Life On The Trail

No Service, No Shower, No Problem: The Bow Loop as Viewed by an Intern
2017 NFCT intern Matt Brabender
Matt Brabender

The question I received most frequently this summer was “Wisconsin, eh, how’d you end up all the way out here?” The answer to that is simple. I was sitting in my grimy college house living room exploring options for what I was going to do for the summer. That’s when I saw a posting for the Northern  Forest Canoe Trail stewardship intern program on the Texas A&M job board, and thought, “Wow, that sounds like the best possible way I could spend a summer and still get credit for college!” Having not spent much time in the New England area since I was young, I was excited by the idea of exploring a new landscape through paddling, hiking, biking, climbing, and being a steward of the trail.

I was ecstatic when the NFCT offered me the position as a Moose River Bow Loop Intern in northwestern Maine. The Moose River Bow Loop is a 34-mile loop made up by Attean Pond, Holeb Pond, and the Moose River. The loop is made possible by a 1.5-mile portage between the two ponds. This is the second year the NFCT has been contracted by Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands to maintain the Bow Loop since it is an highly enjoyed paddling trip by locals, camp groups, adventure outfitters, and recreation paddlers from all over the New England region.

The Bow Loop is a very accessible canoe trail that has some very remote sections. Thanks to the lack of development in northwestern Maine, there is minimal cell service unless you find a rock outcropping in a specific location, stand on one leg, and hold your phone as high as possible over your head. There are also few to no accessible roads to campsites, or portages, so many of the projects require paddling overfilled canoes to work sites, all while battling head winds, beaver dams, and a top-heavy canoe. Oh in terms of moving stuff from work location to work location, there is a lot of packing, unpacking, and repacking. This combination of hurdles is what makes the work so rewarding, along with the positive feedback received from paddlers on the trail.

2017 NFCT Intern Matt Brabender's photo of a lit tent
Being an intern can require camping in remote sections of the trail. Photo by Matt Brabender

The projects we accomplished on the Bow Loop this season consisted of putting in 3 roofed privies, an 18-step stone staircase, a wooden staircase, a stone ramp, 10-plus ridge poles, 300 feet of bog bridging, and making and installing signs for more than 15 campsites along the trail. We did all this while being a man down due to my crewmate deciding this work wasn’t for him about halfway through the season. None of this would have been possible without Will Jeffries, the Regional Field Coordinator, joining me in the field each week, our amazing volunteers who selflessly give their time to come into the woods for a weekend to do manual labor, and a few local businesses giving us places to store our gear and supplies along with providing us a place to work.

This summer has been an amazing experience that will be looked back on with endearment for the rest of my life. I know that this internship experience has given me more confidence as a leader, has strengthened my work ethic, taught me handy skills, and connected me with amazing people along the way.

Work on the Bow Loop was funded by Maine Bureau of Parks & Lands and the Horizon Foundation.

All 2017 stewardship work done by the Northern Forest Canoe Trail was supported by TimberlandPro.



2017 NFCT stewardship interns and volunteers
Interns and volunteers stand in front of trail signage. Photo by Matt Brabender