Last weekend I attended a my introductory training to be a Land Steward with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF). This was a two day training at Calumet Conference Center in West Ossipee NH.
I arrived Thursday night around 7pm and checked into my cabin that would be my home for the next couple nights. The accommodations were far superior than I was expecting. I was thinking summer camp style bunk cabins from my Camp Takodah days, but to my surprise these “cabins” were more like townhouse condos. They were two levels, on the first floor was a large bathroom, kitchenette, and small living area, upstairs was two bedrooms one with 3 twin beds and the other with 2 twins and a twin over twin bunk. The first night was myself and two other women sharing this cabin. I retired to bed after getting settled in, but didn’t sleep well at all. I had drank too much caffeine on the 2.5 hour up and forgot my benadryl to help me sleep. I laid awake, tossing and turning on the soft bed most of the night.
I got up around 6am in the morning headed downstairs to make coffee and wait until it was time to head to the dining hall for breakfast. Breakfast was an impressive spread of eggs, pancakes, kielbasa, fruits etc pretty much something for everyone. After breakfast we all found our way to the classroom to begin our training. This first half of the day was all introductions, the history and mission of SPNHF and what our role of a Land Steward would entail, After lunch we headed out for a hike to learn about trail maintenance and different trail design techniques. The hike lead us up to a look out point over lake ossipee and the surrounding mountains. We watched as the snowstorm in the distance closing inched its way closer to us. We returned after our hike for an introductory course on using the GAIA GPS (gaiagps.com) app for smartphones. I already use this app regularly so I was excited to learn that this app is what “professionals” use instead of expensive standalone GPS units. After learning about the app we had an awesome pot roast dinner. After dinner there was an optional movie, but since it was already getting close to 7pm (4 hours past my “normal bedtime”) I headed back to the cabin, took a shower and hopped into bed. I watched some netflix (the cabins had WiFi!) for awhile before settling in for the night. I slept slightly better the second night but still spent most of the night tossing and turning. I woke up and found the ground covered in about 6 inches of snow.
The second day was probably my favorite. As much of the first day was on trail maintenance and it didn’t really apply to my property. The property I have been assigned in Perry forest, which is located along 124 in Jaffrey/Sharon/New Ipswich/Rindge. There are only a few old logging roads, and no designated trails, so much of the first day, while interesting and fun to learn, didn’t apply to my adopted land. On Saturday morning we learned about how to read survey maps, take coordinates and figure out how to convert them into compass bearings. Then we learned how to properly use a compass. This was something I have been really interested in learning, but struggled with paying $100+ dollars on a course. I had done research online and watched YouTube videos on how to do it but, it just never made much sense. However once I started playing with the compass and working with it everything clicked.
Once we practiced in the classroom, we headed outside to try our newly learned skills. We did some exercises in the field and headed off on a hike again. We headed back up to the lookout (this time we hiked UP the trail instead of down), hard work in 6 inches of fresh snow and being 3rd in the line. We eventually made it out to where the boundary line for the conference center was located in the middle of the woods. We set out in pairs to find a few of the boundary markers. My partner and I went first, which was something that I wanted to do because, once the first group goes its easy to follow their trail in the freshly broken snow, I wanted the true challenge. Once we found our boundary markers, we were allowed to hike back out to the conference center and that was it for the day. We were free to head home. Another long 2.5 hour drive home after a long weekend.
I’m excited to get started and check out the Perry Forest, as its something I have frequently driven by and never really known what is out there and so it will be fun to have the tools and knowledge of the land to really explore an area without any trails. Also this forest area is a big hunting location for deer, so I am excited to see what I can find out there, and hopefully build a relationship with the regular hunters and recruit them to be a secondary eyes and ears for the land and to contact me if they see anything out of place.