Intern Journal-Dougie

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 unpaid 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, engage both youth and adults in environmental education, and perform other conservation duties such as shoreline restoration and trail maintenance and construction. Learn more about the internship program here. Squam Conservation Interns also regularly write about their experiences in the Squam Watershed.

This summer’s work as a conservation intern with the Squam Lakes Association has been filled with some of the most unique adventures and surprises I have experienced yet.  I have spent a few winters away from home, which for me is located a few hours south in suburban Walpole Massachusetts, but this season really has taken my breath away. My favorite part about the transition northward has always been the feelings of rejuvenation taking in the crisp fresh air and all the mountainous smells.  Now I am living blessedly in these conditions day and night, camping out, swimming, diving, hiking and more!  This lifestyle I’ve found myself taking on has gifted me many more captivating moments than I had ever dreamed of as a child. My last journal entry dates back over a month ago,  and so much has taken place here that’s it’s tough to put a finger on just one thing.
A special facet of my life this summer has been in the deepening of my relationship with nature.  It’s sometimes very easy to overlook and forget now and then, minding the way the world runs these days.  Bright lights, loud music and attractions whichever way I turn my head all merge into one grand distraction from natures calm.  Like night and day, these serene natural feelings of the mountain life quickly degenerate the more southern and city-bound I go.  The White Mountains are a spot to cherish, and this is steadily reinforced as I continue to meet enthused travelers here on the lake.  Many have lived in the same spot their whole life, perhaps the city, rural plains or hidden up in the mountains.  I’ve so far been privileged enough to visit a whole lot of these places along the eastern seaboard and a few foreign nations in the Americas.  At first I couldn’t understand or appreciate a culture or their relationship with nature; that mentality hadn’t quite yet developed for me.  Now as a young adult seeking to improve myself and to help others and the planet through my work, my eyes are much more open to these things.  Our nation is so greatly advanced to the point that we are separated from nature. This summer I’ve been thrown back into the woods and wish to stay forever.  I eat simple low impact camp food, pick up a lot of local veggies from the area, and help conserve Squam!
  Sleeping inside provides enough shelter and seclusion that one could doze through the entire day if they wanted.  Instead, rising with the sun and songbirds between 5-6 in the morning grants a much longer and more eventful day.  I’ve started paying much more attention to the weather- which way the wind blows and when it will, when the last rainfall was, where the sun shines predominantly and so on.  Out here as an intern our livelihood hinges on these things!  I’ve got to know the sunny spots that will offer the driest firewood after the rain, if I want a cheery evening and smoke to ward off bugs.  Around campfires I’ve graciously accepted marshmallow gifts and shared stories of my scouting experiences up here in New England.  Coincidentally, as a camping caretaker I’ve checked in families involved in scouting and encouraged them to keep participating.  I would accredit most of those experiences in helping myself along to get here on Squam Lake this summer.
On my Squam expeditions, whether by foot or boat, I am gifted with feathers everywhere I set foot!  Initially scooping up chicken feathers on enrichment field trips through class at Plymouth State, has evolved into a full blown collection of mine.  Geese, crows, blue jays, ducks, sparrows, dragonflies and even a loon have left me behind some of the finest natural souvenirs I could ask for.  They come from all parts of the bird too.  Down (belly) feathers and long primary feathers seem to drop the most. After rain the most turn up.  I speculate they are faulty ones and no longer serve the bird optimally, or its just shedding season  The wing is one of the most special innovations of nature, giving flight to a select few.  I like to waft incense smoke and make dreamcatchers with feathers.  They’re also good stock material for making fly lures when I get into that.
While walking the trails around Squam, catching a face-full of cobwebs is about as commonplace as pinecones dropping from overhead, so I brush them off.  On a few occasions when the skies have parted and arriving at the perfect time, I’ve been able to marvel at some Charlotte’s Web-worthy spinnings left behind by ambitious spiders.  Not your everyday find, so I take a second for appreciation.  On surveying dives where we scout out spots of secluded milfoil, I’ve swam alongside monster bass, happened upon gleaming mussels that just opened up and eerie clouds of lake algae.  There’s always something waiting out there on nature’s open frontier. Two worlds, land and lake, we explore as an intern family of eight.  A simple life we live in peace.

Read more Intern Journal entries here.