradually changed into the lush, green of coniferous forests closer to the summit. I am grateful we were able to make it to the pond and experience this incredible view. We wanted to stay longer, but the day was coming to an end and it was time to turn back.
So far, this was my favorite trail work day. The sights were surreal and it was fun to hike this wilderness trail. In the coming weeks, I look forward to revisiting the trail to compete the rest of the Black Mountain Pond trail.
Heather is a half-year member with the Lakes Region Conservation Corps, serving with the Squam Lakes Association. She is known for her strong work ethic, quiet follow-through, and quality of work. You can read more about Heather here.
September 28, 2019- Dawe (Squam Lakes Association)
By the time you’re reading this, the 2019 Squam Ridge Race will have already happened. But at the time of writing this, we are all running around preparing for it. This is my first time experiencing the ridge race, but I’m incredibly excited for it; even with all the hectic preparations. For anyone is scratching their heads wondering what I’m even talking about, the Ridge Race is a race that stretches across several hiking trails in the Squam Lake Watershed. There is both a 12 mile and a 4 mile trail, and people of all ages can participate.
Just the other day, Danielle and I were working on clearing a section of the Race trail. The path we took brought us up Percival, over to Morgan, over to Webster, and then back down Morgan. Most of what we were doing was clearing dead branches and brush, and cutting down a few blowdowns. Most of the day was simple and not much to report on. Except for two events…
The first was a rather unfortunate encounter I had with a certain Insect. Several points throughout the hike, I felt little stinging sensations on my neck and shoulders. I was worried that one of those fuzzy caterpillars had made their way inside my shirt. They are adorable, in my opinion, and very colorful. But the spines on their backs are delivery mechanisms for serious toxins. But a few checks on the inside of my shirt showed no evidence of that. Later though, one very sharp sting on my arm forced me to drop my bag and almost instantly shed my shirt. And sure enough, out comes, not a caterpillar, but a very angry wasp. I’ve been stung by wasps before, more than my fair share, but this one was quite intense.
The second event was also animal related, but a very different tone. On the way out to Webster, we noticed one VERY prominent Moose print in the mud. Not much else to it, but a very interesting find. On the way back, however, we saw dozens! Now I’m no wildlife tracker but these tracks looked like they were going in the same direction as us, and they looked fresh. For having lived in New Hampshire for as I have, it’s surprising that I have never seen a Moose. As much as I wanted to see one, this might not have been the best time. They could be scared, territorial, who knows. We blew a whistle to hopefully scare them off, and finished out evening of trail work.
There is still a bit more to be done before the Ridge Race. A bit more trail work, a bit more supplies to gather, but I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m sure it’ll be a great one!
Dawe is a half-year member of the Lakes Region Conservation Corps, serving with the Squam Lakes Association. Dawe has specialized in delivering awesome education programs while with the SLA! You can read more about Dawe here.
September 22, 2019 Dani (Squam Lakes Association)
A little something to know about me: I hate change. Despise is a word that comes to mind. It’s not something I particularly appreciate about myself, but I’ve grown to accept the inevitable. Hard to go very far in life without coming across it here and there, though, you know? Change is inescapable, and being able to roll with it in the face of any fear or anxiety is an important skill (and I’ve got plenty of those, mind you. Fears and anxieties, that is). I think I’ve recognized my distaste for all things new and unknown for awhile now, hence a couple of attempts to force myself to ‘get out there’ and ‘expand my horizons’ in the face of my fears. One of which involved literally seeking horizons on the opposite side of the country, where the sun rises over the ocean instead of sets over it.
I’m from Oregon, and prior to my undergrad, I’d only ventured a few states from home. So when I decided to jump to the land of the other Portland for school, it was a pretty big step for me. I’ll spare you the details of the quarter-life crisis consuming the weeks before my departure, but I was nervous out of my mind. In retrospect, the most important part of this 2,500+ mile journey for me, which involved a cross country flight, sleeping in an airport, taking a bus, and likely being swindled by a taxi driver (how many more miles did I pay for on the scenic route versus the highway, hmm?), was that I could simply do it. And I’d figured, after this major leap into uncharted territory, that I’d be cured of my anxieties surrounding the unknownness that plagues any big changes. False. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
So, when I was making the 4-hour drive to the Squam Lakes Association from neighboring Maine, I found myself burdened once again with the unwelcome anxiety accompanying the unknown. My mind running a mile a minute with the possibilities, it became more and more difficult to remain calm as the minutes to my destination descended with each passing mile. I still remember the first sentence I uttered when I got here. Alex was in office that day and welcomed me, and asked where I drove from. In my classic eloquence, I told him I ‘droove’ over from Maine (facepalm).
Embarrassment and pre-arrival jitters aside, eventually I did settle in to life at the SLA. I mean, a place or experience can only be new to you once. That being said, the new experiences to be had this summer didn’t end there. I mean, I’m still coming across new places or new tasks to be anxious about even now, almost four months into the term.
When we went loon banding on a summer night, I was terrified of handling the loons—what if I hurt them? Turns out, they’re not exactly delicate, and holding one as we boated to release it in the cove it calls home is a memory that won’t be escaping me anytime soon. Once, I was assigned to help with the water quality University of New Hampshire does for the SLA by boating them around Squam to numerous sites all around the lake. Some of their monitoring sites took us to the far reaches of the lake, through unknown (to me) waters and narrow channels. My anxieties saw their chance and struck again, with thoughts of the dangers hidden beneath the surface in wait for an unsuspecting boater to come through and destroy their boat’s propeller circling my mind like vultures. Maybe no one is shocked to find out that everything was fine. In fact, it was pretty amazing seeing some parts of the lake that I would never otherwise get the opportunity to experience.
There will always be something around the corner to toy with my anxieties, but with each new experience that I’ve successfully navigated without the consequences plaguing my thoughts coming to pass, I learn that no matter what comes my way, I’ll be able to manage.
Dani is a half-year member of the Lakes Region Conservation Corps serving at the SLA. You can read more about Dani here.
September 15, 2019 Adel (Squam Lakes Association)
Signs of a good trailwork day: sore legs, dirt under your nails, a new bruise or two to show off, and a satisfying sense of accomplishment. In the winter, trailwork days were my favorite. I was new to the area then, so strapping on a pair of snowshoes and hitting the trails with loppers in hand was the best way to explore our new home while also working up a sweat. As the weather warmed up, and winter gradually shifted into spring and then sweltering summer, the focus of our LRCC duties at the SLA became less about trailwork and individual projects and more about camp caretaking, diving for invasive milfoil, and acting as hosts at our trailheads and boat launches.
This last Thursday, however, Cole and I had the chance to get back out on the trails for a special trailwork day with the U.S. Forest Service. Our destination was the Wentworth Trail, which climbs 2,260’ to the peak of Mt. Israel and is one of the few SLA-maintained trails located within the White Mountain National Forest. And our mission for the day? Trail relocation. The Wentworth Trail is both fairly popular and has long stretches that climb straight up to the peak, making it especially prone to erosion—AKA a trail maintainer’s Enemy #1. As Cole and I, joined by USFS Trails Manager Cristin Bailey, hiked to the relocation site with loppers, pick-mattocks, and rock bars strapped to our backpacks in various creative ways, the exposed roots and deeply gullied sections made it clear why this trail was in need of some revamping.
Once we arrived at the site, Cristin pulled a wad of bright plastic ribbons out of her pack and began to tag off-trail trees to mark a loose outline of where we wanted the new section of the trail to go. Along the way Cristin pointed out some key features trail builders look for, along with some helpful tips for navigating around them—avoid wet spots, anchor your trail above large trees, and look for places where the slope of the terrain naturally encourages water to run off versus collect on the trail. After the route of the new trail had been fully marked, we donned our hardhats and safety glasses and started the process of removing any trees, branches, and/or stumps in the way to create a 4-foot wide by 8-foot tall trail corridor.
Although it sounds like a lot of work, clearing the new trail was surprisingly quick and easy, especially compared to what came next: shaping the tread. Since this newly formed path had been relatively undisturbed until about thirty minutes prior, the ground was still covered in a thick layer of decomposing leaves, roots, and detritus. This soft top layer, also known as duff, had to be cleared away before we could see the actual terrain we were working with. Next we meticulously went over each section of the trail with our heavier tools (mattocks, rogue hoes, and McLeods) to level out the center of the footpath while making sure we didn’t impede the water run-off slopes both above and below where our future hikers would walk. Thanks to the tangled network of roots that met nearly every swing of our digging tools, this step was definitely the sweatiest, most time-consuming part of our day. But it was all worth it when, just a few minutes after leveling our final section of the trail, a dog walker and her five energetic clients (three labs and two corgi-mixes) were the first group to happily test out our new relocated trail.
Before leaving, we carefully used the recently cleared trees and limbs to brush-in the old, now defunct section of the Wentworth Trail. With the old trail brushed-in and the new path looking invitingly level and clear, I found that it was easy to fool myself into thinking that it had always been this way. And I was one of the people who had just rerouted the entire thing! This really highlights one of the reasons why trailwork often goes unappreciated: we try to make it look as natural as possible. By camouflaging the obvious traces of our work, we aim to help hikers feel like they’re in an undisturbed place where they can truly connect with the environment.
As someone who used to hike about once or twice a year, the fact that I’m now familiar with the nuances of trail building reminds me of how much I’ve learned throughout my time here at the SLA. Before joining the LRCC—just under a year ago now at this point—I must have obliviously hiked past numerous old brushed-in trails, by recently cleared waterbars, and over painstakingly hardened surfaces. Now I know that even after I leave the SLA, having been given the chance to experience first-hand what it’s like behind the scenes, I’ll never go back to taking public access trails for granted.
Adel is wrapping up a full year of service with the Squam Lakes Association. You can read more about her here!
September 5, 2019 Cole (Squam Lakes Association)
It is September and the months that I had been longing for have come to an abrupt end. Caretaking camping weekends will start being shorter, diving days will be less, and hot days spent by the water will soon be over. All winter I had heard about how awesome summer was from AmeriCorps members who have been here in the warmer months and from members of the public. “The summer is awesome”, “you’re going to love diving” and “the lake is so beautiful”. Holy cow, was everyone right. This summer has flown. It seems like in a blink it has come and gone and while there still a couple weeks left, the fall weather seems to be moving in.
My time is coming to an end at the SLA and while I am excited for new horizons and the future, I will not forget the time I have spent here. The Squam Lakes Association has provided me with an opportunity to do something I have always wanted but never had the chance, scuba diving. From the first time I put the wet suit on and got into the water, even though it was just in a pool I knew it was something I would want to do for the rest of my life. I love being by the water, boating and fishing, I expected to like diving, but I did not expect to fall in love with it like I have.
I took every opportunity to dive that I could. I would switch shifts with people and wanted to be on the dive boat every day it was going out. I hated seeing it come back in in the afternoon when I would be bundling or splitting wood, knowing I wasn’t on it. The days spent out there would fly, the time in the water would fly, and to be able to make a difference while doing something I love has been so rewarding. Seeing locations on the lakes and in the river that were traditionally forests of Variable milfoil, now have none, is insane. To see photographs from above of how these locations used to be, and then being in the water and seeing them now, shows that the work we do here is making a huge difference. Every day on the dive boat is amazing and the times and laughs I have shared with my co-servers will not be soon forgotten. Of all the conservation work I have done, having been her for almost a year now, the diving has been the most rewarding to me. Being in the water, feeling weightless and seeing the service we are doing really payoff, is incredible and gives my effort real meaning. I am so grateful for the SLA to give me this opportunity and to give me the chance to dive, it is something I will do for the rest of my life.
Cole enjoys spending time with his family, getting out on the water, and all things boats. You can read more about Cole here.
August 29, 2019, Alex (Squam Lakes Assocation)
It’s almost the end of August, and that fact is astonishing to me. The ten-month AmeriCorps term came to an end a couple of days ago on the 25thof August (which incidentally was my birthday), and as a tribute, we recently had a “Celebration of Service” event. The nature of the event was self-explanatory, to celebrate all of the time and effort that we’ve put in as AmeriCorps, and all of the Lakes Region Conservation Corps members and their site managers were invited. Before an afternoon of barbequed foods and games, there was a ceremony held in the great room of the Squam Lakes Association. I was asked to give a small speech about my time here and how the program has benefitted me, and therefore I was doing a lot of reflection on my time here. That day has come and gone, however, and although I no longer have a speech to prepare for, I am still doing a great deal of reflection.
You may be wondering why you’re reading a journal that I’ve written several days after the end of my AmeriCorps term. In my reflection I’ve come to understand how much being here has meant to me, and how although it must eventually come to an end (at least in the capacity of AmeriCorps), I am not quite ready yet. I am having too much fun, and I care about the people, mountains, and lakes here too much to leave. It’s for these reason that I’ve signed up to extend my service here for a couple more months into October.
The Lakes Region Conservation Corps program has a number of different goals. One of the main goals is to develop conservationists and environmental stewards, and this is done through hands-on experience. Being here has given me the opportunity to experience so many new things. Maintaining trails, scuba diving, leading educational programs for the public, leading volunteers, working as a camp counselor, routing trail signs, program development, loon banding; the list goes on and on. These experiences have not only been fun and fulfilling, but they’re relevant in terms of professional development in the environmental and conservation fields. I know that the skills and experiences I’ve gained here will play a role in being hired when applying to jobs in the future.
Another goal of the Lakes Region Conservation Corps is to build a network of conservation professionals. I’ve developed connections on both a professional and personal level here that are stronger than I ever could have imagined. I know that these connections I’ve made will stay with me well into the future and some for the rest of my life.
As I said in my speech at the celebration of service event, this is exactly where I needed to be. I’ve learned so much, met so many new people, and gotten to immerse myself in a truly beautiful place. My experience here has been an eye-opening one, and the opportunity to serve this beautiful area with such an incredible group of people has truly been a gift. I am forever grateful for all of those who’ve made this experience possible for me.
Alex is a Midwestern native who enjoys rock-climbing, guitar-strumming, and culinary delights such as pea roll-ups (Alex's recipe: warm peas rolled up in a tortilla). You can read more about Alex here.
August 28, 2019, Gloria (Lake Winnipesaukee Association)
WOW! Can you believe the summer is almost over? Because I sure can’t! My time with the Lake Winnipesaukee Association has flown by so fast. Alison and I have been working on numerous projects for the LWA, and the project I’ll be talking about is our stormwater site assessments.
In partnership with SOAK NH through DES, Alison and I advertised free stormwater runoff site assessments for homeowners in the Lake Winnipesaukee watershed. We got the word out that we were doing this by announcing it at meetings, contacting road associations, through social media posts, and by placing our stormwater display in various public areas such as libraries and town halls. So far, we have completed about 25 individual assessments and 2 assessments for homeowner communities. Basically, when Alison and I get to the person’s house, we first ask them if there are any stormwater runoff issues that they have noticed. If there are, they show them to us, and then we walk around the property together looking for any other signs of runoff or erosion. Alison and I take pictures and create a write-up for the homeowner that includes details of the problem areas we saw along with attachments for do-it-yourself ways to fix the problems. A lot of the properties we’ve visited have been in pretty good shape, but there have been a few interesting cases.
I love doing the site assessments for several reasons. First of all, we get out into the community and we get to help people, and hopefully help the lake, too. But something I always enjoy about the visits is getting to know the people we are meeting with. One of the questions I ask most often is, “How long have you been living here?” and that usually leads to a discussion about the history of the people and the land. We’ve met with so many people whose families have lived on the same property for generations upon generations. A few people we’ve met grew up coming to their grandparent’s camp for vacation and now own the camp themselves. It’s always fascinating to hear the stories these people have, but sometimes they’re not always happy. Many of the people who have been on the lake for most of their life talk of the changes that have occurred on the lake. Some people reminisce about how the lake and the community were back before there were wake boats and lots of people. These stories reminded me of a documentary called “The Human Element” (you should totally watch it) in which it is shown through beautiful cinematography how humans interact with the earth, air, water, and fire elements. Hearing stories about humans and change might make you wonder why, back in the day, we as humans decided to attempt to control nature? But, we did, and here we are, so now what do we do about it? There’s some environmental existentialism for you! But I digress…
Another reason I love doing these property assessments so much is I find that it’s very easy to become depressed and lose faith in humanity when it comes to environmentalism. But here is a group of people, willing to have us come out and assess their properties, because they care. These people have, as the saying goes, “restored my faith in humanity”. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the sad and sometimes fear-provoking stories in the news about the state of our Earth (these stories are important to recognize!), but don’t give up, don’t lose hope. Find those people who care, bond together, get loud, and let’s get things done.
P.S. Sometimes we get to meet the homeowner’s pets, like this kitty!
Gloria is a recent graduate of Gettysburg College and has a passion for wildlife photography. You can read more about Gloria here.
August 27, 2019, Qiyah (Squam Lakes Association)
The word caretaker brings to mind someone who gives emotional or physical support to someone, usually a child. In the capacity of the Squam Lakes Association (SLA), being a caretaker means providing this assistance to our three campsite areas: Moon and Bowman islands and Wister point in Chamberlain Reynolds Memorial Forest. Although my fellow AmeriCorps members and I visit these sites throughout the week, the weekends are special as we get to camp out for the entire time. Friday afternoon I was loading up bundles of firewood on the pontoon to be delivered out to the docks by the campsites. Saturday afternoon found me walking through the Chamberlain Reynolds swamp walk drenched in bug spray and sweat, battling the vines threatening to engulf the boardwalk. Sunday afternoon was spent cleaning the composting toilets, securing swim lines at the two beaches, and checking the sturdiness of our many structures. Being the weekend caretaker means covering a wide variety of duties that ensure the function and wellbeing of the area and its many visitors. Out of all these tasks my favorite is usually the last of the day: checking in campers.
Reservations for campsites tend to fill up fast with people often staking their claim months in advance. Every time I walk into a campsite is a surprise. Campers range in origins from throughout New England and beyond. The groups are families, friends, or combinations of the two. Some have made camping on Squam Lake a yearly tradition. There are the experienced pros making the trip every month or so and the novices excited for the new experiences to come. Getting a chance to talk to these people is such a highlight and learning experience. It’s such a loving feeling to be invited to a feast of smores and swapping background stories with welcoming strangers.
There’s something utterly wholesome about camping, the way it brings people together as we huddle around the fire telling stories. Or maybe it brings the joy of solitude and contemplation as we walk the trails and marvel at nature around us. It’s my firm belief that camping is for everyone, even those tentatively afraid of the outdoors. And although the real world still exists, patiently waiting at the edges, camping provides the space to let us explore what we need to recharge and center ourselves. Caretaker may be the official title we at the SLA wear, but really it’s all of our duty to emotionally and physically support these places in the same way that they help us.
Qiyah is an avid baker, dance-extraordinaire, and all-around positive presence at the SLA. You can read more about Qiyah here.
August 14, 2019, Heather (Squam Lakes Association)
Countless studies have shown that a dose of the great outdoors provides numerous health benefits, such as lower blood pressure and improve mental health, so it’s no wonder why there are so many people wanting to explore and enjoy nature. Some of my most memorable experiences are during hikes. Whether it’s a challenging trail with an arduous scramble or a path that gently winds through the landscape, there is a certain satisfaction and sense of peace after completing a trail that is intoxicating.
Before serving for the Squam Lakes Association, I was aware that trails had to be maintained, of course, but I do not think I truly understood the effort involved. I have since been enlightened by helping with the upkeep of the Squam Lake Association’s (SLA) 50 miles of trails and I have developed a whole new appreciation for the people who maintained all of the trails I have hiked in the past.
First off, there are many tools that we use, but I would say that the “top dogs” for the SLA are the loppers, mattocks, McLeods and handsaws. In addition to these tools, we always bring safety protection and a first aid kit as a precaution, because we can be swinging around some pretty hefty tools. Last but not least, we bring plenty of water and food for, well, basic human needs. As you can probably imagine, with each tool weighing anywhere from 3-7 Lbs. the extra weight can add up quickly, so it helps to be in good hiking shape and important to remember that it is not a race.
The type of trail work we do can range based on a variety of factors, such as the use and nature of the trail. On trails that have a lot of water erosion, we create and maintain water bars to lead water away from the trail. Other trails primarily require sawing and moving blow downs that are blocking the trail or lopping low branches that grow into the path. Let me tell you, nothing is more satisfying than the moment your hand saw goes through a blown down tree you’ve been sawing away at for what feels like an eternity, and you are finally able to clear it from the path. It may sound strange, but it’s nice to be able to take a second to admire your work with the knowledge that you have cleared a path that many future hikers will now continue to enjoy.
A couple of weeks ago, Qiyah and I had the pleasure of joining a group from the University of New Hampshire to help harden a section of our most popular trail, Old Bridal Path that leads up West Rattlesnake. This involves moving large rocks to create a stone pathway along the trail. This substantial task reduces erosion from foot traffic and prolongs the life of the trail. So, we scoured the area looking for good-sized boulders that were relatively flat and fit to serve as a piece of our pathway. Once a fitting specimen was found, we used rock bars to hoist it out of its place of settlement and rolled it onto a large rock net to carry it back to the trail. We spent the first half of the day lugging these ginormous rocks to the trail. After taking a relaxing break for lunch, we headed back to the trail to complete, in my opinion, the more fun task of actually assembling the path. It was similar to putting together a puzzle as we moved the rocks in every which way to ensure they fit together nicely. You quickly learn how to pay attention to the shape of the rocks and how they slope because, as you could imagine, these rocks are super heavy, so you want to move them as little as possible.
Once the day was done and we looked back at our work, it was impressive to see the section of the path we put together as a team! Now, every time I hike up Rattlesnake there is an unmistakable physical feature displaying the effort we put into maintaining the trail for years to come. It is trail-work days like these that are the most gratifying. Yes, I may sweat my posterior off and be a little sore the next day, but it is ridiculously satisfying knowing that my hard work is allowing other people, as well as myself, to get out and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Heather enjoys warm weather, reading, and eating 75 cent poptarts from Hannafords. You can read more about Heather here.
August 8, 2019, Jordin (Lakes Region Conservation Trust)
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
Jordin is studying Wildlife and Environmental Biology and Criminology at Framingham State University and will be earning her bachelors degree this year. You can read more about Jordin here.
August 7, 2019, Dawe (Squam Lakes Association)
Late one afternoon while making my rounds to the islands, I had a camper ask me a question. “That howling sound, is that a bird?” I couldn’t stop myself from laughing a bit at the Loon’s call being called a ‘howl’. I explained to him that while the sound can be pretty unnerving when you don’t know what it is, it’s a very welcome sound to us, as we try to do everything we can to help the loon population on Squam.
On Monday the 5th, myself and a handful of other service members and community members took off from the docks at 8pm for a ling night of loon banding. I’m no stranger to banding birds, I’ve handled warblers and other local songbirds, but I don’t think anything could have quite prepared me for how different it would be handling loons. The first one we caught was an adult female. After scanning little squam for quite some time, our spotlight landed on her and we tracked her until she was close enough to net. Handling a loon is less of a matter of being careful and delicate, and more of a matter of holding on tight and watching out for the beak. She landed a couple bites on me, which was only fair for what we were going to have to do with her. Holding her in the boat was bittersweet. It could feel her breathing and fighting against us, but I knew that the work we were doing was ultimately in the benefit of the loons that call Squam Lake home.
Shortly after her, we caught the male, and the chick. Samples of blood and feathers were taken from the adults, and they were all weighed. In addition, the male had yet to be banded, so he was given some stylish ankle bracelets. The night was considered a massive win for the Loon Preservation Committee. We had caught and taken measurements from all 3 birds we were looking for, and it only took us to midnight, as opposed to the 3am late nights they told us about. The experience was so much fun, and it was just that much better knowing that we had helped do our part to help the loon population on Squam.
Dawe is a Lakes Region Conservation Corps members serving at the Squam Lakes Association. You can read more about Dawe here.
July 31, 2019 Danielle (Squam Lakes Association)
I think I was in New Hampshire for all of two days before hearing that this is the home of the worst weather in the world. The worst. In the whole world. No hurricanes, typhoons, or tornadoes define New Hampshire’s seasons, yet of everywhere in the world, I’m supposed to believe that this little New England state, found in a temperate climate zone, has the worst weather??? Needless to say, I was a bit skeptical. Since then, I’ve heard it countless other times. Even a quick google search of the worst weather in the world reveals Mount Washington as the reigning champion—“The lowest temperature ever recorded at Mount Washington’s summit is -46 °C. Only the South Pole is colder.”
Despite the fact that this is the home of the worst weather in the world, I rather enjoy how the daily functioning of the SLA places us out in the middle of the day’s atmospheric happenings. Granted, on a given day it can be particularly hot, humid, or rainy, but barring a severe thunder storm, that doesn’t stop us.
On a particularly soggy day, one of those where the rain starts and just keeps on coming, I was scheduled for Islands. On Islands, you start as the campus gofer, basically just doing any tasks that may need to be done for the day (splitting wood is almost always a safe bet, a pretty common need here at the SLA). Later, you load up a boat with fire wood and head out to our campsites, to restock woodpiles and get campers checked in. Despite the downpour, my spirits weren’t dampened—sometimes you just have to embrace the fact the you’re going to be soaked to the bone. And I was glad to be out in the rain—because of the weather’s supposed dreariness, no one else was out enjoying the lake. With the lack of boaters, and a virtually windless day, the surface of the lake lay completely flat, its stillness broken only by raindrops smattering against the surface.
The land resembled the water that day, each campsite I visited proving to be deserted, a ghost town despite a moderate amount of reservations for the day. Without the normal traffic that can be found on land and water on a sunny summer day, it was easy the imagine the lake as it may have once lived, undisturbed but for the rain and the occasional wavering call of a loon announcing its presence. Nothing beats a peaceful rainy day out on the lake.
Not every rainy day spent on the water ends up being so peaceful, though. Last week, Cole, Alex and I woke up early for a dive day and were met with heavy showers and a chilly 60 °F morning. While 60 °F in the middle of winter may feel as inviting as a balmy spring day, on this July morning it was met with far less enthusiasm. Decked out in layers and rain gear, we set out for the Bennet cove dive site, a small stream leading into the lake that is home of the coldest water we dive in at Squam. After a miserable boat ride through the cold sheeting rain that left fingers cold and numb, Cole geared up to get in the water first, with Alex tending at the surface in the kayak.
Upon first getting in where the stream met the lake, Cole popped his head out of the water and marveled at how warm it was before the mouth of the stream, practically warmer than the air. When he swam back to the boat where it was anchored in the cove, however, after an hour long dive in the streams cold water, Cole said the water here now felt like a hot tub. Not a good sign. With Cole borderline hypothermic after an hour long dive, it was clear our dive day was going to be cut short, and efforts were focused on getting him dry and warm and out of the cold as soon as possible.
And so New Hampshire’s worst weather in the world struck on a Tuesday in late July, with a day cold enough to run the risk of hypothermia. Despite the rollercoaster of weather that keeps you on your toes, makes you check the weather every morning before getting ready for the day, being able to help conserve this paradise of New Hampshire for years to come is an experience I will always be grateful for.
On any day of the week, you may find Dani dreaming of dinosaurs, going the distance for icecream, or getting minorly injured and and having a good laugh about it with friends. You can read more about Dani here.
July 30, 2019 Julia (NH LAKES)
“Don’t forget to hold on tight,” said Shane Brandt, water quality researcher at UNH, at the exact moment that I forgot to hold on tight. The spool of string I was grasping whipped out of my hand with incredible force as Hollyn chucked the collection device out across the lake with all of her might. The group stared into the water in absolute silence for about twenty seconds, the spool and net floating gently on the surface. As the net dipped beneath the water, the laughter started.
“Oops,” I said. Hollyn and I were at a cyanobacteria training in Wolfeboro, learning all about the various species, how to identify a bloom, what causes them, and more. We had volunteered to demonstrate for the group how to get a water sample. The device was a funnel shaped mesh bag, with mesh that was only micro meters thick, so as to trap the tiny cyanobacteria. A short yellow hose protruded from the bottom to release the gathered water into a collection cup, in order to look at it under a microscope and count the cyanobacteria. The standard for declaring a bloom is seeing greater than 70,000 parts (cyanobacteria) per milliliter.
Cyanobacteria are practically everywhere in the world, from deserts to tundra to lakes, and while they aren’t necessarily a bad thing, in high concentrations, certain species can be toxic to humans, which is why beaches and lakes are often shut down once a bloom has been detected. Climate change, including changes in rain patterns, is a large driver of the increasing numbers of blooms we are seeing, along with nutrient loading, human development alongside water bodies, and low oxygen conditions. I’d learned all of this and more prior to releasing the collection device into the cold lake water.
Shane sighed and good naturedly started to roll up his pants and take off his socks. The water at the end of the dock was about waist deep, and the net was almost at the bottom, the string I was supposed to be holding onto with dear life waving gently in the current. He assured me that this happened a lot, with all sorts of the equipment he uses to demonstrate water sampling to people. Someone at the back of crowd finds a long metal pole, however, before Shane can do anything heroic. Hollyn digs around underwater with the pole until she hooks the string, and we manage to pull it back out. This time, we switch positions, with me throwing and Hollyn holding on to the string. We are much more successful, and everyone crowds around to look, even though the (mostly) clear water we’ve collected won’t show us anything until we get it under a microscope.
All in all, it was a successful training, and I learned a lot about what makes New Hampshire’s lakes tick. I also learned a little something about paying better attention to my surroundings! As part of Lakes Region Conservation Corps with NH LAKES, I learn something new each day, and I’m excited to pass this knowledge along to anyone who comes to NH LAKES events.
Julia recently graduated from the University of Vermont with a major in biology and a minor in art. You can read more about Julia here.
July 29, Nick (Lakes Region Conservation Trust)
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
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.
Nick is a recent graduate of Otterbein University in Westerville. You can read more about Nick here.
July 25, Adel Barnes (Squam Lakes Association)
This month I’ve been reading a book about coincidences. I mean, the book’s about quite a bit more than that, but the occurrence of coincidences is one of its major themes. The general idea is that our lives are constantly shaped by miniscule, chance events. We usually don’t pay them much mind, yet when one of these events happens to coincide in time with another, seemingly related event, it’s easy to interpret a greater meaning. In some extraordinary cases, coincidences can make one feel like an occurrence was fated to be.
Ever since moving to Holderness this last November, I’ve noticed that strange coincidences seem to be commonplace in the Squam Lakes region. There was that time when one of the winter AmeriCorps members and I both happened to buy the exact same slinky, from completely different stores, for the SLA’s White Elephant holiday party. Or how, without fail, “These Eyes” by The Guess Who came on the radio literally every time Alex and I drove to plow the Brooks Fisher Trailhead—the first time it happened we were so into scream-singing the song (“These eyes have seen a lot of loves but they’re never gonna see another one like I had with youuuuu!!”) that we soared right past the trailhead.
Since I’ve started reading this book, however, the frequency of these coincidences has kicked into overdrive. Last Wednesday, for example, our milfoil-removal dive team had the pleasure of being joined by a guest crewmember in the form of a ten-month-old mastiff named Cruiser. As we dove in (the aptly named) Dog Cove, Cruiser sat on the bank as close as he could get without his paws getting wet, and studiously observed our diver’s every move. John, who was playing the role of spotter, drifted his kayak over to me while I watched the diver from our boat, and said, “When I first saw that dog, I thought he was a deer.” Before the word “deer” had even been released into the air, just behind John’s head I saw a long, brown snout timidly peak out from behind a bush on the water’s edge. Redirecting John’s attention, we both watched as, inch by inch, the snout was revealed to be attached to the head and body of a small, white-tailed doe. After taking careful stock of her surroundings, the doe waded into the lake until all we could see was the top of her head and the rounded points of her ears, like the twin dorsal fins of two unusually hairy sharks. As we watched her swim from one side of the cove to the other, and eventually disappear into the brush on the opposite bank, it was astonishing to reflect on how our very first aquatic deer spotting just happened to occur at the exact moment that John said he thought he had seen a deer.
And, just to prove that I’m not imagining all of these coincidences, here’s a quick list of a few of the other less awe-inspiring ones:
My roommate Danielle’s knife slipped while she was slicing a pepper and she cut the tip of her thumb. To distract her from the pain, I picked up the book I was reading (the same one I mentioned earlier) and began to read to her from the chapter I was just about to start: “the sculptor made an instinctive grab for the finger he had nearly chopped off one day while whittling away at a wood statue. It was a miracle the finger had been saved.” She didn’t find the coincidence as entertaining as I did.
A few days later, Danielle showed me one of her favorite quotes written by an obscure science fiction author. That same author’s Wikipedia page just so happened to be the first tab currently open on my computer.
And, strangest of all, around four to five unrelated (as far as I know) strangers have talked to me about Weird Al within the last week. Maybe he had a concert in the area? Or I maybe I just give off “Weird Al fan” vibes.
So, before you write me off as some sort of coincidence-obsessed conspiracy theorist, I want to explain why I’m so fixated on coincidences at the moment. As my time with the SLA comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on all of the chance events that led me to spend a year of my life in Holderness, NH. This has been an incredible year of new experiences and personal growth, and it’s all because I just happened to stumble across the position posting, I just happened to give it a shot and apply to a program in a small state completely across the country, and I just happened to choose this opportunity over all of the others I had applied to. If any of these events hadn’t occurred, the alternative chain of events would have resulted in a completely different year, and maybe even a different me. Similar chains of chance events also led all of my fellow LRCC members here to start this program at the same time as me, and if even one link in those chains of events had gone another way, I wouldn’t have met all of these amazing people who I now consider to be lifelong friends.
Now, as I apply to a number of potential “next steps,” each one paints a different vision of where it will take me and who I’ll become. It’s honestly hard not to become petrified by the future possibilities. But it’s also exciting. Hopefully, with a little luck, in the next couple of months I’ll find myself in a new position that will allow me to continue to grow and serve both the community and our environment as much as I have during my time here at the SLA.
Adel is a full-year member at the Squam Lakes Association who spent her time focusing on revamping our wood duck boxes, imputing and organizing water quality data, and planning for interpretive trail signage, among many other things. You can read more about Adel here.
July 22, 2019, Haley Parent (Green Mountain Conservation Group)
Although I grew up in NH, I surprisingly did not spend much time up in the Lakes Region. One of my first summer internships allowed me to do field work sampling fresh and coastal waters all over the state, but having sampled so many sites, all the beautiful places I saw that summer became faint memories. When I joined the LRCC, I was excited to explore a piece of NH that I thought was foreign to me however, my memories of the region’s remote beaches and vast lakes held better than expected and now find myself with constant lingerings of déjà vu, sampling some of the same waters as that summer internship.
Something I appreciate now - after reflecting back on nearly nine months of service with Green Mountain Conservation Group - is the sense of place I earned and the rewards I discovered through the changing seasons. Not to say that the winter wasn’t challenging - I’ll never forget my nights spent sleeping with approximately three layers, wool socks and a hat but transitioning from my winter activities into spring and summer has reminded me of the extremes nature goes through each year in NH, and how that changes those of us who call NH home. These changes have occurred for me both personally and in my service as an educator as our programs transitioned from classrooms to the preferred outdoors.
During the colder months, I enjoyed challenging myself with some winter hiking. I did not know it at the time, but my winter hikes set me up for a whole new experience on those same peaks in the spring and summer. When the rest of the snow had melted and we could finally see ‘green’ again in May, I ventured back to my favorite local hiking spot. I parked my car in its usual area, traded my crampons and gaiters for bug spray, and started walking. However, I stopped short thinking I must have walked the wrong way. The familiar opening to the trail was replaced with overgrowth: nothing seemed familiar. I retraced my steps only to find that 1. I may not have the best sense of direction and 2. This was in fact the same trail I’d hiked half a dozen times before. As I began the ascent, I marvelled at the lush greenery and the irreplaceable smell (decomposing plant material) that I had been missing all winter. Despite the few trail markings, it was not until I began seeing the landmarks I’ve come to remember that I was truly convinced I was hiking the same trail.
Apart from one semester abroad, I’ve never missed a winter in New England. It’s pretty incredible how each year, I nearly forget the experiences and scenery brought by spring when winter sends its last snowstorm in well, April. I do believe I’ve had a collection of experiences like this disorienting hike throughout the years, but I’m always equally as surprised that both myself and nature manage to make it through each winter and bloom all over again come spring. I’ve found enjoyment in assisting with more outdoor education, sampling of rivers and lakes, and all else that has come with the spring and summer seasons as one of Green Mountain Conservation Group’s AmeriCorps Members. Part of my transition as I finish up my service with LRCC has been recognizing these experiences in all seasons and the way that has shaped my flexibility and character. I can’t guarantee that I will be spending this coming winter in New England, but I know for a fact that my conservation service has given me many tools to adapt wherever I end up next, and for that I am grateful!
Haley is a full-year Lakes Region Conservation Corps member with the Green Mountain Conservation Group. You can read more about Haley here.
July 18, Alison (Lake Winnipesaukee Association)
Wow. I can’t believe it’s been a little over a month and a half since I have arrived in New Hampshire and started with the Lake Winnipesaukee Association (LWA). The time has flown by and I have learned so much since I began in June. The mission of LWA is to protect the water quality and natural resources of Lake Winnipesaukee and its watershed now and for future generations. Gloria and I have been immersed in this mission throughout the various projects and activities we have been doing. From performing a watershed survey to identify potential “hotspots” of stormwater runoff and pollution loading into the lake to assessing homeowners properties and suggesting “do-it-yourself” remedies to help reduce their stormwater runoff, all our efforts are to help protect the water quality of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Pictured here is one of my favorite things Gloria and I get to do. The LWA has been working with the University of New Hampshire’s Lakes Lay Monitoring Program since the late 1970’s. This program trains citizen volunteers around NH to monitor the water quality of the lakes that they are associated with. Using a simple water quality monitoring kit, these volunteers are provided with the tools they need to collect samples on a monthly basis at a designated sampling location. Simply using a black and white disk, thermometer, and garden hose contraption, volunteers have everything they need to collect a sample, process it, and freeze it for UNH to collect at a later date.
When I arrived in June, I attended 3 training sessions with new volunteers to learn how to sample the water in Lake Winnipesaukee. Subsequently, Gloria and I offered to go out with volunteers if they weren’t comfortable going out themselves or wanted a partner to help with sampling. I love being out on the lake and working with volunteers who are dedicated to keeping the lake clean for future generations. Not only am I helping to collect long term data, but I am also learning about the generations of families who have lived on the lake through the volunteers I get to work with. I am always excited to go out with a volunteer and learn about their connection to the lake and share their enthusiasm for keeping it clean.
In the picture, I am holding a plankton tow. Gloria and I were trained to use a cyanobacteria monitoring kit. Recently cyanobacteria blooms have been popping up all throughout New Hampshire; since June at least 10 advisories have been issued at various lakes. Cyanobacteria (often referred to as blue-green algae) can be a threat to both human and animal health as well as the local economy. They are found everywhere in smaller numbers but when a bloom forms, this can cause an issue. People are advised to stay out of the water when a bloom is detected because there is a possibility that there may be toxins present. Therefore, cyanobacteria monitoring kits have also been created so people can sample for these organisms. Using this plankton tow, we collect a sample for UNH to analyze and a sample for ourselves that we can take back to the office and check under a microscope to see if we caught anything. So far, we’ve only been out with it once and nothing was detected. I’d love to see something under a microscope but I guess if nothing is found that’s a good sign too!
Alison is a recent graduate of Lafayette College with a BS in Biology. You can read more about Alison here!
July 18, 2019 Alyssa (Camp Hale)
What an incredible first half of my summer so far. I have been serving for the past 5 weeks at Camp Hale in Center Sandwich and so far I have felt many feelings while I’m here but regretful has not been one. I could have never imagined a more perfect place for me to be this summer. It all started with a couple of training weeks. In those first couple weeks there were no kids and no counselors on camp yet so I had the place all to myself and a couple administrators at the camp. I took this time to explore the camp and busy myself with activities during the day to prepare the camp for the children who came up about 2 weeks later. To make the camp easily accessible for many (especially young children) me and my partner have been clearing trails of much of the large debris that fell over the winter months. While doing this trail work there have been many discoveries that get us talking with the children and each other.
One of the most interesting discoveries has been sawfly larvae. If you’ve never heard of these insects then it may be worth it to look up a picture of them. Upon clearing a rock wall with a large drainage area in it we stumbled across the larvae when we saw a large fern that had grown with the ends of its leaves balled up. Since we were very curious as to why this was we carefully broke open the balled up section to a cocoon-like enclosure that housed one of the alien looking sawfly larvae. It was an incredible find and something that I never would have discovered if I had not been cleaning around the area. I have also discovered a love for slugs while I am flipping old and decomposing logs. I will make sure to attach a picture to this to show just how incredible they are up close.
The first thing that the campers know us as are “the people working in the woods”, but as the sessions go on it has been incredible to work with the counselors on creating an interesting and informative nature curriculum to teach the campers. I have had a blast connecting with the campers and helping them learn about nature and conserving the environment. My favorite parts of the day are after I have completed a big task and get to take the time to enjoy the lake with the kids by swimming and enjoying watercraft. I also get to be with the kids while they spend their time on surfaces that we have groomed. It is incredible to receive a thank you for doing the work that makes the lake and the rest of the camp more accessible for everyone.
As the summer goes on I cannot wait to explore more of the lakes region and have a blast with the campers and counselors while making the trails of camp hale the best they can be!
Alyssa is currently in pursuit of her BS in the biological sciences at the University of Manchester. You can read more about her here!
July 11, 2019 Alex (Squam Lakes Association)
Scuba (scu. · ba): An apparatus utilizing a portable supply of compressed gas (as air) supplied at a regulated pressure and used for breathing while swimming underwater.
This is an accurate although dull definition of a device that allows you to explore a mysterious realm that would otherwise be inaccessible. This is good for multiple reasons. One is that it allows you to spend ample time underwater removing and surveying for variable milfoil, an aquatic invasive species here in the Squam Lakes region. A good deal of our AmeriCorps service during the summer months is devoted towards eradicating this plant for both ecological and recreational benefits. The second is that it allows you bask in that peculiar underwater world without the sense of urgency to return to the surface; a unique experience for us humans who are not adapted to such an environment.
Breathing underwater has been a new experience for me. Although I have always enjoyed swimming and being around bodies of water, I have never considered myself to be much of a water creature. During our last dive day, I had a particularly profound experience that brought me closer to becoming one.
As a four-person dive crew, we were surveying Evans Cove on Little Squam. John and I were below the surface while Heather and Danielle looked after us from above. The sun was shining bright down through the water column, except where it was blocked from objects on the surface. I was weaving through an obstacle course of rusted poles and boats when I approached a nearly opaque a wall of darkness hanging below a dock. As I continued into the unknown, I found myself floating through a dark tunnel with little room between the sediment below and the dock above me. It was a surreal sensation to say the least.
In my daze, I scrutinized the vegetation below me. Lots of bladderwort, a native plant which looks similar to milfoil but can be distinguished by small bladders that allow it to be carnivorous. As I approached the end of the dock and was about to emerge from the ominous tunnel I had just surveyed, I was greeted by two rather large silhouettes. The figures came into light, and as they did, I could see the mouths and markings of smallmouth bass. Although being underwater does play tricks on your eyes, these were some of the largest smallmouth bass I have ever seen.
To my surprise, these creatures were not afraid of me. In fact, they appeared to be quite inquisitive, and their curiosity was matched by my own. We stared at each other in silence, aside from the rhythmic sound of inhales and exhales bubbling from my regulator. Realistically, this moment did not last more than a minute or two, but in that moment, it felt like an eternity. Being face to face with these creatures as we observed one another was a gift of an experience.
As we continued diving that day, we finished with a grand total of zero milfoil plants being removed. Upon first impression this may sound like a rather unproductive day, but it is actually a reflection of how effective the efforts of the Squam Lakes Association have been. The fact that we can go out for dive days and not find a single milfoil plant in areas that had previously been infested is a testament to the fact that our efforts really do make a difference. It also serves to show that we are that much closer to reaching our goal: a milfoil-free Squam. It is with great pleasure that I get to be a part of the process, for the benefit of both those on shore and those beneath the surface alike.
Alex is a full-time member with the SLA who has been heading up our terrestrial invasive removal plan for the summer. You can read more about Alex here.
July 3, 2019 John (Squam Lakes Association)
This past weekend, I served as the SLA’s caretaker on Moon and Bowman Islands. The islands are situated in the center of Squam Lake and lie about 200 yards apart from one another. Both have been conserved through conservation easements, and are owned by the Squam Lakes Association (purchased Moon in 1978, Bowman in 1994), so they will remain as they are today into the future. Both have at least a mile or so of hiking trails laced over them, and save for a few docks, tent platforms, privies(bathrooms) and one cabin each, they look very much the same as they did many years ago.
The caretaker serves dual roles on the islands. A primary role is to interact with the public and to greet and check in campers who have reserved a campsite on one of the islands. The caretaker also monitors and maintains the hiking trails and privies of both islands. I have been a full-time caretaker for a trails club in the past, so I felt I was well-prepared for this weekend on the islands. However, I had forgotten about the nuances and varied character of our ever-present, humble and gracious friend in the out-of-doors, the lowly privy. I will do my best to speak in general terms from this point on so the reader may maintain their composure.
From my time caretaking and having generally rambled over thousands of miles of hiking trails over the last five years, I have come to know that all privies have their own personality. Some are grand and palatial, others are “cozy” and efficient, but they all serve the same purpose. You are always glad to see one, and they (almost) never complain when you come traipsing into the campsite at dusk. As a maintainer of privies, one sees a different side of things. The underside, specifically.
The Squam Lakes Association utilizes a couple different types of privies. One variety is a relatively simple moldering toilet, which consists of a receptacle hanging beneath the throne, which must be emptied periodically by the caretaker, into another receptacle, in which the material will slowly decompose into clean organic matter. This is an oversimplification, but that is probably best in describing a machine of this variety. The process of moving the material from one receptacle to another provides a unique experience for the caretaker, when encountering a specific privy for the first time. As mentioned before, each privy has its own character; each built by a different hand and crafted with a different audience in mind, each privy completes their service in a different fashion.
This was my first time maintaining most of these privies so there was, I felt, a steep learning curve. Upon greeting each structure, the caretaker dons latex gloves and enters through the door to spend a few minutes tidying up inside. In midsummer, the experience amounts to a visit to the sauna, as the tiny metal-roofed boxes bake in the sun all day long. After the cleaning, the caretaker leaves the throne to work with the privy’s receptacle en plein air. Still notably perspiring from the “tidying up”, the caretaker kneels or lays down to reach beneath the receptacle, unclasp a drain, lower the receptacle, detach it from pulleys, then hoist, drag or yank it out into the daylight. The caretaker then moves the material from the receptacle to its resting place, then hooks it all back together, carefully disposes of the latex gloves and follows up with a healthy bout of bodily sanitizing. The experience is almost always wholly uncomfortable.
However horrifying the experience can be, I always have a great deal of gratitude upon completing the task of maintaining a privy. However frustrating, it is always humbling. I have seen what can happen to a place where human activity occurs without the proper facilities - an idyllic place can quickly become intolerable. I’m doing this because I want to protect the woods and the waters for the people who need them. As a caretaker, you complete this task constantly, and are always rewarded by the knowledge that you are directly protecting the land and the water. It is hard to put words to the breadth of gratitude I have for service like this. I know if I can get down on my hands and knees and hoist a bucket of poop out from under a privy without complaint, then I can face whatever life throws at me. Shoveling poop is something almost no one wants to do, but those that do it, get it. Sorry -- I knew I couldn’t write this whole thing without using the word ‘poop’.
John is a full-time member at the Squam Lakes Association who has focused on developing a conservation easement protocol and our trails management plan. You can read more about John here.
July 1, 2019- Hollyn (NH LAKES)
Pictured on your screen is Julia and I’s first ever, independently run, Watershed Warrior event! We are so ready to teach children about how lakes are made, the water cycle, the dangers of pollution, the food web, and how to identify invasive species. Once those kids have gone through those stations, they will be thereby dubbed Watershed Warriors, with a snazzy certificate to show off.
Our Watershed Warrior event is one of many educational tools we have at our disposal to teach New Hampshire-ites about keeping their lakes clean and healthy. Another outreach program that NH LAKES, our organization, has is the Lake Host program. The Lake Host program encourages volunteers to get trained in aquatic invasive species identification. After a training session coordinated by NH LAKES and NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), the Lake Host is stationed at a boat ramp. Once at the boat ramp, boats are looked over by Lake Hosts for invasive species while boaters are educated on how these plants and animals are spread.
Our newest program, that we are currently perfecting for the public, is the LakeSmart Program. Through this program we evaluate lakefront properties and inform the homeowner about lake-friendly practices they can incorporate into their homes. If we determine that their properties are LakeSmart, meaning that their level of runoff and other pollutions are controlled and minimal, they will receive the LakeSmart award. Maine has been evaluating lakefront properties for a few years now and their records have shown an increase in lake friendly practices. We hope to tweak the LakeSmart program to our New Hampshire home owners!
Julia and I are excited about these programs because our supervisors continuously encourage us to provide advice and suggestions about how to better these programs. We truly feel that our input matters and is taken seriously. It is a great feeling! But anyway, my trusty partner in crime and I are enjoying the sunshine, making bracelets with kids, and are talking about what we want our personal projects to be for the summer. Stay tuned!
Hollyn is a graduate of the George Washington University where she received her BA in International Affairs/Sustainability. You can read more about Hollyn here.
June 27, 2019- Qiyah (Squam Lakes Association)
Today was the first day I’ve ever seen a leech in my entire life. For all the New England locals and those who have lived by freshwater, this is nothing new. For me, someone who’s lived by the ocean their entire life, this was both shocking and repulsing.
Let’s backtrack for a sec. Today was the third time I’ve been out diving with my fellow SLA members for invasive milfoil removal. If you don’t know, variable milfoil is an invasive aquatic plant that grows rapidly (an inch a day!) and spreads quickly throughout lake waters from broken fragments that travel in the current, get caught in boat propellers, or are transported by birds. It completely engulfs the native plants and takes over the underwater terrain. An integral part of our summer service here at SLA is scuba diving at various sites around Squam Lake to remove these pesky invasives to keep the lake healthy and clean.
It was the undertaking of this mission that led to my first leech encounter. We were diving at Bennett Cove, a narrow inlet with a few local boat docks, plenty of underground springs, and a slew of Canadian geese guarding the entrance. Adel and I strapped into our full-length wetsuits, BCDs (buoyancy control devices), and weight belts. With a deep breath we took the plunge off the side of the boat into the chilly waters below. Smallmouth bass and perch darted between us, busy protecting eggs and freshly hatched babies from these new large “fish” that came creeping into their cove.
The magic trick to harvesting milfoil is finding a meditative balance underwater. It’s that perfect weightlessness where all it takes is a long breath in to raise you up and a slow breath out to lower you back down. We plant our fins into the ground, shove our arms elbow deep into the silt, and grasp the milfoil by its roots to ensure not a single fragment will get carried away. Even on the most gorgeous sunny day, diving in the coves at Squam can get quite cold and after a solid hour of diving, the shivers start to kick in. So once we reached our hour timeframe and started to swim back to our boat, Adel popped her head out of the water and said, “Hey, are there leeches on you?”
Lo and behold, as I looked down at my compass, there were five little leeches fastened on for dear life. I’ve faced some scary situations in my life, but I’m not ashamed to admit that the prospect of leeches gave me that extra kick I needed to swim to the boat at breakneck speed. And so it was on my third dive day that I encountered my first leeches as they clung to my wetsuit and gear trying to find a sliver of unprotected skin. But even with the knowledge of leeches, freezing waters, and murky visibility, we strap on our gear and take the plunge willingly. Why? Because the beauty of the lakes, from the smallmouth bass to the native plants and clear waters, deserves to be protected for generations to come.
Qiyah is a graduate of theUniversity of Hawai'i at Hilo with a bachelor's in Marine Science. You can read more about Qiyah here!
June 24, 2019- Victoria (Green Mountain Conservation Group)
After eight months with Green Mountain Conservation Group (GMCG) in Effingham, New Hampshire, I’ve gotten used to the highs and lows of New England weather. When the first snow fell in mid-November, I marveled at the winter wonderland and experienced some winter firsts including: skiing, snowshoeing, and – my favorite – shoveling. Effingham clung to winter longer than some nearby towns, and when the last snow fell on the muddy, barren ground in late April, I was desperate for spring.
Throughout the long winter I saw the landscape as white, quiet, uncluttered. Now that spring has given way to summer, I have to relearn my surroundings. Landmarks I once knew like large granite outcrops or tall, bare trees are now nearly completely obscured by leaves and ferns and weeds vying for the sunlight. This is an added challenge to field sampling for GMCG when the sampling sites look vastly different every month.
In addition to the changes to the landscape, I’ve had my fair share of field days in all weather conditions as GMCG’s Water Quality Resources Assistant. For my first couple months here, I sampled water from streams where water temps hovered just above freezing. Where my workouts came from post-holing up to my hips to get to a site. Now, I’ve traded my snowshoes for sandals. Plunging my hands into a stream nowadays is refreshing rather than painful. And I have gotten pretty good at guessing how cold the water is – these hands of mine can tell the difference between 5 °C, 10 °C and 15 °C water. Pretty soon, I’ll learn how to detect 20 °C water!
I was born and raised in Florida, a state with two distinct seasons – hot and less hot. So, I knew I could handle the warm season. Now, I feel like the Avatar – master of all four seasons. LRCC gave me the opportunity to serve in a new environment. To make a difference in the conservation of a place I didn’t yet know. Today, I am intimately familiar with New Hampshire’s many climatic ups and downs. And I am grateful for every season I spent here.
Victoria is a graduate of Duke University with a degree in Earth and Ocean Sciences. You can read more about Victoria here.
June 20, 2019 Alyssa (Lakes Region Conservation Trust)
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.
Alyssa is from Seattle and recently graduated her Master's in Environmental Studies from Antioch University. You can read more about Alyssa here!
June 19, 2019 Heather (Squam Lakes Association)
I was born and raised in Texas and have never experienced a place quite like New Hampshire. Most of my camping and hiking experience is limited to the desert landscapes of the Southwest. Thus, the thought of packing up and moving to New England was intimidating to say the least. However, I knew my fear of leaving Texas was a sign that this would be an opportunity for me to grow by exploring another region. Thankfully, I haven’t been disappointed!
Let me begin by saying that Texas will always have a spot in my heart with its rolling, bluebonnet-filled hills and flat landscapes that allow you to see for miles with picturesque sunsets engulfing the sky. However, New Hampshire is a gem of its own with gargantuan mountains piercing through the clouds and forests densely packed with brilliant, green foliage.
One of the first characteristics that caught my attention was the clarity of the lakes. You can actually see straight to the bottom! This is something I rarely see in Texas. I love watching the submerged plants sway with the current as fish swim along, searching for insects off of SLA’s docks. I have even spotted a couple schools of fry wandering along the shoreline now that warmer weather has initiated the spawning season. It is no wonder why New Hampshirites take great pride in their lakes and work ferociously to protect the watersheds.
Within my first two weeks of serving for SLA, I attended the Lakes Congress, an event hosted by NH Lakes, with my fellow Lakes Region Conservation Corps members. Weeks before we began serving as Cosnervation Corps members, we were asked to select from a list of speakers and topics to attend during the event. With little knowledge of what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to hear speakers from different industries covering a variety of topics ranging from research on cyanobacteria to working with local governments. My past experiences with similar events have always been research-focused conferences. It’s refreshing and comforting to see so many passionate individuals with different backgrounds come together to exchange their wisdom and promote a common mission—conserving the natural beauty of the lakes.
So far the majority of my days have consisted of earning numerous certifications and completing a jam-packed training schedule. As the summer begins to kick into gear, I’m excited to use what I’ve learned and begin interacting with this conservation-minded community.
Just in case y’all were wondering, I have been told that I do in fact have a slight Texas twang.
Heather is a graduate of the University of Texas with a major in Biology. You can read more about Heather here.
Where to even begin?
Joining the Squam Lakes Association has been one of the biggest turns in my life, but I can’t help but feel like it’s going to be, quite possibly, the best decision I’ll ever make. Even in the short time I’ve been here, I’ve already had so many “firsts”. So, in an attempt to put my own chaotic brain in order, and to paint a picture to you about what the past month has been like, I’ll share a few of these!
Upon moving in to the little cottage that I now call home, I met a whole spectrum of new people. I only had a 15 minute drive from my previous apartment in Plymouth NH, so I imagined that most of my new roommates would be fairly local as well; but my goodness was I wrong. I have roommates from Ohio, Florida, Texas, and New York, just to name a few. This is the most people I’ve ever lived with though; It’s a total of 9 of us! The kitchen is cramped, the bedrooms have limited storage space, and someone is always doing laundry. But I’m already starting to love these people, and I look forward to spending the next 5 months with them.
Of everyone here, I feel like a bit of a ‘Fish-out-of-Water’ in the most exciting way. Orientation day came and went, and with that, I went on my first ever hike up West Rattlesnake. The view from the top was incredible though. Looking down at the lake that I’d be calling home was breathtaking; It was so beautiful. Only a few days later, we went out to the campsites on Moon and Bowman Island and after a day of trail work, all the AmeriCorps members camped out; another first for me!
I knew this program would come with a lot of training, but I was still taken by surprise at how fast they brought us through it all. In this short time, we have received CPR certifications, Wilderness First Aid certifications, Open Water Diver certifications, Weed Control Diver Certifications, and Commercial Boating Licenses. I love looking at them all. All this training is certainly paying off; I now feel much more confident in my abilities to serve here at Squam Lake. The folks here are setting all of us up to be the best Lake Hosts that we can be.
There are a lot more “firsts” that I’m looking forward to in my future. I’ve gone from just dipping my toe in the water, to diving right in (pun intended). This first month has already gone by so quickly, and I’m sure by the end of my stay here, I’ll wonder where all the time went. But for now, I’ve got my sights set on all the tomorrows I have!
Dawe is a recent graduate of Plymouth State University majoring in Environmental Biology. You can read more about Dawe here!
Wow. What a crazy couple of weeks it’s been. Since getting here on the 22nd, it has been day after day full of trainings and orientations—Wilderness First Aid, CPR, SCUBA (Brrr!), NH Safe Boaters, the list goes on. It already feels like I’ve spent a lifetime here, after taking in the whirlwind of faces, places, knowledge, and just things, that have made up these past couple of weeks. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. After graduating in May, like most of my peers, all I really wanted was to find a position, any position, to get my foot in the door in the ‘real world’. I wasn’t picky, willing to go anywhere and do pretty much anything, so long as they’d take me. When I was offered the opportunity to serve through the Lakes Region Conservation Corps here at the Squam Lakes Association, I was ecstatic to have been accepted somewhere. But, little did I know exactly what opportunities this position would entail. The certifications and experience that it offered are admittedly what drew me in, but there’s so much to love here at Squam that I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around it all.
First of all, the landscape here is indescribable. New Hampshire does not disappoint here in the Lakes Region. Expansive lakes of blue reflecting the suns rays found nestled between rolling hills of lush greenery. As I write this, I’m sitting atop one of those hills, East Rattlesnake, which hosts a view over miles and miles of the Lakes Region. It’s a beautiful day, with a sky full of rolling clouds, which are casting great swaths of the landscape in their shadow, dappling the land with patches of light and dark. From here, I can see the Red Hill fire tower standing watch to the east, and the SLA headquarters nestled back in Piper Cove. To the Southeast is just a small sliver of the grand Lake Winnipesaukee, so big it dwarfs Squam several times over. These are views that I don’t think I will ever tire of getting the opportunity to behold, views that are worth writing home about.
And, the SLA itself is an organization that I am grateful for the opportunity to serve under. Their mission can be simply broken down into three words, words you’ll see on banners in the Great Room at SLA Headquarters: conservation, education, access. But all that they do is far from a simple task. They strive to conserve this area to keep its beauty intact for years to come, and to protect the resources the Squam watershed houses. They also seek to educate people about the watershed’s ecological importance, and to provide access to an area that is predominantly privately owned. By doing so, the SLA is fostering a connection between people and the environment, simultaneously raising conservation and stewardship awareness in the public. The very reason I’m up here, to scout out the location for my own Adventure Ecology program that will be hosted through the SLA later this summer, nods to their desire to increase access and education for everyone. The program covers a wide variety of topics surrounding nature and conservation, offering something of interest for everyone, and it’s another way to get people outside and involved. I’m looking forward to gaining experience in ways to help bridge the divide that is all too common between people and the environment, as the SLA does through access and education.
The magnificent views here, like the one before me now, deserve to be seen and appreciated by all. We’ve disconnected from our roots as we’ve become more modernized over the last few decades, and taking the time to get back to nature, see these expansive views, and just let yourself feel small, is something I think we should all be prescribed to do every now and again. I’m looking forward to a summer full of doing just that, be it out on the water, on top of a peak, or anywhere else in between.
Danielle is a recent graduate of the University of Maine, majoring in Ecology and Environmental Science. You can read more about this Oregon native here!
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.
Micaelie is a recent graduate of Plymouth State University with a major in Environmental Science and policy. You can read more about Micaelie here!
The weather had started looking up. Waking up this Sunday morning knowing Adel, John and I were scheduled for trail work, usually meant layering up and getting ready to go hike in conditions that I’m not the biggest fan of. But now that it’s late May and the weather is moving in a direction I have been looking forward to since I moved here, I was stoked to get out on the trail and enjoy the warm weather and sunshine today.
We had just re-opened the trails after muddy season and Old Bridle needed some work. Old Bridle is arguably our most popular trail, it goes up West Rattlesnake to an amazing view of Squam Lake and Lake Winnipesauke in the distance. This trail sees a lot of traffic, so keeping it cleared and dry keeps hikers on path and prevents erosion, widening of trail, and exposing roots and loose rocks. Trail work is a very important part of conserving the Squam Lakes Watershed. The three of us made our way to the trail and started heading up. We were clearing water bars of leaves and debris that was preventing water from making its way off the trail and down the side of the hill. The water bars on Old Bridle are spaced out very well, but there is one section of trail around half way up that hits a relatively step incline and gets narrow. This section relies on one water bar to keep the trail dry. As we started clearing the leaves we could see the water rushing off the trail. While moving leaves I saw a bright flash of orange and a little creature scurry back to being under a leaf. Upon looking closer I discovered a Red-spotted Newt. I had seen one in the fall doing trail work on Mount. Morgan, similar scenario clearing a water bars, but this one was so much brighter and vibrant, its coloring was very striking and it was such a cool sight.
Watching the water rush out of the ground, then into the troughs we had dug and cleared was oddly therapeutic for me. It was like a giant Zen garden and I could not help be stare and be mesmerized by the little streams we had created, it was so soothing. While watching the water cascade off the trail, I was not thinking about anything else, I could have stood there for hours. It was kind of odd that something so simple could calm me so easily, since majority of the time I’m bombing around like a chicken with its head cut off, Adel, John and Alex will attest to that, but it didn’t last forever. I was snapped out of it and it was time to continue up the trail and clear more.
As we headed back down the trail we could see the work we had done already starting to have an impact. It is a good feeling, seeing what you have done and knowing that it’s doing what it is supposed to. As we got back down to the lot Alex was trail hosting. We talked and joked around for a little bit before the three of us jumped back in the truck and started heading back to the SLA. Adel was behind the wheel and John was scrolling through the radio. He came to a stop at a station after a long period of static, and right on queue after a couple of power chords from an electric guitar, the three of us all started signing as loud as we could, “here I go again on my own, going down the only road I’ve ever known”. We finished the song and just started laughing. Moments like these feel like we have been life-long friends, even though we all met about five and half short months ago when we were moving into the Cottage from all over the country. It’s crazy to think about that in a few more months we will all head off in different directions, but knowing that the relationships I have made here are meaningful, is huge to me and something I will not soon forget.
Cole thinks sharks are cool, enjoys learning about cyanobacteria, and loves driving the honda civic. You can read more about Cole here.
2019 Summer LRCC 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!
Hi my name is Alison and I am from Bethel, Connecticut. I recently graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, PA with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. I developed an interest in Conservation biology and completed a thesis on vernal pool success this past year. I am very excited to constantly learn and grow with the LRCC program. I love spending my time outdoors and am eager to explore the New Hampshire area in the upcoming months. In my free time, I enjoy listening to podcasts, jamming out to musical theater songs, going on hikes, and petting dogs.
I’m a Seattle native who just graduated from Antioch University New England with a Master’s in Environmental Studies. This degree was paired with two years in a Peace Corps international service program, where I spent time working as an agricultural volunteer in a subsistence-based village in Senegal. Living in this environment strengthened my passion for all things outdoors, an appreciation which was enhanced upon my return to the beautiful New England landscape. I’m thrilled to build upon my love of hiking, mountain biking, and everything in between with the LRCC team, and to apply my experiences towards the care of our valuable Lakes Region resources.
Hello! My name is Alyssa but my friends and family call me Aly. I grew up in Goffstown NH and recently graduated with an Associates in Biology from NHTI-Concord's Community College. I am continuing my education at UNH-Manchester to earn a Bachelor's in Biological Sciences. My whole life I have loved animals and being outdoors and I think it is a wonderful thing when children can build a bond with the beautiful environment that surrounds them. For this reason I am very interested in Wildlife and Environmental conservation efforts. I have previously worked as a counselor at a horse camp and was most recently employed as a Veterinary Assistant. Some things I have always enjoyed are sports (particularly softball), hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and spending time with my cat. I also take part in obstacle courses like Spartan Races. I am excited to begin this opportunity with LRCC to better my skills and learn as much as I can about the Lakes region!
My name is Cole Beale and I am from Buffalo, New York. I graduated from Daemen College in Amherst, New York where I studied business and environmental science. I have a strong passion for conservation work and aquatic ecology, and these interests are what led me to the Lakes Region Conservation Corps and the Squam Lakes Association. Before this position I was a research assistant for the New York State’s DEC Lake Erie Fisheries Research Group. Growing up I played soccer and hockey and am lucky enough to still be able to play. When I am not serving, I love spending my time fishing, golfing, snowboarding/skiing, playing guitar, and doing anything that is around any body of water.
Dane- Squam Lakes Cosnervation Society
Hello! My name is Dane Doormann, and I live in the beautiful White Mountain region of Franconia, New Hampshire. I studied Environmental Studies with a minor in Sustainability at Keene State College. Ever since I was a young girl, I have always been fascinated by the wonders of our environment. Through my travels and adventures to various countries, I have grown an immense desire to protect the beauty of our natural environment. I believe it is our duty, as inhabitants of this planet, to ensure this beauty is protected and sustained for future generations to enjoy. Aside from my passion to conserve our natural resources, I am also interested in art. I enjoy spending my free time painting, drawing, or photographing whatever it is that catches my eye. I also enjoy hiking, skiing, reading, attending concerts and music festivals, and much more. I am beyond thrilled to serve the Squam Lakes Conservation Society and to embark on this new journey!
Hi, my name is Danielle Plumlee! I'm originally from Oregon, before I came over to Maine for school, in search of snow. I studied Ecology and Environmental Science at the University of Maine, minoring in Professional Writing. My personal interest in my field is in human impacts on the environment, and working towards bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and public awareness. I'm looking forward to the chance to gain some practical knowledge on conservation and education through the LRCC! In my spare time I enjoy reading, hiking, and finding beautiful views.
My name is Dawe! Originally from Plympton Massachusetts, I graduated from Plymouth State University with a BS in Environmental Biology in May of 2019. My particular fields of interest included Plants, Insects, and Sustainability. I've always enjoyed being outdoors and meeting new people; but when i'm not, I can usually be found singing, playing guitar, or playing games with my friends.
Hello! My name is Gloria Norcross and I am from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I will graduate from Gettysburg College in May 2019 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a minor in Biology.I have had two experiences abroad, in Copenhagen, Denmark and Namibia, which really strengthened my connection with the natural world and helped me to realize I wanted to pursue conservation as a career. l love wildlife photography, being in the outdoors, and playing with dogs. My family has ties to the Lake Winnipesaukee area, and I am so excited to be returning to the lake for my first year as an AmeriCorps member!
For the past eight months I have enjoyed serving with Green Mountain Conservation Group as an LRCC member. Originally from NH, I attended Champlain College in Burlington, VT where I studied Environmental Policy. My undergraduate interests and internship experiences were focused around water quality and conservation, which lent well in my desire to pursue AmeriCorps in a Conservation Corps like the LRCC. I am happiest when I get to spend some quiet time to recharge outdoors; but I also love my hobbies of hiking, biking, and fishing. Growing up in NH has given me a lot to be thankful for, and I am glad my service involves protecting and educating the public about these resources. I hope to continue exploring what other states have to offer as I continue my conservation career!
Hello! My name is Heather Genuise and I am from Little Elm, Texas (North of Dallas). I was lucky enough to have grown up on a lake and have enjoyed being around nature for as long as I can remember. I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2018 with a B.S. in Biology and focus in marine and freshwater science. During my undergraduate years, I was a teaching assistant for a "Humans and a Changing Ocean" course that sparked my interest in teaching people about human impact on the environment. I am interested in studying aquatic ecology as well as working to bridge the communication gap between scientists and the general public in order to promote conservation. Some of my favorite activities include hiking, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and walking my dog.
Hollyn Walters is a New Hampshire resident and recent graduate from the George Washington University where she received her BA in International Affairs/Sustainability. She has lived in South Africa, Switzerland, and Australia where she rediscovered her love of the Earth after living in the big city. While working with the Americorps, she plans on learning more about conservation projects on the ground that she can then use as a basis for international field work. When Hollyn isn't out getting her hands dirty she likes to go exploring and enjoys getting lost in the New Hampshire wilderness.
Isabelle- Camp Hale
My names Isabelle Mayo, but everyone calls me Izzy for short!
I’m currently a junior at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. My first year at school I explored my options in majors until I found my passion in Environmental Science and Policy, as well as a minor in sustainability ! The main environmental issues Im most passionate about addressing are food production/sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and resource conservation. In my free time I love to skateboard, go hiking, go to concerts, play video games, make art, and just hang out with friends and family!
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.
I am Jordin W. and I am from East Longmeadow MA. I have been studying Wildlife and Environmental Biology and Criminology at Framingham State University and will be earning my bachelors degree this year. My interests include any activities and adventures outdoors, animals and pets hold a big piece of my heart, and I love meeting new people and making friends.
Hello! My name is Julia Cline. I’m originally from Virginia, but I recently graduated from the University of Vermont with a major in biology and a minor in art. I spent the summer working in CA and I couldn’t be happier to return to the northeast. I’m super excited to explore NH and to work with the LRCC. I can’t wait to learn and teach about conservation, and share my love for the outdoors.
Jules- Squam Lakes Conservation Society
Hello! My name is Jules and I'm from Hershey, Pennsylvania. I've just graduated with an undergraduate degree in organismal biology and ecology from Colorado College. You can usually find me outside hiking or camping. I'm excited to work with the SLCS and to spend time in New Hampshire!
Levi- Squam Lakes Association
I am a recent graduate of Duke University. I studied Environmental Science and Policy and focused on renewable energy and transportation. I am from a small town called Mount Vernon in Ohio. I am interested in backpacking, renewable energy, and aviation.
Mac- Newfound Lake Region Association
Mac is a recent graduate of Plymouth State University with a Degree in Environmental Science and Policy, with a Certificate in Geographic Information Systems. She enjoys road biking, running, and snowboarding. Grew up spending summers in New York on a lake and appreciates the community and ecosystems. She is actively trying to be the best steward she can for the environment, while working with multiple stakeholders.
I'm from Branchburg New Jersey and recently graduated from Plymouth State University with a major in Environmental Science and Policy, a minor in Adventure Education, and my certificate in Geographic Information Systems. I enjoy hiking, yoga, painting, paddle boarding, and simply relaxing in my hammock.
Hello all, my name is Nick. I am from Marysville Ohio, but I've recently graduated from Otterbein University in Westerville. While I was there I was a double major in biology and zoo & conservation science, so that I could fuel my passion for conservation and the great outdoors. At some point I fell in love with insects, and conducted some really cool research with darkling beetles (mealworms). When I'm not in the lab or removing invasive plants, I love going out on the trails and turning over rocks to see the critters underneath!
Hi, my name is Qiyamah Williams. I'm originally from Helsinki, Finland and grew up in Sarasota, Florida. I graduated in 2018 from the University of Hawai'i at Hilo with a bachelor's in Marine Science. I've always lived by the water and had a strong connection to the outdoors which has fueled my passion for science and conservation. I believe it's very important to develop strong relationships between communities and our local environments so that we can all help to conserve these beautiful places. I'm excited to explore the beauty of the Squam Lakes area and contribute to its conservation program. In my free time I enjoy snorkeling, reading, napping in my hammock, baking desserts, and traveling to new places.
Thomas- Newfound Lake Region Association
I'm a recent graduate of Hope College with a B.S. in Biology. I'm originally from Commerce, a small suburban township in southeastern Michigan. I've always been fascinated by biology, and developed a keen interest in environmental science and issues during my studies. I also enjoy helping others understand science through writing and media, also key interests. Outside of biology, my interests are collecting records, making music, and radio work. I married these concepts in my last semester at Hope, when I ran a hybrid science/music show entitled "No Chemistry."
Hello! I’m Victoria from Daytona Beach, Florida. I earned my degree in Earth and Ocean Sciences from Duke University in 2017. After spending a year doing environmental education in coastal Georgia, I sought a change of climate and joined Lakes Region Conservation Corps last fall. I serve as the Water Quality Resources Assistant at Green Mountain Conservation Group in Effingham, NH. When I’m not wading in streams, I enjoy reading, crafting, and Netflixing.