Tales From the Trail

By: Mike Custodio, Volunteer Vacations Participant

Serving with American Hiking Society has lit my passion on volunteerism.  It has changed my life for the better, and it will change yours. Join the corps of volunteers, carry the torch of passion, and live the dream John Muir and so many others dreamed of: take care of your home, Earth. Only you can be the positive change. I’m happy to document my adventures from past Volunteer Vacations and hope you are encouraged to Get Out and Give Back in the future.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Maine

AT 3It is a volunteer vacation like no other. The cries of the loons echoing over the still waters of Moosehead Lake resonate through the dense pines in our base camp, Lily Bay State Park group campground. Cold and chilly air hangs low as dawn breaks.  Silence of the rising Sun is broken by shuffling sleeping bags and sound of breakfast crew rummaging through plastic food bins like curious raccoons.  After our daily morning routine of coffee, oatmeal and occasional eggs, we head out to meet project leaders, the seasoned Maine Appalachian Trail club overseers and boundary technicians of Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

115-ME-3A-bPost meeting, we break out into teams of 3 to 4 strong. It seems like a military recon operation. 2 “cutters”, volunteers armed with loppers and hand saws, 1 boundary blazer, and 1 navigator that can act also as a cutter and/or swamper (clear brush). Following maps, compasses and GPS coordinates, we thrust into seemingly never ending Maine woods. Scent of spruce, fir and pine wake up the senses. Sawing, lopping, and dragging brush to locate and skirt NPS boundary to find monuments, boundary blazes, signs, and witness trees. Some of the boundary had not been ventured through in at least 20 years or so.
Come across a witness tree…a moment of relief. Check map, number 2 and 3 witness tree might be 5 yards this way, 12 yards that way. Amidst the 3 witnesses, lies a monument at each bend on the boundary line, begging to be rediscovered and resurveyed. In between monuments and witness, sporadic and sometimes missing boundary signs and faded boundary yellow blazes beckon crews to rediscover and reestablish the boundary.

Will you be the one to discover it?

Appalachian National Scenic Trail Volunteer Vacation
9/18/2016 – 9/24/2016

Get Out: The crew will be working in the rugged mountains of western Maine in the AT corridor along the West Branch of the Piscataquis River and camping along the shores of Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in the New England. Volunteers will learn about the history and management of Appalachian Trail all while working to ensure its protection. Moosehead Lake and the nearby town of Greenville are year round destinations for outdoor recreation including hiking, paddling, fishing, and wildlife viewing. The campsite and worksite are well away from the seaboard cities. At night, loon cries and moose bugles echo across the water under starry skies. Urban noises and light pollution are a distant memory here. Find solace in the wilderness of Maine!

Give Back: Volunteers will be maintaining the surveyed boundary lines of the corridor of NPS lands that protect the Appalachian Trail. Using survey maps and hand-held compasses, the crew will monitor and maintain the boundaries of park service lands immersed in fall color. Work involves traversing hillsides and skirting wild rivers to repaint yellow boundary blazes, post signs, and use loppers and hand saws to clear a line of sight between blazes. Boundary work includes bushwhacking and is conducted off trail and is thus much more tiring than similar work done on the trail. AHS volunteers work each day in small groups led by an ATC seasonal employee or one of our incredibly knowledgeable local volunteers. After driving to the trail-head from the campground, the work day begins with a hike in to the work site of 1-3 miles.

More Details and Registration