Conservation Journal: John

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.

John Plummer

April 12, 2019

The old cliché of spring renewal is one I am guilty of using. It is indescribably  refreshing to feel a gust of warm air pour over the snow and around me as I walk around outside. This winter I have been rushing around scarfing down adventure wherever I can find it, with a seemingly endless pile of laundry going unfolded for days on end and just enough food in the pantry for me to put off going to Hannafords one more time. It’s been an amazing winter for skiers and I am sad to see the snow melting away, even though I know I’ll be able to get a few more turns in. It is spring, which is a beautiful, fragrant, vibrant time for plants and animals and a very strange time for humanoids in New Hampshire.

It can still snow, but I know there are flowers blooming somewhere in the state. The ground is soft during the day, but gets rock-hard again at night (known as the freeze-thaw cycle). The air in the woods smells crisp and refreshing though flowing over a melting snowpack which slowly reveals months of accumulating canine-created surprises on hiking trails. It is a time of year where a person might feel compelled to sweep their driveway clear of the sandcastles that have slowly been forming since December. Any snow that is left over is a vile crust of dirt, sticks and garbage. This week we had a day that was 50°F then it snowed 4” over the next two days. What a strange time, indeed.

There are lots of different things to do when you have two seasons at once. Last week I went climbing in Rumney and the next day I went backcountry skiing. Because of all of the changes though, I do have to be careful about where I decide to travel outside. Certain roads I have been driving down all winter are now impassible in my little Subaru and there are even more trails I have been hiking along for months that I now need to leave alone because of their fragility. This strange dual season I find myself in, is affectionately known as mud season.

As the snow melts, the ground thaws and spring rains arrive, leaving the ground incredibly saturated, only able to hold a portion of the water beneath our feet. This can lead to long ruts on dirt roads and enormous puddles covering entire sections of hiking trails. When the snow melts in town and things dry out, it is tempting to think that the snow has melted everywhere that we want to travel, but snow holds on later at higher elevations, even into June at the highest elevations in the area. This melting period leaves soils highly susceptible to compaction and erosion. Soil compaction happens when we travel along a wet trail and compress the ground under our weight, which in turn reduces the amount of water the soil can absorb. All of the water than can’t be absorbed will then erode that soil, leaving rocks and roots exposed and making it harder for plants to grow, perpetuating this cycle further. If you think you can just walk around the mud, this is worse! Doing so tramples vegetation and widens the trail, leading to further damage. If you ever find yourself forced to walk on a wet trail, walk right through the mud! It feels great and it protects the vegetation around the trail.

Anyway, the best thing I can do this time of year is be thoughtful about where I travel outside. There is plenty of adventure to be had at lower elevations where the snow has melted the most. If I do encounter a thoroughly wet and muddy trail, I will be sure to turn around and find a more durable surface to travel on. Mud season can be a great time to explore outside if you know where to look, but I may also take the time to catch up on laundry.

Traits we admire in John are his thoughtfulness, positive attitude, reliability, and commitment to service. You can read more about John here. 

Join our LRCC members for weekly guided hikes, volunteer opportunities, and environmental programs. Learn more by clicking here.