Well, summer is coming to a close. So long, days where I procrastinate and push off even the simplest tasks for another day (or season). No more sipping sangria on outdoor porches or helping my roomie pretend to be sick just so we can skip work and lounge at the beach all day. And, I’m going to get back on schedule with this whole blog thing…maybe.
You may think that I’ve put off volunteering over the past month or so as well – I mean, it happens to the best of us, right? Not me, my friend, not me. In fact, I took advantage of the summer days by going on an extended vacation in Maine’s 100-mile wilderness. You can get a brief overview of the area in this month’s Maine Magazine, but all you really need to know is that this place is freaking remote. Of course, I ended up there after K. suggested (in March) that we volunteer with the Maine Appalachian Trail Crew – seemed like a fabulous idea back in the dead of winter to bust our asses doing trail work for a week.
We started off from Portland, driving a couple hours to the MATC’s base camp in Garland, Maine. Our crew was made of a couple AmeriCorps volunteers (of course), a crew leader, and one other volunteer. Setting off at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning, our small group headed out in a 15-passenger van reminiscent of my days back in AmeriCorps*NCCC. The 2.5 hour drive to our site was mostly on dirt roads – I promptly fell asleep to avoid a retched case of car sickness as I tried to preserve some semblance of being bad-ass enough to undertake the upcoming backpack trip with all our gear. As it turned out, the hike was pretty short (thank goodness). No time was wasted as we set up camp in the White Cap Mountain Range and headed to work building a stone staircase through the woods. The rest of our week was spent in pretty much this one spot, moving rocks inch by inch to create a beautifully manicured trail. I learned all kinds of things during our time on the mountain – how to climb trees with slings, set up high-wire rigging to move boulders, and the beauty of a rock bar. By the end of the week, I could practically move a half-ton boulder with my pinky. At least that’s how I remember it.
Now, I should mention that our trip took place on the Appalachian Trail – for those of you who haven’t bothered to read anything by Bill Bryson, you might want to know that the AT is sort of filled with freaks. There are all these people who’ve been hiking for like half a year and don’t really remember normal social cues. The AT isn’t really for me – I avoided all the through-hikers like the plague and even began to shirk the casual hikers who constantly asked when we would be replacing the staircase with an elevator. Despite the weirdos, it was an amazing place, though.
If you bothered to read the Maine Mag article, you’ll note a reference to “eco-tourism” – something Maine has quite the potential for, but does little to promote. Our state, in fact, could be a perfect place for “eco-voluntourism” (if I can just coin that phrase, right now)… we are VacationLand, after all. What better than a little economic boost triggered by groups of people interested in giving a little time and money to a good cause in our lovely state?
I’m not exactly prepared to start the movement myself, but if you’re interested in a few opportunities that involve good sights + making the world a better place, consider looking into the following:
– Maine Appalachian Trail Club: Help preserve and protect the Appalachian Trail in Maine
– Maine Island Trail Association: Travel Maine’s coast while cleaning up our local islands
– Camp Sunshine: Stay in Maine’s Lakes Region while volunteering at this camp for children with terminal illnesses
– Common Ground Fair: Camp in style at the Common Ground Fair in Unity – held the 3rd week of September, this fair features organic food and farming activities from across Maine
Know of other great opportunities for volunteering while vacationing in Maine? Share them here – I’d love some ideas for next year.