Something Wild: Trailwork on Mount Monadnock
"Something Wild" is joint production of NH Audubon, The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests & NHPR. We recommend listening to it in its original format on NHPR but a transcript of the show is also below. (Originally aired June 15, 2022)
You can hear Something Wild on-air at NHPR every other Friday at 6:45 a.m. and 8:45 a.m., or subscribe to the Apple podcast here(link is external).
New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock may be one of the most hiked mountains in the world. And with over 125,000 people climbing it every year, that’s a lot of wear and tear.
“Monadnock'' originally comes from the Abenaki word for “mountain that stands alone.” While it might stand alone, it also stands as a symbol of the community - bringing people together to make the mountain even more welcoming and accessible.This is especially true during the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests’s annual Monadnock Trails Week, which runs from July 22 to 26.
The event is designed to invite more people to experience New Hampshire’s outdoors — no matter their experience hiking or otherwise. This year’s event will include volunteer opportunities, hikes, social gatherings and more.
“We find that curiosity leads to passion. And when someone's passionate about a project or a location, we don't have to ask them,” he said. “They'll come to us with the solutions.”
Jess Kowalski traveled from northern New Hampshire to participate as a Trail Crew Leader for last year’s event, and was also encouraged by the spirit of community found there. While leading a group of LGBTQ+ hikers, they said they enjoyed “getting to see people feel safe and comfortable enough to be vulnerable and grow as a group and go out of comfort zones and learn skills that they may not otherwise feel safe to learn in other settings.”
No experience is required to participate in the trail maintenance.
“I honestly didn't feel like I was incredibly skilled around how to do trail work,” they say. “I was more than comfortable to ask the crew, ‘Oh, what do you think would work here?’ Let's figure it out together. And it allowed us to problem-solve and grow closer and feel more accomplished at the end.”
It also reinforced a key lesson for them: To make people feel more comfortable on the trails, it’s also important to encourage them to feel more comfortable with themselves. One of the Forest Society’s goals with the event is to help make New Hampshire's outdoors more welcoming, broadening the diversity of outdoor users.
“The simplest way I can think of is just acknowledging who you are, how you stand in the world, and being open to hearing different experiences and not judging based on first glance,” Kowalski said.
That could mean not judging yourself for having to ask questions about how to do trail work, they said, or not judging a fellow hiker for doing something differently on the trails than you would.
“You have to develop this compassion with yourself, that you are also learning and growing,” Kowalski said. “I think it's important to be kind to yourself, as well, in your pursuit of being kind and welcoming of others, too. It's a journey and we're all learning.”
The work is varied according to the interest and abilities of the volunteers. “Some folks will hike halfway up the mountain with specialized equipment and move heavy rocks using rigging equipment and teamwork and lots of leverage,” says Crowley. “Other folks can join our trailhead improvement crew that travels around the base of the mountain, sprucing things up by cutting back overhanging branches, cleaning up the kiosks and repainting the area, making it much more welcoming.”
Crowley said there are also opportunities to experience the trails in new ways: a history hike that follows a path taken by Henry David Thoreau, a family-friendly hike aimed at identifying different kinds of trees, and more. They’re also hosting a talk by Earl B. Hunter, Jr., of the group Black Folks Camp Too, on building unity in the outdoors.
- To learn more about Monadnock Trails Week events and volunteer opportunities, check out the Monadnock Trails Week page on the Forest Society website. Crowley also recommends checking out the NH Trail Workers facebook page for finding similar volunteer opportunities on trails around the state.