Monday, August 27, 2007


The historic month long boundary project in the Mahoosucs begins in just 2 days when we start our drive up to Gorham, New Hampshire. The reason this boundary reclamation project is so important is that most of Appalachian Mountain Club's (AMC) 28 mile section of boundary has not been maintained in the past 20+ years since the original survey work was completed by Civil Consultants. In 2007, the surveyed boundary lines are now almost unrecognizable and buried within extremely thick spruce fir successional regrowth, the yellow paint is faded, the monuments are hidden under moss and duff, and many of the the U.S. Boundary signs are missing or falling off the trees. As much as we might wish to say that this lack of maintenance is rare along the Appalachian Trail (AT) Corridor boundaries, it's not uncommon given both the extreme backcountry setting that the corridor winds through in this area and that boundary maintenance work by the local volunteer trail maintaining clubs is optional.

So why then are we devoting so much of our 2007 fall field season in the Mahoosucs? Is it just because it is amazingly beautiful and we enjoy spending time there and sleeping on the CWG (AKA cold, wet ground)? Is it because it's just a damn fun word to say - say it - Ma-hoo-sucs! While all of these are true (well, Sally isn't the biggest fan of the CWG), the areas where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) Boundary Crew works during their fall and spring field seasons is determined by several things: where the highest priority areas are for the surveyed line being permanently lost; where the biggest threats are to the AT corridor by adjoining land use or development; and/or where the local AT club has requested help from ATC with boundary maintenance. In the case of the Mahoosucs, all three of these situations apply. Due to intensive logging, both sustainable and liquidation, on both sides of the AT Corridor, this project couldn't be more timely. Due to how faded and overgrown most all of the boundaries throughout the Mahoosucs have become, the potential for loggers cutting over the boundary and into the corridor is a very real threat. The intensive logging currently going on in New Hampshire's Success Twp. has put the Mahoosuc boundary recovery work at the top of ATC's boundary maintenance priority list for the last several years and has led us to devote the entire month of September 2007 to reclaiming as many boundary miles as possible.
(Before pictures from last year of how thick and faded the boundary is)

(Ellen hanging signs last year looking from a not-yet-cleared section of boundary to a cleared and painted section.)

The crew is excited about the challenge of repainting, clearing, and signing the boundary while living and camping in the Mahoosuc backcountry. The full-time crew consists of our Boundary Program Manager -Sally Naser (AKA "the Surveyor General"), the Pennsylvania Cumberland Valley Ridgerunner - Ray Brassington; and me - Ellen Gass, former Konnarock Assistant Trail Crew Leader, and now devoted and returning boundary crew seasonal. We are also excited about being joined by any willing and able boundary volunteers from AMC (at present, there are only 2) or other neighboring AT Clubs (including DOC), hopefully some '07 AT thru-hikers wanting to give something back to the Trail on their northward journey to Mt. Katahdin, AMC field staff, and other ATC New England field staff. We'll be sure to introduce all our boundary helpers along the way. Needless to say, the next month of boundary work in the Mahoosucs followed by 2 weeks in October in the 100 Mile Wilderness will be extremely hard both physically and mentally, but we're up the challenge and looking forward to working with the local clubs to help them with the equally important maintenance aspect for successful boundary management. Civil Consultants, the firm who surveyed the boundary in the Mahoosucs, won the Engineering in Excellence Honor Award for 2001 for surveying this and other AT Corridor boundaries in Maine. As you can see below in some of their work log entries, they had it a lot harder than we ever will (we hope) to monument and mark the original survey. They took some very interesting notes detailing some specific challenges and demoralizing incidents they faced in the Mahoosucs:

"I was stung 4 times and Matt once. After hitting the third nest it inhibits your eagerness to cut new line!"

"An exhausting day physically and mentally (sometimes you get nervous on the edge of a cliff with a $10,000 box on your back). Oh, I almost forgot I got stung 3 more times."

"RAIN Accomplished Nothing"

"Bill cut leg ~ 11:00 am - 3/4 " long cut to bone - walked back to camp for Butterflys - decided to continue out" (NOTE" the rest of the crew kept working!)

"What a useless place to put a Boundary traverse line!"

We will be posting our progress, our challenges, our triumphs, our new boundary friends, and hopefully some moose pictures on this blog (Sally promised me at least 2 moose sightings this year, let's see if she can follow through!) We would really enjoy hearing your comments and questions and look forward to seeing you out on your club's boundary section sometime soon!

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