Winds of Change

I am writing this at 3am on a late spring morning. I’ve got a big life transition coming up, and this just happens to be the time of day my brain chooses to become most introspective.

When I arrived in Vermont 15 years ago in my 20s, I was driving a hunter green 1993 F150 Ford truck with everything I owned in the bed and not a single credit card in my pocket. I was living in the middle of a forest in a canvas-walled tent on a platform 10 feet off the ground. A lot has changed since then, and though I realize change is the only constant, some changes stand out a lot more than others.

Flash forward 15 years, and I am blessed with an amazing wife, a beautiful newborn daughter, and well, as far as credit cards, I’ve got a few more that when I crossed the Vermont border. I’m still driving a Ford, but now it is a bright yellow Ranger with black racing stripes (always good to have a sense of humor).

Putting the finishing touches on the Stark Ramp installation.

The big change I speak of is my exit as Trail Director of the NFCT after 9 years of service. It has been an absolute honor and privilege to serve in this position. I say that I am leaving the Trail Director position but not the organization. Leaving the organization would be like leaving a family (I am already being heavily recruited for this Adopt-a-Segment Program I have been hearing so much about).

Managing a trail in its early stages, I have focused a lot of my energy towards infrastructure development and laying the foundation for a management plan that encourages central support with local empowerment. Try as I might, the geography of the management area has been hard to wrangle without a lot of travel.

With a growing family, it has become important for me to focus my territory and ensure more time on the home front. My new position with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation does just that while allowing me to stay within the field of my life’s work. I recently borrowed the classic book, “Moby Dick,” from a friend and a line from Captain Ahab made me reflect on my land management calling:

“The path of my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails whereon my soul is grooved to run.” – Wow! What a way to put it.

Fast water paddle training on the Missisquoi River.

My time with the NFCT has bought me the humbling insight that managing a water trail is just as much about the people as it is about the trail. The concept of this trail is so unique, truly built on partnerships. The memories I have are both specific and ambiguous, revolving around people and project. Some fond memories that jump out at me:

  • Enjoying a campfire with NFCT staff and Board of Directors on Big Island (West Branch of the Penobscot)
  • Playing glow-in-the-dark Frisbee with NFCT stewardship interns the first night of training in a power line cut filled with fireflies (Missisquoi River)
  • Cooking Mamma O’s Apple Fritters (one of my mother’s famous recipes) as a Trail Maintainer Jamboree breakfast on an early spring morning in the southern end of Umbagog Lake while watching the mist lift off an almost entirely frozen lake

The list honestly goes on and on. I feel very fortunate to have played a role in this organizations history. Knowing that I have been able to help people connect to nature, support sustainable economic development of our trail’s communities, and help individuals grow as professionals in the land management field has been a driving force for 9 years.

My last day as Trail Director will be coinciding with this year’s Paddle-Pedal in Richford, VT, on June 24. This is an event that is near and dear to my heart. If you would like to help send me off I urge you to come join us at this fun family event. More details and registration information can be found here. I hope to see you there!

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