Submitted by Janice Clain
The MATC Ridgerunners are in the field, monitoring high traffic and sensitive eco-systems at three strategic locations along the AT. Returning this season to Gulf Hagas is Robyn Crisp, an avid long-distance hiker who calls Colorado home. She started her season at the northern end of the Hundred Mile Wilderness, ready to meet southbound thru hikers to give them advice about safety, packing and enjoying and protecting the wilderness. She moved to Gulf Hagas in late June, and spends her duty time there interacting with AT thru hikers passing north and south, section hikers knocking off the Monson to Abol miles, and day hikers, many of whom have heard about the beautiful waterfalls but have little or no experience with the rigors of hiking or how to interact safely with the challenging terrain.
After a season as the ATC Ridge Runner along the Golden Road, Matt Shannon returns to the Bigelow position, based at Horns Pond. Matt is a Connecticut native who thru hiked in 2018, and worked for MATC in 2019. Matt was so impressed by the culture and countryside in Maine that he moved here for good. He has arranged his schedule this summer so that he can make longer ridge runs along the Trail in the Bigelow District.
Chloe Kenyon is the newcomer to the Maine Appalachian Trail Club after thru hiking last season. She hails from Maine, although she has experiences with other parts of the country. Her post for the season is Saddleback with its challenge to protect the fragile alpine zone so accessible to hikers along the AT as well as those who take advantage of the trails up the ski slopes, and even via the ski lift. Her base of operations is at Piazza Rock, the campsite popular with families and with summer camp groups.
MATC, through the Ridgerunner / CARE Committee and in conjunction with ATC staff, provides various trainings for MATC and ATC Ridgerunners. Prior to beginning their season at the end of May, Ridgerunners reviewed established Trail ethics principles, engaged in scenarios that would help them manage hiker behavior, met with key MATC partners, including the Kennebec Ferry service, and a representative from the MATC Campsite Committee. In June they met on Saddleback to learn about alpine plants and with Baxter State Park staff to learn about messaging on Park expectations to convey to long distance hikers as they approach their end-of-Trail goal.
The Ridgerunner (CARE) Committee provides opportunities throughout the season for ridge runners to meet for other trainings and to share experiences with and tips for managing hikers. The three MATC Ridgerunners met recently at Gulf Hagas for a workshop on Corridor Monitoring, provided by Janice Clain. In mid-August they will meet Dan Simonds in the Bigelow Preserve for a lesson in forest management and identification of tree species.
After a 2021 season learning to adapt to pandemic protocols for Trail usage and interactions with hikers, ridge runners report a gradual return to less restrictive measures. They’re meeting more summer camp groups using the Trail, and are anticipating the late August influx of college orientation groups.
Ridgerunners report back to supervisors the words of praise from hikers for the high Trail maintenance standards of MATC volunteers as well their appreciation for the quality of the accommodations at campsites, especially the “state-of-the-art” [back country] privies. MATC members are encouraged to visit with Ridge Runners when they’re out on the Trail. Ask them about their work and let them know that club members appreciate their efforts to protect the Trail that we value so much.