2018 Franconia Ridge Internship Program
The Franconia Ridge Trail is experiencing a surge of visitors that is resulting in both a changed
social environment for hikers and significant damage to the adjacent alpine ecology. In recent
years professional managers and volunteers have been struggling to identify strategies to address
what is a deteriorating biophysical and social environment. Conditions have worsened enough
that in 2016 various agencies, organizations, and individuals formed the Franconia Ridge
Working Group, a collaborative effort to create and implement a Visitor User Management Plan
(VUM) for Franconia Ridge. The VUM process has reached Step 9 in its 14-step process:
“Identify visitor use management strategies and actions to achieve desired conditions.” Smaller
groups are reviewing the feasibility of a number of alternatives for education and outreach, trail
definition and reconstruction, parking and access, guidelines and policy, and administrative
controls. While Step 9 is still ongoing, several education/outreach and trail definition/
reconstruction actions have been identified that can be met by having trail stewards working on
Franconia Ridge on a weekly basis. Specifically, these are the trail tending activities of
rebuilding scree wall, blocking bootleg trails, brushing and rubbling trampled areas, and
expanded on-site education and outreach. This proposal calls for two college or graduate interns
to work on Franconia Ridge two days a week for 12 weeks from mid June through August 2018.
Interns will be supervised by West End Trail Tender (WETT) volunteer Nat Scrimshaw and the
program will be administered by the World Trails Network – Hub for the Americas (WTNAmericas).
In addition to trail work and on-site education, interns will be trained in rapid
assessment procedures (RAP) for applied anthropology and will field test a Franconia Ridge
Stewardship Manual. This manual will serve as a RAP primer, a reference for identifying
patterns of hiker behavior, and will include a basic alpine ecology field
guide. An additional important objective for this program is to facilitate
communication between the various partners that share stewardship of
Franconia Ridge: USFS staff, AMC/USFS Alpine Stewards, Trailhead
Stewards, the Greenleaf Hut Naturalist, trail adopters, the Liberty Springs
Caretaker, and AMC researchers.
Description and Locale
Franconia Ridge is in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest
(WMNF) and is part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Interns will
focus on two trails: the Franconia Ridge Trail, Mt. Liberty to Mt. Lafayette, and
the Upper Greenleaf Trail between Greenleaf Hut and Mt. Lafayette.
2018 Franconia Ridge Internship Program, 12-21-2017, page 1
The principal work of the interns will be trail tending. On Franconia Ridge this means rebuilding
rock scree walls, blocking bootleg trails, and disguising/protecting trampled areas outside of the
trail. Effective strategies for the treatment of trampled areas include rubbling (scattering rocks of
various sizes in areas that show signs of vegetation loss and soil compaction) and brush pinning
(pinning krummholz deadwood with rocks in these same areas). Rebuilding scree wall is the
relatively quick work of repositioning the smaller, less stable rock that becomes dislodged by
hikers. Much of Franconia Ridge is characterized by this type of material. This scree wall repair
can be done as interns traverse the Franconia Ridge in a day. If time permits, interns can also do
some more time-consuming setting of large rocks in scree walls where material is available.
Similarly, interns might occasionally do spot level II trail construction— resetting steps,
rebuilding cairns, etc. For this reason, we propose a tool cache at Greenleaf Hut for the interns
and other volunteer crews. Any level II work would need to be approved by the USFS and would
be supervised by Nat Scrimshaw. We would also coordinate with the AMC research department
to ensure that any work is not affecting rare or endangered species or any other sensitive areas
identified by alpine ecologists.
— Education and Outreach
Each time a hiker passes an intern on the trail there is an opportunity to provide onsite education.
Interns will be trained in appropriate ways to engage hikers and communicate a “leave no trace”
in the alpine zone ethic. Educational messaging will be based on the techniques and standards
established in the AMC/USFS Alpine Stewardship program, and interns will consult and
coordinate with Alpine Stewards.
— Weekly Itinerary
This trail tending will occur two days per week for 12 weeks
during the period mid June – August within the following
• Thursdays interns will hike up to Liberty Springs Campsite
in the afternoon and camp there. This will allow them to
exchange information on trail conditions with the Liberty
Springs Caretaker, who in addition to her other
responsibilities will be spending a couple of days a week
tending scree wall and interacting with hikers on Little
• Fridays interns will traverse the Ridge, working as they hike
and interacting with hikers. Friday nights interns will bunk at
Greenleaf Hut, having the chance to exchange information
2018 Franconia Ridge Internship Program, 12-21-2017, page 2
with Alpine Stewards, the Hut Naturalist, and the hut crew. While at the hut interns will chat
with hikers, conduct informal interviews, and initiate informal focus group discussions. There
is also an opportunity for interns to help Alpine Stewards and the Hut Naturalist in evening
educational programs focused on alpine ecology and best practices for “leave no trace” in the
Saturdays interns will summit Lafayette and traverse the Franconia Ridge to Little Haystack,
descending the Falling Waters Trail. On Saturdays interns will have the flexibility to assist
Alpine Stewards, conduct formal observations of hikers (based on 2017 protocols), or assist
with other research, such as AMC Mountain Watch phenology monitoring.
• Interns will have a basecamp at the Sandwich Mountain Farm in Thornton, NH, a 25-minute
drive from trailheads in Franconia Ridge. During their time off the Franconia Ridge, interns
will share in farm chores and participate in weekly “fireside chats.” Fireside chats will be
focused on various themes and will include accompanying readings. We will occasionally
invite outside guests to join us for discussion.
—Practical Anthropology for Recreation Management
During the 2017 summer hiking season, AMC Trail Adopter and WETT volunteer Nat
Scrimshaw spent 33 days over a period of 15 weeks on Franconia Ridge making detailed
observations of 2,400 hikers . In addition to administering an observational hiker survey 1
developed by the AMC research department, Nat used the anthropological methods of
observation, participant observation, informal interviews and focus group discussions (informal
groups at Greenleaf Hut) to better understand the hiking behavior he was seeing.
Anthropological methods are designed to get an “insider perspective,” providing insight into the
contribution of culture to behavior. This can be particularly helpful in designing
educational programs. Traditional anthropology can require years of field work, but
rapid assessment procedures (RAP) for applied anthropology can be used by field staff
in a single season (2-3 months) or even in a single field session.
In his 2017 field work, Nat also identified repeated patterns of trail impact across
the Ridge as well as associated patterns of hiking behavior. These have been
compiled into a visual pattern guide that can be used to quickly identify
behaviors and trail impact.
Central to this proposal is the goal of combining a RAP primer, the pattern
guide, basic alpine ecology, and an introduction to the Franconia Ridge
“team” into a Franconia Ridge Stewardship Manual. We see the manual
This was in support of an Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC)/Waterman Fund research project: An Assessment of 1
Hiker Use Patterns and Relationship to Current Scree Wall Efficacy and Alpine Trail Treadway Standards on
Franconia Ridge-40 Years Later
2018 Franconia Ridge Internship Program, 12-21-2017, page 3
initially as a looseleaf binder with sections that can be pulled out for use in the field. Part of field
testing will be to consider how a final version might be published so it is most useful to field
staff. We also intend the manual to be fun and visually attractive, with drawings and photos.
We’ve scattered this proposal with sample drawings so you get an idea of what this might look
Any project that includes a social science component must consider ethical concerns associated
with human subjects research. If interns are observing or interviewing hikers or taking
photographs that illustrate patterns of behavior there is potential for invasion of privacy. Even if
human subjects research concerns are addressed, there is still the question of how the presence of
more trail tenders, stewards, etc., affects the experience of wildness on Franconia Ridge.
To address humans subjects research, Susan Scrimshaw, author of Rapid Assessment Procedures
for Nutrition and Primary Health Care: Anthropological Approaches to Improving Program
Effectiveness , will advise the program. Susan is an applied anthropologist with decades of field 2
research experience. Before the start of the program in June we will provide interns with a
written set of guidelines. Susan will also be an advisor and editor for the RAP portion of the
Franconia Ridge Stewardship Manual, helping us to adapt these methods to recreation
Wilderness or backcountry ethics questions will be central to the internship training
and will be revisited regularly during fireside chats. We see these framed by “Fay’s
quandary…a logistical cul-de-sac, a clash of interior values, [where] there is no
fully satisfying answer.” Indeed, if there is an underlying theme to the Franconia
Ridge internship, it is this recognition: “The clash of wilderness preservation
versus use and enjoyment by thousands is inherently unresolvable. But that
does not absolve any of us from striving to resolve it, by doing the best our
generation can to preserve the spirit of wildness.” 3
2 Tested in a sixteen-country study, Rapid Assessment Procedures (RAP) contains specific instructions for the use of
anthropological methods to study health and health-seeking behaviors at the household level and interactions with traditional and
modern health care providers. It includes sample data collection instruments, examples of field techniques, and discussion of data
management and analysis. It is designed for social scientists, health workers and researchers, and students of anthropology as
well as experienced anthropologists. Susan Scrimshaw’s CV is available on request.
Wilderness Ethics: Preserving the Spirit of Wildness, p. 29 3
2018 Franconia Ridge Internship Program, 12-21-2017, page 4
Most immediately, the trail tending work of the interns will result in a tread that is better defined
and that discourages off-trail activity. Contact with hikers while traversing the Ridge will support
the messages of Alpine Stewards, signage and other educational materials. Keeping hikers on the
trail will allow the adjacent alpine ecology to recover.
However, trail tending is constant, not a onetime fix: it must be done week by week, year by
year. If the internship program lasts only one season, it will have a limited long-term impact on
the Franconia Ridge. For this reason, it is paramount that the 2018 Franconia Ridge Internship
Program establishes the organizational, collaborative, and financial foundation for a continuing
program into the future. An important positive result will be a strengthened partnership between
the WTN-Americas, AMC, and USFS. In order for the vision of a collaborative White Mountain
Field School to succeed, this partnership needs to be expanded to include a consortium of
colleges and universities, as well as the participation of other trail clubs. One measure of success
will be to show we have expanded the partnership.
The Franconia Ridge Stewardship Manual is one tangible product that
will assist in establishing a curriculum for an ongoing program. To the
extent that it can be shared by various partners in different
stewardship roles on Franconia Ridge, it will also contribute to a
shared understanding of the challenges stewards face, as well as
common strategies for meeting those challenges.
Each week interns will submit a report on work done, trail conditions, and other
general trail observations. They will also keep field notes based on RAP protocols. This
documentation will be compiled, summarized, and made available to all partners,
including the Waterman Fund. The final version of the Franconia Ridge Stewardship
Manual will be available by June 2019.
January – April 2018: internships advertised to colleges and universities
January – May 2018: preparation of a draft Stewardship Manual
June – August 2018: interns on Franconia Ridge on a weekly basis
June-August 2018: interns field test Stewardship Manual
December 2018: interns’ reports and field notes compiled and summarized
January – May 2019: review, revise, and edit Stewardship Manual
June 2019: final Stewardship Manual ready for 2019 field season
2018 Franconia Ridge Internship Program, 12-21-2017, page 5
The West End Trail Tenders (WETT) is an informal group of volunteers that has been trail
tending on Franconia Ridge since 1980. Project supervisor Nat Scrimshaw is a WETT volunteer
and the current AMC adopter for the Franconia Ridge Trail, Lafayette to Little Haystack, and the
Upper Greenleaf Trail. Nat has been the adopter of these trails since 2005.
The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) has committed to donating lodging at Liberty
Springs Campsite and Greenleaf Hut according to the` above-outlined weekly itinerary mid-June
through August 2018.
The World Trails Network – Hub for the Americas (WTN-Americas) is a new 501(c)(3)
nonprofit incorporated in New Hampshire with the mission “to foster collaboration and
networking among trails organizations and enthusiasts, connecting people with landscapes and
cultures around the world.” The WTN-Americas will manage the Franconia Ridge Internship
Program in partnership with the WMNF and the AMC as part of a collaborative White Mountain
Field School. The WTN-Americas is establishing this as an annual program. The WTN-Americas
will reach out to colleges and universities to build a consortium that can supply qualified college
and graduate interns into the future.
Permissions and Support
The AMC and the USFS White Mountain National Forest are partners in this project. Letters of
support and permission will be sent to the Waterman Fund in January 2018