Preparing Interns for a Stewardship Season

Matt GerjolBy: Matt Gerjol, NFCT Stewardship Intern

The following describes the first three weeks of training typically experienced by Northern Forest Canoe Trail stewardship interns.

6:00 am wake up. June 8, 2015 was a rainy Monday morning. I was sleeping in the loft inside Regional Field Coordinator Noah Pollock’s wood shop shed in his backyard. There was a nice cool breeze when I awoke. I remember taking a deep breath and being so excited to begin my 2015 summer season.

Noah, Jared, and I drove to the Northern Forest Canoe Trail office located in Waitsfield, Vermont. We began the week dealing with paperwork and discussing what the next three weeks of training would entail.

That morning I met the other interns. I did not know at the time, but we would soon become very good friends. Jared, Paul, Evan, Megan, Alex, Elliot, and myself were the 2015 interns. Together we formed the Roving Crew, Allagash Crew, and Northern Forest Explorer’s Crew.

The 2015 NFCT Interns learning paddle skills on the Missisquoi River during the first week of training.
Interns learn paddling skills during the first week of training.

Week one began at Highgate, Vermont. This week was so much fun! There was a high level of enthusiasm and passion among the interns. It is here where we learned new paddling techniques. Rob Scharges taught use basic paddle strokes and maneuvers, and then we competed against each other in a paddling race. We even tested our whitewater skills and headed up the Missisquoi River to run class I and II rapids. I gained a huge level of confidence after this training.

The rest of the week consisted of us learning different communication and leadership techniques. We had to be prepared to collaborate with and lead a group of volunteers. We practiced different scenarios and discussed different ideas that would help prepare us for our field season and future Waterway Work Trips.

During this week we connected with each other very well. It was here where we really felt like we all were a team. With the first week complete, it was time for our next training.

The second week was rock week, which took place on the Nullhegan River near Bloomfield, Vermont. This week was hard work! It was rainy, muddy, and wet.

Our projects consisted of creating a stone stepping way and a stone staircase. We learned how to use a high line to move large rocks quarried nearby, how to split rock, and finally and how to use rock bars to ease boulders into place. For these two projects we really needed to be creative. We needed to flip rocks in certain ways to make smooth, flat steps. It involved a lot of physical labor and teamwork to complete both projects.

Despite the difficultly involved, it was so much fun. So much excitement and passion radiated through the interns. These experiences made us stronger and we gained a greater level of understanding for trail maintenance. With rock week finished, it was on to week three for lumber training.

Getting that big rock step the final inches to its new home.

Week three training started in Derby, Vermont at Yale Dale Farm. Here we joined with Northwoods Stewardship Center to practice using power tools for woodworking. We split up into different groups and rotated around five stations. At each station, we used different tools and created new projects.

We built a picnic table, sign in box, portage and campsite signage, double-chamber bin privy and a box privy. It was great to meet new people and learn skills that would help us succeed in our season’s fieldwork.

After Derby, Vermont we headed to Lake Carmi to put our training to Routing Signsthe test and built an Aquatic Invasive Wash Station. This project required collaboration and teamwork. We put our hearts into this project and it came out looking spectacular. A great accomplishment! The feeling we all got from looking at the final project was indescribable. What a great last week of training!

Putting their training to the test, the 2015 NFCT Stewardship Interns pose in front of a recently constructed Aquatic Invasive Wash Station.
Interns pose in front of their Aquatic Invasive Wash Station at Lake Carmi, VT.
2015 NFCT Interns talk about their day on the Trail around a nice warm campfire.
Relaxing and reflecting about their day on the trail.




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