Labors of Love


SCA’s work in the Adirondacks

Maybe as you’ve hiked an Adirondack trail you’ve come across a trail crew of the Student Conservation Association and wondered about these young people doing the heavy lifting that makes your hike accessible and enjoyable: placing boulders for steps, digging water bars to keep the path from washing out, building log-and-stone cribs to hold a bridge of massive spruce stringers. Why are they doing this for five and ten days at a stretch, sometimes for twelve hours in a day?

Well, it’s not for money. These are volunteers. A token stipend and some help with college bills through the AmeriCorps national service program is their compensation. That and all the camp food they can pack in and cook.

But if, once you took in what they were up to, you said, “Thank you,” you should know that meant a lot.

“We got a thank-you note on the windshield of our car while working on Baker Mountain,” said Kadie Mercier, a twenty-two-year old Rhode Island woman working this summer with SCA. “That was really cool. We saved it.”

And even if you never met the work crew but sometime later stepped up their path or walked over their bridge you are a big part of their reward.

“We worked on a couple bridges that were pretty far back,” Kadie said. “We didn’t see anyone, and we wondered, ‘Are these bridges even going to get used?’ On our way out we saw four people walk in, and we’re like, ‘Oh, they’re going to use our bridges!’ You see that hiker walk down the trail, and you think, ‘I just made it so much better for them.’”

Part of a national organization that sends three thousand workers into the field each year, the Adirondack SCA has eighteen members who work nine hundred hours each from May through October. Evenly divided between men and women, the members break into three work crews that head out on five-day or ten-day hitches. In the short breaks between hitches, they return to home base at the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s William C. Whitney Wilderness headquarters on Little Tupper Lake. –

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