I found my old logbook from when I was a caretaker at the Piazza Rock shelter area on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. What a terrific experience, it really opened my eyes to Leave No Trace as a philosophy, and the overall effect that small impacts have when multiplied by hundreds. I spoke to hundreds of people that summer, and spent a lot of time on Saddleback mountain as a summit steward, keeping people off the alpine terrain and helping preserve the blueberries and mountain cranberry for the bears. I count “section” hikers rarely, only if they told me they were section-hiking, else, everyone was a dayhiker.
I’ve posted the daily hiker counts in my Google Docs, the link is here:
Gaps exist due to time off. I was 10 days on, 4 off.
As expected, a big surge of northbound thruhikers came in September, racing the closure of Katahdin. What I had forgotten about, was a strange trickle of SOUTHbound hikers in September as well.
This tells me that if I want to climb Saddleback with minimal traffic, pick some time in early August – for a year which had the same kind of Spring as 2002! Some years the Mountain is open early, som late.
What’s funny are the notes I made, apart from weather observations and trail conditions from my ridgeruns – I had some unkind things to say about a lot of the northbounders I met, and based on my own experiences hiking, I want to say its for 2 reasons: they’re very proud of themselves, and assume you know nothing about what they’ve experienced, and secondly, they’ve just made it through the Whites and the over-sanitized, restrictive rules of the AMC. In Maine there’s no fees, and the caretakers have a much different role.
My biggest official duties included cleaning graffiti from the summit of Saddleback (yep, really), chasing an ATV rider off the Trail corridor, and getting Colby college in trouble for camping above treeline.
The next time you’re at a backcountry site with a privy, or there’s a bog bridge, or stone stairs, or a piped spring, give a little thought to the folks who invested their time. By providing a permanent, convenient place to camp, it focuses the impact on 1 area instead of spreading it out along the entire trail like a strip mall.