Updated: Jun 17, 2022
Wednesday, 8 Jun 2022, Sussex, NB, CAN
As predicted, the rain came in overnight. I awoke to a gray, wet day. Scrub those plans to hike the Beehive/Precipice Trail - someone died from a fall there recently, and scrambling over wet granite did not appeal to me today. I'd already identified an alternative, to drive an hour to Schoodic Peninsula, the only part of Acadia NP on the mainland.
Schoodic is less developed than Mt. Desert Island - no carriage roads, no restaurants, no park films. It does feature a few hiking trails, a campground, and the Schoodic Environmental Research Center (SERC) - and the traditional rocky Maine coastline.
The waves weren't crashing this morning, as low tide had exposed a broad stretch bare land.
As I left the small Visitor Center, I noticed the rain had stopped. As I walked to the car, a break appeared in the clouds - look, is that a rainbow? Do I hear an angelic chorus in the wind? HAH. Only in my dreams; it's just another band of drizzle.
As I drove around the peninsula's edge, I caught a few breaks in the rain, but never enough to encourage a hike. Instead, I could pop out, admire the coast at low tide,
listen to the waves crash, and then drive to the next pullout.
I did stop at the SERC, visiting the display areas, reading about the Center's mission. They hold classes and seminars, training the public as citizen scientists. I thought of how much I'd love to attend; until then, I came away with two tidbits of information:
1) Researchers can monitor the health of the environment by tracking the number of animals in the biome. To that end, they encourage people to take bird counts in and out of the park and send them in.
2) Campers should always buy their firewood when they get to the park. Wood brought in from far away often contains insects not native to the area, and they can become invasive.
After a few more photos,
I returned to the main park for a scheduled interview with Diana Sproul, Volunteer Coordinator at Acadia. Unfortunately, work intervened for her, so we had to schedule a phone interview for later. When we finally connected, she educated me on the ins and outs of volunteering in national parks.
How did you get started in the parks? I studied Parks, Recreation and Tourism at the University of Maine, and right out of college joined the seasonal Trail Crew here at Acadia for four years. I then worked at national park units out west primarily for more than eight years, but my heart was in Acadia and I returned and became the Volunteer Coordinator in 2015.
What is the biggest challenge of your job? One challenge we face is the huge interest in volunteering here. We get applications year-round, and have trouble accommodating them all. For instance, we have a waiting list for campground host spots! Most of our seasonal positions will be filled by October for the following year.
Another challenge: We have many passionate volunteers who love the park but struggle with the layers and challenges of working with a bureaucracy.
You're running a pilot program of having volunteers live at the Bass Harbor lighthouse for the season. How is that going? That's just getting underway. We have a couple that we have chosen - they've volunteered before and volunteered in other lighthouses. We started them with an intense. two-week interpretive training to give them the info on the park that they'll need to answer questions, and to learn how to de-escalate situations at the lighthouse. It all focuses on safety. If any issues arise, they need to notify a ranger. This is a pilot program that has just begun, but so far so good.
I noticed a volunteer crew yesterday, raking up leaves from the ditch beside the carriage road. Playing Devil's advocate, I could ask, "Why? Leaves are a part of nature, right?" Leaves are natural, carriage roads are not! Preserving and maintaining carriage road drainage systems, protect the carriage roads. If we don't clear the drainage ditches, the leaves will form leaf dams and push rainwater onto the roads, and erode away the gravel. On June 9 last year, we had an extreme rain event that caused significant flooding in the park, which lead to unprecedented erosion on the carriage roads; more than 40 tons of gravel was washed away.
Volunteer support in maintenance of the carriage road drainage systems is vital, as we have such a small staff to maintain the carriage roads, without volunteers, much of the work would never get done.
What advice can you give to people wanting to volunteer in a park? Start by going to volunteer.gov. That lists many of the available positions. You should then follow up by calling the park directly. Here at Acadia, for instance, we can refer you to our partner group, Friends of Acadia. They offer a 'trail drop-in' on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday - you show up at 8:15 and they'll put you to work. If you can't commit to a season-long position, this can still let you help out.
What is your favorite part of working at Acadia? After all those years of pining to return, getting back here was truly a blessing. It's so diverse! I can climb the Precipice Trail to see the sun rise, meet friends in Bar Harbor for lunch, kayak in the afternoon, then watch the moon rise over Cadillac Mountain. There is a sense of community with the staff here that I did not find elsewhere - and that's good, because your career is your life here.
To contact Acadia's Volunteer Program directly email email@example.com or call (207)288-8716.
For the afternoon, I now faced a long drive to Sussex, New Brunswick. First came a 2.5 hour drive in the rain up US1 to the Canadian border at Campobello Island.
I had made sure to pack my passport, but I still got sent back to the U.S. since I hadn't filled out my arriveCAN form online. That took 15 minutes, then I could enter and drive to Roosevelt-Campobello International Historic Site.
This park, jointly operated by the U.S. and Canada, preserves the summer home of FDR (which he used until contracting polio). The views of the surrounding waters and shorelines would certainly have impressed me, if only I could have seen them. The incessant drizzle, however hid them from sight.
Instead, I watched the park film, and toured the Roosevelt cottage. (Correct, it had no ballroom.)
It had 34 rooms, 18 of them bedrooms. The guide pointed out the ramps they'd added to make it easier for FDR to access, although he didn't return for a dozen years. Original fixtures still decorated the rooms.
In a child's room, a large toy airplane their son had played with sat on the floor, ready for more play times.
I splashed back to my car, still facing a three-hour drive to Sussex. First I had to get to the correct border crossing - the only way off the island was the way I came on, but the GPS in the car demanded I take a non-existent ferry. I finally had to hook up the Garmin I'd brought from home, which got me oriented.
In Canada again (after updating arriveCAN with my new entry station), I faced 192 km along Highway NB1 - a freeway like I-95, but with no traffic and a speed limit of 110 - kmh, of course. I had a miserable drive, with clouds and rain hiding the Canadian landscape. Puddles on the road would catch my car's wheels, jerking it to the side. (For this, I appreciated the lack of traffic.) With an iffy forecast for tomorrow, I wondered if maybe adding a Canadian National Park to my docket had been too much to ask...