Something Wild: Trailwork on Mount Monadnock

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New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock may be one of most traveled mountains in the world. And with over 125,000 people climbing it every year, that’s a lot of wear and tear.

“Monadnock” comes originally from the Abenaki word meaning “mountain that stands alone”. While it may stand alone, it also represents a symbol of 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 Zealand’s annual Monadnock Trails Week. Hampshire Forests, which runs from July 22-26.

The event is designed to invite more people to experience the New Hampshire outdoors, regardless of their hiking or other experience. This year’s event will include volunteer opportunities, hikes, socials and more.

“We want to get the community, hikers, visitors, people who love the Monadnock area to work on the trails that we all love and benefit from,” said Andy Crowley, stewardship projects manager for the Forest Society, organizer of the event. Once people start having fun outdoors, Crowley said, they might become more curious about the natural world — and more interested in protecting it.

“We find that curiosity leads to passion. And when someone is passionate about a project or a place, we don’t have to ask them,” he said. “They will come to us with the solutions.”

Jess Kowalski came from northern New Hampshire to participate as a trail team leader in last year’s event and was also encouraged by the community spirit there. While leading a group of LGBTQ+ hikers, they said they love “seeing people feel safe and comfortable enough to be vulnerable and grow in groups and step out of comfort zones and learn skills that they might not feel safe learning in other settings.”

No experience is required to participate in trail maintenance. “Honestly, I didn’t feel like I was incredibly good at doing trail work,” they say. “I was more than comfortable asking the crew, ‘Oh, what do you think would work here?’ Let’s find out together. And it made us solve problems, grow closer and feel more fulfilled in the end.

It also reinforced a key lesson for them: for people to 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 this event is to help make the New Hampshire outdoors more welcoming, expanding the diversity of outdoor users.

“The easiest way I can think of is to just recognize who you are, how you fit into the world and be open to hearing different experiences and not judging at first glance,” said Kowalsky.

That could mean not judging yourself for having to ask questions about how to work the trails, they said, or not judging another hiker for doing something different on the trails than you would.

“You have to develop this compassion with yourself, which you also learn and grow,” Kowalski said. “I think it’s important to be kind to yourself as well, in your quest to be kind and to be welcoming to others too. It’s a journey and we’re all learning.

The work is varied according to the interests and abilities of the volunteers. “Some people will hike halfway up the mountain with specialized equipment and move heavy rocks using rigging equipment and teamwork and a lot of leverage,” says Crowley. “Other people can join our trail improvement team as they walk the base of the mountain, sprucing things up by trimming overhanging branches, cleaning up gazebos and repainting the area, making it much more welcoming. “

Crowley said there are also opportunities to experience the trails in new ways: a historic hike that follows a path taken by Henry David Thoreau, a family hike to identify different types of trees, and more. They also host a talk by Earl B. Hunter, Jr., of the group Black Folks Camp Too, on building unity outdoors.

For more information on Monadnock Trails Week events and volunteer opportunities, see the Monadnock Trails Week page on the Forest Society website. Crowley also recommends consulting the NH Trail Workers facebook page to find similar volunteer opportunities on state trails.

Something Wild is a partnership of New Hampshire Audubonthe Forestry company and NHPR, and is produced by the team at out in.

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