The road goes on forever and the party never ends….

I believe the title to this blog is from an Allman Brothers song, it appropriately sums up how we have managed to push our field projects well into the fall and at this point it seems that the only thing that could slow us down is a major snow storm and a solid crust of ice on the water.  We are very fortunate to have two major field projects occurring right now, both funded through Recreation Trails Grant Program money.  One involves objectively surveying as many portages in Maine as we can using a 3-person Maine Conservation Corps (MCC) field crew with office support and the other is accomplishing phase one of a three-part river access project in Richford, VT with a four person NorthWoods Stewardship Crew (NWSC).

MCC Crew Josh, Corey, and Aaron.

The MCC crew is using the Universal Trails Assessment Process (UTAP) to section off similar sections of the portages and describe maximum and average characteristics.  These details get recorded and entered into a software program called Trailware where they get digested and turned into easy to use information that can be included on signs and maps.  The information is good for trail users as they can get a better idea of what to expect, for example, how much of the trail they could use wheels on.  The information is also good for management as it will help identify stewardship projects that we can accomplish with our Stewardship Interns or Trail Maintainers.

I had a great time meeting the MCC crew the first week of October as we spent four days training them to be able to perform the survey.  We did our training in the Rangeley Lakes area with a lot of help from our friends at the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust and the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum.  A special thanks to the people at each organization, especially Shelby Rousseau and Ron Haines.

There are quite a few details to recording the UTAP and trail survey information.  To make it objective the collection methods need to be standardized and there has to be a mastering of the collection tools involved in this process.  The MCC crew picked the process up quick and asked all the hard-hitting questions.  They seemed to be keeping their sanity even towards the end of a day full of measuring features and recording numbers while being inundated by the cold and the rain.  Although we did start laughing many times for no reason and had occasional moments of going cross-eyed as a group, the focus always came back to recording accurate information.

The tools we used to collect the information are:

  • Measuring Wheel
  • Delorme PN-40 Handheld GPS Unit
  • Sunto Clinometer
  • Tape Measure
  • Compass
  • Rite-in-the-Rain Notebook
  • Eureka! Waterproof pack barrels from Johnson Outdoors
Recording Data at Haines Landing
Carry Road
Huddle Up!
View from Upper Dam
Crew at Upper Dam

The crew has been doing great in the field and we are right on schedule.  Just yesterday John Willard, NFCT supporter and owner of the Birches Resort on Moosehead Lake, flew them into Attean Falls Carry to help us keep them moving as quickly as possible.  Thanks John, and everyone else that is supporting this project.  Hats off to the MCC crew for their focus and determination.