Frontcountry vs. Backcountry

Special post from the SCA NH Corps, Conservation Crew (by Annie Cohen):

Greetings from another frontcountry carpentry hitch! This time my crew is working at the top of the Flume Gorge in Franconia Notch State Park. The rain shelter we are building will be appropriately titled: Top o’ Gorge. The sign is already made—all we have to do is some more rustic carpentry! I could easily follow up my previous blog post and write about our further struggles and realizations of rustic carpentry, but instead I’ll focus on the challenges and joys of being frontcountry on a hitch.

Members of the State Park System Advisory Committee meeting with SCA Crew at the Flume Gorge
Members of the State Park System Advisory Committee meeting with SCA Crew at the Flume Gorge

I’ll back up and tell you, dear readers, that my last hitch was the most backcountry hitch our program had to offer. Our group did not do any car camping, no no. We hiked 4 miles up two separate White Mountain National Forest trails (and those trails go straight up, lemme tell ya) with all of our gear for cooking, sleeping, and working. So getting to be on a very frontcountry crew directly after that one is both a relief and a stressor.

Our team in the backcountry spent a few days building tent platforms at a remote campsite. We barely had any human interactions besides the occasional visit from a backcountry ranger, and so we were free to be the weirdest we could be. See below:

The crew getting a little weird on a backcountry hitch
During a backcountry hitch we all:

  • frequently ate food that fell on the ground right next to moose poop
  • often shared the same spoon
  • ate our rehydrated hummus out of a bag with weird bits of pita because the rest of the pita was moldy
  • slept under the kitchen tarp on a slope because there was nowhere good to set up tents
  • got way too excited about meeting the strangers we saw on the trail
  • talked about farts too much
  • ate obscene amounts of vegetarian chili mix, sadly
Here we are in our uneven backcountry campsite, about to enjoy the glory that is vegetarian chili mix.
Here we are in our uneven backcountry campsite, about to enjoy the glory that is vegetarian chili mix.

Fast forward to this hitch—we are working directly next to one of the busiest trails in New Hampshire (don’t quote me on that). Dozens of people pass our worksite every hour, staring at us as we dig and hammer behind a string of caution tape. We get a lot of comments like: “Aha! Look at the creatures in their natural habitat!” or “That’s the rain shelter? Better hurry up!”

Visitors walking through the Flume Gorge in fall
Visitors walking through the Flume Gorge in fall

Aside from the natural features, we are a main attraction on the trail and so we get a lot of stares and comments while we are working and concentrating. It’s a great chance to do some outreach for our program—I personally really enjoy giving visitors a brief introduction to our 10-month internship when they ask us what we’re up to. On the other hand, it has been hard to be in the spotlight at all times—there’s really nowhere to hide! If we have to have a serious group discussion about a decision, we might be having that chat in front of an audience, which adds an interesting spin to group dynamics. But now, list time!

The frontcountry is great for a few reasons:

  • we don’t have to dig a hole to use the bathroom
  • no need to scoop silty water from a stream and then wait for the gravity filter to do its thing before having drinking water
  • barely any lugging of water because we have a spigot
  • we can hang out with our friendly neighborhood interpretive rangers every day and go to their programs
  • we can wash our hands with soap and water
  • our tents are set up on perfectly flat tent platforms
  • many personal ‘thank yous’ from visitors for all of our hard work
  • ice cream after work is possible
  • cell service
  • we could shower if we wanted to
  • we are currently baking brownies because we have access to an oven

Looking at the blueprints, behind the caution tape.
Even though having access to water is great, I’ve definitely found myself pining for the simplicity and atmosphere that can only be found on a backcountry hitch. I have to remind myself that even though we’re close to civilization right now, we can still be ourselves on hitch and have a grand ol’ time despite not having the separation of a few miles between us and humans and amenities. We can hear the highway from where we sleep, but on the other hand we laughed about canned peaches for about 5 minutes today so I think we’re doing okay.

Reblogged from:


Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Discover the Power of Parks is presented by New Hampshire State Parks in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps and made possible by generous financial support from Eversource. The program offers a look into the natural world through hands-on programming. Interpretive programs focus on connecting participants with nature and building appreciation for New Hampshire's unmatched natural heritage. Programs include guided hikes, interpretive tours, and imaginative environmental workshops for children and families. Programs are offered free to guests with paid park admission fee. No pre-registration is required.

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