The Lakes Region Conservation Corps (LRCC) is an AmeriCorps service program that develops skills and experiences for conservation professionals. LRCC members are the driving force behind the Squam Lakes Association’s conservation efforts. The program provides hands-on conservation work experience and numerous certifications over a broad range of areas, which ensures that LRCC members are capable of independently approaching a variety of tasks in the environmental conservation field. Members remove invasive species from the Squam watershed, manage and act as caretakers at our backcountry campsites, maintain the SLA’s 50+ miles of trails, educate the public on local and regional conservation initiatives, spearhead reports on conservation efforts, lead SLA volunteer crews and ensure the daily functioning of the Squam Lakes Association’s programs. Click here to learn more about the LRCC program.
May 3, 2019
John and I are in the truck heading east on Route 3. The sun is in my eyes and my arms are covered with goosebumps from the cool morning air. The taste of maple syrup lingers in my mouth from breakfast. Our backpacks are in the backseat, loaded up with everything we’ll need to spend a day out in the woods. Today is Thursday, the fourth day of Adventure Vacation Camp. We are driving to Chamberlain Reynolds Memorial Forest to spend the day outside with the campers. In my lap are bags containing trail maps and keychains with the principles of “Leave no Trace” printed on them.
For anyone who is not aware, Leave No Trace is a code of outdoor ethics. It serves as a guideline to minimizing our impacts on the environment and preserving the experiences of others while hiking and camping. There are seven principles, the first of which is “plan ahead and prepare”. This includes knowing the terrain and what to expect in terms of weather so you can bring the proper clothing and equipment. This time of year the trails are particularly muddy, so it is important to have the proper footwear to walk through puddles on the trail rather than go around them.
Another important component of this is knowing where you’re going and having the means to find your way if you get lost, such as a map and compass. Although the trails of CRMF are rather easy to follow, we thought it was important for the kids be familiar with this concept. After handing out the maps and discussing how to use a compass, we put them in charge of navigating the woods, not us. “We’ve never been here before so we’re going to need you guys to figure out where we’re going”. Experience is the best teacher, right?
Our first objective was to get to the swamp walk. At this point energy was quite high, the kids were all wound up. We hiked along the trail, stopping periodically at junctions to double check that we were heading in the right direction and to collaborate on which route we should take.
Through the expert guidance of our crew, we eventually made it over to the swamp walk. The hike had been pretty cold, especially in areas where the trails are heavily shaded by dense patches of hemlocks. As we arrived at our destination, the dense canopy of hemlocks gave way to an open sky and lovely rays of sunlight.
We sat out on the boardwalk and basked in the sun. The calls of wood frogs filled the air. Everyone began getting drowsy in the warm sunlight, and John and I took the opportunity to finish elaborating on the remaining principles of Leave No Trace that we hadn’t covered.
This was my second time being a camp counselor for adventure vacation camp, the first being back in March. But this time was a bit different in that John and I were counselors for the entire week. The last time I wrote a conservation journal about camp I reflected on the value of the experience to the kids, but it is not only the campers who reap the benefits.
Prior to my time here at SLA, I had virtually no experience in outdoor education. I had never been a camp counselor, nor was it something I had ever really considered. But now that I have been exposed to it, I am finding it to be quite enjoyable. Will I continue to work in outdoor education after my time here at SLA? Perhaps; that I am not certain of. But what I am certain of is that I am grateful for the variety of experiences that the Lakes Region Conservation Corps program provides. These valuable experiences and insights will stick with me, just as I hope the experiences of the campers this week will stick with them.
Alex's perfect meal is stir fry from a hibachi restaurant, chicken- not beef, vegetables- not bean sprouts, and brown fried rice- not white. You can read more about Alex here.
Join our LRCC members for weekly guided hikes, volunteer opportunities, and environmental programs. Learn more by clicking here.