Conservation Journals: Qiyah, Heather, and Dawe

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.

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.

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