The Squam Conservation Internship provides skills and experience for future conservation professionals while working as the driving force behind the SLA’s conservation mission. This volunteer internship provides hands-on conservation work experience and certifications over a broad range of activities. Interns serve as campsite hosts and caretakers at our backcountry campsites, work toward the eradication of variable milfoil, help preserve loon populations on Squam, engage both youth and adults in environmental education, and perform other conservation duties such as shoreline restoration and trail maintenance and construction. Squam Conservation Interns also regularly write about their experiences in the Squam Watershed. Learn more about the internship program here.
JUNE 21, 2016
Since I was young child, growing up in the metropolis area of Concord, New Hampshire, I have always dreamed of the day when I would become a Squam Ranger. Well, that isn’t actually a truthful statement. Ever since I have been a Squam Conservation Intern, however, I have been working towards becoming a Squam Ranger; doing so has changed how I perceive and interact with the Squam watershed and surrounding towns.
Growing up, I had always been a pond-boy. In high school, I would spend spring and summer afternoons and evenings relaxing on the boat docks at Turkey Pond. In college, my friends and I would catch sun at Range Pond State Park in Auburn, Maine. Most recently, as an Adventure Camps Director, I spent endless days leading canoe and sailing trips around Walker Pond in Sedgwick, Maine. I was very content with these bodies of water. After all, they enabled me to feel the wind on my face and cool down on hot days – as far as I cared, there was no distinction between these little ponds and a true lake.
Due to this mindset, I was struck by the magnitude of Squam Lake, which I was given the slightest glimpse of when I paddled out of Piper Cove the first week of intern training. Once I managed to wrap my mind around the optical illusion of a lake without residents, I turned my attention to the range of mountains enclosing the lake. Their looming presence stirred my emotions. The grandeur of these mountains made me feel like a visitor in my home state.
When I learned about the Squam Ranger challenge, my heart started pumping. For whatever reason, the only thing that gets me going more than hiking is checklists. Starting at the farthest westerly point, I got to enjoy a pleasant afternoon on top of Mt. Livermore, and then Cotton Mountain. As I completed more and more peaks along the ridge, I began to gather a multitude of views of Squam from above. Parallel to my growing understanding of the lake itself, my insight about the rest of the watershed grew. The land that encloses Squam, separating our rainfall from the surrounding lakes, seemed to have a rich history of its own. Through little tidbits of the past that I would hear from long time Squam inhabitants, combined with my own fictional tales inspired by names of trails and the lays of the land, I felt as if I was cultivating my own part in the Squam’s rich story.
As of now, I am about 30 miles through the 50 mile Squam Ranger Challenge. Some of the trails that I hiked for pleasure, I would go up again with other interns and work tools to revitalize and maintain trails. It was always more interesting doing trailwork on the paths where you had already invested a piece of yourself in emotionally: the work stops being for someone else and becomes personal. As I continue to cross peaks and trails off of my ranger checklist, I am learning that the purpose of becoming a Squam Ranger is not to simply see the sites or walk the land, that is only the means to an end. By traveling the land around Squam, you gain an insight on this special place; you learn the story of Squam and find yourself living in it.
Kyle is from Concord, NH, and studies chemistry at Bates College in Maine.